Is there a role for Christianity in modern public life?

For thousands of years, Christianity was the religion of the dominant races. It was the religion of the Europeans who set out to take their message global. It was the religion of the pilgrims who came to America and it is the main religion in the country today.

Currently, Christians constitute over 80% of Americans today, which Evangelical Protestants is the biggest group, and Catholics are the second largest. Between the two groups, they constitute more than everything else combined, even without the mainline Protestant groups.

At a simple demographic level, the answer to the opening question is yes, with the majority of the population citing a Christian affiliation, clearly, there is a position.

The separation of church and state

Initially, the idea of the separation meant the state should not involve itself in the church’s business. The state would not get involved in how people practice their religion, what religion they practice and that all Americans were free to practice no religion at all.

Now there is a nuance to this which we all assume as a common belief; we assume that the separation means that the church will not involve itself in the church’s business. That we can have a state which functions without the church, any church guiding its laws and it’s thought processes.

Clearly, we are not driven by the church, our head of state is head of state for worse or better but there is a huge influence in government. If 70% of our senators and representatives in congress are Christian and believe themselves to be acting from a Christian perspective, then it is naïve to believe there is no Christian influence in government.

Should the separation be a two-way thing?

The question that a lot of American’s are asking themselves is whether or not the separation should be bi-directional. Would we be better off as a nation state if the church were outside of the state’s business?

There is no reason to believe the Founding Father’s had any desire to create Christianity as a favored religion within the constitution. Rather the opposite is true. The constitution was written at a time when the effects of religion were to a cause of strife. The goal was to found a system of government for the people regardless of their religious beliefs, even though at the time those beliefs were predominantly Christian.

Even within Christianity, there are disparities it took until the 20th Century until there was enough groundswell opinion to allow a Catholic president, and even now there are casual bigotries aimed at all sorts of Christian-centric religions.

While the answer to the original question has to remain a yes, there has to be a way in which a creed common to all is what governs us. A true Christian would find it had to divorce their beliefs from themselves, in the same way, that practicing Muslims and Jews abide by the tenets of their faith. And we do continue to want and to need these people in public life.