Among the People

The mariner had the privilege of visiting an adult Sunday school class. The class, however, met on Monday. Why can’t things just remain as they always have? There’s a reason Sunday school is called Sunday school! This disregard for tradition, however, is the hallmark of the class. It is a small class of about six to eight members; the class members typically are women. Instead of studying the Bible, the Monday school studies contemporary thoughts provided by religious authors and speakers.

Having just written a couple of posts on church and state, the mariner visited the class to observe the subject discussed in a real environment by real people. Being a new visitor, the mariner didn’t say too much. The dynamic for discussion is provided by a retired professional from the national Methodist Church, a reformed Texas Baptist, two existentialist Christians, a skeptic, an ontologist, and a traditional Bible-based Christian. On second thought, perhaps their church insists they meet on Monday. . .

The combination of excellent congeniality and disparate backgrounds allows for creative discussion. The DVD played on this occasion was a lecture about the conflict raised between a Christian and a US citizen. The speaker accepted that one had to survive both in God’s Kingdom and in man’s existential world at the same time. The primary point was that the existential world depends on the influence of Christians for society’s morality and purpose. The mariner would have liked to hear more about the state as juxtaposed to Christianity.

He observed that the class had difficulty sorting out the balance between church and state because the speaker framed both in the context of religion. Perhaps the class would have had an easier time if the speaker had provided more about the state side of things. In his May 25 2013 post, the mariner cited Christianity and the Encounter of World Religions by Paul Tillich. The world religions are capitalism, communism, socialism and authoritarianism. Tillich said that Christianity morphs into a hybrid combined with the prevailing form of society. In the US, the prevailing society is capitalist. Hence, a balance of behavior evolves accommodating the two religions.

In this age of information, Paul Tillich can add another world religion: secularism. Secularism is void of religious reason. It is the mariner’s opinion that the emergence of secularism is reworking the definition between church and state – a definition which was more or less adequate until Norman Rockwell stopped painting and Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Henri Matisse popularized the Cubist movement. Stretched across fundamentalist Christians, traditional Christians and existentialist Christians, it will take a couple of generations to sort the balance between Christianity and secularism.

Ancient Mariner