December 22, 2003

Who Is Ruling Your Life?
"But as for me and my household, we will serve the 
LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

President Jacques Chirac of France recently announced 
his intention to ban the wearing of overt religious 
articles from public schools in that country. This 
would include items such as Muslim head scarves, 
Jewish skull caps, and large crosses. The 
justification for such a law is that the wearing of 
these religious symbols in public places apparently 
emphasizes divisions within the society, thus eroding 
France's long tradition of equality and secularism.

For some readers and listeners of Truah, this kind of 
government control over people's lives is not unusual, 
but for others it would be surprising or disturbing. 
Those of us in the world's so-called free societies 
tend to pride ourselves in our value of personal 
freedom. Historically France is a leader in such 
values. In fact this proposed law in the minds of some 
is in keeping with this. But French society makes a 
sharp division between what is appropriate in public 
and what belongs "chez nous," that is "at home," or in 
other words "in private."

Chirac knows that if our differences are allowed to be 
expressed publicly, whether passively through the 
wearing of distinctive clothing, or actively through 
various forms of proclamations, they will have a 
substantial effect on society. Therefore government 
leaders ,like Chirac, have a choice to make. Either 
they take control in order to mold society according 
to their ways of thinking or allow the people to work 
it out among themselves. Chirac has chosen the former.

It is interesting that this issue has come to our 
attention at Hanukkah time. The ruler over the people 
of Israel in the second century before Yeshua was 
Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus, like Chirac, 
understood that in order to achieve societal unity, it 
was necessary to impose one culture upon all.

In the case of Antiochus, he was not simply satisfied 
to remove Jewish religious observance from the public 
sphere. He wanted to eradicate it altogether. Still, 
when our leaders make decisions that conflict with the 
public expression of our faith are they not attacking 
our faith itself? These are not issues of personal 
preference and taste. Laws such as these attack our 
fundamental commitment to our faith and religious 
communities.

What we may not be aware of is that President Chirac 
is attempting to do something that most of us, no 
matter where we live, face each and every day. You 
might be thinking of some of the well-known court 
decisions aimed at removing religious expression from 
public places. Many people are concerned about how 
this sort of thing may one day affect them. But it is 
affecting us now, though we may not realize it.

You may not live in a society that has laws governing 
the practice and expression of your faith, yet many of 
our communities have all sorts of unwritten rules and 
regulations that attempt to control our beliefs and 
how we live them out.

You know what would happen if you spoke about your 
faith at work, at school, or at even at your family's 
holiday celebration this year. How many things are in 
your heart right now that you would love to express in 
some way, but you don't - not because keeping to 
yourself is the right thing to do - but out of fear of 
the kind of reaction you will get.

We don't need oppressive laws as long as we behave 
this way.

Hanukkah is a time to remember when the Jewish people 
would not allow others to dictate how they were to 
live. God and God alone should determine that.

Who is ruling your life anyway?