More and more people are questioning the Constitution ideal that religion deserves special protection. Medical groups don't get special protections. Sports don't. Unions don't. But the Bill of Rights begins by talking about religion and basically tells the state to back off. Why? Is this just a holdover from an age when religion was important to people, one that should be abandoned in the modern secular state?

Associate editor Matt Reynolds has been point person on this issue, which is a good thing. Matt, who holds a master's degree in church-state relations from Baylor University, knows the many nuances that such issues raise, and has suggested, acquired, and edited the cover story with wisdom and care.

The next story tries to answer one particular religious question: Should we allow Muslims to practice Shari'ah law in the United States? Should Muslims be permitted to make binding laws regarding marriage and family, laws that are not subject to the review of local, state, and federal governments? Why not, especially if we believe in the special place of religious freedom as argued in the first article!

But other questions are being addressed in this issue as well. Andy Crouch wonders what we exactly mean when we bandy about the phrase "for the common good." It's become an increasingly popular way to summarize how and why Christians are engaged in public life. But what do we mean by it? John Stackhouse wonders about what exactly we can and cannot accomplish in politics (page 48); we're called to be agents of transformation in our culture, but how much transformation can we realistically hope for? And if a great deal of corruption remains even after our best efforts, why bother?

In these articles in particular, we are asking questions about our life together in neighborhoods, cities, states, and nations. Jesus said we are called to be salt and light in the world, but he was maddeningly vague about exactly what that should look like. I guess he thought it would be good for us to work that out together.

One thing we like to do in CT is try to work these things out. We feature writers and interview subjects who have answers that Christians should deeply consider. We rarely have a party line to endorse, trusting arguments and not ideology to convince. We believe that one way the Spirit leads us into all truth, as Jesus promised, is when we sit down, ask good questions, and reason together.

Not a bad description of what CT is about.

Next issue: Yours truly will ask his own question: What's up with all the best-selling books about people visiting heaven? John Stackhouse returns to examine what C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity (first published 50 years ago) can teach us about apologetics today, and Marian Liautaud reveals the uncomfortable truth about the global "war on women."

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