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Matthew Anderson

Matthew Anderson

Posted: August 16, 2010 05:04 PM

Recently, increasing numbers of Americans have vied for the combining of church and state. My best guess is that as the White mainstream of America has begun to notice the loss of its foothold on its economic structures, it has knee-jerked in the direction that it thinks it has the greatest potential for positive impact. Those who believed that they were the privileged class, sometimes misconstrued as "middle-class," mount their last-ditch effort at the institutions of greatest symbology in the attempt to salvage their now-gone privileges and thus their way of life.

Now, normally I would argue that this is a mistake. The framers of the Constitution knew full well that combining religious practices with government could only lead to a quagmire of policy that would tear the nation asunder. And yet, those novices of nation-building may yet have had something wrong. I am coming to the belief that Church and State can be successfully combined.

I believe that it might be instructive for Americans to combine these two entities by creating a series of religious classes taught in every school between the seventh and twelfth grades. Two classes per semester in addition to other ancillary academic courses would be required. One requirement would be that those responsible for teaching a certain discipline could not belong to that belief. Christians could not teach Christianity and Jews could not teach Judaism.

But then, some of the best instruction would be left lacking if the experts in those religions were kept from instruction, you say? Well maybe, but the rudiments of religions could be taught quite effectively by those with no dog in the fight. The Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita and even the teachings of Bodhidharma and the Buddha would be required along with other religions. Though Buddhism can hardly be called a religion (of the more than one million words attributed to Buddha, never was God mentioned once in his teachings), we would include it in our instruction because so many Americans mistakenly believe it to be a source of religious belief. Indeed, as this philosophy was being taught, perhaps those Americans who only read their Bibles might learn more so as to be informed in conversation. It serves the Christian God no purpose to have followers who know not what they follow. However, it does serve those who would take advantage of such raw ignorance. Education trumps ignorance, or so it is believed.

Classes and instruction would rotate on a yearly basis, guaranteeing that some knowledge of something other than the beliefs of your parents became a part of everyone's experience. By the end of high school, it would be required that associated with your diploma was a broad-based perspective. That perspective would encompass all the world's great religions and a few less well-known "electives" as well. Debate clubs would actually encourage discourse that surrounded information that we have objectively learned about the many religions. This would certainly be preferable to the lack of true knowledge that abounds religious belief today.

An atmosphere of tolerance and greater understanding would be fomented and not just embraced. It would be the state's burden to assure the breadth of knowledge that comes of accurate information. And anyone who would balk at such an undertaking would be admitting ad hoc that the universality of his or her religion was subject to irrational whimsy. Most religions are not, in their best light, seen as closed or possessive. All those parties interested in religious understanding would encourage sharing the features of one's belief.

The potential for the kinds of long-term abuses associated with today's Catholic Church and the radical reviewers of the Koran in nations like Afghanistan would be better spotlighted. More individuals would speak from the platform of knowledge versus the islands of belief.

So let us rejoice in this new finding! Let there be a place for all belief to come and show itself for all to see. Let the strong voice of religious fervor resound in the classroom and not on the battlefield where its message is prima facie too late. And keep all governments actively involved. In that way, there will be no confusion as to hidden agendas on the parts of ruling elites. The official state position would thus always be in support of the power of knowledge gained in open religious discourse, snatching away the veil of governmental neutrality.

There may be dangers, of course. Knowledge may abound to the point that a new level of understanding is reached. There may be movements away from the secular and towards the global and the cosmic. But much as with many novel approaches to unsolvable problems, "you pays your money and you takes your chances."

Besides, if one-world globalization can be achieved through the prism of religious understanding and tolerance, aren't we all the better for that? The spiritual unification of a very small planet through individuated education concerning its many constituent parts must be considered a coup of the greatest magnitude.