Reflections on religion and politics

Politics and religion. The confrontation is as old as Bible times. And as new as today’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby quandary.

Posted on April 20, 2014 at 11:13 a.m.

Politics and religion. A classic confrontation.

Today is Easter. For Christians, it is the most important day of the year as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow is Tax Freedom Day. Its date is calculated annually by Tax Foundation, which is a Washington, D.C.-based tax research organization. TFD is a symbolic day intending to illustrate taxation.

TFD is meant to show when the money we are earning is actually ours. Up until that date, every penny we make theoretically goes to government in taxes.

Tax Freedom Day is a way of illustrating how much of our income is being taken. And it’s also a way of indicating if the tax bite is growing, and if so, by how much. The later in the year TFD occurs, the more money we are giving to the government.

This year national TFD occurred three days later than it did in 2013. It occurred five days later than in did in 2012 and nine days later than it did in 2011. Our tax bite is growing. Chomp, chomp, chomp.

That TFD occurs so close to Easter this year is ironic. It brings to mind the troublesome relationship between politics and religion, which is as old as humanity. The Bible tells us even Jesus was challenged with tax questions during Holy Week.

We are told that Pharisees asked Jesus whether people should pay taxes to the government. Jesus replied by asking whose image was on the coins they had. When told it was Caesar’s image, He said, “Then, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s.”

Politics and religion. The confrontation is as old as Bible times. And as new as today’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby quandary.

Thomas Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state has been referred to so many times that a great many of our citizens think it’s part of the United States Constitution. As I’m sure most of you know, it isn’t. It is an opinion he offered in a letter to The Danbury Baptist Association.

Last Sunday was Jefferson’s birthday. Not unlike most of us on the subject of separating politics and religion, he was a man of contradictions.

Even though he professed belief in separation, as President he spent federal money to build a Catholic church for a Native American tribe. He also gave land to United Brethrens for missionary work. If there was a wall of separation in those days, it was a bit porous.

I was in Jefferson’s house once. Monticello. It’s the house whose picture is on our nickel, and it’s moving seeing that image in one’s mind and walking up to the front door.

If you’re ever somewhere near Charlottesville, Virginia, I recommend dropping by the place. It isn’t that far from here, and it is well worth the trip.

Just across the fence on the back edge of his property is James Monroe’s home. The two ex-presidents were neighbors. I was told Jefferson and Monroe would often spend long hours in those fields chatting about the days of the American Revolution and the amazing times they had as president.

I think those conversations would make a great subject for a book or movie. The concept of two founders casually shooting the breeze in their backyards is mind-boggling. I wonder if they argued about politics and religion. I’m guessing they did.

Politics and religion. Let the arguments resume tomorrow. For today, I wish you all a Happy Easter.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.

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