Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baptist Quotes on Separation of Church and State: 1773

"Religious matters are to be separated from the jurisdiction of the state, not because they are beneath the interests of the state but, quite to the contrary, because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state."

"God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government."

Isaac Backus, colonial Baptist from New England, "An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty." The entire piece is now available online.

In America, we now live in a time when many members of the majority faith (Christianity) believe that the government should show favoritism toward the majority faith.

Just this weekend I engaged in a spirited conversation with a Christian who insisted that Christian-only prayers and religious displays should be allowed in government-sponsored venues and buildings, such as public schools and courthouses. Those of other faith persuasions, she declared, should just "put up with it" and "look the other way" or not pay attention to government-mandated displays of Christian faith, instead of protesting in the court system.

Our Baptist forebears believed that government-mandated or favored faith was false faith. Only voluntary faith, made possible by freedom of conscience, could be true faith.

The same is true today. Thanks to our faithful Baptist ancestors who did not "put up with" government-mandated "Christian" religion, America today is a land of religious freedom and separation of church and state where we celebrate freedom of conscience and are able to freely exercise our faith in private and public.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Bruce!

    For 17 years (1987-2004) at my former church, I brought up issues of Baptist principles - and their violations - in Sunday School classes. My "contributions" were regularly met with blank stares - either they didn't understand the points I was making, or they just didn't care (and probably wished I would shut up and quit rocking the boat). I would have preferred a "spirited conversation" to such apathy.

    However, the one truly angry discussion ("spirited conversation" would be a much too mild characterization) I had in Sunday School during those years was when a woman said that America is - and should be - a Christian nation. I'm embarrassed to admit that I came totally unglued when she said that, and the only thing "spirited" about our conversation was a spirit of anger on both our parts.

    But this was a church that had a beautiful stained-glass window - with Jesus at the center - that was behind and above the pastor and faced the congregation. Yet, on patriotic holidays, a gigantic U. S. flag was unfurled, covering the window and blocking the image of Jesus.

    So that which should be secular and represent all people - our nation - is made to enforce religious faith on them; on the other hand, the house of God - and the worship service intended to proclaim Christ's grace - are turned into instruments of a secular nationalism.

    All of this is blasphemy. Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't be so embarrassed about the anger I showed that morning, after all.