I believe in faith, and country, and the Constitution. But my faith does not fit within the catch phrase “faith-based”—any more than I believe habeas corpus has any civilized connection to the term “enemy combatant.” My faith in country and Constitution derives literally from the text of that document. The First Amendment states unequivocally, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion,” and continues to mark out the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition for every citizen of a young nation.
I was born into great freedom. Though I wasn’t “high-born,” it didn’t matter—America did not have a king. And I was baptized at birth, but that didn’t matter either—America didn’t require religion of its citizens. So when I recently heard a reporter, unprompted, use the term “faith-based” to describe people rebuilding a church in Florida, I was troubled. The word volunteers would have been appropriate–unless he’d canvassed each worker to ascertain their beliefs and membership in the church. I thought it likely some helpers were just neighbors pitching-in. When that journalist put forth the politically charged term “faith-based,” I felt a uniquely American principal had been violated.
Faith to me is getting up in the morning and simply getting on with the complexities of life. It’s facing a barrage of advertising, corporate half-truths, and in-your-face affronts from an executive branch flaunting the will of the people. It’s wading through all that and still holding tight to what you believe in. And it’s using common sense to ferret the truth from the day’s news–all the while holding out hope Congress will find its spine and get the country realigned with the Constitution.
To me faith is rising each day, caring about your neighbor, and doing a little something to nurture truth. Faith is going out to vote, serving on a town board, writing a letter to the paper. It’s giving voice to an ancient belief in the principle of habeas corpus—the idea that secret incarcerations are an affront to humanity and a civil democracy. God is not required for any of these tasks. What’s asked of us is just little everyday courage—something that seems oddly revolutionary these days.
It’s by this means that I try to keep faith with my country and countrymen. If the local church blows down, you might find me out there keeping faith with my neighbors to help rebuild it. But that civic spirit won’t stem from god, its roots will be in some of the unique ideals our democratic experiment was founded on. To me, three hundred thirty years after we became a nation, some truths still remain self-evident.
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