The ‘secularism’ argument (2)
By Mohammed Adamu
If we go strictly by the English dictionary definition of the term ‘secular’ to mean concern ‘with temporal, worldly matters’ to the exclusion of ‘religion’, many of the ‘apparently-secular’ Scandinavian countries especially of Sweden, Norway and Denmark which have state-established Lutheran Churches –and most of whose Ministers are said to be drawn virtually from the civil service-, would unquestionably be ‘non-secular’.
In fact to use the term ‘non-secular’ to describe such a virtual ‘theocratic scenario’ where ‘Church Ministers are drawn from the civil-Service or where civil servants are made out of Church Ministries, would be overly gratuitous. If anything the Scandinavian example provides a most apt, practically existential definition of ‘theocracy’ in its fusion of the ‘clerical’ with the ‘clerk-lical’; or of the ‘spiritual’ with the ‘temporal.; Or may be to use conventional clichés, the fusion of ‘religion and politics’ or of ‘the state and the church’.
In fact these countries of Scandinavia in a sense would be far more so ‘non-secular’ or ‘theocratic’ than say, Italy which, in spite of its many Roman Catholic baggage -particularly the traditionally sustained ‘links’ between church and governing party’-, at least Italy has still managed to officially disavow ‘Roman Catholicism’ as state religion.
But if, even at that, Italy, on account of her many other indelible non-secular attributes, is unable to bear the full raiment of ‘secularism’, the question is, ‘can a mere declaration by the Nigerian Constitution affirming that no religion shall be made a state religion, alone, and to the exclusion of her many other socio-theological attributes, confer ‘secular’ status to Nigeria? You don’t think so!
Generally speaking, although almost all European nations, on the face of it, are considered ‘secular’, the truth is in virtually all of them, religion (in this case Christianity) has always played a significant role in their politics. Meaning that in spite of all theoretical claims to the contrary, ‘religion and politics’ on the one hand, and ‘state and religion’ on the other, are essentially ‘inseparable’.
And by the way, Muslims alone do not consider ‘church’ and ‘state’ essentially inseparable, or ‘politics’ and ‘religion primordially correlative. Nor do all Christians believe in the religious fallacy that to achieve ‘his’ earthly temporal mission, ‘man’ does not need the ethereal; or vice versa. And you do not have to go beyond the confines of the Church or even outside the very bastion of secularism herself, America, to grasp the echoes of these verities!
In 1795 America’s first President, George Washington proclaimed the 19th of February for National Thanksgiving and Prayer; and at the inaugural occasion of which, analysts said Bishop James Madison (whose cousin James Madison later became America’s 4th President), while speaking on the subject of ‘Divine Providence toward America’, deployed ‘shrewdly’ but excellently an array of spiritual and temporal metaphors like the biblical ‘ Dear Brethren’ and the political ‘Fellow citizens’, references to the American ‘Christian’ as well as the American ‘patriot’; and Washington quoted generously from the Bible’s ‘Psalms’ and from John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ ,not only to underscore the mutual in-exclusivity between the spiritual and the temporal, but most importantly, in the words of the late language maven, William Safire, to “link the notion of church and state” and to build a “common ground (for) religion and government”.
Again Richard Nixon in his days was said to have instituted a series of sermons delivered on Sunday mornings in the White House and at the inaugural of which also the then America’s preeminent voice of conservative Judaism, late Rabbi Finkelstein, in a deeply philosophical sermon, reminded secularists (who criticize Nixon’s idea as “a breach between church and state”) of the need to recant their ‘exclusion’ of God in the temporal affairs of man. Said he: “How little the mightiest of us can hope to accomplish, and how much we have to leave to God!”
Ronald Reagan, a known proponent of prayer in public schools, in 1983, while speaking on the sources of evil in the modern world to National Association of Evangelists meeting in Florida, accused Communists Russia of preaching “the supremacy of the state” and “its omnipotence over individual man”. Said the late Cow-boy President: “The crisis of the Western world exists to the degree in which the West is indifferent to God, the degree to which it collaborates in Communism’s attempt to make man stand alone without God”.
Then in 1776 there was Reverend John Whitherspoon, the only Clergyman to sign the American Declaration of Independence, who preached the controversial subject of ‘The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men’ and in which while laboring to couple religion with politics he said the best friend to American liberty is one “who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind”, closing with invocation: “God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both”
Again there was Bishop Fulton John Sheen, a long time preacher of the philosophy of religion at the American Catholic University, who, in his popular 1941 ‘Catholic Hour’ Radio Sermon titled that week: ‘The Cross and the Double Cross’, warned: “the hour of false freedom is past. No longer can we have education without discipline… individual existence without moral responsibility, economics and politics without subservience to the common good”
And who will not love to listen to fiery, righteous Christian evangelists like these?