1. Religious diversity and non-establishment of religion is exactly what this country was built on. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Christians say “but this country was founded on Christian values!” I believe that is true, but that is not the issue at hand here. Is it true that white male Protestants created… Read more 5 Reasons Why Christians should Advocate for Church/State Separation
1. Religious diversity and non-establishment of religion is exactly what this country was built on.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard Christians say “but this country was founded on Christian values!” I believe that is true, but that is not the issue at hand here. Is it true that white male Protestants created our government and filled almost every seat in Congress and the Presidency for the first 150 years of this country’s existence? Yes. Does that mean this is a Christian nation? NO! The First Amendment was designed to ENSURE religious diversity not homogeny. In the early Republic, states were predominantly one form of Protestantism or another; and they were fear-stricken that a federal government would end up collecting their Baptist taxes (for example) and use them to build Presbyterian churches in some other state. There were public funds going to churches and even directly to pastors all the time. The non-establishment clause of the First Amendment was designed to ensure that the federal government would not use federal funds for religious purposes (but this purposefully neglected to restrict states from using state collected taxes for religious purposes, and they did for at least the first 100 years).
All this to say, religious diversity is what our founders wanted and desired and enacted in our Bill of Rights.
2. The Church doesn’t do well with power
There is sincere truth in the criticism that wars are fought over religion. Historically, whenever the Church — whether Roman catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, or otherwise — has had power there has also been coruption and bloodshed. Now, is that a reflection of the nature of the Church, or the nature of power? It doesn’t matter — either way Church + Power = No good!
It’s important to remember though, that power and influence are two different things. The Church can be very influential without having any political power at all.
Jesus sets the example here. He would not use military strength to his benefit, he would not use wealth to his benefit, he would not use people of influence to his benefit. Instead he served every chance he had; he served, he submitted. You might say he overturned tables in the temple — well, that was HIS territory, that is exactly where he DID have power and authority: in the temple. Further, whenever Jesus talked about his power it was always in order to heal or cast out demons. This is where the church has authority: in the individual lives of people for their restoration and healing. Once we set our sights on electing a “Christian” congress or president, we’ve lost our focus and are ignoring our true source of power in this world. What could be more influential in this world than seeing lives be restored one person at a time? Why should we dilly-dally with the finiky world of politics when we can change peoples lives instead?
3. A forced morality is a false morality
By the middle ages, one of the biggest problems the Catholic Church had on its hands was the sinful behavior of its priests and bishops. Seats of power were sold to family and friends who had no morality whatsoever. New and inventive church taxes were being levied against the people all the time. Why? Because they were trying to enforce morality through fear and power. A force morality is a false morality.
4. Christians can learn a lot from other religions if we stop being so afraid of them.
If Christians really advocated for Church/State separation they might end up meeting and befriending people of other faiths. I’ve done that and it’s changed my life. I have learned more about Christianity and the world by getting to know some amazing Jewish people. I worked for four years at Congregation Beth Israel and I still like to call Rabbi Michael Berk “my Rabbi” (and he’s great enough to let me call him that!). I also have never delved deeper into my own beliefs than when I walked with agnostic/atheist friends of mine down through their most cutting criticisms and dark experiences with other Christians. I have yet to befriend a Muslim, but I long for it desperately.
5. Patriotism is a medium for secularization
Lastly, so much of the rhetoric of this being a “Christian nation” and wanting to enforce Christian morality in our state and federal legislation is couched completely in patriotism. Patriotism is a tool used to give sacred language to the nation-state. Though there is plenty of biblical support for being a good citizen and benefitting the city in which you live, Christians ought to be particularly careful with their patriotism. The end result is a slippery slope towards a toothless religion, a civil religion who’s primary purpose is celebration of the nation-state, or to use theological language: idolatry.
p.s. Yes, there is plenty of material out there to defend everything I’ve said here, but this is a blog, gimme a break! Don’t make me look stuff up for you please!?