Conservative Christians Blow False Whistles About Church and State

Scott Bartlett, a board member of Gordon Howie’s Life and Liberty group, waves his arms vaguely and inaccurately about the separation of church and state:

“It’s not the same country I grew up in,” he said. “We used to have all kinds of freedom, and I feel that’s slipping away.”

Bartlett listened to a Czechoslovakian man recently who voiced a similar concern.

“He said that if liberty disappears in America, there’s nowhere else to go,” Bartlett recalled.

He hopes that someday, Christianity will once again be the bedrock of communities.

“So if I want to bring my Bible to school, I can,” he said. “It’s to teach fundamental Christian principles, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Don’t chastise me and I won’t chastise you, and we’ll all meet our maker in the end and sort it out” [Kayla Gahagan, “Church and State ‘Intricately Woven’,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.05.30].

Scott Bartlett is well past school age, so the question of whether he can bring a Bible to school hinges mostly on the question of why he’s coming to a school in the first place and what he’s planning to do there. But students can bring a Bible to school. Heck, when I was in high school, I checked out a bible from the school library, carried it around in my backpack, and even read it in chemistry class. Nothing happened. Whatever good it may do us, we have as much liberty as ever to carry bibles and torahs and korans around.

Bartlett’s “not the same country” exposes both a fallacy (does any country stay the same rfom generation to generation?) and the fundamental fear motivating Tea-Partyish outfits like the Life and Liberty group. They see America changing colors… or perhaps more accurately the colors that have been here for some time becoming more numerous and getting a real say in how the country runs. Bartlett’s sense of liberty disappearing is really a sense of dominion and privilege disappearing, an unsavory fear that he dresses up in patriotism and Christianity.

Gordon Howie joins in the false hype, saying “We’re in a more critical time” without offering any quantification of heightened problems that make his call to action or the altar any more urgent than what got the Minutemen out of bed 240 years ago, or the doughboys 100 years ago, or the hippies 50 years ago. Then Howie the clever politician undermines confidence in the political system that people of all faiths can use in concert to seek solutions to the problems of our shared polis and argues that “real solutions” can only come from Christians:

“What we’re looking for is real solutions,” he said. “How do we solve the record of South Dakota having a record number of some of the poorest counties in the nation?”

There are kids in this state, he added, that go to bed hungry, raped, abused and abandoned. “We need God-fearing men and women to stop the inhumanity toward man,” he said.

The calls for help from the body of Christ, and patriotic people, are not mutually exclusive, he said. “It has to come from the community of faith,” Howie said.

“People who promote the myth of the separation of church and state miss the point. Without moral integrity, we cannot succeed as a state or nation. They are intricately woven” [Gahagan, 2015.05.30].

Notice that Howie isn’t talking here about any real solutions. He isn’t showing any theological basis for the linkage of Christianity and patriotism, a concept at least disputable within if not antithetical to Christianity. He isn’t showing any historical examples of Christian nations demonstrating more resistance to ignorance, poverty, corruption, oppression, or general inhumanity. And worst of all, especially for non-Christians like me, he is perpetuating the lie that only Christians can have moral integrity. (Need a rebuttal? Two words: Gandhi, Hastert.)

I’m o.k. with folks like Bartlett and Howie going to church and looking for ways to make our community (town, state, nation, world) better. I’m not o.k. with their vague and incorrect assertions that they are losing their liberty, that everything’s getting worse, and that they are the only people able and entitled to fix our community’s problems.

9 Responses to Conservative Christians Blow False Whistles About Church and State

  1. happy camper

    It’s frustrating: they just don’t get it. Let them believe in whatever fables they want but I’m looking forward to the day being an atheist is the norm. It’s a cruel, stressful world out there. We need more brotherhood for sure but not in the form of religion, definitely not with its tentacles in government. Ronald Reagan is much to blame for courting the evangelicals and messing up the Republican party. Nancy was setting his schedule with the help of an astrologer for goodness sake.

  2. You’re spot on, Cory. When I observed this rant on social media, in the news media and in conversations, I ignored it. Recently I heard the pure, unvarnished version from the mouth of a middle-aged convenience store clerk in Omaha:

    “Our rights are being taken away. America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation and as a white nation. We set this country up to be the most powerful nation in the world. We won two world wars. We built the cities. We feed the world and we stopped communism. Now all that is slipping away.”

    He went on to blame President Obama, liberals, Nancy Pelosi, the lack of a giant fence on the border with Mexico, ISIS and godless people for the downfall of the economy and his personal displacement from an easier life. Clearly, he viewed himself the victim of everything that was going wrong. I noticed in the corner of the gas stop store Fox News was running with the sound off. His rant stopped when a Hispanic mom and her kids walked in. I was hoping to ask him when he last went to church.

    The death of this dominant American demographic won’t go easily. The ranters have a piss poor grasp of their own history, recent political events and reality. It’s not that they lack the ability of a global view, they feel entitled and they’re too lazy to look any further than the bubble they’re in. A very rude awakening is in the works.

  3. mikeyc, that's me!

    God, Guns, and Gordon.

  4. 96, let us hope the awakening will include the realization that liberty can live on even if America looks and prays differently.

  5. Roger Cornelius


  6. Roger Elgersma

    First of all, I live in an age when there are cars airplanes and computers. So to learn what it was like without them is not major to me nor is understanding what is was like before there were people is not real relavant to me.
    But when I was in science class we learned that a real scientific experiment to prove something had a verifiable beginning, a known process and a predictable end. In the proof of evolution we only have a verifiable end.
    On the other hand, I totally believe that micro evolution is very scientific. This is the reduction of the gene pool. This type of science is what brings us hybrid seed corn. We get rows of corn where all the plants are the same. Macro evolution is the enlarging of the gene pool. This is the part that is totally not verifiable. It is very theoretical and that is philosophizing rather than science.

  7. Roger Elgersma

    Opps, that should have been on the creationist evolutionist article just before.

  8. Roger Elgersma

    When Bush got elected by the courts in Florida deciding not to count a lot of votes, my sister in Kenya told me that the Kenyans were sure if they had that much corruption to stop the democratic process there, that they would have had civil war. So if someone thinks democracy is so good here that they would go no where else, they are a bit blind to the corruption here.
    So if our government is not good at running government, they sure should not be running the church or having an opinion about it.
    Where is our freedom if the supreme court can throw a vote?

  9. Deb Geelsdottir

    Howie has it all bass ackwards. He says we need “God-fearing” people to solve all the problems. Well? What’s stopping them? Howie, grab your buddies and get to solving, now!

    The silly argument that only Christians have morals is just that, silly. There are mountains of evidence to prove how wrong Howie is.

    Life in the good old U.S. of A. must be hell for Christianists.