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David Otten: Religion is part of our heritage of freedom

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 7/3/2019 5:35 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Our nation celebrates her birthday this week and the theme which will be heard the loudest is "freedom." America has in many ways become the standard that other nations and peoples have used to judge how freedom is understood and practiced in their own lands.

The quest for freedom in our nation and others is not a simplistic one. Thomas Jefferson didn't just wake up one morning and tell George and Ben, "Hey, guys I got a wild idea." Ideas of freedom developed differently around the world because of how philosophy, religion, technology, geographic locations, natural resources and leadership was woven together.

Religion is part of our heritage of freedom. I don't believe China can ever arrive at what we practice today in our nation without allowing the religious factors to shape them. Not just religion in general but religion highly influenced by Judeo/Christian ideas. This is not to say America is a Christian country, but Buddhism and Hinduism was not the prominent religious factors influencing those who made up our first thirteen colonies.

Though the diversity of religion was not as great during the time of America's development, multiple forms of Christianity shaped our nation. What were some of the contributions of religion to our nation?

The dignity of a human being: Darwin had not yet emerged to reduce us to just a clever bipod. Man's dignity was found not in his ability to use thumbs and speech but in seeing a unique relationship with his Creator -- God. That it was not by a natural process that mankind rose above other life-forms on this planet or even the universe but there was a unique God connection. Many speak of it as an "image." God in some way created man to be more like Himself and so a divine dignity of being human was understood.

The question of slavery was a question of being fully human and that meant fully bearing a divine image. This is one reason we will have challenges recognizing robots as living beings with rights, even though they may surpass us in various abilities.

Distinction of Church and State: Madison understood church and state issues differently than Jefferson. Though both would see a definite distinction between the two. Madison understood both institutions as God's means to achieve His will. One for salvation the other for a safe, fair and just society. Jefferson didn't believe in military chaplains, but Madison did.

Free will: Though understood differently by different Christian traditions, it was seen as having its origins with God. Even today, most Americans reject that man is ruled only by instinct. If God has given us free will then it follows that man is to have freedoms.

As mentioned above, religion is not the only factor in the development of our nation but to dismiss it or minimize to a footnote in our heritage would be a grave historical mistake and a mistake in how we proceed in our future. God bless America!

• David Otten is pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.