Monday, May 5, 2014

But the State Isn't Ultimate: Russell Moore on the Supreme Court and Prayer

In case you haven't heard, the Supreme Court ruled today that local city councils can, Constitutionally, open in prayer. In response, Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote the following:
Some would say, further, that we could eliminate this tension altogether by simply disallowing any sort of prayer. In her dissent, Justice Kagan said that we come to our government simply as Americans, not as representatives of various religious traditions. But, again, this is itself a religious claim, that faith is simply a private personal preference with no influence on our public lives. That’s a claim that millions of us, whatever our religious beliefs, reject.

Prayer at the beginning of a meeting is a signal that we aren’t ultimately just Americans. We are citizens of the State, yes, but the State isn’t ultimate. There is some higher allegiance than simply political process. We often disagree on what this more ultimate Reality is, but the very fact that the State isn’t the ultimate ground of reality serves to make all of us better citizens, striving to seek for justice in ways that aren’t simply whatever the majority can vote through. And it reminds us that there is a limit to the power of politics and of government.

A government empowered to mandate generic civil religion prayers or to ask citizens to pretend that their government has no higher accountability would be a government too intrusive. It wouldn’t create unity, but would simply silence proper pluralism and replace prayer with bureaucracy.
In this decision, the Supreme Court didn’t violate the separation between the church and the state, rightly understood. The Court instead upheld it, and did the right thing.

Maybe this is a sign of a better way forward, toward a right kind of free marketplace of faith expression in American life. Let’s pray that it is.
 I whole-heartily agree. Read the rest here.
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