Bible Verse: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1-20

We must resolutely resist the deepening temptation to privatize God and our faith. So-called liberal democracies often attempt to shut people up about their basic convictions. Such convictions are considered acceptable for private reflection and application in the church, the family, a Bible study and perhaps a theological seminary. But they are not acceptable in the political arena, the marketplace or education. Faith and biblical imperatives may not disturb the social peace that liberalism has achieved in the public square. “Keep God and biblical principles out of economics and politics,” I have been told more than once – even by Christians!

Let us be clear, then, that the danger of privatizing God and faith often arises from within Christian churches themselves. Many people, perhaps unwittingly, spiritualize God and the Gospel. In so doing, they compartmentalize life into “sacred” and “secular” areas. As a result, they secularize life and politics. Many then become enraged about the secularization engulfing Christians and Christian churches, forgetting that they themselves and their forebears are the authors of the very heresy they now protest. Secularism does not come from some foreign country or from a strange alien corner of the universe. In many ways, secularism comes from out of the bosom of those faith-communities who do not see that faith, as the expression of what one ultimately believes, applies to all that we think, say and do. To the degree that we reduce the meaning of faith and restrict it to Sunday worship, or a Wednesday evening Bible study, or an evangelistic outreach that does not attempt to bring the liberating power and healing message of the entire Evangel to bear upon all the complex issues of our time, to that degree we actually profane life. Whether purposely or unwittingly, we begin to embrace, promote and practice secularization.

Though that is difficult to say, I feel obliged to say it. For what will Christians’ responses be to today’s headlines? These questions cannot be avoided. I raise them because I deeply believe that Christians and members of other faith-communities are all obligated to respond publicly. For none of the major developments and events described by today’s headlines are religiously indifferent or “neutral.” On the contrary, every person, every member of the media, and every community, organization and institution has an understanding, a belief about what life is meant to be. That means that there is no neutrality. Proverbs 4:23 reminds us that the issues, the ways, the relationships and structures of life (including the organizations and institutions in which we are involved) come from out of the heart. Those who argue that our media, educational institutions, economic enterprises, social organizations and political movements ought to be religiously neutral are really saying that it does not matter what you believe about good and evil, justice and injustice, equity and inequity. At bottom, the belief in neutrality is an ideological rejection of Jesus’ central command and abiding invitation that we love God and our neighbour, even our “enemies” (Matthew 4:44).

— Gerald Vandezande in Justice, Not Just Us
© Public Justice Resource Centre, 1999.

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