Should the Church Be Involved in Politics?
Thomas Jefferson and the Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.
The Wall of Seperation.
There is much debate over the constitutional intent behind the separation of the church and state but one thing is sure, a wall suggests a separation of two distinctly different entities. The wall of separation is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. Upon reading the letter it is clear that Mr. Jefferson wanted the government to refrain from governing a man's heart.
The legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.
The establishment of a state religion or state-mandated religious activity was a deep concern for Thomas Jefferson. In his letter to Danbury, he was simply trying to clarify his position, not as one who was against religion but that the state needed to stay out of religious affairs.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies between man and his God.
Thomas Jefferson carefully used the words his God. Emphasizing man's faith as one that is personal rather than conventional or legal. This is the wall. This is where government and religion part company. When it comes to a man's convictions, his innermost and deeply held truths, his place of worship and his acts of devotion are his personal property in which the state has no right to trespass its conviction or definition on one's chosen faith.
What about the church? Can the church be involved in the activities of the government? It can. The far more relevant question is, should the church be involved in political matters concerning the governing of a man's heart and if so, how far should the church be allowed to govern one's convictions and devotion.?
Does Religion Have a Role in Government?
The Early Church
Soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles began to establish congregations all over occupied Israel. Though some government officials did convert to Christianity, those disciples who preached Gods kingdom remained detached from government office.
Jesus himself refused to engage in political debate. When asked if the Roman government had a right to force taxes on the Jewish people, Jesus replied, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.
In John 6:15 It says. Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Neither Jesus or his Apostles sought a political position. Nor did they attempt to change laws or introduce legislation to force people or Roman authority to accept Christianity. All throughout the bible the only association Christians had with their human rulers was to share the gospel of Gods kingdom.
It was their neutrality in many cases, that cost them their lives. Whether it was a question of loyalty to the Roman government or loyalty to the Temple and Jewish law. The early Christians were often offensive to both governmental and religious organizations because they refused to take a position for either side but instead remained faithful to the teachings and example of Jesus who said. MY kingdom is no part of this world.
The Roman Empire and Christianity.
Christianity grew out of Judea in the first century CE during the Roman occupation. After Jesus death, the faith grew and eventually became the official religion of Rome attracting both Jews and non-Jews. After years of non-recognition and persecution, the Christian community could finally enjoy the protection of the Roman government.
This authentication of Christianity did come with a cost. The Roman Empire now reserved the right to shape and define the core of the Christian faith. The Council of Nicaea was formed by Emperor Constantine, to address issues that caused controversy in the church, the most pressing conflict was Christ and his relationship to God.
It was from this council that the trinity, a philosophy born of Plato and other philosophers, was constructed and soon became the central doctrine of Christianity. Sadly, the trinity doctrine was forced on many who did not believe that the bible taught Jesus is God but was God's firstborn of all that was created. Historically this doctrine was Constitines doctrine, validated and authenticated by government and religious collaboration, and adopted as the norm through violence and brutality.
The Contemporary Church.
In the twentieth century, political affiliation and Christianity are synonymous. The consensus is that America was founded on Christianity. Therefore Christianity should be the basis of all laws and guiding principles. Because of Americas strong European background and its former ties to Catholicism and Protestantism, our laws were originally based on Christian principles.
Even as far back as Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers found it necessary to include in the constitution a powerful caution against such interpretations for governing a free nation that included people from diverse backgrounds and religious affiliations.
The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.- John Adams.
So what is the role of the church? When the church becomes part of a political entity when it identifies itself with a political party it now takes on the beliefs of that party- including association with those who are corrupt within that party. This is the danger that lies within a politicalized religion is that the lines become blurred and Christians are now in partnership with the sheep and the wolves and are forced to compromise their core beliefs to be somewhat effective within a corrupt system.
Granted you can find scripture that can be used to justify faith and government in bed together, but the unequal yoke does not line up with the scriptural core of the bible or Jesus teaching to separate ourselves from the anxieties of this world. The bible is clear, we are in this world but we are not of this world. The church is in no way called to yoke or connect or identify itself to a flawed and corrupt system.
Paul places the role of the church in this category. What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:6
The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation and to keep oneself without spot from the world. James 1:27
Is it possible to collaborate with corruption and remain spotless? 1 st Corinthians 15;33 says, Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler- not even to eat with such a one. 1 Cor 5:11.
The Zelaots Wanted to Overthrow the System. Jesus Did Not.
Jesus told Pilot. My kingdom is no part of this world. If it were my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. John 18:36
Jesus and his apostles knew that Jesus rulership over the earth, not just Israel would happen in God's time. Not man's. It would happen God's way. Not man's. This is why his followers had no intention of trying to rescue him and make him king of Israel.
The Zealots, on the other hand, wanted to overthrow the Roman government and some even wanted Jesus to reside as king in the Holy land. Jesus warned his followers that when the rebellion against Rome started they were to leave Jerusalem because the Empire was going to destroy the city and not one person would be left alive.
Strangely many in Christian-dome still try to keep Jesus here. They want him to take a seat within a crooked and perverse system. They want him to rule within their system even though satan has already admitted that the world powers belong to him.
Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me. Matthew 4:8-11
Luke 4:6 Says it like this. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me and I can give it to anyone I want to.
Christ The King For a Thousand Years.
The End of Human Governments Signifies The Beginning Christ's rulership Over The Earth.
Satan offered Jesus rulership without all the pain and suffering. Jesus refused. He chose to not use his power and influence within the confines of satan's system. Jesus chose to work on a man's heart by sharing the truth about God and his kingdom. Jesus also demonstrated what he would accomplish as king for a thousand years. He would raise the dead, heal the sick, control the weather and restore peace to the earth.
The bible teaches us that God intends to put an end to human rule and re-establish his rule over the earth and undo all the damage that satan has done to the earth and humanity.
Human governments cannot end death, they cannot bring back our lost loved ones. Human governments cannot bring world peace. Only God's government can accomplish this through his Son Jesus.
Should the church promote politics and legislate the hearts of men? Should they attempt to revive Christ within a system that is corrupt and will soon pass away at Christ's return?
The church should do what Jesus and his followers did. Plant and water for Gods kingdom. Prepare humanity for citizenship. Take care of those who are oppressed and share Gods word in truth and integrity. The church should follow the example of Jesus and his followers. But they wont. They prefer their friendship with the world.