This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Influencing American Heritage
We are all familiar with this saying. Too many people, however, do not understand the meaning behind it. Many people believe the saying means that we must remove God from all aspects of public life. That is far from the truth.
Our start as a nation began with Puritans leaving England. This is mostly common knowledge. People do not know what influenced our legal heritage from London, Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem, as stated in The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk. I urge you no matter your theological beliefs or heritage to read through this and gain some insight to what I and others see our legal heritage.
What is order? What are the kinds of order? Let us start with moral order. Moral order is the highest internal order that we humans have. It is your soul, biblical and secular no matter your faith. Another form of order I identify is a civil social order. Let’s just define this as the order of our republic. These orders are the paths we follow and our purpose. Both of them come together to form such a harmonious arrangement with our virtues.
Moral order affirms the dignity of man, our judgement of history, our opinions, and more. It also sets us against political fanatical ideologies. It gives us respect for tradition. What did these cities actually give us? In terms of our modern social order, Jerusalem gave us an understanding that all true law comes from God himself. Jerusalem taught us, our founders, and great thinkers like John Locke, that God is the source of justice and order.
Checks and Balances
Athens is the greatest city-state of the Greek world. Athens gave us the idea of checks and balances, let’s call this “Solon prudence” due to Solon being an Athenian statesman who influenced our Western legal tradition. Solon gave us our individual liberties. Salon’s laws were well documented, giving us individual liberties. Solon of Athens gave us government respect for individual rights and beliefs.
Plato & Aristotle are highly recognized names throughout our time and theirs, however their contributions not so much. Both men were philosophers, but they influenced our western legal heritage none the less. Our theory of justice comes from Plato and Aristotle. It has been engraved into our American order.
Plato says that to maintain social order we must have our souls and lives in order. There is no doubt in my mind that Plato was on to something with this. We see a lack of virtuous citizens because we aren’t whole yet. We have to get our lives in order to serve the greater good properly.
Cicero and The Law
Do you know what the Law of Nature is? Do you know who spoke out about it and has writings that survived barbaric raiding and the dark ages? Cicero. Cicero’s impact would set the course for international laws, European laws, and American civil law.
Cicero divided law into 3 categories: Civil Law, Law of Nations, and Natural Law. Let’s focus on Natural Law. Cicero notes that this form of law clearly comes from divine breath. It is concrete through human reason, which also gives us our civil law. Civil law is almost a direct copy of eternal law.
The Real Meaning
What is the actual meaning of “Separation” of Church and State? Well, it is not actually in the constitution, but it was in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson. The letter was intended, I believe, to keep the state out of the church’s business, which is where we get, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It restricts government from interfering with religion not the other way around.
Our nation was founded on the Old Testament teachings of God. All ethics and social order were “transplanted” into the United States. When we look at who settled America, we find it was Puritans, people who separated from the Anglican Church. They ordered the commonwealth by the 10 Commandments. In addition to the 10 Commandments, they used laws from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Church and State Taken Too Literally
America takes the separation of Church and State too literally today. Our founders understood that in order for a society to thrive the people in the commonwealth must believe in a divine being for our moral order. We see today a lack of such thought and people trying to remove God from our lives and history. With Puritans colonizing the United States we find that a lot of our constitution is based off of Protestant Calvinist morals.
Yes, we have our right to believe or to not believe in any God. It is a God given right to believe or not to believe. We are not like England, requiring people in politics to be Anglicans in good standing. Do not be fooled, however. God has a direct impact on everything we know to be true. Our understanding of order, the cities of Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London, historically great philosophers all understood that there is a higher being that we get our justice and law from. This cannot simply just be denied, it is history.