Earlier this week, Donald Trump released a proclamation commemorating the 850th anniversary of Christian martyr Thomas Becket‘s death. (It seems safe to say this marks the first time Trump has heard of Becket.)
Most of the proclamation is standard fare for this administration, but the ending is jarring for reasons that have nothing to do with Becket.
Before the Magna Carta was drafted, before the right to free exercise of religion was enshrined as America’s first freedom in our glorious Constitution, Thomas gave his life so that, as he said, “the Church will attain liberty and peace.”
… It is because of great men like Thomas Becket that the first American President George Washington could proclaim more than 600 years later that, in the United States, “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship” and that “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.”
A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God.
Needless to say, the circumstances in 12th-century England — where one’s life could be at stake depending on which type of Christianity he professed — were quite different than what we know in 21st-century America. Of course religious freedom is important. It’s odd, then, for a president to say that “a nation without faith cannot endure” if America is a nation of religious freedom and not a theocracy.
A nation with required faith is doomed. A nation with forced atheism is no better.
It was precisely the issue of church mixing with state that lead to Becket’s murder in the first place, since it was commonly believed that kings were anointed by God. To disagree with a king’s divine right to rule was tantamount to disagreeing with the word of God. Plenty of Christians today believe that Trump was chosen by God as president. History should show them that this kind of thinking only leads to trouble.
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