What the world says:
"There is a wall of separation between the church and state according to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
"The [Christian public official] has failed us."
"You should have faith in humanity."
"You can't legislate morality."
"You can't talk about politics in church (and you can't talk about Jesus in the public square)."
"That's not politically correct."
What is the truth?
The separation of church and state is not part of the Constitution. Here is what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says the following: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." As far as religion, this means that the U.S. cannot make itself a theocracy demanding that all persons be of one religion (establishment). It also says that Congress cannot make a law that prohibits free exercise of religion. There is nothing about "separation of church and state" in there. "Separation of church and state" comes from a letter. Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists were corresponding over concerns regarding freedom of religion and Jefferson "assured them that they need not fear; that the free exercise of religion would never be interfered with by the federal government" (SOURCE: http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=9). Thus, "Separation of Church and State" was protecting religion from government, not removing religion.
And regarding state, no matter who a public official is, s/he will fail you. Even I will fail you just as you will fail me. Who hasn't failed? Every President has failed in some way or another. Some are more irresponsible than others, but the bottom line is that we all fail. I will fail. You will fail. Friends fail one another. Parents fail children. Husbands and wives, even in wonderful marriages, will fail one another from time to time. We even fail ourselves. I love humanity, but I don't put my faith in humanity and this is just another reason. I read cruddy headlines every day. We kill our own unborn. We serve ourselves. Then we cry for the government to take care of us instead of taking responsibility for our own behaviors. Even the "good" things people do often have a selfish motive. We all have that fallen "human nature." We are dependent beings. We need something outside of us. Why do we eat? Wouldn't we be more self-sufficient if we didn't eat? Yet, if we were self-sufficient when it came to the topic of eating, wouldn't we all die? However, the world is full of death and destruction. I only know One who will not fail. This also shows people's need for relationship with one another. In failure, we see something go wrong, but on what basis is it wrong? In failure, can we forgive. If we can forgive, on what basis can we forgive? In failure, we can help our fellow humankind temporarily, but the undercurrent of the fall is still there. Where's lasting hope? It seems that voters are looking for a savior where there is none. I only know One Savior and He didn't run for or hold public office.
What about legislating morality? Why do we have laws against drunk driving? Because it poses a danger to others. Why is that a problem? Because someone could get killed. Why is that a problem? Because we want to protect others' lives. Why? Because it is impacting someone else, namely taking a life. And why is that a problem? Because you shouldn't do that. It's wrong. In laws against drunk driving, morality has been legislated. Yet, there's an idea that one cannot legislate morality. Here is the response from Stephen McDowell, co-founder of the Providence Foundation and President of its Biblical Worldview University to that idea:
"This is certainly a fallacious idea. Every law is a legislation of someone's morality. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. Every law legislates morality. The question is, 'Whose morality are we going to legislate?' Is it the Sovereign God ... or fallen man...? While Every law is a legislation of morality, it is true we cannot legislate good or goodness. ... You cannot pass a law and make a man good in his heart. Only the living God of the Bible can transform the heart of man. ... It is important we don't legislate good. We cannot, but We do legislate morality."
Yet, in discussing some of the above, we may be deemed as not being "politically correct." This is just another way of arguing for the world's idea of "acceptance." Political correctness is a hypersensitivity to being offended. We have forgotten how to be offended in our culture. Instead of having discourse over differences, we have lawsuits. We hear buzzwords like "diversity" but are also told to be "politically correct" at times if we dare to be different than what the culture instructs us.
And then there's the tension within the church as to what the Christian's role is in the public square? Certainly our highest calling is to glorify God. Reaching a lost world is a high calling. Being a good steward is a high calling. We are to be good stewards with our money, our time, our resources, our talents, and yes, even our freedoms. Not everyone is called to political office, but all of us have freedom of which we are to be good stewards. Only God can tell you specifically how to apply your gifts in being a good steward of the freedom you have been given. However, at a minimum, outside of extreme and extenuating circumstances, all of us should vote. We are responsible to the individual and to society. If we look at an ill in society and say, "That doesn't affect me personally," then that is selfishness (of which I am also guilty). If I believe that what I believe is good, then why would I not want to vote for ideals which are in agreement with what I believe? I know the law cannot change a heart. However, we need fences. If I have a misbehaving dog, I can put a fence up (an external like law), knowing that more importantly I need to train the dog (a loose analogy towards changing the heart, which is what the Holy Spirit alone does).
The debate about Christians in public education may be helpful. According to the article The Rights of Christians in America's Public Schools, there are rights that many are not aware of due to the entrenchment of "separation of church and state." Here is an excerpt:
A teacher must remain neutral about religious matters and may not do the following:
Public school teachers are permitted to teach positive values in a religiously neutral way in the classroom and may also teach about religion as part of the academic curriculum, including the history of religions, comparative religions, biblical literature, and the role of religion in American history and world history. The history of religious holidays may also be taught, and teachers may objectively answer student questions about what various religions believe.
- Read the Bible or tell Bible stories (devotionally) in the classroom
- Conduct devotional exercises
- Pray in the classroom or during extracurricular events
- Witness to students while on school grounds
Teachers may arrange to meet students outside school hours to witness to students who are asking questions about spiritual matters. A faculty member may meet with the student leaders of Bible clubs off campus in order to assist them and train them to lead other students.
In addition to these options, there are multiple opportunities for community groups to defend Christian education in public schools.
For instance, soulwinners may not be prevented from witnessing or distributing tracts on public sidewalks outside schools, as long as the free-speech activity remains orderly, the noise level does not exceed appropriate limits, and there is no interference with the educational activity of the school.
In some cases, outside Christian groups will even have access to students on school property.
One word of caution that I will quote from Tom Minnery's Why You Can't Stay Silent: "It is illegal for churches to participate in activity for or against a candidate for public office." Consider the following from Scripture for discussion:
- Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus will not fail.
- 2 Timothy 2:13 - Jesus will not fail.
- Psalm 53:3 - fallenness of humanity
- Romans 3:23 - fallenness of humanity
- Jeremiah 17:9 - fallenness of humanity
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 - One Body, Many Parts
- Ephesians 5:11-14 - Christian's role in politics or not?
- Leviticus 5:1 - Christian's role in politics or not?
- Galatians 1:10 - Political Correctness/Speaking in the Public Square
- Proverbs 14:34 - National righteousness/wickedness
- Proverbs 11:11 - righteousness/wickedness
- Proverbs 29:2 - righteousness/wickedness
- Matthew 5:13-15 - Being Salt/Light
- Matthew 21:11-13 - Has the secular world infringed on church ground or not?
- Romans 13:1-5 - Submission to authorities
- Mark 12:13-17 - Give to Caesar what is Caesar's
In considering what's being said, truth and the Bible, how are we to respond to the world when the world says, "there is a wall of separation between the church and state" or "The [Christian public official] has failed us" or "You should have faith in humanity" or "You can't talk about politics in church (and you can't talk about Jesus in the public square)" or "That's not politically correct"?
From where does the idea of "separation of church and state" come?
What does establishment of religion mean?
Have you ever failed someone?
Do you know anyone who has never failed another person?
Why do we eat?
If someone fails, on what basis can it be called a failure?
If someone fails you or offends you, how do you cope?
How often are you offended?
What is "political correctness"?
If political correctness determines what is and is not acceptable, who sets what is or is not acceptable and when that changes? What drives and allows the changes?
Describe the tension between diversity and political correctness. Doesn't one want difference while the other wants uniformity?
Regarding Political Correctness: How much water can you pour into a glass of juice before it loses its original purpose?
Can morality be legislated?
Should people be allowed to talk about God in public? Why or why not?
Should people be allowed to talk about politics in church? Why or why not?
If someone talked about politics in church, but remained neutral (i.e., did not endorse a Party or candidate), is that OK? Why or why not?
Can Muslims pray in a public school? Can Christians?
Which response is the most engaging so that it may bring discourse and productive discussion, perhaps even to presenting the Gospel? What are some other possible responses that promote discourse?