When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. Proverbs 29:2 NLT
In a previous post, I touched on the subject of whether or not Christianity and politics mix. I commented in a general sense how Canadians, and specifically conservative Christians, appear to be quite apathetic about politics in general. By comparison, Americans are passionate about politics. I also alluded to the fact that this debate about direct and indirect political involvement of Christians is an ongoing debate that has historically polarized groups within Evangelicalism (and Christianity in general) in Canada and the US.
This morning I happened to read an article posted by Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) President Bruce Clemenger in Faith Today, an evangelical magazine published by the EFC, a national association of Evangelicals in Canada.
Clemenger has some interesting things to say about religious leaders endorsing specific political candidates and parties. Upon reflecting on the difference between calling for justice and remaining non-partisan, Clemenger states,
The Church is better able to fulfil its prophetic role at arm’s length.
I disagree with Clemenger’s statement. The prophetic role of the Church is integral to everything in life and should NOT operate at arm’s length, but closely in the political affairs of Canada or the US. Clemenger’s reasoning is also somewhat misleading,
We have a tradition in Canada of religious leaders refusing to be partisan – of not endorsing or promoting one political candidate or political party over another.
Bruce Clemenger comes to this conclusion that religious leaders are NOT partisan in Canada because of the RULES laid out by the Canada Revenue Agency,
This is consistent with the rules of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). While charities can comment on issues from their expertise and even show how candidates for public office voted on legislative initiatives, they cannot endorse – doing so would cause them to lose their charitable status. The CRA maintains that charities are distinguishable from political parties and that the resources of charities are to be used for charitable purposes and not to advance partisan politics. If you want to be partisan, you are free to form a political party – or forgo charitable status.
Clemenger’s reasoning is misleading because it is not based on real world situations and facts. Regardless of the rules of government agencies like the CRA (and its US counterpart, the IRS) religious leaders in Canada and the US do endorse both political candidates and parties on a regular basis. Does that make it ethical or right? Of course not. A detailed search on Google will reveal to the reader the political endorsements of Sikh and Muslim religious leaders and organizations in Canada. If you want to know the political endorsements of individuals and organizations in Canada, look here. Political endorsements from Christian leaders from the pulpit on Sunday mornings is commonplace. In fact, I have heard more about American politics from both Canadian and American religious leaders than I care to even indulge in.
But the one concept that troubles me the most, in Clemenger’s reasoning and analysis, is evidenced in this statement by the author,
For a religious organization to endorse a political candidate or a party would create confusion for a watching world. Church and state are distinct institutions with different purposes.
Let me repeat that, “…Church and state are DISTINCT institutions with different purposes.” To me, that is another way of stating that the Church and the state are to be considered as separate institutions.
There we go again, here is the LIE that so many Canadians and Americans believe – Separation of Church and state, and somehow that is part of our respective belief system(s) and Federal Constitutions.
The truth is that the FALSE concept of Separation of Church and state, espoused often by the court systems in both the US and Canada, CANNOT be found in the writings of either Constitution. In fact, the opposite is true, especially in Canada.
According to Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada, and an Evangelical Christian:
…separation of Church and state is an American constitutional concept and does not apply to the Canadian constitution. He went on to say that separation of church and state in Canada has meant, traditionally, that the government will not interfere with religion.
There are no clauses in the Constitution Act (BNA Act) of 1867 that separate Church and state. Indeed, our Head of State, the Monarchy, is also the Head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Since that Monarchy is directly involved with the Church of England and, by extension, the Anglican Church of Canada, the best the Crown can do is to tolerate all other churches in Canada.
Harper was vague or incorrect in his assumption that separation of Church and state is an American concept. According to an article written by Shane Idleman in charismanews,
The Courts have used the infamous “separation” phrase to ban religious activities, primarily those promoting Christian principles. Sadly, many believe that “separation of church and state” appears in the Constitution, when, in reality, the phrase does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Be very clear on this point, especially if you are a student in a public school or university, or even a “Christian” university.
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, used the phrase in 1802 in a private letter written to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.
The Baptists feared that the government might someday try to regulate religious expression. Ironically, we are seeing this today. This is crucial in understanding the spirit in which the First Amendment was written. In other words, the Colonists, like the Pilgrims, did not want the government imposing a national religion or denomination on the people—they wanted to worship freely. Mr. Jefferson wisely agreed with them, as did many of the other Founders. His statement was intended to protect religious expression by building a wall of separation between the church and the state; solidifying the fact that the federal government could not strike down religious freedoms.
The government cannot establish a national religion, but it can openly and unapologetically acknowledge the sovereign hand of God. Acknowledgment is not establishment.
Idleman is not alone is his understanding and analysis of the US Constitution. The factual content of his statement has been repeated over and over again by prominent American civic and religious leaders and organizations over a considerable period of time. Unfortunately, this particular truth concerning the US Constitution has fallen on deaf ears. Some individuals and organizations, with suspect, and inherently evil political agendas in the US, continue to propagate lies and deceit concerning the concept of separation of Church and state and the general public appears to be running with it. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9 NLT).
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3 NIV
Sound familiar? The aforementioned verse can be applied to both the affairs of Church and state. The purpose of government and the Church are inseparable. The state cannot function as it was intended to by our forefathers without the participation and influence of the other, the Church. Why? Because God created the very principle of government and authority. And, therein, lies another description of our willful rebellion towards God.
1Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.6Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:1-7 NLT
Our Judeo-Christian heritage in both Canada and the US is evident at the founding and ongoing history of both these great nations. To deny that influence is to deny history and ultimately reality. Today, there is much opposition to subvert and destroy that heritage. Our general lack of involvement in politics, as Christians, only serves to hasten that insidious destruction.
Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34
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