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
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
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?