October 30, 2003

Matters Theological

In my first post, I alluded to being an amateur theologian. I was raised (and remain) United Methodist, and am a member of a large and vibrant congregation here in Plano. I am by nature a rationalist, and struggle regularly with the tension of reason versus faith. Although I grew up Methodist, I spent the years K-8 in Missouri Synod Lutheran Schools, learning literalist fundamentalism the Lutheran way. From there, I encountered the opposite end of the spectrum at the local Jesuit high school, where I was taught a Thomistic, rationalist, scholarly approach to theological matters.

I am now largely a deist, much like the founders of our country, but continue to find fellowship, comfort, and fulfillment in my church. My wife and I attend a self-led adult Sunday school class, in which I have taught many different lessons covering biblical history, early church history, Judaism, and current events. I have no formal theological training, just five translations of the bible, Google, and some secondary sources.

Because of my profession [lawyer], I was recently invited by my parents-in-law to teach their Sunday school class about matters of church and state. The main case study in my lesson was Roy's Rock -- a/k/a the ten commandments dispute continuing in Alabama.

In the course of my research, I discovered a couple of interesting tidbits.

First, historically, the denomination most strongly in favor of a strong separation of church and state was the Baptists! The denomination of Roy Moore. The denomination that most people in our country would associate with the "Religious Right." The denomination that wants prayer in schools, "under G-d" in the pledge, and their ten commandments in courthouses everywhere. The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded by Baptist Roger Williams.

It was founded on the principle of religious liberty, and attracted refugees from the several colonies that had established Christian churches.

How ironic that such a high-profile member of the denomination in America originally tied so closely to religious liberty now seeks to display its version of the ten commandments in a state courthouse! That is the second tidbit I learned in preparing the lesson. Using the same source text, three different traditional listings of the ten commandments emerge. One used by Jews, one used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans, and one used by other Protestants. Guess which version Judge Roy had engraved on his rock?

Posted by JohnL at October 30, 2003 12:11 AM
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