Church Not State

By Hart, D. G. | The American Conservative, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Church Not State


Hart, D. G., The American Conservative


Christians must choose between faith or worldly relevance

For much of human history, religion achieved prominence through the support of the prince, emperor, or state. It helped elevate the importance of religion further if the emperor himself were divine. Christianity never had an emperor cult, but between Constantine's rule in the 40Os and the revolutions of the late 18th century, churches held a prominent rank in their societies largely thanks to civil government's patronage. Religion was honored in the public square - and incorporated into politics.

The loss of religion's formerly privileged place has led believers to confront a difficult choice. Now that we can no longer count on the state to promote and subsidize religion, we either need to convince government to take it seriously once more and act again as its patron, or we must find a new way, free from the states blessing, to understand the significance of faith.

Over the last 30 years, born-again Protestants have overwhelmingly backed Republican candidates in the belief that for religion to matter, it must influence not only what people do when they gather for worship but also what they do every other day of the week Faith must reach beyond the walls and fellowships of churches into the halls of power. From secularists and liberals who fear a return to theocracy - as if even Old Testament Israel was run by the Aaronic priesthood - to the Religious Right, which thrives on complaints about a "naked public square," arguments for taking religion seriously in politics have coincided with the resurgence of the Republican Party since Ronald Reagan.

Consequently, to propose that a truly conservative position is to contend for faith's own inherent merits, quite apart from any benediction from the civil government, is to risk sounding liberal - or even worse, secular.

So thoroughly have conservatives identified with arguments for the worldly relevance of faith, even to the point of driving away libertarians, that calling attention to the doctrine of the Trinity's insignificance for public-school voucher programs or charter schools is to bear the mark of infidelity. And this is precisely the problem. The idea that faith is important to the degree that it shapes public life - especially the workings of government - although asserted with the most laudable of motives, is in fact the greatest impediment to taking religion seriously.

The ideas and standards that inform most faithbased politics do not arise from religions own ideals but from the shifting demands of policy, legislation, and re-election. "Religion" is a sloppy and imprecise word - not only does no such thing as generic religion exist, but actual religious traditions do not share a common set of ideals or practices that we may reduce to a single religious impulse. Any effort to give due weight to a spiritual or divine aspect of human experience will inevitably lead to the recognition of profound differences not only among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam but also within the various churches of Western Christianity that have molded religious life in the United States. The political urge is to blend religions together - to sort them as "conservative" or "liberal" rather than according to their own doctrines. But being true to faith does not allow that.

Important reasons exist for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, for example, not to admit Roman Catholics into membership or to receive by transfer the ministerial credentials of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastors. By America's public standards of tolerance and freedom of expression, such reservations appear sectarian, dogmatic, even uncharitable. But if we want to take seriously the theological and liturgical convictions of Orthodox Presbyterians- which would be a form of taking religion seriously - then we need to be prepared for the kind of disagreement and balkanization that come with the most devout of faiths. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Church Not State
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.