March 2007
Without Christian ideals, democracy dies

Arnold Toynbee once said that if you want to study comparative religions, buy a ticket instead of a book.

 What the famous historian was saying was that you learn more about a religion by seeing what practical effect it has on a society.

 We are at a critical point in the history of our country and our world. Two religious perspectives stand in stark contrast with each other, both desiring that their religion serve as the basis of our values. Islam and the Judeo/Christian faiths are clashing because adherents of both want their beliefs to serve as the foundation of cultural values, and because of the divergent paths being used to pursue their goals.

Unfortunately, many if not most of our leaders do not realize that there is a vast difference between these two value systems.

It is my opinion that our leaders don’t understand the difference in the way the Eastern mind and the Western mind function. One wants forced submission to Allah achieved by the sword; the other desires voluntary submission to God achieved by a changed heart.

In one respect, 9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to Islam. That day cast Islam into the mainstream of religious debate. Prior to 9/11 we would refer to Christians and Jews when speaking of religions in this country. Now we speak of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

In one way, you could say that ancient Greece was the forerunner of democracy. But it was the teachings of Jesus, permeated throughout the Western mind, which made the soil fertile for democracy to grow and flourish.

Have there been some dark moments in the history of Christianity? Of course there have been. But to define a religion, one must turn to the standard of its teachings, not to isolated events. This is true of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

If nothing else, perhaps our current situation will force those of us who choose the Christian value system to re-examine our religion’s core principles. It is going to be absolutely necessary to do so if our system of democracy is to continue.

The conflict we are experiencing will be around for a long time. It will not be resolved in a matter of months, but years – if it is ever resolved.

I would suggest that our churches go back to the basic fundamentals and spend much time examining our faith. If we don’t understand the basic fundamentals and how our faith plays out in the real world, we will lose this war of ideas.

And with it goes our democracy.