The Freedom of Religion
Islam is not tolerent!
The Freedom of Religion
On June 4, 2009 President Obama gave a speech to the "Muslim world" I was struck by his attempt to assure the Muslim people that America is a tolerant and just nation. That religious freedom is one of our most precious rights. The Muslim faith is not known for it tolerance of other faiths. President Obama tried to describe Islam as such, but the truth is, it is far from tolerant. Religious liberty is a uniquely Christian principle. Christianity does not insist you be a Christian to participate in its society.
Islam does not share this conviction. Further, they operate under a system of government that has plagued the world for centuries. Theirs is a theocracy, the practice of combining Church and State. Christianity began to tear away this death shroud ever so slightly with the nailing of Martin Luther's 95 theses to the door at Castle Church at Wittenberg in 1517. Then, she cast off the decomposing corpse once and for all with the creation of the American Constitution.
Supported by scripture and taught by Jesus, the freedom of Religion was originally, a uniquely Christian idea, however, it was not always understood. For 1500 years this principle remained hidden in scripture. Once the Bible was made available to everyone, the concept was properly explored.
When we look at history, the freedom of religion was not practiced or understood. Certainly not by Christianity. In order for religious freedoms to exist, Government and religion must remain separate. There must be a barrier between the two. The scriptural justification for the separation between Church and State comes from Matthew 22:15-22 where Jesus teaches us to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's". He taught that government and faith were not one and the same. John 18:36 clearly explains that his kingdom was not of this world. Distinguishing between man's kingdom and God's. This idea was unheard of in His time and was not fully developed until the American Revolution, where It found it ultimate expression in the US Constitution.
I recently had a discussion about the reformation and the American Revolution with a devout Catholic friend. Not surprisingly my friend viewed these crucial events in history as rebellious stepping stones away from the Catholic Church and the single authority of the Pope. That it was instigated by "Enlightened" or "Masonic" writers whose goal was to place the world on a track towards atheistic communist rule. My friend felt that the Reformation more than the American Revolution, gave birth to all the protestant churches and that these "protestant" Churches were not valid Christian churches because they do not recognize the Popes authority.
In the following, I will address some of my catholic friend's points. It is my hope that you will appreciate, with clarity, that the separation of Church and State is essential for the freedom of religion and a free society. In addition, I hope to add to your understanding of my faith in Christ and in God's Word the Bible.
The Protestant Reformation/Revolution
The Protestant Revolution was a violent period that span from the1600’s to the 1800’s. It was a time of struggle for religious and political freedoms as well as a rebellion against established authorities. But I would suggest that is was not a rebellion against Christ, as my Catholic friend suggested. It was a rebellion against a corrupt political system that blended church and state. It was a rejection of a system that controlled the populace through poverty, superstition, and illiteracy. A Feudal system that was stacked in the favor of the royalty and clergy that plunged Europe into the dark ages. It placed a helmet of ignorance over the whole of society for over 1300 years. It was a revolt that, in its infancy, was not completely understood by it revolutionists but ended with the greatest expression of human freedom ever known by man, the United States of America. It is through hind sight that we understand this revolution for what it was. The path way to the political and religious freedom we in America enjoy by separating the two powers of Church and State.
My Catholic friend used King Henry the 8Th (1491-1547 AD) as the example of rebellion, because he was the first English King to brake with the Roman Catholic Church. My friend thought that I, as a staunch protestant, held King Henry up as a great reformer and a good Christian. In fact, the opposite is true, I see him as a great sinner. He murdered his wives which in turn planted seeds of resentment that plagued England long after his death. I find very little about his story that is "Christ -Like". The truth is, his actions were motivated by selfish ambition, his break with the Roman Catholic Church allowed him to name himself the head of the Church of England. He did this, not out of deep religious conviction, but because the political climate afforded it.
As a foundation for his break with Rome and Being the opportunist that he was, he appointed Thomas Cranmer as the Archbishop. Henry knew Cranmer would grant his divorce and that he was favorably disposed to the protestant ideas. Although Cranmer was a Catholic priest, he was married. A fact that was kept from the Pope until after he was sanctioned in 1532. This also made Cranmer a protestant revolutionary. Protestants priest were allowed to marry. So naturally Cranmer would be favorably disposed toward Protestantism. Together Cranmer and Henry broke with Rome and created the Church of England. Henry was looking for a puppet and in Cranmer he found the perfect marionette. Cranmer later proved to be a true believer and ultimately gave his life for his faith, Henry however, does not show any evidence of salvation. I do not believe that Henry was a Christian. He didn’t really care what God or the Church thought. He wanted to do as he pleased. He was an unregenerate head of state who was simply taking advantage of the political atmosphere to further his own gains.
Henry knew that it would give him more political power at home and would solve a personal problem as well. His is the perfect illustration of a problem that resulted because the power of the church was blended with power of the state. The problem was he needed a Son. He wrongly supposed that it was his wife’s fault and so he sought an immoral divorce. He could not receive this divorce unless the church granted it. If he ignored the church and went ahead and divorced her, he would lose the support of the Church. This in turn, would jeopardize his position as head of state. He had a dilemma. Had the church and state been separated there wouldn't have been a problem. Ol’ Henry could have had his divorce and a new church would not have been created.
In America, we separate the two powers. To keep these types of abuses from taking place. If Henry could have done this, two of his wives may have kept their heads. Nor would there had been the blood bath that took place under Henry’s daughter Queen Mary (better known as Bloody Mary)
To have Religious Freedom the Church and state must be separate.
Henry lacked understanding. What he really wanted was religious freedom. The freedom to decide for himself right and wrong. His limited and carnal view of the reformation prompted him to create another Church State. One, in which, he could control. To be English was to be Christian. To be a Christian, he must be a member of the Church. To truly rule the state he must also rule the Church. His solution? Break from the Roman Catholic Church and name himself the head of the Church of England. Problem Solved. In this way he could control his own moral destiny. It was still a tyrannical, ungodly system with the two powers of church and state combined. The only difference was it was based on reformed ideas. An important step on the road to religious freedom had indeed been taken. It enabled man to be free thinkers and explore ideas that were previously hidden. These events would eventually lead to the creation of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 which made the bible accessible to the common man and led to further reform. By the time of the American Revolution, the idea of separating the two powers had been fully developed. For the first time in 1500 years, Humanity truly had religious freedom.
Whether your a King or a vagabond, the desire is the same. We all want to be free to make our own moral decisions. What god to serve, what church to attend, and moral distinctions between good and evil are matters of conscience and should not be forced by the State. Our faith/religion should never be forced on someone else. The fall of man in the Garden proved that man will decide for himself even at the expense of his soul. The genius of the American Constitution is that it understands this and allows for it. It enables mankind to have the freedom to choose without being coerced. To have religious freedom the Church and state must be separate.
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