The Divide Between State And Church

A couple days ago when I wrote “Render To God The Things That Are God’s,” I wasn’t thinking about how some people might look at that title–as a statement supporting the separation of church and state. To me, the issue was personal–how am I to interpret what Jesus was saying about giving to Him what belongs to Him.

But in looking back, I can see how someone might assume the article is about dividing the world into the secular and the sacred. There’s a bit of a faddish (Christians are not immune to following fads in our faith!) view these days that says there is no such divide. I can’t follow the line of reasoning carefully because I’ve only seen it repeated in its briefest forms, but the idea seems to be that “general revelation” shows God, therefore God can be seen in everything we do. He cannot and ought not be shut out of things we deem not sacred.

Perhaps I haven’t paid close attention to this discussion because it seems like a no-brainer to me, but I tend to forget that I benefited from years working at a Christian school that believed in integrating every discipline with Scripture. It’s nothing more than developing a Christian worldview.

How ironic, though, that such integration comes from an institution that is specifically separate from the general culture. And yet, to teach the harmony of the Bible with history or science, math, or English, that’s what has to happen in a society that has tacitly added “separation of church and state” to the Bill of Rights.

But what is it we mean by the phrase? The Constitution clearly states that government is not to establish a religion. In other words, Baptist is not to become the religion required by law, with all others declared illegal. Neither is there to be an unequal playing field created by law which favors one religion over another.

In short, government was to get out of the way of religious development. In fact, government is prohibited by the Constitution from interfering with a person’s religious expression.

How then have we arrived at today’s secular/sacred divide?

Recently a news item pointed to court action prohibiting cheerleaders at an East Texas high school from making a sign for their football team that contained a Bible verse (set aside for a moment that they yanked it out of context). Just today they won an injunction which allows them to continue making the signs until an appeal can be heard.

But why are we saying these cheerleaders can’t express their beliefs? I understand they shouldn’t be mandated by a school authority to put Scripture on their signs, but this was something they wanted to do. So teachers are prohibited from saying a good many things about their faith, and now students are too?

The divide is growing, and it’s squeezing people of faith into a corner. Out of the Chick-fil-A controversy, more than one person claimed that the owner had no right to give money to the faith-based charities he chose, and that franchises should be prohibited from opening in various places because of his actions. What’s worse, some arguing against Chick-fil-A claimed that Christians ought not allow their religious beliefs to influence their advocacy for public policy.

The tenor of this debate seems to be marginalizing religious beliefs. A person can say that abortion is wrong because it will end up hurting society by reducing the population, but ought not say abortion is wrong because God values life, so we also should value life and protect the weakest and most vulnerable.

In other words, keep God out. Put religion on the other side of the dividing wall between church and state . . . the one that isn’t in our Constitution.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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