“Secularism” is another matter. I define it here as the view that there is no heaven. Secular means the material world and being part of the material world is who we are, especially as Christians. But “secularism” is a rejection of the religious sphere. I think sometimes Christians don’t recognize the difference. They see the hostility of secularism and lump anything that is secular in the same basket. They are suspicious of the secular because of the agenda of secularism.
In the modern era secularism, as I define it here, arose from the Medieval period, where the church exercised a temporal power over society that Jesus didn’t exhibit in his own life.
Secularism was a reaction to this, a throwing-off of the church’s power before the Renaissance. This doesn’t mean every participator in the Renaissance had this agenda.
The reaction of secularism has some merit. When the church began to take hold of state power in the days of Constantine, it legislated against other religions. It ruled over the conscience of men. “Secularists” don’t want the church, or any other religion, having this kind of totalitarian, right-wing power again. The church was wrong in seeing God’s kingdom in this way, and so we shouldn’t see secularists as our enemy, but see our fault and treat those who react to it with understanding.
So, secularists seek refuge from what they see as a “Hitlerian factor,” the oppressive nature of religion. Like we noted above, the response of those Hitler persecuted was to seek dominance over anyone they perceived as a threat. Christians now perceive a left-wing oppression against them, a dictatorial reign coming from secularism, forcing the conscience of society into a rejection of all religion.
This is the normal human pendulum. We seek dominance over the other, before they can dominate us. This cycle needs to be broken, as Jesus broke it on the cross. There, he forgave his oppressors and did not lift a reactionary hand against them. He broke the tit-for-tat syndrome society has been captive to and replaced it with foot-washing. Jesus broke the cycle of “do to others before they do to you,” with “do to others what you would like them to do to you.” When we do this, the true kingdom of God is revealed.
An example of secularism at work in our societies is the drive to ban Christmas and Easter celebrations. It is often alleged that these celebrations offend Muslims. In my experience, Muslims are not offended by these celebrations. On the contrary, they expect those who have a Christian faith to love and practice what we believe. They just don’t like us practicing our faith wrongly, by insulting others. The drive to ban Christian holidays is a secularist drive. Don’t blame Muslims for anti-religious sentiments. They are for religious sentiments, even for Christian ones.
Or secularists may try to force a form of “morality” upon all the children of a society or supress speech that reveals moral values different from their view of the world. Christians are called to overcome this non-violently, without hatred. We do it by recognizing it’s not just our rights that matter in a society but also serving others we disagree with.
Fundamentalism, in all its forms, Muslim, Christian, or from other faiths, is just like secularism, in trying to dominate the conscience of others. I wouldn’t call any form of fundamentalism truly religious, as it denies the principles of religion, especially love of neighbour. Secularism mustn’t chase us from the world, neither make us fight in the world like it does, but teach us to deny ourselves, our personal agendas for power and fight in the world like Christ. It is to teach us to be peacemakers.
Secularism cannot succeed as an ally of the United Nations. The goals of the United Nations cannot be achieved, using a system that seeks to rule over the conscience of humanity. Any dictatorial reign over the human conscience will result in revolt, will take away peace, rather than achieve peace.
The claim of secularists, that religion is the cause of conflict, is not true. Every conflict we have experienced is caused by the greed of man, his lust for power, his self-interest. Conflict is never genuinely undertaken on the behalf of God. Religion is often used as a cover, but the real issue is the human character, where people lie to themselves and others regarding the motives that drive them.
If we seek to quell religion as a path to peace and tolerance, then we are not tolerating what is the most precious thing to most people, their religious conscience. But we are also taking away the greatest ally we have to peace, which is the human religious conscience. The love of God in our conscience is the most restraining factor, the most sensible reason there is for peace. The principle of peace comes from heaven, not from earth, from God’s very own nature. If we take heaven away, there is no solid rational for peace.
Christians have a lesson to learn here. We will not overcome others by suppressing their religious conscience, where it differs from our own. Trying to do so makes us allies of the secularists. We are to honour and respect the religious conscience of others and allow them freedom in its operations. Freedom, as Jesus defined it, is our ability to show respect to others, not freedom from sharing society with these others. Neither secularists, nor fundamentalists, understand freedom as Jesus displayed it, as overcoming self-centredness through self-giving, sharing.
The biblical worldview isn’t heaven or earth, but the spiritual and the secular merged together through service, rather than through conquest or oppression of others.