A good while back Samer and I were talking. He was sharing about the Islamic point of view and how Islam was a complete way of life. How you could not separate the church (errr, mosque) and state in Islam. Islam doesn't just regulate people spiritually, but it governs politically as well. There are rules for engaging in war - some very good rules, I might add. I truly find the Islamic rules of engagement and treatment of prisoners quite good.
So anyway, we were talking and I was in one of my states of disbelief at how all-inclusive Islam was in taking over people's lives when he asked:
"Wouldn't you want to live in a country where your Christian beliefs are what ruled the nation?"
Sounds delightful actually! Can you imagine a country where serving and honoring others was the norm? Where needy people were helped without complaint? Need the oil changed in your car? No problem, let me get my tools. Need your yard cleaned? Let me get my rake. And people loving each other and returning good for evil....utopia!
Sounds, well, divine.
The problem is that this church/state thing was tried before and, sadly, the Church just doesn't do well with a lot of power. It seems power has some magical ability to corrupt. So you start mixing the Church and the State and it becomes more of a control, power issue than spiritual one.
Plus there are various forms of Christians. There are some who just have attended church once in their lives or their families consider themselves Christian so they are as well. Then there are those of differing religious varieties - liberals, literalists, moderates. So whose Christianity will rule in the nation? It's rather subjective.
Just like sharia law is subjective to many Muslims. Whose interpretation will you follow?
Thus, I believe you can influence the State by the way you live and vote, however, you shouldn't use the State to force people to change. Quite frankly, the State is a poor substitute for God in changing people's lives. What we try to legislate (force people to do by law), God can simply do. And His way is more lasting and good because He gets to the heart of the matter by...changing hearts. Not merely outward compliance under threat of punishment.
All that just to say, I want to copy some quotes from God & Government...some of which relate to what I wrote above. I thought the author made some very good points in what he shared.
"The church, while not the Kingdom of God, is to live out the values of the Kingdom of God in this world, resisting the ever-present temptation to usher in the Kingdom of God by political means. Yet this is the temptation to which the church has most commonly succumbed, and certainly this is its greatest temptation today." (pg. 104)
"While human politics is based on the premise that society must be changed in order to change people, in the politics of the Kingdom it is people who must be changed in order to change society." (p. 105)
"If Christianity was true and meaningful, it must go deeper than that [life in Parliament]. It must not only save but serve. It must bring God's compassion to the oppressed as well as oppose the oppressors." (pg. 111)
"The kind of conflict that Wilberforce and other activist Christians experience -- between their Christian conscience and their politician mandates -- is unavoidable. Both church and state assert standards and values in society; both seek authority; both compete for allegiance. As members of both the religious and the political spheres, the Christian is bound to face conflict." (pg. 122)
Prior to Constantine's conversion to Christianity, believers in Jesus were routinely persecuted and martyred. "In A.D. 381 Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and in an ironic turnabout, church leaders began exploiting their new-found power. As historian F.F. Bruce has written: 'Christian leaders ... exploit[ed] the influential favor they enjoyed even when it meant subordinating the cause of justice to the apparent interest of their religion...they were inclined to allow the secular power too much control in church affairs ... Where church leaders were able to exercise political as well as spiritual authority, they did not enjoy any marked immunity from the universally corrupting tendency of power.'" (pg.124)
Heretics were suppressed at the order of this new church-state. In fact "the church turned to military conquest through a series of 'holy wars' that became more racial than religious. Jews, Muslims, and dark-skinned Christians were massacred alike. The goal was not to convert the populace, but to conquer it." (pg.125)
Religions had often been "assaulted but always in the name of other religions." Then came the French Revolution where "'irreligion became an all-prevailing passion, fierce, intolerant and predatory.'" As de Tocqueville put it, "'The total rejection of any religious belief, so contrary to man's natural instincts and so destructive of his peace of mind, came to be regarded by the masses as desirable.' The French Revolution was a conscious effort to replace the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of man. But the state must have some moral justification for its authority. Thus France's irreligion was soon replaced by a new faith -- man's worship of man." (pg. 125-26)
Social-gospel movement -- "[dissolved] Christian orthodoxy into a campaign to eliminate every social injustice, often through governmental means. Objectives became political and economic to the detriment of the spiritual. The reformers' well-intentioned efforts were shattered as social programs failed to produce the promised utopia, leaving observers to conclude, 'Things are no better. Where is your God now?'"
Today this happens on both the right and left, however, this "preoccupation with the political diverts the church from its primary mission."
"The political right is also subject to this temptation; many want to impose religious and cultural values by force of law, irrespective of the wishes of the electorate. This is as wrong and dangerous, as the secular left attempting to impose its values on society by force --usually via the courts." (pg. 132)
Re: New Jerusalems -- "If we believe that the Kingdom of Heaven can be established by political or economic measures, then we can hardly object to the claims of such a state to embrace the whole of life and to demand the total submission of the individual will and conscience." (pg.132 footnote)
Separation of church and state did not mean "religion and politics could be separated or religious values removed from the public arena. For one's political life is an expression of values, and religion, by definition, most profoundly influences values." (pg. 136)
Therefore "when laws were passed reflecting the consensus of Christian values in the land, no one panicked supposing that the Christian religion was being 'established' or that a sectarian morality was being imposed on an unwilling people. The point of the First Amendment was that such convictions could only become the law of the land if a majority of citizens could be persuaded (without coercion) of the merits of a particular proposition, whether they shared its religious foundation or not. Today's widespread attempt to relegate religion to the privacy of homes or churches would have been unimaginable to the founders of the republic -- even those who personally repudiated orthodox Christian faith. Though America has drifted far from the vision of its founders, this system continues to offer one of the world's most hopeful models in an otherwise contentious history of conflict." (pg. 137)
"Outwardly, we are a religious people, but inwardly our religious beliefs make no difference in how we live. We are obsessed with self; we live, raise families, govern, and die as though God does not exist." (pg. 245)
Thoughts? What do you think about separation of church/mosque and State? Do you agree that it is God who changes hearts and thus society or do you believe politics also plays an important role?