Secular Prayer Offers No Limit on State Power
Director of Maxim Institute
Parliament’s Speaker, Trevor Mallard, in a unilateral fit of secular hubris, got rid of the reference to Jesus and prays the parliamentary prayer in Maori. Secular hubris? What’s that?
Although now in danger of slipping away, one of the great achievements of our political tradition is its grasp on freedom. After much trial and error, we managed to separate the role of priest from the role of king. It took a while to put into practice what Jesus had said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.”
For the Romans that was radical; the emperor was divine. There was no authority above the state. It didn’t matter that many Romans might not have accepted the emperor’s divinity, it was how it spun out in law.
The early Christians, refusing to accept the supreme authority of the divine emperor, were called “atheists”, haters of mankind. It is not without irony that these hating and hateful atheists gave the West its insight into political freedom.
For most of my lifetime, the state was not absolute. There was an authority both the citizen and the government were expected to acknowledge. Certainly, the government could make laws, but even those laws were prescribed by a belief in an authority above the state.
Sometimes that division of powers is called separation of church and state. It is more than that. Secularists like Mr Mallard might find it unpalatable, but the limitation on state power is entirely the consequence of a belief in monotheism.
Without God the state is supreme. It is an observable matter of historical and practical truth. Who’s the boss, God, who dignifies the individual conscience, or the state?
When Parliament prays, it acknowledges its own human limitation. In a democracy that acknowledgement of limitation is essential. Prayer in Jesus’ name is an exercise in humility, it is not mumbo-jumbo. It reflects the agreement that there is a power above Parliament.
We won’t all have the same idea of who God is. Without some long-standing insight, men and women tend to create a god in their own image. Which is what Mr Mallard is doing. “We’re not all Christians now,” he says. Jesus must go. But we don’t all have to be Christians, simply recognise the foundation of our culture and in what truth our freedom lies. Mr Mallard’s multicultural god is his own creation.
|The Speaker Trevor Mallard at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell|
Mr Mallard is not advancing, in the name of diversity, the cause of a latter-day neutral secularism at all. Instead he is well on the way to creating a civil religion; a religion, whose form and subject of worship is the state itself. The demand to get rid of the prayer that has its roots in the religion that gives dignity to the individual, will erode our freedom and lead to the gradual deification of the state.
Secularism is a parasite. When it has killed the host it feeds on, it will have nothing to offer but bondage. The foundation that gives us freedom and expression of religion, free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience, will crumble.
Right now, submissions are being made on the Right to Life Choice Bill. Members of Parliament can employ a conscience vote at the third reading, if the bill gets that far. But in the secular and dechristianised society there would be no good reason to have a conscience vote. Democracy cannot survive unless men and women possess an educated private conscience. That is, they have a duty and a right to accept an authority higher than the state. This conviction has shaped New Zealand since its foundation. The freedom we enjoy depends on it.
The secularised state will give lip service to freedom of conscience, but in practice it will not permit it. If the state has no rival power to contain its hubris, the temptation to tyranny will always overtake it. The evidence from the 20th century is overwhelming.
The conviction that we possess a private conscience is the consequence of the belief that human beings have been created in God’s image. If you don’t like to believe in God, it remains a matter of what you replace God by; the autonomous self? Ultimately that will become the overbearing State.
And that too is the end of freedom.
Go to Source to Comment