By Jeff Wehr
Ever since the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower, religion has played a prominent role in the American culture. During colonial times, religion and politics were quite entangled. But then came the American Revolution of 1776, and the founding of these United States of America.
Our founding fathers were not the Pilgrims. Rather they were men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Washington was our first president, Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution.”
The first ten amendments to the American Constitution went into effect November 3, 1791. Our First Amendment rights read as follows, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Even though our Constitution declares a clear separation between church and state, there have always been among us those who are intent on meshing the church and the state. The Tea Party has an overriding concern for smaller government, but many of them are after a godlier government.
It is interesting to watch the Democratic Party becoming more secular, and the Republican Party becoming more and more religious. But there is another growing trend. More and more American young people oppose the idea of religious groups campaigning against specific candidates, and for these religious leaders telling them how to vote.
In 1991, 22% of those surveyed said that they strongly disagreed with religious leaders trying to influence government decisions. By 2008, that figure nearly doubled to 38%. In 2011, 80% of respondents said that it is not proper for religious leaders to tell people how to vote, and 70% said that religion should be kept out of the public debates over social and political issues. It should come as no surprise that the Tea Party, though powerful and influential in American politics, ranks very low with most Americans.
We have in our American culture a growing number of “nones.” These are individuals classified as having no religious affiliation at all. By the mid-1990s, nones made up 12% of the population. By 2011, they were 19%. The highest concentration of nones is between the ages 18-29. In fact, a third of Americans in their early 20s are without religion.
We can attribute some of this trend to the growing immorality and violence on television and in the streets. But it seems that much of it is a reaction to the religious right. To many young people, “religion” means “Republican” and “intolerance.” In 2006, 32% of Americans who belonged to a church reported hearing sermons with political content once, twice, or even several times a month. By 2011, that figure dropped to 19%.
So what does this mean for last-day events? We know that our lawmakers will be pressured to pass religious legislation. To be more specific, they will be pressured to pass a national Sunday law. It would seem that this pressure is likely to come from religious right groups like the Tea Party. So how does the devil bring in all these young people who have a growing distaste for religion, especially the mingling of religion and politics? The Bible says, “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles.…”Revelation 13:13, 14.
We need to remember that there are two great errors, Sunday sacredness and the immortality of the soul. The trends may indicate that fewer Americans want to see the meshing of church and state, but without the Word of God as their safeguard they are easy game for the devil’s lying wonders which he will use to deceive.
We must do a better job in educating our neighbors and communities about the great subject of the state of the dead before it is too late. As long as people hold to the belief in the immortality of the soul, the personation of the dead will lead them to embrace Sunday legislation.