The myth of separation of Church and State

Charleston SC steeple 3There are some who believe that “separation of Church and State” is in the Constitution of the United States of America. It is almost there in the clause that prohibits the Federal government from making any law that establishes a religion or prohibits free exercise of religion. This clause addressed real concerns of abuses that had actually happened where a state-sponsored denomination would oppress other denominations, using the power of the state against them. I say “almost” because this clause in the Constitution is certainly not interpreted by all the same way. It is actually more clear as a Baptist doctrine with ties to Thomas Jefferson. I see those things clearly, but why do I call separation of Church and State a myth?

First, for clarity, I’m talking about the Church that is a collection of all people who follow Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and seeking to please Father God. These people honor the Holy Bible as being inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, and thus authoritative and trustworthy. I’m not talking about the other definitions of “church” that refer to buildings, corporations, and fully human institutions. I’m not talking about other religions as being part of the Church, in spite of the fact that they, too, enjoy freedom to worship God as they see fit, provided that worship doesn’t include things like killing, stealing, and other anti-social and harmful behavior. The Church I’m speaking of includes a very diverse group comprising many denominations, races, nationalities, languages, cultures, and traditions. The Church meets in cathedrals, mud huts, buildings, homes, tents, open air—wherever. The Church engages in activities promoting social good, feeding the hungry, clothing the destitute, and promoting righteousness and peace. The Church works regular jobs of all kinds: growing food, buying and selling, manufacturing, providing necessary services—whatever honest occupations there are. The Church is involved in all levels of government, because there are believers in Jesus Christ involved in government. The Church is involved in education, defense, police and other emergency services. The Church is involved in healing, both in natural ways through the practice of medical care and supernatural ways through prayer and faith in God.

The Church cannot be entirely separated from a society, even with the use of deadly force. Governments in Albania, North Korea, and other places have tried and failed, because they can only attack the visible buildings, institutions, and people they know about. They can cause a great deal of pain and suffering in the effort, and reduce the number of Christians living among them, but persecution also strengthens the Church. It weeds out the uncommitted and puts the convictions of those who really believe in Jesus Christ on display to the degree that others become convinced of the Truth every time someone is martyred.

The best we can do in government is to refrain from interfering in Church matters, such as interfering in free speech and freedom of action on social issues such as abortion, marriage and family, social justice, and how to love all people without condoning, supporting, or celebrating sin. The best we can do as individuals who believe in Jesus Christ is to comply with the law of the land except where those laws contradict God’s higher law—and do so in love.


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