ISSUES OF FAITH: The foundations for our national faith

AS HAPPENSTANCE WOULD have it, my turn in the rotation of writers for these “Issues of Faith” columns falls on the day that our country inaugurates its 45th president.

As such, I thought it would be an appropriate time to bring forward three foundational precepts of our “national faith,” namely religious liberty, religious toleration and religious pluralism.

Ours was the first nation to experiment in a far-reaching manner with these principles, values and ideals.

No other nation before us had ever tried to construct its civic life with these as the central organizing principles.

No other nation had put forward “religious pluralism” as the source of its unity.

No other nation had as its original motto the words “E pluribus unum” — “Out of many, one.”

As author Forrest Church writes: “E pluribus unum cut directly against the grain of all previous human experience. ‘One over many’ was familiar to history, as were ‘over many a few’ and ‘some apart from others,’ but ‘out of many, one’ had no historical precedent” (“The American Creed”).

Nor had any other nation sought to disestablish religious institutions — that is, to separate the institutions of religion and government, as opposed to having the government support and sponsor a given religion.

And no other nation had declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men [which was understood generically at the time to mean all humans] are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of these words, also added this statement in his first inaugural address: “Equal and exact justice for all … of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political.”

That these principles of religious liberty and equality came to be at the center of our civic life may be due largely to the particular and peculiar historical circumstances in which they were formed.

Originally, the various groups forming the colonies desired religious freedom, but it was religious freedom to establish their own religion, not, in most cases, religious freedom for others or religious freedom for all.

However, historical circumstances created a need to join together in common cause to combat a common enemy that had its own established religion.

Thus, some would describe the development of the separation of the institutions of religion and government and the principles of religious liberty and religious pluralism that it promotes as a happy accident, and others would describe it as a divinely guided plan.

But whatever the case, once in place, these principles, values and ideals seemed so right that they have influenced, and continue to influence, nations around the world — and this despite the fact that they have so often been abridged in practice in our country.

A question for us on this Inauguration Day is whether we as the nation that began this experiment with the triple values of religious liberty, religious tolerance and religious pluralism are still committed to carrying on this experiment.

Are these still the fundamentals of our national faith?

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Bruce Bode is minister of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. His email is bruceabode@gmail.com.

More in Life

OPEN’s Spring Tack Sale is Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 251 Roupe Road (off Hooker Road). Proceeds benefit rescued horses, minis, ponies (such as the one pictured with grossly overgrown hooves) and donkeys. Western and English saddles, saddle pads, halters, sheets, bits, bridles; western jewelry, clothes, boots and more. (photo by Valerie Jackson)
HORSEPLAY: Clean up after yourself and your horse

CLEAN UP ON aisle 7! Remember: Unlike a grocery store clerk who… Continue reading

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event was even more popular than planned for.
Kiwanis recycling event a success

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event in… Continue reading

Future Chefs contest names cooking contest winners

Sodexo and the Port Angeles School District have announced… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Get the dirt on soil

SINCE WE TALKED extensively about you growing your own award-winning vegetables, we… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding solace in song

WHEN OUR DAUGHTER Maggie died, I found so much comfort in listening… Continue reading

OUUF speaker scheduled

The Rev. Bruce Bode will present “Are All Humans… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Love is Orange:… Continue reading

The Rev. Cindy Akana
Program scheduled for OUUF on Sunday

The Rev. Cindy Akana will present “Nurturing Your Inner… Continue reading

Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News   
Now is the perfect time to lay down some rich, organic compost and rake in a high quality grass seed for a beautiful lawn come summer.
A GROWING CONCERN: Garden chore list grows in spring

SPRING HAS SPRUNG, the grass has risen, now’s the time to get… Continue reading

Some of the evidence recovered when they were arrested.
BACK WHEN: Jail break on the Olympic Peninsula

THE STORIES OF life and crime can take many twists and turns.… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a bastion of truth against the onslaught of lies

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth… Continue reading

Weekend hybrid program planned

Ari Ostlie will present “The Wealth of Spirit” at… Continue reading