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Today is election day.  For the (very) few that actually read this blog, please go vote.

It seems that every time an election comes around, the vitriol surrounding church-state separation intensifies.  For 2010, I think this is best captured by the O’Donnell-Coons debate.  Both candidates are vying for the seat from Delaware being vacated by Sen. Kaufman.  In the debate, Ms. O’Donnell challenged her opponent on where in the Constitution it states that there is a separation of church and state.  Mr.  Coons, of course, turned to the establishment clause in the First Amendment and ended up getting the best of her.  However, does the First Amendment really place a wall of separation between the church and state?  Dr. Daniel Dreisbach, Professor of Justice, Law, and Society at the American University in Washington, D.C., has written an excellent critique of this point of view.  He clearly demonstrates the current understanding of the “wall of separation between church and state” is NOT what Jefferson intended.  Instead, the current understanding is essentially 60 years old, having been formulated as it currently stands by Justice Black in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education.  Furthermore, Dr. Dreisbach argues the wall of separation metaphor, as it is construed, results in intolerance toward people of faith and hinders the rights of religious individuals to express their faith in the public square.  I highly recommend the article as a good introduction to the problems inherent to the modern church-state separation in the United States of America.

I recently saw the movie Avatar and was inspired to write a post on ecology.  William Lane Craig used the movie as a picture of the Incarnation of Jesus on his website.  This was enough to entice me to rent it, even though I had some misgivings that it would be standard liberal tripe on ecology.  The movie is very good; the special effects alone are well worth the $1 for a Redbox rental.  The movie did have a strong rhetoric about ecology; however, I left the movie agreeing with their overall thrust with regard to environmental stewardship.  My only complaint is that the movie claims this is found in a pantheistic worldview.  This is not unique.  It is very common for modern environmentalism to have a pantheistic foundation, but I think this position is gravely mistaken.  First, the pantheistic worldview is not a coherent worldview.  The interested reader can certainly find a plethora of writings on this topic, so I will leave a defense of that for another time.  Second, Christianity does provide a firm foundation for a responsible view of ecology. 

Two writers immediately come to mind when I think about the Christian view of ecology.  The relationship between man and his environment is one of the major points behind C.S. Lewis’ so-called Space Trilogy, especially Perelandra but to a somewhat lesser degree in Out of the Silent Planet.  In Perelandra, we are given a glimpse of a world that is untouched by sin, and man lives in harmony with his environment.  This is contrasted against our world in Lewis’ That Hideous Strength.  Here we see a redeemed man in proper relationship with God and creation amidst a fallen world.  Francis Schaeffer makes a similar point in his book Pollution and the Death of Man.  Here, Schaeffer suggests that greed and haste are the root cause of our ecological crisis.  Both are the result of our sin nature.  We are eager to turn a buck and do so fast, regardless of the ecological impact.  In this way, Christianity not only explains the origin of the ecological crisis, but it also provides an answer for its remedy.  If our ecological crisis is rooted in our sinful nature, then the only way to resolve the issue is having our sin nature removed through Jesus’ sacrifice.  This is distinct from pantheistic or atheistic views that lack a real solution for the crisis.  Christianity certainly agrees with pantheism and atheism that man is part of the world, but we are not merely part of the world.  We are also distinct from our world in a very important and unique way, being created in God’s image.  This leads us immediately to a proper view of man and the environment.  We are part of the world but not merely part of it, for in God’s image we are unique.  Thus, we should use our environment to the betterment of mankind, but not in a greedy or hasty way that needlessly destroys our world.

The Pew Research Center released a report on the religious preferences of Americans.  I thought two things are worth noting from the article.  First, the Millennial generation (defined as individuals born in 1981 or after) show a relatively high number of individuals who are unaffiliated with any religion (26%).  That generation is approximately 6% higher than people classified as Generation X and 13% higher than Baby Boomers.  Furthermore, Millennials attend religious services less often than their elders.  It is important that the Millennial generation shows higher rates than previous generations at the same point in their life cycle.  However, the article contrasts these observations by noting that the beliefs of Millennials are approximately the same as Generation Xers.  For example, the article states that “belief in God is lower among young adults than among older adults, [but] Millennials say they believe in God with absolute certainty at rates similar to those seen among Gen Xers a decade ago.”  The article also characterized Millennials as generally more accepting of homosexuality and evolutionary accounts of origins.  Certainly skeptics of all stripes will tout these figures with glee.  I don’t think these findings are particularly surprising.  Religious belief has been eroding in America for some time, and I think this is in part due to Christians pulling out of the public square.

The second observation is that the Millenial generation shows a higher tolerance toward civic engagement by religious organizations.  The report states that “Millennials are no less convinced than their elders that there are absolute standards of right and wrong.  And they are slightly more supportive than their elders of government efforts to protect morality, as well as somewhat more comfortable with involvement in politics by churches and other houses of worship.”  It is not clear how individuals who do not affiliate themselves with a religion ground their morality.  I realize that they attempt to base morality off a subjective foundation; however, I contend that those attempts are doomed to failure.  An objective standard is required for there to be any form of morality that is binding.  That is, objectivity is required to bridge the “is” to “ought” gap in morality.  Furthermore, the notion that Millenneials are more accepting of involvement of religious organizations in public policy debates is certainly encouraging.  Perhaps this generation will be more receptive to a Christian voice in public debates than previous ones?