Maybe youve followed the controversy about the idea called Intelligent Design. Thats the notion that living organisms are simply too complex to have evolved merely by such natural processes as the biological theory of evolution describes, and that its necessary, therefore, to postulate a designing Intelligence to explain the living systems we see.
Advocates of Intelligent Design (ID) have claimed that its a scientific theory, a legitimate rival of the Darwinian theory, that warrants being taught in the science classes of Americas public schools.
Critics of ID and this includes almost all actual scientists who have weighed in on the matter have declared that ID isnt science at all. Instead, they say, it is a way of sneaking religion into the public schools, an idea directly descended from the creationism whose inclusion in the public school curriculum the courts have found to be an unconstitutional government establishment of religion.
Now, in his latest fit of pique, Pat Robertson has blown the cover of ID.
The object of Robertsons ire on this occasion was the citizenry of the town of Dover, Pennsylvania. These people just recently voted to replace a school board that had mandated the teaching of ID in the local public schools with another slate of candidates opposed to putting ID in the science curriculum.
If something bad happens to you, Robertson said to the people of Dover, dont bother turning to God. He might not be there for you, he warned them, because you just voted God out of your city.
So there it is. If rejecting the inclusion of Intelligent Design is to be understood as voting God out, then surely it follows that what ID is about is bringing God in. Sounds like religion to me.
Which leads me to a question for all those Christians out there who have been militating for ID in the public schools. Did you already know what Pat Robertson seems to have known, that ID is about religion, and not science?
If the answer to that question is yes, I have another question for you. In your understanding of Christian morality, is honesty very important? Or does your Christian ethic say that the end justifies the means, i.e. that its OK to lie about what youre up to, if what youre up to is making sure that children get indoctrinated with your religious beliefs?
But if the idea that ID is not about science, but about promoting your religion, comes to you as a surprise, then I wonder, would that discovery lead you to withdraw your demand that ID be taught in our public schools?
What Would Jesus Say? Church/State and the Golden Rule
ID is, of course, only one of the battlefields in an intensifying struggle over the issue of Church/State relations. Weve had the Alabama justice with his monument to the Ten Commandments in the courthouse building. Weve got people wanting to put prayer back into the public schools. Weve got faith-based initiatives. Etc.
In all these cases, the people who want to instill aspects of their religion are members of Americas dominant faith. That is, they are Christians. More than that, they are members of a large and dynamic movement within American Christianity. That is to say, they are the ones who have enough clout to be quite confident that if the wall of separation between Church and State gets torn down, it is their religion that will be backed by power and imposed on everyone else.
I wonder if theyd want that wall torn down if they were in the position of a small and vulnerable minority. Would they want it torn down, for example, it were Hindu and not Christian prayers that would be recited, and Hindu stories of creation and moral precepts that would be taught, etc.?
Actually, I dont really wonder. I feel sure that, if power in their society rested with Hindus, or Buddhists, or Muslims, these Christians who are so avid now to wed religion to political power would think the separation of Church and State a vital part of our American system of limited government and personal liberty.