Separation of Church and State? Good? Bad?

Somehow, since taking a stand on what I believe about homosexual relationships (that God smiles down on them) I feel like I’ve had no choice but to embrace a handful of other principles that are connected but not entirely dependent on one another. And I’m not really sure what to make of that.

One is the principle of separation of Church and State. You know, “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” I think I’m totally buying into it though, and not just because of the gay thing, but because using the government to impose our religious beliefs on others is the WRONG way to be witnesses of the Gospel. Totally the wrong way.

Does banning gay marriage keep homosexual couples from living in lifelong commitment to one another? Nope. Does banning abortion keep them from happening? Quite the opposite. Does enforcing strict rules for illegal immigrants keep them from crossing our borders? Of course not! (Remind me again how that is biblical!?)

When I am trying to live out the Christian life, I must remind myself again and again to return to the pages of the Gospels, and look at Jesus’ life as my model—as well as I can, anyway, in this hyper-materialistic, abundantly selfish culture I live in.

Anyway. What I remember again, and again, and again, is that Jesus up and completely ignored the State and the clearly anti-Christian laws it had! Do we really believe Roman-ruled Israel was any less decadent than modern America? Not on your life! But did we see Jesus rallying folks to picket abortion clinics and raise funds to propagate a favorable ruling of Proposition 8? No!

Jesus ignored it all. He ignored the government and political policies of his time. He transformed his culture in the most potent way possible: reaching into the hearts of those who listened to him and convicting them, making disciples of those who responded to that conviction. He saw people who had hurts that needed to be mended, not degenerate sinful liabilities who were threatening a “Christian” nation.

I think we all need to take a page out of Jesus’ book, and focus a little less on fighting so desperately to uphold conservative politics and a little more on loving those we don’t agree with. That is how you transform a nation.

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Posted on September 8, 2013, in Church, Homosexuality, Love, Politics. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Scoop Jackson..."News 60"

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with your perspective. God doesn’t bless same sex unions…never has, never will. All people of God need to stand up for that fact.

    S

  2. Thanks for sharing…our difference of opinion is irrelevant to the point I was trying to make, though. You believe God mandates that gay people be celibate? Okay. But enforce that belief by loving gay people, and being a witness for Christ to them in your personal life. How does pushing to deny gays the same civil liberties you enjoy demonstrate God’s love to them?

  3. Love, love, love this!! So true!! It’s interesting because I remember listening to a sermon a while ago that talked about how the problem isn’t with abortion, it’s with the fact that a woman would even be willing to give up her basic maternal instinct and let her child be killed. That’s the problem we, as Christians, need to address. And the only way we can address it is on a personal level.

  4. Jesus ignored the State? He said, Render unto Caesar. He answered Pilate’s questions like any other questioner, and I can’t remember any other comments about the State. He noted the power and control of the Empire, which led to the destruction of the Temple, but that is more Big Neighbour telling other societies what to do, rather than any philosophy of good law.

    By the way, you have (it seems to me) a misprint in your Header, “Chrisitan” faith: it can be changed.

  5. @Clare Oh my, how mortifying. Thank you for pointing out that error!! Could you share the passages you’re speaking of, particularly the one about noting the power of the Empire? I’d like to study them for myself. Thanks!

  6. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%2013&version=NIVUK

    It depends how you read the passage. Scholars date Mark after AD 70, because of the prediction of the destruction of the temple. However, the prediction was not just made up, but linked to Jesus’ words: which I read as predicting the scattering of the Jews. In the same way, Isaiah’s “Immanuel- God with us” is the Exile, rather than some End of Time.

  7. It is good that you ask yourself difficult questions. Realize that you are struggling with the same questions many have struggled with, where should the lines be drawn between church and state. I look at it this way, just because the State has legalized abortion doesn’t mean a woman is required to have one, and should the State require any doctor or nurse to participate in one against their will? Just because the State has legalized civil unions doesn’t mean it is equivalent to biblical marriage, and should the State require any pastor to “marry” persons of the same sex against his will? And as you point out immigrants crossing the border illegally are illegal immigrants. I hope we are not twisting Paul’s words “should we sin so that grace may abound?” by invoking some form of “should we stop trying to enforce the law because so many keep breaking the law”? You are correct in that the law has no power to change the heart of man, it can only point out our sin. But Jesus said he came not to destroy the law but to fulfill the law. What law was he talking about? The State law? No, something much higher. But absolutely Jesus recognized the law of the state when he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesars” He required the disciples to pay the tax even if the money had to be drawn from a fish. He separated church and state so to speak by adding “render unto God that which is God’s”. The state has power over what it’s image is on (currency) and does well or ill to control man with it, but we are made in the image of God. Caesar’s image on money, God’s image on man. You decide which one will control you in your decisions.
    You are struggling with these lines that are drawn perhaps beginning to believe no lines should be drawn. Licentiousness is of course quite a silly idea for humankind for obvious reasons. The reality is that even those who would want no lines will draw the lines somewhere. So who decides where they are drawn? Shall Caesar? Shall God?
    Once you realize that no matter what the laws are you would fail to keep them, you begin to undstand the power of the gospel. So you begin to see that the laws aren’t the problem, my heart is the problem. Consider the man Adam and his wife in the garden. The law couldn’t be more simple, eat freely from any of these trees, but do not eat from that one tree. Do not be deceived as they were, “has God really said that”?
    Eventually you begin to see the greater deception, that there would be no sin if there were no laws. The proverbial “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound”? Is asking the wrong question. The weight of the matter is that the tree fell, the sound just points it out.
    Yes, God is smiling down on homosexuals, abortionists, illegal aliens, murderers, pedophiles, liars, thieves, adulterers, and a thousand other labels for our depraved state, which all of us either are, or once were. So you see that a legal homosexual is no less a fallen tree than the illegal liar, or any one else.
    Every tree has fallen, but thanks be to God Christ has made a way to redeem us.
    In this world you will have trouble, but peace. You may even be sawn asunder, but He has overcome the world. Jesus is Lord!

  8. How does pushing to deny gays the same civil liberties you enjoy demonstrate God’s love to them?
    This is not the question at issue.
    Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. The State has the right to extend civil liberties to its citizens. Call it civil union.
    Render unto God that which is God’s. Thus shall a man leave his mother and father, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is called marriage.
    There is a cavernous difference between “marriage” and “civil union”.
    The state had decided to extend civil liberties to married couples (1 man, 1 woman) for reasons they must explain, it matters not to me their reason but I do believe this is the best formula for society so i think it is good that it is promoted.
    The state can decide to extend civil liberties to any number of persons without having to redefine marriage. They just need to define the rules and add the extra check boxes for those who qualify.
    The real question being asked is “why can’t the union of two men or two women be considered equal to marriage between one man and one woman?”
    The difference here is the difference between church and state you are trying to point out.

  9. @GDoug: Thanks for sharing! I completely agree with your second comment. I think the biggest problem in the whole gay marriage debate is the way our government is structured. Marriage and civil unions ought to be two different things. The state should have no business in determining the authenticity of a marriage vow taken by two Christians who see their marriage as a holy sacrament taken before God. That is something that is between the couple, the Lord, and the pastor who marries them. Civil rights, such as health care benefits, the ability of someone to inherit money from their spouse, etc., should be a result of two people joining together in a civil union – which is something that, by the same token, the Church should have no say in, at least in my opinion. Civil unions are for non-Christians, marriages are for Christians.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at with your point about the state extending civil liberties without redefining marriage. Are you just pointing out the distinction between civil unions and religious marriages there?

    And yes, as you stated, the question “why can’t the union of two men or two women be considered equal to marriage between one man and one woman?” is an important one, but it still overlooks the fact that there are gay Christian couples out there who desire not just a civil union recognized by the State, but the sacrament of marriage, because they are devoted to God and believe it is important for their union to be recognized by God even if they interpret the Scriptures about homosexuality differently than mainstream Evangelicals do.

    So yeah – to sum up, I think civil liberties such as the ones acquired through marriage are liberties that ought to be extended to couples across the board – gay or straight, Christian or non-Christian. I just think that such a union ought to be distinct from the religious sacrament of marriage, and that unions of that sort ought to be performed by pastors who share the couples’ beliefs. I don’t think it’s sinful to be in a gay relationship, so I think gay Christian couples should be joined in such a union, but I also very ardently believe that pastors who don’t share that belief have every right to that belief, and that they are under no compulsion to perform gay marriages, if that is what their understanding of Scripture leads them to believe. Does that make sense?

    P.S. Odd question – are you Uncle Gary…? Haha.

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