Thursday, July 5, 2012

Theology Thursdays: Biblical Separation of Church and State

This very well might be most specious argument I've ever made, but you're going to have to bear with me on it anyway. Or go read something else; I can't pretend I have a captive audience here. In point of fact, if the analysis teaches me anything, it's that I really only get hits when I've either (a) said something monumentally embarrassing, or (b) said something that got someone else fired up enough that they cross-posted.

Having said that, I'd still like to know what you guys think on this subject, and as always I have left the comments section open below. You should know that these comments automatically get dropped into my main email inbox and even if I don't always reply right away, I usually read them as soon as they arrive.

I believe in the separation of church and state - the idea that religious office and political office should be mutually exclusive entities. Now, I'm all for past-and-present theologians and clerics running for office, so long as the office takes priority over their religious office and they're willing to vote their own conscience in place of their party or church's line... which is pretty much the same test I apply to EVERY potential vote. I believe that this separation is necessary in a society like that of Canada: one which is variegated, multicultural, and has freedom of religion. In a secular society, the only way to ensure the freedom of religion, is to prevent religions from being a legislative force. I have always viewed the moral codes of religions as being calls "above and beyond" the laws of the land, which is why (in various places) I've had to confess that abortion is not a key political issue for me, as, apart from moralistic grounds, I cannot mount a reasonable assault on the subject.

That in itself is nothing special - the SOCAS doctrine has been around basically since confederation (I believe the idea first came around in the 18th century, but I've been wrong before). What is a little different is that I have had no problem thus far in justifying this viewpoint, to myself anyway, biblically. The admonition to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" has always read to me as being about more than just whose face was minted on the coin.

Money is an interesting device. Individual coins and banknotes have no real value other than the materials they are made from; their purchasing power comes directly from the authority which printed it, and that authority is usually a government. The same is true of laws. Laws are of no force and effect unless the government that has put them in place are capable of enforcing them and you need look no further than the general moral fibre of today's society in order to see just how fantastically true that is. Clearly, anyone even passingly familiar with the incredibly ill-defined field of Christian Morals can find any of a half-dozen violations in the run of a shift at any given retail location, and might even get someone else to agree on half of them! The straying from what we call "God's Law" is endemic of a lack of apparent enforcement. The same is true for internet piracy, which, by the way, was even more of a problem before internet. Bootlegging is not a 90s invention.

Anyway, returning to the point. Money and Laws are two examples of governmental instruments, and the two most powerful things a government can control for the people under its auspices. If we are told the tax the Jews were complaining about on moral grounds were legal because they were government instruments, we're being told that money and laws are not under God's direct purview.

Now, does that mean I am inherently opposed to Theocracy? No, actually, not at all, and one of my most popular and perhaps most liveable nations on NationStates is a non-democratic Theocracy organized by the local Cardinal Archbishop and administrated by lay parish councils.  However, what works for me doesn't work for everyone. The fairest form of government is often said to be the freest, and for that, secular government is the price that needs to be paid.

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