Can You Separate Faith From Life?

How does or should our personal beliefs affect those around us on a daily basis? Is it an interference, something for which others avoid us or resent us? Is it an obstacle that must be overcome, creating limitations to relationships?

I ask the questions as I evaluate public profile in conjunction with personal beliefs. Within my office is a wide variety of beliefs and lifestyle choices. It ranges from very devout conservative to those who wouldn’t call themselves Atheist but aren’t necessarily faithful churchgoers. Within that context I have always trodded carefully. Conversations about personal beliefs can quickly become inadvertently offensive and make working relationships strained.  Although there are colleagues who don’t back down when certain matters of doctrine come up, I have typically taken the politically correct road of not engaging in debates and conversation involving heavy personal religious belief.

So separating faith, or more specifically doctrinal belief, from everyday life came to the forefront again this week.  My recent post regarding David Green and Hobby Lobby generated wonderful discussion and feedback from which I always learn.  One commenter characterized his actions as similar to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar.  As I thought about that reference, I found it appropriate but limited.  Appropriate to the point of standing up for personal conviction, but limited because of it’s effect on others.  Mr. Green is making a decision which ultimately effects his employees separating him from the three Hebrews who didn’t say “me and my house (servants, scribes, etc.) will not bow”.  It’s similar to many conversations I’ve had regarding homosexuality; walking the line between personal belief and public policy.  If I believe homosexuality is wrong, does that mean I should encourage legislation which limits their rights as human beings?  How then do you account for multiple faiths and cultures within a society or workplace?  Should we expect that Christian legislators should create laws to enforce Biblical based lifestyles?  No wonder Atheists fear Christians and Christians fear Muslims in public office.

Can you really say there’s is any universal system of beliefs for all people? Even within organized denominations there are differentiations.

Then how can we say what is right or wrong in regards to the public at large?

Isn’t it all individual belief and opinion?

Within the context of a global worldview, can religious faithful separate personal belief from public practice?  How does being “in the world, but not of it” (Rom 12:2) come into play?  Can you stand for what you believe, make decisions which impact the lives and relationships of those around you, yet still be respectful of their possibly contradicting beliefs?  Or do we stomp around with signs and petitions demanding our individualized dogma be recognized and enacted?  But then, how would we feel if the opposite were true?


One thought on “Can You Separate Faith From Life?

  1. Nice post. Here’s my take on a couple of your questions:
    1) Yes, there IS a universal truth that applies to all people but that truth is not (and cannot) be known by any one person because we are finite beings. We can be certain about some things, uncertain about others, and totally ignorant of other things. Those things of which we are certain, we should hold with conviction. Thinking from a Christian perspective, I have a great deal of certainty in salvation through Christ alone and so I will hold that with conviction, both publicly and privately. But, I’m less certain about other areas of dispute (some denominational issues, for instance) and so I hold them with less conviction.
    2) Moving from private belief to public policy opens up another set of issues. Namely, different institutions have different responsibilities. Individually, we are responsible for our own moral decisions. The church is responsible (among other things) to proclaim and live the Word. The role of the government is to rule with equity and justice for the common good (see Romans 13). So, individual belief is absolute but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would apply to public policy. As an extreme example, it is necessary for me, in my own responsibility, to believe in God. But, and here even the most conservative conservatives agree, this shouldn’t become public policy in the form of law because that falls outside the role of the government. So, we can make statements about morality universally, though some we will make with certainty and others we will make with less certainty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we advocate a particular public policy.

    Now let’s apply this to Hobby Lobby in particular. In my opinion, the government is overstepping its bounds in attempting to force Hobby Lobby to pay for drugs it believes (and I agree) result in the murder of an unborn baby. Yes, Hobby Lobby’s decision to not provide this coverage does impact their employees but it does not stop them from acting. Hobby Lobby is not attempting to control its employees, it just does not want to financially support something that is immoral. It appears to me, anyway, that in this case it is the government that is attempting to legislate its own brand of morality that violates the conscience of others.


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