Do you remember when John F. Kennedy ran for President? One of the greatest concerns voiced back then was that he was a Catholic, and that his loyalty might be to the Church rather than the USA. For those in the federal government, that was the entirely correct fear, although it did not turn out to be true.
The church should be the worst enemy of the State. When I use the term “the church,” I really mean nearly all organized religion. Most religions don’t espouse state worship in their sacred writings and doctrines. However Islam probably comes most closely to the melding of religion and State.
When I use the term, “the State,” I mean all forms of human government, across the spectrum from anarchy to totalitarianism.
For today’s discussion, I’m going to concentrate on the Judeo-Christian traditions, which are the foundations of Western Civilization. So, because Judaism and Christianity are found in worship of the same God, these faiths will be held to the same standard as it relates to their relationship to the State.
The Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is about the Kingdom of God and Liberty. He tolerates mankind’s feeble attempts at governing. That’s probably why he is called King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
But if you look at history over the last 5,000 years, you will see repeated oppression of religion by the State. The State has always seen the church as direct competition for money and power and control over people. So, in order to escape persecution by the State, the church has made increasingly cowardly efforts to assuage the hostility of the State. The church has given its blessings to most of the basest, vilest, tyrannical acts of the State.
Think of it this way. If the schoolyard bully regularly beats you up for the funny clothes you wear, and you want the beatings to stop, you will either fight back or change clothes. If you want to go even further, and enjoy the acceptance of the bully, you will have to join the bully in some of his actions. Perhaps you’ll have to learn how to be a bully, too.
But, by learning and approving of the ways of the bully, the bully comes to understand that you are no longer a threat to him. Then you might enjoy an uneasy peace.
Israel began its descent into state worship when, around 1047BC they decided they needed a king like their neighbors. God told Samuel to tell them what a king would do to them in I Samuel 8:11-18:
11: This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12: And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13: And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14: And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15: And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16: And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17: He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
18: And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
Even when the prophet Samuel told them what a monarchy would do to them, they turned their back on God. So they got Saul and a string of good and bad kings from then on. Even after their experiences of evil kings split the nation into Israel and Judah, both sides couldn’t give up on the idea of having kings rule over them.
It never got any better.
The Christian church solidified its state worship during the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century and has been increasingly worshipping the State in all its forms over the past 1,700 years. Kings, despots, tyrants and republics all felt the fawning love of the church.
The Catholic Church alternately fought and blessed the monarchies of Western Civilization for that 1,700 years, and still does so today. I’m not picking on the Catholics here, because the Catholic Church was synonymous with “Christendom” until just recently in history. The learned how to share power and money with the State.
I hear all the comments from evangelicals about the government being ordained by God, and that Christians should obey the State. But I don’t find anything in the Bible that tells Christians to obey a State that is violating God’s Word. I do find verses like Acts 5:29: “…we should obey God rather than men.” These words were said by the Apostle Peter after the priests threw the apostles into prison for spreading the Good News.
To be true to the message of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, churches and synagogues would only teach allegiance to God, and to no other. They would be forced to reject the approval of the State and to call the faithful into open rebellion against the State’s ungodly actions.
If churches and synagogues were doing their job, they would preach themes like this Top 10.5 List:
1. The overarching premise that if an action is a sin and a crime for an individual, it is still a sin and a crime for a group of individuals. Political organization by no means affords immunity from sins and crimes committed.
2. Taxation is theft by other means (thou shalt not steal) and is a combination of force and fraud.
3. Murder violates a biblical Commandment (thou shalt not kill) and is a crime, and is no less a crime when you wear a military uniform. The taking of a life in defense of life or property is not murder.
4. Military service: No person of faith should ever serve in the State’s military. Serving in the military of the State is to accept the State as a sovereign higher than God (thou shalt have no other gods before me). Serving in the military of the State forces the person of faith to have to decide to obey an unbiblical order or obey God’s Word.
5. Government commits crimes against its citizens every day through the laws it passes and enforces.
6. Pledging allegiance to the flag of the State is to place God in a subordinate position to the State (thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them)
7. When a church uses the corporate laws of the State as its chosen legal entity, it becomes subservient to that State.
8. The acceptance of the tax exempt status places the church subservient to the State, and is an abridgement of freedom, simultaneously giving up many of its God-given rights.
9. Vices, which may be sins, should not be made crimes.
10. Invading another sovereign nation is breaking the Tenth Commandment, “thou shalt not covet.”
10.5. Any war other than a defensive war on your own territory violates God’s Word.
In closing, think about how radically different our communities and our nation would be if these simple yet powerful realities had been taught from the pulpits over the past couple hundred years. I dare say that our states and nation might more closely resemble the confederation of sovereign States found in 1776. The People, in whom are found the powers delegated and undelegated to government, would be the masters of government, rather than its slaves.