During a scene in the movie Back to the Future, the professor shows Michael J. Fox's character how to use the time machine. The professor says that if they wanted to go back to the birth of Christ, they would punch in "12-25-0000."
The audience had a good laugh. No one knows the date of Jesus' birth, nor even if he existed.
Yet a majority of people in the United States and many worldwide celebrate Christmas on December 25th and refer to time periods as "Before Christ" and "Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord)." And many believe other aspects of the New Testament story which cannot be verified, such as the Virgin birth, miracles and the Resurrection.
Those who take the New Testament story of the life of Jesus literally would be of no concern to those who make policy if there were no institution behind them. Those who make decisions cannot afford to offend the Christian churches and their followers, who number in the tens of millions in the United States.
Other questionable ideas have become policy: the slogan "In God We Trust" as our national motto (recently re-affirmed by the House of Representatives), "One Nation under God" inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of "God Bless America" at public events.
People are afraid to be perceived by a large institution as anti-God or anti-Christ. There is danger in this fear. Consider:
I once debated a man who insisted that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation and for that reason, we must oppose same-sex marriage. Never mind the fact that the Constitution of the United States, the supreme law of the land, does not mention the words "God," "Jesus" or "Christian" in it.
There is another serious flaw with this argument. Even if we could agree that public policy should be based upon Judeo-Christian doctrine, how would we apply it?
The Old Testament condemns homosexuality in a number of passages, including Leviticus 18:22.
But it also depicts several men, such as King Solomon, who had more than one wife. They were not punished for this. If one uses the Old Testament to oppose gay rights, shouldn't they also use the same Old Testament to condone or even allow polygamy?
Moving to the New Testament, Jesus says that there is no valid reason for divorce (Luke 16:18). Should we rescind no-fault divorce laws? Should we disallow those who have been divorced from holding public office?
The selective use of such a large doctrine as the set of ideas found in the Bible or under the guise of being "for God" does not allow for an effective debate. By endorsing parts of the Bible and ignoring other parts, these members of the institution of church are no different than anyone else, except that they make the issue about self-righteousness instead of fair policies.
Maybe we will return to the future someday and God will tell us directly what he thinks about our society. Until them, we would all be better off leaving him out of our debates.