By Mike Willis
The issue of separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of our Constitution. The First Amendment forbade Congress to make any laws establishing or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Watching how this amendment to the Constitution is applied is sometimes comical.
Campaigning in the Churches
A certain group of American politicians is allowed to campaign in churches; another group is not allowed. Every election the Democrats campaign heavily in Black churches without a word being said by media watchdogs about the separation of church and state. President Clinton and Jesse Jackson are common speakers in Black churches and their message is not “faith in Christ.” The message is “get out and vote” for our party. However, when Evangelicals pass out literature as a voter’s guide or a conservative Republican speaks in Evangelical churches, the news media howl in protest of their actions being a violation of the separation of church and state.
Left-wing religious groups can organize and propagandize this country without protest. Right-wing religious groups who organize and propagandize are watched like a fox in the hen house. TV portrays them as religious extremists trying to get control of the Republican party. Were the stakes for our children not so serious, watching this scenario play itself out would be humorous.
On election day, separation of church and state is relatively meaning- less. A few years ago, the Danville congregation received a call from those in charge of finding a place to hold elections to see if the church would be willing to let them use our building for election purposes. We explained that we did not use our building for such things so they went elsewhere.
In the last election, my place to vote was the Christian Church. As I drove to the polling place, the yard was littered with campaign signs until we got within a certain number of feet of the polling place, at which point the signs were not allowed. But, there was no separation of church and state here. The state is perfectly willing to use the church’s buildings without charge as a polling site. The politicians are willing to place their campaign signs on the premises.
The result was pathetic. On the premises of a church that would be adamantly opposed to such things as abortion, gambling, and other immoral practices, politicians who campaign to legalize such things post their signs to persuade voters.
What Separation of Church and State Really Means Today
In the minds of far too many, separation of church and state means that those religious leaders who have some- what to say about moral issues facing our nation should “keep their noses out of the state’s business, unless you are willing to say what we want to hear.” Separation of church and state means that preachers should not try to talk to voters about abortion (partial birth or earlier in the pregnancy), the impact of the immorality of the President on our country as a reason not to vote for those who will keep him in office, homosexuality as a transgression of God’s will, and other such issues.
John the Baptist did not hesitate to comment on the immorality of King Herod Antipas. When Antipas went to Rome and seduced his half-brother Philip’s wife to leave Philip and marry him, John the Baptist preached, “It is not lawful for you to have her” (Matt. 14:4). The verb elegen is in the imperfect tense of lego, indicating that John did not preach this just one time but that he kept on saying, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” That would be like one today going into the pulpit and saying, “It is not lawful for President Clinton to have oral sex with Monica Lewinski, to lie under oath about his affair, and to orchestrate a campaign to destroy those who investigate his immorality.” Our national media does not want to hear what Evangelicals have to say about such subjects. And, to intimidate Evangelicals from preaching on such issues, they hypocritically chastise preachers for violating the separation of church and state. I say “hypocritical” because when liberal preachers want to go into print saying, “We should just put this af- fair behind us because God is a forgiving God,” they will provide a forum for them to speak, commend what they say, and honor them as highly respected moral leaders in our society. Such preachers are the same kind of “spiritual leaders” who curried Herod’s favor.
A Church Not Silenced by the State
When the State tried to squelch the voice of the church in the New Testament, the Apostles boldly asserted their determination to keep on preaching. Peter said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:19). Again, he said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
The time may come when our state tries to stop the mouths of those who preach God’s truth about moral issues such as homosexuality and abortion. In the latest incident when some radical shot an abortion doctor in the northeast with a high-powered rifle, the news media quickly tried to place the blame for this incident on those religious groups who oppose the woman’s legal right to an abortion. Such rhetoric certainly lays the political groundwork for stamping out those who preach against abortion. When a homosexual boy was robbed and hideously murdered in the west, the right wing religious groups were described as hate mongers who are ultimately responsible for his death.
If we are correct in assessing the trend that is developing in our country, we must prepare the minds of our brothers and sisters to stand for the truth without regard to what standing for the truth costs us. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Again, he said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:37-39). My prayer is that this trend not develop in our country, but should it occur, we must be prepared to give our lives in service to God.
I pray for our country daily. I pray that moral righteous- ness might be exalted in its borders and that those things contrary to God’s will may be defeated without regard to which political party holds office. But come what may, I pray that God will give me the strength to be faithful to him in whatever circumstances might exist.