Many North American Christians appear to believe that separation of church and state only applies one way. They feel it is part of their calling to try to fix what is wrong in government. Yet cries of outrage are heard when government shows an inclination to try and fix what is wrong in the churches.
There does not seem to be a realization that any organization that puts itself in the position of trying to influence elected officials, or elect the “right” people to public office, has effectively entered the political arena and thus become subject to political scrutiny.
There are cogent sounding arguments made in favour of Christian political involvement and the irresponsibility of those who abstain. But have these arguments ever been borne out by the results of Christian political activism?
Nellie McClung was one of the leaders in the movement to extend voting rights to Canadian women. She believed that women were naturally more gentle and nurturing and once they had the vote they would be able to shut down the liquor industry. She never foresaw that women would use their vote to obtain the right to join men in public drinking establishments.
The enactment of prohibition in the USA was another victory of the churches. The result was an increase in alcohol consumption, in speakeasies and other illegal venues, accompanied by a dramatic increase in the power and influence of organized crime.
This example, however, leads me to muse about what might happen if Christianity were ever prohibited in the USA or Canada. Would the Christian faith be as powerfully attractive as liquor was? Would Christians still meet in unauthorized gatherings for worship? Would they become even more effective in leading others to the faith?
That has happened over and over again in other ages and other nations. Why couldn’t it happen again? There is a systemic weakness in North American Christianity today, a lack of real acquaintanceship with the Word of God and what it teaches, a lack of earnestness and perseverance in prayer. We have had it too easy for too long.
Isaac Akinyombo, a minister of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Nigeria, once suggested that since we in North America do not experience persecution from outside, perhaps we need to persecute ourselves. I believe his meaning was that we need to be shook up and if outside events aren’t happening to do that, we will need to do something ourselves to shake off our complacency.
I don’t believe we could do that by abandoning all the teachings and structures that exist in the church today. However, we need to examine them all in the light of God’s Word and in the light of the faith of fervent brethren in ages past who maintained and spread the faith in times of opposition and persecution. The way forward is to go back to the true foundation that stood the test in those times.