Do unto others

Column: You can’t keep God out of the public square

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

Bill Scholl is the archdiocesan consultant for social justice. You can email him at:

by Bill Scholl

Let’s suppose all world governments denied the existence of atoms.

Scientists are still allowed to believe, but everything is done to prevent them from applying atomic theory. Schools no longer teach about electrons, protons and neutrons. Anyone who suggests that all “solid” matter is actually composed of billions of minute particles which themselves are made up of mostly “empty” space are ridiculed.

As society progressed from one that recognized the reality of atoms to one that didn’t, all the good things that came from that recognition — the whole host of technologies reliant upon understanding the atomic world — would fade.

It wouldn’t happen overnight. The toasters would still work because the old technicians would privately still apply atomic theory.

However, they would not teach atoms and, after a few generations of atomic ignorance, we’d eventually notice that no new kids of toasters or any other innovation would be arriving like innovations once did.

Furthermore, we’d have difficulty fixing the things made by utilizing atomic theory. By banning atomic reality from public discussion, we’d deprive society of all the gifts that come to culture when we live in conformity with an accurate understanding of reality.

However, atoms themselves would not cease to exist and they would continue to do what they do, which is to be the material reality that underlies all material reality.

While it sounds absurd that an entire culture would turn it back on a understanding of fundamental reality, this is exactly what our culture has done with regard to God.

In our imaginations we have misconceived God as some grandfather figure far away that acted a long, long time ago to make what exists today. We anthropomorphize him into a straw man God who is dismissed as easily as a pagan myth.

As Christians, we have confirmed the existence of a God that is much beyond something that we can hold as a figure in our imagination. When we say God “is” and nature “is,” we means “is” in a completely different way. The God that is revealed in Scripture and made manifest by the incarnation is a God whose essence is to be.

In other words, God transcends being as we experience it. God is existence, and we participate in God’s being by his generosity.

So to say that religion has no place in the public square is like denying the reality of atoms. Just as the atoms still do what they do. God still acts in the public sphere maintaining all in existence. We just no longer can act in harmony because we deny reality. And we wonder why the toasters no longer work.

About the author

Deacon Bill Scholl

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