Sacred/secular strife in the public square
Acton Institute Powerblog

Sacred/secular strife in the public square

The battle over public displays of the 10 Commandments indicates to me just how much ground Christians have given up in recent years. Radical secularists have attacked any and all public expressions of Christian faith, most often by means of the “T” word (theocracy) and appeals to the “wall of separation.” What Samuel Gregg calls “doctrinaire secularism” is winning.

It has gotten to the point that identifiably or uniquely Christian expressions have been all but expunged from, or at best have become impediments to, public life. So evangelical and other concerned Christians have been reduced to squabbling over generically theistic or broadly religious symbols. How far the mighty have fallen.

This is essentially a rearguard action. The emphasis placed on the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, perhaps the most representative instance of a generic civil religion, speaks well to this. In the fight over the Decalogue some Christian leaders have attempted to emphasize the historic and legal importance of the code, rather than its explicitly religious nature, in the attempt to keep a place for public religious expression.

The radial secularists have been so successful in their campaign that orthodox and traditional Christianity (“Jesus is Lord”) is no longer a real target or threat. They’ve moved on to mop-up maneuvers, targeting the last bastion of public religious expression: the generic God of American civil religion.

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.