July 3, 2013

Separation of Church and State

Dear God, As we approach the celebration of July 4th, we remember the men and women who serve our country, particularly in the armed forces. We pray blessings on them and their families. We pray for their safety and courage. But we also pray for our enemies. We pray that they will also seek peace and understanding. God, we know that honorable peace is possible only with you in our midst. So we pray that you guide us all in paths that will lead to truth and justice, where all persons are respected and have opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In Jesus' name, amen.

As we think about the place that God holds in our county, we automatically recall that famous phrase,
"wall of separation between church and state." This phrase first appears in a letter written by founding father, Thomas Jefferson, to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. While there are different interpretations about Jefferson's exact meaning, the letter indicates that he meant that government should not interfere with religion, that is, that legislatures should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Because, for Jefferson, belief and worship are matters between humanity and God and not humanity and government.

Here is the actual text of Jefferson's letter: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

As we celebrate our day of independence, let's remember that our God is a God of peace; a God who defends the rights of the least, the last, and the lost; a God who graciously demands and protects the freedom of God's people. Let us not ask if God is on our side, but if we are on God's side and how we can serve with dignity and honor. Let us move forward as a nation acting more like the God's people as demonstrated by the life of Christ.

Grace, Kathy

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