However, despite its strength, there are those who continue to assault it. There are those who wish to tear it apart, brick by brick, until it lies in a ruin much more final than that of Berlin.
That wall is the Separation of Church and State. And when considered carefully, it can be seen for what it is: the only serious protection you have against me, and that I have against you. "Why?" you ask. Because without it, any slim majority can tell you who you are, when no one has the right to dictate that to any of us.
But this wall is not made of hands, much like that described in Mark 14, but instead is composed of words and ideas. Fortunately, you cannot kill an idea, but there are still many who wish to erase the words. The words framed in First Amendment, and the 11th Article of the Treaty of Tripoli, and the incorporating properties of the Fourteenth Amendment--they being the bricks and mortar that forbid the government of the United States of America from establishing any religion, or from showing favor to any therein.
If you follow the news, you'll know immediately that there is an assault on this wall nearly every day. What is shameful is that it almost always comes from people who refer to themselves as Christians. It is ironic, as they have either never read their own history or elect to ignore it. Had they checked, they would have seen the Pandora's Box waiting for them.
I could go on about this forever. Of most issues I get irritated about, the cominglement of church and state is probably at or near the top. It wishes to deny us basic human rights and clothe it in the name of righteousness. However, I realize there are always those on the conservative side of this argument who think that Jesus somehow wants them to legislate morality and vote their way into establishing a Christian state on earth. Aside from the fact that no two Christians could probably give an identical description of what a Christian state would be, it is ultimately redundant to try as humanity has already lived through this and has spent the better part of 1500 years trying to undo the damage.
All that aside, I realize that for many my reasons for avoiding a Christian state are not serious consideration. As far as they may be concerned, we've always been a Christian state...it is merely those "activist judges" and socialists who have robbed it from them. Many feel that George Washington and Jesus wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights together after a rousing Southern Baptist Church service. Thomas Jefferson didn't really rewrite the Bible to exclude the miracles and he wasn't really opposed to a Christian state. They all know that the founders were really all Christians...not an amalgam of Christians, Deists, and Atheists. And if the Texas School Board has their way we'll have a generation of Texans who believe just that.
And why do they think these things? Because they've been, to be blunt, lied to.
They'll believe that Thomas Paine must have been a good Christian since Glenn Beck wrote a book in his honor, which our dear Harlequin has actually had the stomach to read. They'll never actually read Paine's Common Sense, and they'll never actually read his Age of Reason, in which he systematically tries to disprove Christianity (both which I have read, not surprisingly).
They won't believe that Paine said: "The story of the redemption will not stand examination. That man should redeem himself from the sin of eating an apple by committing a murder on Jesus Christ, is the strangest system of religion ever set up." Or: "The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion." And most notably not: "Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon that the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."
And it doesn't stop with more historical figures...apparently anyone the conservative party needs to invoke to pay the intellectual capital for their ideology must also be a Christian. You know, such as the most favorite cited pro-capitalist of all American writers...Ayn Rand.
Thus it is this same lack of self-examination or historical introspection that leads those same individuals today to listen and nod when talking heads at Fox News discuss Ayn Rand in glowing terms (either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged). They mention that sales during periods of liberalism skyrocket (I can personally vouch for this). They hold their highlighted copies with broken bindings aloft and tell us about why taxation is wrong (yes, I've watched Glenn Beck and yes he does this), but they never tell us how badly Ayn Rand hated Christianity, or why there's nothing Christian whatsoever about Objectivism--her own personal ideology of social-Darwinism that she wove into the fabric of her tomes.
They don't quote Rand when she says: "And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word, ‘I’”. Or: "I have come here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life, it had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self sacrifice."
But I digress...except that I continue to be amazed at how frequently those on the right paint America as a Christian nation, and yet are disproved by every single source they cite, from the founding documents, to the founder's personal notes and letters about their beliefs, to the greatest sources of their own intellectual reasons for the creation of our nation (Paine) to the defense of their preferred method of economics (Rand). Even Jesus, when not muffled by his own followers, reminds us to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." (Mark 12:17)
At long last I have finally encountered a serious, conservative, evangelical Christian's reasons for maintaining the Wall of Separation. I word it this way because I am rarely considered a serious Christian, nor am I conservative (religiously), and in my old age I'm decidedly not evangelical. So it is nice to read a thoughtful article written by no less than a pastor (Jimi Jobin) who graduated from Liberty University (of all places), one of the most fundamentalist and anti-separationist organizations in the United States.
I quote it here in full for both your information and entertainment. You should know that his article is a response to the actions of Rev. H. Wayne Williams who has defied the IRS Law denying churches the ability to publicly support political candidates. Williams has chosen to endorse Gordon Howie for Governor of South Dakota from the pulpit. Howie has asked for pastoral support and in return has promised to assist those pastors in taking their inevitable IRS trials to the Supreme Court in an effort to end separation of church and state in America. To make it clearer, he was approached by the Alliance Defense Fund (an organization I categorically despise almost as much as the the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family) to make such a move in order to create a situation whereby they could take the case to the Supreme Court with the hopes of overturning the Constitutionality of the Separation of Church and State.
Pastor Jimi Jobin's article:
Pastor, I recognize your frustration, and I see how things have come to this. For years America has only shrugged at religion, and recently Christianity has been caught in a violent tug of war between Republicans and Democrats. We feel, as leaders, entitled to make political endorsements. Why shouldn’t we—particularly in a democracy where endorsements translate directly to power—take up our biblically-informed opinion, get behind a pulpit, and urge our people to support a candidate? Why shouldn’t we support the rulers we stand to benefit the most from, and give them a divine leg up?I have one word Pastor Jobin. Amen.
For the historically minded among us, the reasons for not bringing our spiritual authority into political campaigns are blood red. For nearly 2,000 years our faith forefathers were persecuted and oppressed; not always by the irreligious, but more often by competing tribes within Christianity. Clerics would jockey for favor in the kingdoms of men, then use any clout gained to suppress the views of their theological enemies.
Over and again we stamped out those who did not fit into our au courant idea of orthodoxy and we entrenched ourselves into division, using the steel of our ruler’s swords to proclaim our theological certainty. Christians have killed and tortured more of their own than any other group in history, and this was possible solely because of the unholy union of church and state. Pastors gave rulers their blessing, and rulers returned the favor by silencing the pastor’s critics, a fantastic deal for the pastor who courts the powers, but a dangerous and painful reality for those who do not.
There isn’t a Christian denomination in existence that has not been slaughtered by its theological opponents. The Pope used his political power in Spain to launch the Inquisition. Bloody Mary earned her moniker by burning 300 dissenters of Roman Catholicism at the stake. The Calvinists and Lutherans used their influence over the German princes to commit near genocide of Catholics all over Europe during the 30 Years War. Catholics in the third Crusade almost exterminated the Orthodox church in Constantinople. Anabaptists have been drowned, burned, and exiled under each of the other major sects.
For almost 1500 years, Christians wielded political power to slay one another; until the founding of America. America was the first country without a designated faith, here was the only place in the world where Catholics and Protestants, Radical Reformationists and Orthodox (not to mention Jews, Muslims, non-believers and others) could live as neighbors. An accomplishment not won by better theology nor a love of peace, but because each lacked the ability to oppress one another by controlling the government.
We have created a land where church and state are separated to protect them from one another, not to diminish the role of either. The integrity of the church is jeopardized when politicians can appeal to spiritual leaders and gain their endorsement because the opportunities for abuse and ambition are too rampant. The same quid pro quo corruption that taints those tempted by lobbyists will await pastors when their support can yield inexhaustible American power. This is why America has passed laws to preserve the dignity and purity of the pastoral office, exchanging tax exemption (a unique phenomenon in the world) with the trust that the nation’s charitable goodwill can't be used as a political force.
Christianity has flourished in America, due in large to the inability of any one religious sect to silence the others by electing one of their own. Consider how different things would be if all along pastors had the ability to endorse candidates, if the elected then changed the social landscape to keep the favor of the pastors—like Mr. Howie is promising to do today. What if JFK had been endorsed by the Pope, what might he have done to protestants? What if Billy Graham had used his crusades to call for the reelection of his close friend, Richard Nixon?
Pastors needn’t remain neutral when it comes to social change. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. championed civil rights, Rev. Charles Finney fought to abolish slavery, and many more contributed to all the progressive reforms of the 19th century, from Women’s Suffrage to Child Labor Laws. But we stir change by stinging the national conscience, by being a prophetic witness for biblical values and obedience to Christ from the pulpit, not by taking the dangerous short cut of merely electing somebody to make a sweeping change in our favor.
Pastors are here to bring the optimism of a better world, a Kingdom of God where it can be on Earth as it is in Heaven. We aren’t here to arbitrate the national discussion, or to be some sort of referee who awards polling points to one side while punishing the other using our immense spiritual clout. Are we willing to compromise our ability to provide hope for the chance to pronounce judgment? Will we use the cross as Caesar did, to dominate political foes, or as Jesus did, to liberate the unseen?
It desecrates our pulpit to yield it to politics. We are called to something higher than to meddle in the affairs of ambitious men. We are not so Holy that we can merely baptize a candidate, and never drink the poison of his words. We do not stump for senators, we do not campaign for congressman, we do not preach for presidents, because the name of Christ is too precious to risk on a common election, no matter how important the issues at stake may seem. We cannot allow Jesus to become a political puppet, a sock on the arm of the statesman. Our role is to translate the values of scripture into the hearts and minds of every American, not to rule those Americans or force our values on them by manipulating the vote. The humble witness of Jesus is weakened when it is communicated through the edicts of rulers rather than the powerful persuasion of changed lives, hearts, and minds. The Kingdom of God cannot be voted into existence.
Pastor H. Wayne Williams, I beg you to take your opinion to the poll and not the pulpit. Encourage your church to lobby their convictions, but don’t let a lobbyist lead your church. Your vote belongs to a candidate, but your pulpit belongs to Christ, so “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s.”