Aired on April 09, 2010
Narration by Anonymous
CHURCH AND STATE: Duty of Submission
Some people believe that Christians should not be involved in politics. They ask, “Isn’t there separation of Church and State?” so they conclude, “That means we can’t be involved in politics!” Is this true? Let’s look at what we really mean by the separation of Church and State.
First, we must remember that the concept of “separation of Church and State” which originated in the American political system has been adopted by the Philippines. The phrase itself does not appear in the US Constitution, though it can be found in the Philippine one. It came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptists, where he spoke of the First Amendment of the US Constitution as “building a wall of separation between Church and State.” When we go to the First Amendment of the US Constitution itself, we find the true meaning of this idea. It goes this way:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
The Puritans first came to America to flee from religious persecution. The Church of England was (and is) the Legally Established Church of the state, and back then one could face jail time or worse for not conforming to it. This was also the case under the established state churches in Europe, and also in the Philippines for 300 years. So in Britain and Europe the state established a state religion. The framers of the idea of separation between church and state wanted to ensure that the State would not favor one church over another. They also wanted to make sure that the Church was free to practice its beliefs. The State’s obligation to religious communities is to make sure they can worship and live in freedom.
On the other hand, the Church has an obligation to submit to the State in all things lawful, as Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome in Romans 13:1-7. It does not mean blind obedience, however.. In fact, part of the free exercise of religion by a Christian is to be a prophet, a mouthpiece for the Word of God. When the State or society fails to abide by the values of the Gospel, the Church must speak up.
But who speaks to the State on behalf of the Church? We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past when clergy became involved in ruling over the State. The role of the ordained ministry is to preach God’s word, to administer the means of grace, and to shepherd God’s people, to equip for ministry. It is up to the entire people of God, the laity or the “visible Church” in every place, to exercise this voice by being willing to suffer in order to say “no” to corruption. In the vocation of politics, Christians who are gifted and are called to the task of governance must, like Daniel, articulate and set an example of what the Word of God requires from those who rule society.
We must remember that as elections draw near, our role is to speak up for God and the values of our faith. We must affirm what is right in our political process, denounce what is wrong, and suggest corrections. We do so under the guidance of God’s Word and the discernment of God’s people over history. We do so as servants of Christ loving society as we love ourselves, not as masters, but making sure that God’s justice, righteousness and power are manifest to the world—so that the Kingdom may truly come within us.