Liberia: A Christian Nation?


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 12, 2015

                  



 
 
 
 

It is currently the front running global issue – Separating politics from religion.  We have the ISIS CRISIS in the Middle East, the Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, on the African Continent, and the Right-Wing Congress of the United States.   Bringing religion into governance makes no sense, for very obvious reasons.  The simplest reason is found in this little rant, ‘Do we all go to church, let alone the SAME one’?   No!   Are we ALL citizens of Liberia?  Yes!   Then, we cannot thwart the Constitution by discarding “Separation of Church and State”, by declaring a “Christian Nation”.  One need not be a lawyer to see that it would be unconstitutional.    And what is the Judiciary’s response to this?  Shhhhhhhh, quiet!

For the sake of those who really don’t see the dangers in mixing religion with politics, we have to do this.   Go as far back as you wish, humankind has always frowned on forced indoctrination; wars were fought over this; lives have been wasted over this; empires were brought down over this.  And recently the State of Indiana, US, tried to ignore this history by passing a so-called “Religious Freedom Act”; the backlash is history! 

I do want to get on record here that the prevailing drive in the backlash in Indiana is Big Business, and granted that the law’s drag on business is a genuine reason against it, the overriding reason – “Separation of Church and State” – has not been emphasized, practically ignored.   This is 2015, and we are still poking at this venerable statute.  No generation shall ever overturn “Separation of Church and State”!

Some people are arrogantly and, or ignorantly proposing that Liberia become a “Christian Nation”.  Really!   Someone, please tell us when the last “Christian Nation” was established in the world?  It would be a backward move, and would make Liberia a laughing stalk of the modern world.  And above all else, it is a very dangerous move!   We are calling on President Sirleaf and the Congress to reject this proposal and, take to the country side to explain to the people the reason why.

Lest one would argue that becoming a “Christian Nation” is the will of a majority of the Liberian people, know that the CONSTITUTION is very steadfast and blunt about “Separation of Church and State”, and makes no mention of any “majority”!    The dangerous mistake waiting to happen must be put down.  We must all kick back against it.  But, I have my fears and doubt, based on past Liberian Government practices.  This government once had a budget line item specifically to fund a Muslim program.  The question was asked then, “What about the Episcopalian, Baptist, Catholic, Alleluia, or even the Sumu Man’s practice?”  We did not hear “fuen”, and now this!  The convergence of members of the Muslim Community on the Gbarnga Town Hall Meeting, and the ongoing demonstrations of Muslim sympathizers around the country to express their objection is patriotic and laudable.   All Liberians of goodwill should stand in solidarity with this group, not in solidarity along religious lines, but strictly on the basis of common sense, to protest this divisive act that has the propensity to derail all gains made in our post war era.

Madame President, this thing should not make it to a REFERRENDUM; it does not make sense; it divides and is a powder ked waiting to explode.  If you used your “Bully Pulpit” to squash this under your watch, history will hail you, and posterity will enshrine you!   Please, let’s not tamper with the fragile peace; strike this blemish out of the Constitutional Committee Report that has some very good points, such as the cutting of Congressional Term Limits that the people asked for.   But, it did not touch HIGH SALARIES.  Maybe Senator Taylor’s group will handle that for the people.  That’s another story.

For crying out so loud, it is not like Christians are all on the same page!  Just pay a Sunday visit to the “other church”, and you’ll hear yours get shredded.   Some churches go barefooted; some do uniforms (white, usually, but have seen red); some carry a tea kettle for washing/cleansing; some make you fast forty days and forty nights; some have “idols”;  some use  flagellation – they inflict punishment on themselves in contrition and supplication.  Just try to tell Cousin Jrikan to skip lunch!  Religion is a good thing, but a spiritual thing, a personal thing, and therefore should have no place in governance. 

There is an inherent fear when the “Christians” declare a “Christian Nation”; they have nightmares of the dreaded Sharia Laws of an Islamic State.  In other words, “Christians” prefer to be governed by the “other laws”, in essence, Christianizing their constitutions.  What an irony, given that the constitution has in it the “separation of church and state”.   So, what would it be?  Would lawyers now have the Holy Bible, in addition to the Constitution to work with?   It is truly a warped feeling, to think about it.

The reason for a “separation of church and state” should be evident to any prudent human being.  It forestalls a divisive society, prevents the preference of one religion over another, and it avoids the “legislation of morality”.  Ignoring this common sense law has a propensity to force others against their will, solely on religious grounds.   All citizens do not go to church!  All citizens do not go to the same church!  And, even within the same church, the congregants don’t all interpret the “word” the same way!

Government’s role is purely contractual as it relates to the governed.  Like a corporation, it is instituted by a group of people willing to be bound by its decided rules, a constitution.  People decide that their common needs/shared interests, physical needs, can be best fulfilled through collective means.  It is ironic that some, today, shun collective efforts, the very pillars in the formation of governance.  One thing the people did not give up is individuality, in which resides a protected spirituality from which a religious affiliation may spring.  Religion, therefore, was never intended to be a part of governance.

Along the way in this saga, in this modern era, some have unfortunately coined expressions as, “Moral Majority”; they have enacted laws such as “Defense of Marriage” Act (RIP, DOMA!).  I will put it bluntly, the word “majority” is strictly a political/governance term; “morality”, on the other hand, is absolutely spiritual.  Why would we even splice them in the same expression to come up with an arrogant and senseless expression such as “Moral Majority”?  

So, where is the proof for the bold assertion in the forgoing paragraph?  It is inconceivable that man would want someone, anyone, monitoring his sexuality; would want no one telling him how many women he can marry; would want no one telling him how to spend his Sunday mornings; no one telling him that he must be circumcised!   No, I really don’t think so; man did not give these up in the governance agreement.  Hence, some wise men found it absolutely necessary to keep religion and politics separate.  Let’s reward them by just executing, in good faith what they’ve given us.
And about a referendum, if we are really looking to call a sensible one in the 2017 Elections, how about, “Congressional Salaries and Benefits are to be brought down to match the living standards of the Liberian People.”  How many signatures does it require to put that on the ballot, anyway?  It may be necessary to really take that issue up directly with the people, by quantifying the concern with loads of signatures to be delivered on the steps of the Congress of The Republic of Liberia.

If we are to build a sound and all inclusive government, we MUST, at all costs, respect the well-defined line we have enshrined in the Constitution, “The Separation of Church and State”.  Detractors may throw even the kitchen sink at this; it shall still stand! 

Rev.Dr. Levi Williams
Dear Mr. Sneh,
I laud your efforts to engage the topic of religion in Liberian politics. In your first paragraph, you mentioned religion should be separated from politics because of "the ISIS crisis in the Middle East...." I believe this is the underlying reason for wanting to declare Liberia a Christian state. Fear of that crisis is what may be driving the campaign to declare Liberia a Christian state. If Muslims in Liberia can guarantee there will be no attempts to force Liberia under Sharia Law or have to deal with violent extremists, then the fears of the Liberian people will be alleviated. If Liberian remains a secular nation, Islam can force itself on Liberia and all the progress made in gender equality, due process of law, and education for all, to name a few, will be lost.
Second, your opening paragraph also acknowledged diversity in Liberia when you asked, "Do we all go to Church, let alone the same one?" This tolerance is allowed in Christianity but not in Islam. Christians use persuasion to convert and allow people to make their own decisions. Can we expect the same tolerance to exist when Liberia is not a Christian state? Have you not heard of the persecution of Christians in Egypt, Syria and in other parts of the Middle East? Do we want that in Liberia?
By the way, your title was misleading because, from my understanding, the drive is to make Liberia a Christian state, not a Christian nation. To make Liberia a Christian nation (since "nation" refers to the people) would assume everyone will be forced to convert to Christianity. It seems the proposed constitutional amendment is to make Liberia a Christian state. What this means is that the values upon which Liberia as a state will operate will be Christian virtues and values. The virtues and values of justice, love for all, equality under the law, faith, hope, education are only some benefits Liberia has enjoyed and will continue to enjoy as a result of the Christian influence.
Think about the years of Liberia's existence and the presence of Christian schools, hospitals and other institutions. These Christian institutions did not discriminate against non-Christians who came to our schools and hospitals. How many other religions built such institutions to help the Liberian people?
Voting for Liberia to become a Christian state will prevent and protect Liberia from falling under the control of those who would demand we all go to the same place of worship, ban women from receiving an education and from public service, to name a few. When the referendum succeeds and Liberia becomes a Christian nation, other religions will be allowed to coexist. Your ability to write this beautiful essay will continue when Liberia becomes a Christian state because Christianity believes people have a right to disagree and have their own opinions.
We have an opportunity to preserve the beloved community Liberia has known, where people of all religions live and work together. If we want to keep it that way, making Liberia a Christian state is the best way to do it. Let's keep the discussion going.

Best wishes,

Rev. Dr. Levi C. Williams
Rev.Dr. Levi Williams at 02:40PM, 2015/04/12.
Silas Harris
Every Nation in the world pattern their laws representing the Cultural, religious and social aspects of that society. Liberians of over 86% in very clear terms are calling for Liberia to be restore to her Historic Christian Heritage. It will a serious democratic error to allow the will of a few who fear the power of Democracy.

Long live Liberia long live her Christian Heritage.
Silas Harris at 07:18AM, 2015/06/05.
Gbe Sneh
"If Muslims in Liberia can guarantee there will be no attempts to force Liberia under Sharia Law ..." Why make this demand of the Muslims? Muslims are not calling for an Islamic State,or are they?
Gbe Sneh at 04:20PM, 2016/06/21.
Volusion Custom Development at 03:00AM, 2017/09/12.

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