While I’ve not taken a poll on it, I’d say most people would vote for separation of church and state. What many do not realize is that the reasons for this separation have changed over the years.
It used to be that the state got involved in religion. One notable example is Constantine who decreed that everyone under his rule must “become a Christian.” In other times and other places, government involved itself in other ways. The king of England, James, was behind the Bible being translated into English, thus we have the King James Bible. Over the years, some of that involvement turned sour, so in order to protect the church, governments passed laws of separation.
Today the reverse reasoning prevails. Rather than government staying out of the church, the church is not to interfere with government. Anyone in political leadership must never allow their religious beliefs to color their decisions, and in many cases, even sharing what they believe is discouraged.
As a Christian, I don’t want the government telling me what to believe or how to practice my faith. My King is Jesus Christ, not the leader of a political party. The shift in “separation of church and state” seems to protect that, at least in this country, but it is not true elsewhere. Some countries do not allow anyone to proclaim or practice Christianity, and in many places and for political reasons, those who do are persecuted and even martyred.
As a Christian, I’ve wondered how a Christian leader (or even a leader with a different faith) can fully obey these rules about separation. If anyone really believes what they say they believe, it affects the way they think, how they talk, and how they live. In fact, in Christianity, if our beliefs don’t affect our actions, the world calls us hypocrites, and rightly so. Because of that, it amazes me that the same people who would charge me of hypocrisy for not practicing what I believe, also demand that Christian politicians be hypocrites!
Mondays I pray for governments and politicians in my country and in other places. I do this for two main reasons. One, it is commanded and exemplified in Scripture. In the Old Testament when Jacob and the Israelites had to go to Egypt to survive a famine in their own land, “Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:7)
Here is a deeply religious man blessing a leader who had a religion of another sort. Sure, he was given a place to live and had a sense of obligation, but he did it not once but twice during this meeting. Do we, Christian or otherwise, bless those who are in political authority over us? Most of the time I hear complaining about the government, not blessing.
In the New Testament Paul writes Timothy with these instructions, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Instead of railing against my government (and freedom of speech in this country allows even that), I’m to pray for our leaders, even bless them like Jacob blessed Pharaoh. While I have the right to protest bad decisions, exercising my rights is not nearly so important as obeying God.
I’ve wondered what differences would prayer make in the way a country is run. What would happen if everyone who lived here offered blessing and prayers for our leadership? In the case of Jacob, his people enjoyed protection and care for several hundred years. My conclusion is that at the polls, my vote may seem politically insignificant, but the Bible affirms that on my knees, my prayers have a great deal of clout!