Monday, October 27, 2008

Church and State

I have been deluged with emails from some of our younger friends explaining why they have decided not to vote in the matter of Proposition 8 here in California. Prop 8 would define marriage as between a man and a woman. If you're following the saga of this Proposition in our state then you know it has become a very spirited competition.

I am quite concerned about the way that many professing Christ-followers have been eroded by the tide of culture. Let me address the issue here of the separation of Church and State. Unfortunately, this is a situation where those who don't understand history are going to be punished by the future.

The framers of the Constitution had long recognized the abuses that governmentally run churches had perpetrated on their citizenry. In England, Scotland, France, and a host of other European countries, the church had been under the thumb of the government, run and funded as a governmental agency. Of course, this had all but eliminated religious freedom in the country and brought about hardship for those who dissented. (Historical Note: The "Free" church movement, begun in France, was one of the groups who stood in opposition to the governmental practice of ruling over churches.) As a result of these lessons from history, our founding fathers wisely set the government of the USA in such a way that religious groups were free from governmental oversight. As originally framed, this doctrine was for the protection and benefit of the people, then of the church. It was not conceived as a protection of government! In fact, as the Constitution was framed, the framers themselves understood that the church had an important role to play as the conscience of the nation. Their preamble stated that they took actions "with reliance on Divine Providence" which they understood to be the sovereign control of history by God. The various ways in which the place of theology and religion was valued can be seen things like the engravings over the Supreme Court buildings, the motto on our coins, the office of chaplain in many governmental agencies including the Senate, etc. They recognized that God's Law preceded their establishment of government, and as such, would play a necessary role in the establishment and maintenance of the US governmental structure.

Today, it appears that most folks think the "separation" is for the benefit of the government. That government needs to be protected against religion, which is quite opposite of the original intent. This view has made it "incorrect" for the church and its leaders to speak out against the policies and actions of the government. Not only is this not the intention of the founding fathers, it actually impedes free speech, which they were quite intentional about guarding and promoting.

To Sum Up: The church and its leaders, and its congregants have just as much right to speak out against government and political ideas as any other American or organization. In fact, to remain silent is to abdicate the position of "conscience" that religious leaders have held as far back as the OT prophets.

Over the years, the church in America has been increasingly painted as the enemy of government, of society, and of the freedom Americans enjoy. What apparently escapes the notice of those who feel this way is that when they limit the freedom of the church to be the church, to express its theology in constructive ways, they are actually eroding the very freedoms they are trying to protect.


At 3:21 PM , Blogger Jay and Janelle said...

That's why I joined the Facebook David Hegg Fanclub right there!

Let me add one thing to your argument, as someone who knows very little about history and life compared to you.

Until Thomas Jefferson disestablished the practice in Virginia, it was common for states to decide on one official state church, which would then be funded through state taxes.

This, of course, led to the kind of danger to church that you're talking about--if the government were to fund a church, then that government would invariably have a right to say what the church practices and teaches.

It's simply impossible and goes against the very nature of freedom to ask individuals to vote in such a way that conscience (whether religiously, ideologically or otherwise informed) is not allowed to have a voice.

At 9:13 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I wonder how the Biblical admonitions to render unto Caesar, and submit to the government since it was ordained by God, apply in our democratic society. While I agree wholeheartedly that marriage has been defined by God, and I believe in the church's freedom to speak boldly on any issue, including legal ones, I think that the objection of politically moderate christians is that the conservative political movement seems to expend too high a proportion of its energy on being a condemning light, and too little on living the values of Jesus. While I would not raise this charge against Northpoint or its staff, I think that this perception, wrong or right, leads to the apathy and hesitation of today's christian youth.


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