CHURCH AND STATE, SHALL WE AMALGAMATE?

(04/18/2005)

Pastor Brian Jones
Communications Director
Mountain View Conference of SDA

Consider the facts. Homosexuals, pornographers, abortionists, pimps, dope dealers, gamblers, atheists, Communists (that dying breed) all favor separation of church and state. Why? Because they know that an active coalition of church and state would severely restrict, if not prohibit their godless activities.

But the morals of our nation are in shambles. Most TV entertainment is enough to make people of sensibility, even the nonreligious, wretch. Crudity, nudity, violence and crime gallop like four neighing steeds across the flickering screen. Some viewers, addicted to this thundering mass of filth, find nothing too sick or vile for their jaded appetites. And many devotees of play-acted perversion turn it into real life. Major magazines have published articles exposing the causal connection between vicious entertainment and warped social behavior. Seven years ago, on the brink of the new millennium, congress wrapped up an intensive investigation that corroborated from every avenue of research the morally detrimental and socially disordering effects of violence and lewdness in entertainment. Yet such productions continue to issue forth from film studios like the gushing contents of a broken sewer main with no repair crew in sight.

Dope and perverted sex are in our schools. Condoms and sick propaganda (called sex education) are offered by teachers to "prevent" pregnancy and venereal disease, while pandering to lust.

Politicians, at least many of them, seem to be incurably crooked. If they began idealistically, bribes, lobbyists and the heady heights of power have lured droves of them into malfeasance. When their crimes are exposed, the stench under the open lid makes one wonder what impacted mass of perfidy lies beneath the surface. We clamp the lid back down and hope the rot doesn't swell and ooze forth like a mudslide over every inch of habitable land. We'd rather not know how bad the situation really is. So we make a partial sweep at election time and put in some new people, hoping against hope that they will not be as blatantly unprincipled as their predecessors.

Illicit drug trade, organized crime and freelance crime have reduced most cities and some towns to concentration camps of social terror. In many neighborhoods law-abiding people won't venture out at night. They bar their windows, thus placing themselves under voluntary house arrest for protection against violent neighbors, roving gangs and prowling psychopaths.

In brief, the entire social landscape of our nation is awash with decadence and omens of unremitting decline.

Plainly, what America needs is to come back to God. What America needs is reinstated morality. What America needs is the rechurching of its populace. What America needs is a legally hallowed day of rest for the promotion of worshipful weekends. Or so it might seem.

If this nation turned to God, in the sense of living by the ten commandments and abiding by the principles elucidated in the Sermon on the Mount, we would have a social paradise. Good! So why not legislate sound morals into law -- crystallize them into constitutional amendments, baptize them in congressional prayer and hallow them by polyphonic amens from the ecumenical choir loft?

Historic precedent and Bible prophecy combine to erect a bulwark of warning against this plan. Not because it would be undesirable to have a deep-rooted morality in our nation, but because morality is never successfully inculcated by legislation. Only a mock version of it is. One way alone works to convert people spiritually: the persuasion of love, demonstrated and taught by its advocates. See Matt. 5:10-12; Jn. 13:34,35; 2 Cor. 4:1-12. Two principal ways exist, though, to religionize the laws of any nation:

1) For the bulk of its citizens to become genuinely and fervently religious by choice;

2) For a portion of its citizens with a strong religious agenda to take control of the government and impose their beliefs upon the general populace through vigorously enforced law.

For the first alternative to work, the citizenry would have to be undivided in their religious affiliation, as in Saudi Arabia, whose population is almost unanimously Muslim, not by choice but by cultural heritage and the imposition of state law that prohibits religious diversity and the propagation of non-Muslim faiths. Such a situation is not readily transplantable to a land whose heritage and constitution protect religious freedom and welcome diverse systems of belief, so long as those beliefs do not encroach on the peaceable, law-abiding liberty of others. To so change the thinking of such a society that they would be willing to abrogate religious freedom for the sake of some apparent national good, one or both of two things would have to occur:

a) stupendous supernatural events introducing an ideology that rejects freedom of conscience;

b) a staggering convergence of national calamities that would seem to demand uniformity of conduct among the populace for the preservation of national security or the appeasement of divine wrath.

For the present, however, the majority of Americans have demonstrated at the ballot box their suspicion of moral majoritarianism. This wariness springs at least as much from the general public’s fear of infringement on rightful liberties as from its desire to pursue a libertine way of life without interference from an aggressively religious government. Evidently the majority of our citizens are not moral, at least not a way that makes them willing to curtail their own freedoms. If America is to "get back to God" (and when were we ever a godly nation?), then that can be staged in the short run only by the sort of tactics which the combined royal and ecclesiastical powers of Medieval and Renaissance Europe employed. This means inquisitions, banishments, confiscations and the killing of those who, for whatever reason, don't subscribe to the state-approved ideology. Such a program would be the potential, perhaps inevitable, result of national religious revival spurred by crippling catastrophes that seem to call for national repentance. The victims of this new order could be anyone from a street corner prostitute to a federal judge whose religion, however decent, is not in step with legislative mandates.

After all, if a political leader is sure that he is called of God, he must also be equally sure to carry out the orders of God, as he interprets them. To disobey God is far more serious than to disobey man, and the penalty for such disobedience must be correspondingly severe. The laws of God are definite. Dissent from divine law is intolerable, at least to those who are in power to expound and administer that law. But whose interpretation of divine law is to prevail? The Catholic? The Protestant (of which stripe)? Greek Orthodox? Where strong political and religious disagreement exist between different branches of Christianity, warfare generally breaks out for the settling of the problem, which can ultimately be solved under such a program only by the extermination of one faction by the other.

Well then, why not have an amalgam of all Christian churches, under one titular head who is the final arbiter of the divine will? The pope would be a convenient choice. And Catholicism has an established history of effecting its holy will by political and military means. Protestants have also proved themselves to be bellicose in promoting their beliefs, but no one denomination of theirs has ever had so long a history or so broad a stage of action for the development of their policies and program as the papacy has. So why turn the matter over to relative novices? Instead, why don't the novices enroll under a more masterly system of far greater experience and antiquity than their own?

But what about Moslems, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jews, Shintoists, dissenting Christians, Agnostics, and Humanists? Well, they'll just have to conform to state-approved Christianity, or take the consequences. After all, religious freedom is a luxury we simply cannot afford in a confusingly heterogeneous society that has to be pulled morally into line in this degenerate, ungodly age. And, if some innocent victims get killed in the ensuing purge, well, God knows their hearts and He'll take them to heaven anyway. In the meanwhile, we'll have a morally decent America, and maybe a morally decent world (if only they'll follow our example), all gained through the blessings of religio-political totalitarianism. All upheld by the crusading sword of righteousness. All sustained in "love" by an impeccably wise program of intolerance toward dissent. All filled with beneficence and brotherhood of the most bloodthirsty kind. Think of the grandeur of mandatory religion that stereotypes worship, repeals freedom of conscience, and relieves dissenters of their property and existence! Oh, St. Bartholomew; Oh, Salem; Oh, Piedmont; Oh, Smithfield; -- and all other hallowed places and occasions for the extermination of heretics it makes the heart crackle with the fervent flames of the auto-da-fe.

In imagination, let us for a moment gather – if we dare – with the Pharisees, Sadducees, citizens of Jerusalem, soldiers of Rome, curious onlookers, and proselytes from afar convene for the ultimate Passover – and hear the rabble chorus -- (but stay your voice, except it be in protest) -- send up a cry of religious solidarity, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

When church and state once again amalgamate, as Bible prophecy says they surely will.

. . . . what then shall we do with Jesus, in whose name this blazing revival of Christian religious solidarity even now intensifies to the combustion point? What shall we do with Jesus who said to His disciples when they offered to invoke flames of wrath upon His enemies, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’’s lives, but to save them" (Lk. 9:55,56).

What shall we do with Jesus, whose word utterly fails to endorse compulsory worship, but instead warns against it? Shall we take the word of prelates and priests, of miracle-working spirits, of angels, of scholars, of lawmakers and the great men of earth –– even if they are unanimous in their proclamation of a universal creed, ratified by fire from above (Rev. 13:11-18; 16:13, cf. 2 Cor. 11:3-5)?

What shall we do with Jesus as He stands before us (Gal. 3:1) scourged, buffeted, bleeding and thorn-crowned? Shall we say with Pilate, “What is truth?” and with a futile shrug turn back to the bellowing mob demanding His crucifixion – and the extermination of all who will not exceed to the religion of the state and the masses?

Or shall we take the word of Him, Who will bear the name “The Word of God” when He gallops forth to rescue those who keep His commandments and have His faith, (Rev. 19:11-13; 14:12)? Coming in that sacred name, He thus vindicates all who believe and practice His immutable word which requires no earthly edicts or inquisitions to uphold, but rather braces us to endure the fiercest persecution for His name’s sake.


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