I cannot tell you how many people, including some of my fellow ministers of the gospel, seek to chastise me over any involvement in the political. The argument usually comes to, “Separation of Church and State.” That argument is one that I believe is based on a wrong interpretation of the Constitution and a failure to investigate the words, sentiments, statements, and actions of the early American politicians and the clergy.
I frequently consider the history of the nation of Israel and the American system of government. No, I am not saying that we are or necessarily should be a Theocracy, but the principles God instituted in that nation’s governance, many are found in our American Constitution. When God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage after hundreds of years, He established them as an Independent nation. He gave them some specific precepts and principles which included laws, rules, and regulations. Initially, they remained faithful to those principles and directives, but over time they drifted and paid a severe price for disobedience.
In the process, God ordained and established that the roles of civil government (State) and the religious government (Church) were kept separate. However, it cannot be ignored that He made provision for the two separate institutions to assist and benefit mutually for the influence of the other. He did not allow for either to control the other but that the two would work harmoniously to produce the best good for the nation and its citizens. I suggest reading 2 Chronicles 26 for an expanded understanding of this division.
Both Ezra and Nehemiah operated within the principle of citizens and leaders all needed to understand how the principles of God’s Word applied to every aspect of life and culture. That included the religious and the civic. Nehemiah 8:1-3 declares, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to read from the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law…[and] read from it before the square.”
I believe it is germane to our discussion to note that those in attendance were “the heads of the fathers’ households of all the people, the priests, and the Levites.” It is impossible to miss that those in attendance were both civil and religious leaders. This was a meeting that would determine the direction of the nation governmentally as well as religiously. There was no prohibition for the religious leaders to absent themselves from matters of civil government. Rather, they were encouraged to participate. There was a similar gathering in 2 Kings 23:2.
In America, we have a record of such meetings. The first was in 1633 in Massachusetts and that practice continued throughout the colonies up to and beyond the period of the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Convention. It was part of how we operated and adopted governmental policies. In the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention, they began their meetings with prayer. This was the theme and process followed by all the colonies. Where is the mandate or even practice of excluding the clergy from the process? They desired the insight and input from Scripture into their process.
In fact, there was a practice in the colonies that blows the modern theory of ‘Separation’ out of the water. It was known as the ‘Election Sermon’ that was printed, frequently at government expense, and distributed across the State. Included in many of those meetings were men such as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Josiah Bartlett, Oliver Wolcott, Elbridge Gerry, and many more. If those men had deemed it inappropriate for the Church to be a part of the process to define and determine government and governmental policies, they would not have attended. They would have objected with great passion, but they did not for they believed that it was important to include the Bible and God in the process.
We have examples in the Bible where men of God confronted governmental leaders including Kings regarding their governance. Elijah confronted King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Isaiah confronted King Hezekiah over national failures and issues related to money. Eliezer and Jehu confronted King Jehoshaphat over his blunders in foreign relations and ill-advised foreign alliances. John the Baptist confronted King Herod over his divorce and marriage practices. Daniel confronted Nebuchadnezzar over his pride and arrogance. Azariah (along with eighty priests) confronted King Uzziah for usurping religious practices and improper expansion of governmental powers. Those are just a few of the many found in Scripture. Where is the Separation and demand for silence on the part of the clergy?
There is no biblical model whereby God forbade ministers to speak regarding political matters and to remain separate from civil issues. Sadly, there are many who have accepted the definition of those following an all-powerful federal government mentality and believe that nothing of God or the Bible can be included in government deliberations. The Bible is filled with directives for men of God to step into the civic arena and declare the Word of God. There are many examples in which the Bible mandates that men of God step up and identify the wrong and right directions from God’s point of view.
The practice of the Election Sermon is one of many examples which clearly identifies the mentality and recognition of the Founding Fathers and the Colonist of the importance and value of following biblical precepts. I pray that we will step back from that view and realize that the precepts taught in God’s Word offer a better way of life. Excluding God allows or encourages people to become a law unto themselves and opens the door for incredibly self-centeredness and corruption.
Our first president, George Washington in his first inaugural address said, “…Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
I urge everyone to join me in seeking to return to an understanding that God’s guidance is not just important but vital for our survival and success as a Free nation.
God bless you and God bless America!