Separation of Church and State
June 14 05
A couple of weeks ago, a Danish minister was reinstated to his post after a year of banishment. Why was he banished? He says, "There is no heavenly God." He also doubts eternal life and the resurrection of Christ. So, he was removed from his post as the village minister. Now, the reinstated minister is enjoying being back in the pulpit. Some 250 people crowded into the small building to hear him speak once again.
In Denmark, the state employs ministers and so only the government can fire them or discipline them in a court of law. The church -- the Evangelical Lutheran Church, that is -- asked the state to discipline the minister, but the state refused. The government said the man should be given another chance to explain himself to the regional bishop. The bishop does not agree with the minister's unorthodox beliefs, but, nonetheless, accepted the minister's renewal of vows. The minister has not changed his beliefs, but the bishop believes there is still room for him in Denmark's state church.
Here in America, the Christian Church says that it is opposed to the separation of church and state. It is true that the separation of church and state, as so defined today, is not written into the Constitution; therefore, we reason, we must allow for church and state to mingle. Many Christians would go so far as to say that the state must be "more Christian," that it should uphold the "Christianity" upon which this country was founded. I won't get into a debate about the beliefs of our founding fathers, for that is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that many Americans are convinced that this country was founded by born again Christians and that those Christians went on to serve in our fledgling government. As such, then, we should continue to have a Christian government today.
I want to point out one group of Christians, however, who argued FOR the separation of church and state. The Puritans, in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, argued against an official Christian government. You would think that such strict adherents to the Bible would have advocated for a Christian state religion, for the Puritans certainly lived in such a way. They had their own communities in which the members were held accountable for their beliefs and actions. So, why wouldn't they want the colonies to draft Christian forms of government?
The Puritans were afraid of the colonial rulers having influence on the orthodox teachings found in the Bible. Once people get into office, they tend to grasp at more and more power. Having a government body in control of the Christian religion was seen as very dangerous to these pious Puritans. What would happen if so-called Christians get into office and then change the teachings of Christianity? After all, the Puritans had seen many people profess Christianity and even join Puritan communities only to show their true nature sometime later. It was easy enough for the community to discipline the divisives, but what about a government? Could a government be held accountable? How easy would it be to remove those who were perverting the truth once they were in office? And certainly, those who hold an official title have sway over the people. How much damage would be done by wayward governments before they could be removed? It's a whole lot easier to remove one wayward "Christian" from a local church than it is to remove him from a government office. The Puritans were well familiar with the state church in England. They would have none of that in their new home.
Today, in America, we are well aware that we view ourselves as a Christian country. After all, some eighty percent of Americans say they believe in God. Currently, there is a backlash against so-called "liberalism." But is that Christianity? Many Americans want the government to legislate against the liberals. They want the government to go back to its Christian roots. But can a Christian government solve the problems? The Church of England was "Christian," yet many Christians risked their lives to escape it. Do they today? No. Christianity is virtually dead in England. Why? The Church of England, over the centuries, became more unorthodox and more liberal. Yet, those who hold office there claim to be Christians. The state church in Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, claims to be Christian. Some 83 percent of the Danish population are members of Lutheran Church. They claim to be Christian. Denmark is noted as a Christian country with a rich Christian heritage; yet, the ministers serving in that church do not even have to believe that there's a God in heaven. In America, we have a president who says that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. Think about it.