Thursday, October 2, 2008

Church, State, & Public Justice: Introduction

By way of introducing the complexity behind the issues of church and state relations, there is undoubtedly a history that includes a diversity of opinion and approaches. Even during great triumphs of social action by the church (slavery, for example), there was no unified golden age where everyone was in harmony. Christians have historically been on both sides of the issues at stake. Before concluding that there is no consensus voice on how Christians should engage the public and political squre, Kemeny sketches a brief history of the church’s role in society:

* Protestantism as established religion.
* Protestantism as de facto established religion (after separation of church and state is established in the Constitution)
* “Second Disestablishment” – Protestantism loses “hegemony” in society from 1920-1950s (examples of Scopes trial; JFK a Catholic president)
* End of the Protestant Establishment (1960s) – Global immigration along with the previous disestablishments lead to the most diverse nation in the world.

The current climate of disestablishment gave rise to what has come to be known as the Religious Right in the late 70s, early 80s as Christians have tried to return from irrelevance to make a difference in public policy and governance. The views on how this is best done is incredibly varied and there is no consensus.

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