Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Separation of Church and State: The Myth

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Separation of Church and State: The Myth

Article excerpt

The controversy persists.

To entertain the topical problem of the separation of church and state we need to define numerous terms and concepts. To examine the particular role of 'religion' in human culture is a must. Bear in mind that the term 'church' stands for the term 'religion,' throughout this article. So let us start from the beginning.

In the beginning there was globalization. This new cultural phenomenon is not new! Globalization started with the dawn of humanity. Mankind is perpetually on the move, connecting the dots, looking for food, water, shelter and trading partners with which to exchange commodities and ideas. In addition they looked for ways to instigate a hopeful future for their progeny. A sense of hunger and adventure, a sense of fulfillment and obligation, a sense of survival and responsibility led humankind to work the land, fly the sky, and reach the moon, on its way to Mars. Continuously, humans pushed on and persevered successfully, you might say--whether appealing to the gods or appeasing the gods wherever they went and whatever they confronted. Survival is for the fittest, or more likely, for those who had supreme power on their side, they concluded.

In traditional societies, where the family, the tribe, and the village were the first concern, the religion was more important than the individual. The focus was on the sacred. Our first encounter of humongous cultural pluralism was in the Roman Empire, in Late Antiquity:

"Roman political organization linked widely divergent geographical areas and their ... cultures while at the same time imposing common cultural bonds that helped to create a common culture. The Roman Empire ... connected all of Western and Eastern Europe, the Near East, North Africa, most of the areas surrounding the Black Sea, Armenia, the Caucasus, and extended far into modern Iran and Iraq. The languages common to all those areas included Latin and Greek, but regional languages continued to be spoken and written, significant literature survives ... in such languages as Punic, Coptic, Aramaic, Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian. Religion also played an important role in unifying disparate cultures ... Although the degree of acculturation always needs careful delineation, the simultaneous uniformity and great diversity of cultures clearly marks the religions of Late Antiquity." (1)

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution the focus revolved around the factories, smog, displacement, urbanism and diversity, a new reality at hand. "Relationships are no longer based on moral or religious duty but become based on rational expediency and legal requirements." (2) A hint of separation of church and state in the West is observed at this time.

Today, in our time, the beginning of the third millennium, the known world is not brought together under one empire; however we are nations with different ideas, different governments, different ideologies, different climates and geographies, seeking nothing but survival. Globalization is thus "redefining the context for doing religion." (3) Religions are in the foreground. And "for the first time in history people are being called upon to transcend traditional boundaries of family, village, tribe, and nation to see themselves as citizens of the world, with all the complex and frightening implications that transition may hold." (4) Globalization has thus become "a massive process of social change resulting from the growing interconnectedness of human social, cultural, economic, and religious life that is realtering human activities on a planetary-wide scale." (5)

Globalization is a collision of tides--or is it? This uneasiness began the day humankind looked across the river wondering if the grass was greener on the other side. When humanity decided to travel to the horizon, for surely a treasure was there, they thought. When the little child at the beach pondered whether he could make a tunnel in the sand, to get to the other side of the ocean. …

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