The American Renewal Project has already received commitments from over 500 Pastors nationwide to run for various political offices in 2016. Their goal is get to 1000 pastors before the election season begins. They claim to have a network of over 100,000 pastors that are associated with them.
The group not only encourages Pastors to run for local, state and national political offices but it also encourages its members to speaking openly and candidly about politics from the pulpit.
You can read more about them here:
To all this I say AMEN!
Opponents will say “But this violates our Constitution’s separation of Church and state” and “This violates the IRS’s ban on Pastors talking about politics from the pulpit”.
Separation of Church and State not found in the Constitution
Most people think the modern American idea of “separation between church and state” can be found in the Constitution. It is it not.
The idea of the separation of Church and State was first introduced into American society by a letter written from Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut.
Thomas Jefferson was trying to address the fears of certain Churches about legislatures trying to establish state Churches when he penned his famous words that would later be cited by many America courts:
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
In essence he was trying to establish the fact that the first amendment protected the Church FROM the State. He never said anything about the State being protected from the influence of the Church.
Separation of Church and State enshrined in Supreme Court Case law
The legal concept of separation of Church and state based on Thomas Jefferson’s letter was first introduced into the American legal system by the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States (1879) when the Supreme Court said this:
“may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the [First] Amendment.”
But it was not until the 1947 Supreme Court case, Everson v. Board of Education, that the full modern interpretation and usage of Thomas Jefferson’s comments were used the way they are today with things like prayer in public institutions and schools.
It really was a small case. The issue was a New Jersey man sued his local school district for providing tax payer funded reimbursement for children to take public transportation to school whether it was public or private. He argued that some of these private schools were religious and this amounted to the government endorsing a particular religion.
Justice Hugo black uttering Thomas Jefferson’s words to the Danbury Baptist association added his own when he stated:
“[t]he First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.”
In later years this 1947 landmark Supreme court case would be used to strip God and religion from every Public institution in America. It is still being used today in cases that are filed every year.
The IRS’s 501(c)(3) Ban on Churches endorsing political parties or candidates
In 1954 Senator Lyndon B. Johnson endorsed a change to a bill modernizing the tax code that would protect him from his political opponents – many of whom were Preachers in Churches in his home state where he was running for reelection as Senator.
This bill was meant to silence free political speech in Churches, something that up to this point had been an American tradition since the founding of our nation.
In recent years the Alliance Defending Freedom has begun taking on this unconstitutional legislation and has encouraged Pastors across the nation to practice civil disobedience against this law and specifically talk about political parties and candidates from their pulpits.
Should Christians and Churches get involved in politics?
Previously I stated that opponents of Pastors running for office say “This violates our Constitution’s separation of Church and state” and “This violates the IRS’s ban on Pastors talking about politics from the pulpit”.
I agree with them that this violates the Supreme Court’s made up law of “Separation of Church and State” and the IRS 501(c)(3) code.
But to not get involved and speak the Word of God and push for Biblical values in our society would be to violate the Word of God. We are to stand for God’s truth in all areas of our world -not just in our private lives.
Does the Bible teach the concept of Civil disobedience?
Many non-Christians and liberal Christians who do not agree with applying Biblical principles to public life will cite this Scripture passage to tell Christians that they may never disobey the laws of the United States especially in regard to religious issues:
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” – I Peter 2:13-14 (KJV)
Absolutely we should obey the laws of our land, whether they be city ordinances or state and Federal law IF these laws do not overstep the authority that God has granted to these authorities.
God does not grant civil authorities any power over marriage, the family or the church. When the government steps into these realms of authority it has overstepped its bounds. When the government tells us to do things that are against God’s Word, or to not do things that God has commanded us to do they have overstepped their God given authority.
The same Apostle Peter who wrote by the inspiration of God the passage cited above, also practiced civil disobedience to his authorities:
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
“Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:27-29 (KJV)
The Bible is crystal clear here – when our civil authorities ask us to do something God has forbidden or not do something God commands or when they overstep their authority that God has given them we have not only a right, but a duty to practice civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience in the service of God is a proud tradition in Scripture – just look at the Hebrew midwives who hid babies from being killed and when Daniel refused to stop praying to God and many other instances of civil disobedience found in the Scriptures.
Am I arguing for a theocracy?
So am I saying Christians should try to establish a theocracy in America? No. But I am arguing for gradual move to a theonomy by changing our laws to be based on the moral law of God found in the Bible.
The difference between a theocracy and a theonomy is that a theocracy is nation directly established by God and typically ruled by God through his prophets. God is not in the business right now of coming down and directly starting nations as he did with Israel. Instead a theonomy is a nation established by men which bases its moral laws on the Bible.
I believe God wants people to freely choose him and the government should not force people to attend Church or become Christians and yes our founding fathers did believe in a concept of separation of church state as I showed from Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist association. But their concept of separation of church and state and the modern concept we have are two very different things.
At Beeson Divinity School on May 2nd, 2000 Richard Land made the following observation about Jefferson’s Danbury Baptist association letter:
“Clearly, Jefferson saw no contradiction between his concept of church and state separation and having a gift personally presented to him at the White House with a promise of continued prayer by a prominent Baptist preacher on the morning of the very day he wrote to the Danbury Baptist ministers, and less than 48 hours later attending a Sunday morning worship service where that minister — John Leland — preached from the Speaker’s podium in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives”
– Dwayne Hastings, “Religious freedom champion John Leland also active in public policy, Land says”, Baptist Press, 2000. [Online]. Available: http://www.bpnews.net/5785/religious-freedom-champion-john-leland-also-active-in-public-policy-land-says.
Clearly the founders would not have endorsed our modern idea of separation of church and state where we use it to ban things like prayers in schools or graduation ceremonies. These types of polices are actually attacks on the religious freedom that our founders fought for.
The founders were against state established Churches and mandating that people must attend church or pass religious tests to run for office.
But there is a big difference between advocating for laws that force people to attend a certain Church or be a certain religion and advocating for laws that support Biblical morality.
If I vote for laws banning abortion – that is not me forcing people to become Christians. It is me voting on a moral issue based on my Christian faith. If I vote for a law banning homosexual marriage that is not me forcing people to become Christians, that is me voting on a moral issue based on my Christian faith.
Most laws are based on the morality of the people and as Christians where should our moral foundation be found? The answer is God’s Word.
You cannot separate your faith from your politics, if you are a true Christian your faith should inform every choice you make including the choices you make at the ballot box.
I am proud of these Pastors running for public office trying to change the moral fabric of our nation – we need many more Christian men to stand up and do the same.