September 25, 2012

Christians are citizens of two realms–the earthy and the spiritual–and the have rights and responsibilities in both spheres. 

As citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), Christians are commanded to be obedient to the Lord Jesus (Exod. 20:1-5). Our Lord’s instruction to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which be God’s” (Luke 20:25) means giving ultimate allegiance only to God. It means paying our taxes. It also means much more.

Christians had
given number of contributions in the different fields such as sciences, politics,
literature and business. The review about the Nobel prizes won by the
Christianity reveals their religious preference. They address prayer to the Lord Jesus and they had the belief that
Jesus and father will make their heart comfort.

The Apostle Paul instructs us that as Christians we have the
responsibility to be good citizens of the state “for conscience sake”
because God has ordained government to punish and restrict evil-doers
and to reward and protect moral behavior (Rom. 13:1-7). Christians are
to support the civil government unless the authorities require a
believer to support or to do evil in direct contradiction to their
ultimate allegiance to their Heavenly Father.

Christians also are commanded by Jesus to be the “salt” of the earth and the “light” of the world (Matt. 5:13-16).

This involves Citizen Christians in active engagement with the world,
preserving as salt and illuminating as light. Thus, the
responsibilities of Citizen Christians include not just obedience to the
state, but involvement in society.

The Baptist Faith & Message confession of faith affirms
this call to involvement with the world when it states that “All
Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ
supreme in our own lives and in human society.” The confession also says
“In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose . . . every form of
greed, selfishness, and vice,” as well as “seek to bring industry,
government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of
righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.”

This statement clarifies our responsibilities as Christians, and our rights as
citizens. When we bring our religious and moral convictions into the
public marketplace of ideas and involve ourselves in the political
arena, we are standing solidly within the best of our traditions as
Americans and as Baptists. Far too often in recent decades we have
allowed ourselves to be driven from the arena of debate by false
understandings and misleading applications of church-state separation
and religious liberty.

President Kennedy once said, “The great enemy of truth is very often
not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent,
persuasive and unrealistic.” One such “persistent” myth that has
afflicted us as a nation is the belief that you cannot, or at least
should not, legislate morality.

Nothing could be more false. As a practical matter, all governments
legislate morality. If we had no laws against murder, the death rate
would explode. If we had no laws against theft, property losses would
soar. Government must legislate morality in order to fulfill its
God-ordained purpose. God requires that we, as Citizen Christians, hold
government responsible to its purpose of punishing evil and protecting
its citizens. And in so doing, we do not impose our morality on the
murderer and the thief so much as we prevent them from imposing their
immorality on their victims.

A total separation of morality and politics is as debilitating of
moral values and public virtue as a complete dominance of a church by
the state or the state by a church is of personal and religious freedom.
Our forbearers intended—and theConstitution of the United States
provides for—a balance between morality and public virtue and a
separation of the institution of the church and the institution of the
state. This delicate constitutional balance, solidified and anchored by
the First Amendment, is endangered at present, and it will not be put
right unless people of faith insist upon it.

The First Amendment is in the Constitution in large measure because our Baptist forbearers insisted upon it as a prerequisite for their support of theConstitution’s ratification.
The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
All the restrictions are on the government, not individual
Baptists or other Americans of religious faith. The government must not
establish a religion and must not interfere with its free exercise.

To say the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom and
separation of church and state were intended to restrict the political
participation of people of faith or to disqualify their religious
convictions and beliefs from consideration in the public arena of ideas
is to twist and to distort the First Amendment’s intent and meaning
beyond all recognition.

This is amply demonstrated both by the words and deeds of our
political and spiritual ancestors. When our forbearers declared their
independence from Great Britain they asserted their firm belief in such
moral-political convictions as all human beings being “endowed by their
Creator with certain unalienable rights” such as “life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.” They declared their appeal “to the Supreme Judge
of the World for the rectitude of our intentions” with a “firm reliance
on the protection of divine providence.” One Declarationsignatory,
Samuel Adams, said, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom
all men ought to be obedient, and from the rising to the setting of the
sun, let His kingdom come.” When they issued the Declaration of Independence,they never intended to declare their independence from God, only from Great Britain.

In his Farewell Address George Washington declared, “Of all
the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion
and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim
the tribute of patriotism who should labour to subvert these great
pillars of human happiness.” Washington’s successor, John Adams,
reiterated the role of religion and morality in our nation’s life. In
1798, President Adams said, “We have no government armed in power
capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and
religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

Religious conviction has profoundly influenced our nation throughout
its history. There would have been no abolitionist and anti-slavery
movement without the leadership and support of people of faith. There
would have been no child labor reform movement without the impetus of
religious conviction. There would have been no civil rights movement
without the moral imperatives provided by people of religious
conviction. Our Baptist ancestors were active in all of these movements.
They believed their moral convictions left them no choice but to be
involved. They found no contradiction between such action and their
commitment to church-state separation.

Clearly, as American citizens we have the right to be involved in the public and legislative arena. As obedient Christians, we have the responsibility to be involved.

Citizen Christians are called upon not just to enjoy, but to
exercise, not just to preach, but to practice their liberties. Surely,
there could be no better thing for Americans and for America than for
Citizen Christians to awaken to the exerciseof their rights and to the fulfillment of their responsibilities.

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