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Religitics

Religitics

A study & analysis of the biblical & historical relationships between the church and the state intended to inform and shape our contemporary engagement of the state as believers.

 

As believers living in an increasingly tempestuous political, religious & economic climate we find the modern generally-disengaged modus operandi of the American church to rest uneasy on our conscience and so desire to learn & live the biblical role of the church’s relationship with it’s civil government.

Our initial intents are to study the church’s relationship to the state beginning in biblical times proceeding throughout church history up to the present. Following are a just a few questions and observations that we desire to examine further in hopes of gaining insight & instruction on this question of church/state relations:

  • What do the scriptures instruct us concerning government? Are there proper (sanctioned by God) and conversely improper forms of government? If so what is the believer’s role in advocating or condemning the same?
  • What does the life of Jesus and the early church tell us about the believer’s relationship to civil government? Why didn’t Jesus introduce & promote legislation forbidding the forcing of individuals to carry Roman soldiers’ packs but rather instructed his followers to carry the pack double what the oppressive policy mandated? What about the lack of political action (urging the churches to vote, campaign for policy reform [Moral Majority or Christian Coalition style]) by Paul in the face of the injustices of the Roman Empire?
  • What does Romans 13 mean?
  • What about the rebellion of the colonists against Great Britain? What understanding gave birth to quibs like “resistance to tyrants is obedience to God?” What was our founding fathers understanding of the believer’s relationship to civil government and it’s response to the government’s abuses?
  • How about Hitler’s use of Romans 13 in attempting to gain the support of the German church? What about the US government’s FEMA program for clergy emphasizing the instruction of Romans 13?
  • What beliefs and understanding did Bonhoeffer espouse so strongly that they drove him to become involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler (for which he was executed but is now hailed as a martyr)?
  • What is the churches role in fighting for social justice and to what extent should it use or fight government to attain those ends? How about Lincoln’s dubious adoption of the abolitionist movement to gain support for the civil war? What about the temperance movement? The federal marriage amendment? Etc. Etc.
  • What about America’s alliance with Israel? Here is a prime example of a highly consequential church/state relationship. Our alliance with Israel makes her enemies our enemies. If our alliance with Israel is rooted in a zionistic dispensationalism then much of our problem with terrorism would seem to be (at least partially) rooted in a religious doctrine.
  • How should the church respond to the increasingly socialistic government? What about the call by some within the church to use socialism as an instrument of social justice? Should the church defend capitalism and if so why?
  • With the church’s mandate to care for the poor both globally (foreign relief missions) and locally (with increasing unemployment and financial hardships within our own) how would we interpret Bonhoeffers call to “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself”?
  • How do we respond to America’s incessant wars and foreign entanglements? As a government “by the people” will we be held accountable for condoning (or being ignorant of) the many atrocities of morally dubious wars? What do we do about the prevailing ignorance/apathy of the American church or the traditionally “Right-wing, religious, Republican- pro-war” stance of much of the church?
  • What about the green movement’s ties with paganism, global government, agenda 21, depopulation, & some of the church’s support of these movements? If we’re to declare that Jesus is Lord and the idols of the day are not shouldn’t we be preaching against these things?

Obviously this list could be endless as the moral/religious questions have implications in every area of political life-  which makes the modern politically mute church quite perplexing and seemingly derelict. The church’s disinclination to engage politically is understandable considering that a large part of church/state history seems to only teach us how NOT to engage (think Constantine, the Holy Roman Empire, the crusades, etc). But in considering the times if the church doesn’t re-evaluate it’s beliefs on its relationship to the state and act to defend righteous government we could be in danger of having to later issue a statement reminiscent of the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt (the German church’s apology for not doing more to prevent the atrocities committed by Hitler). It seems difficult to imagine a sufficient moral justification for the American church to remain apolitical, not to mention that that prerogative may be involuntarily superceded by an absolutely unavoidable confrontation with the state in the near future.

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me
 and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

-Pastor Martin Niemöller

 

It’s with these thoughts in mind that we begin this endeavor to learn how we as believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God might biblically interact with the civil governments we live under till Jesus returns and rules perfectly righteously for eternity. Can’t wait!