Monday, October 13, 2008

The Classic Separation Perspective (Derek Davis) #3: The Rules of Classical Separation

OK. I'll quit whining about lame Seattle sports. Back to the different church-state relationships from a Christian perspective. This is the last installment of the Classic Separation Perspective. There are three distinct, yet related rules when it comes to Classical Separation, according to Davis.

1. Separation of Church and State.
There are clearly ways where there is no separation (“In God We Trust”). The issue is more of an institutional separation. That means “church and state in American society not be interconnected, dependent on or functionally related to each other.” The idea is that they will both function better if they function independently (e.g., government appointing clergy or the church dictating laws like the Middle Ages).
Davis seems to be skeptical even of partnership of church and state when it comes to social programs because religions have been historically considered “pervasively sectarian” (p. 104). Whether it goes this far or not, Davis’ concern is that “making religion the servant of government would likely inaugurate the decline of religion’s current role as the nation’s ‘prophetic voice’ and conscience against ill-advised governmental policies. Religion with its hand out can never fulfill its prophetic role in society” (p. 105).

2. Integration of Religion and Politics.
While the official separation is clear, religious voices are encouraged in politics. Whether it be the individual citizen, or lobbying, religion does play a role in the political arena – and should. Religious people can enter into the process just like anyone else and it is expected, or at least understood, that those running for public office can speak about their faith.

3. Accommodation of Civil Religion.
Classical separation also recognizes a civil religion under the generic terms of “God” and it allows symbols that have been around for a while to stay prominent in a given community (Nativity scenes, menorahs, etc…). This ends when it will make an impression on the young, which is why they still pray in Congress, but not in schools.

Conclusion of Classic Separation
Separation is important for the purity of the church, but it has had great benefits. There is no country as religious as the USA – and with such broad respect for so many different faiths. The church and state can pursue doing good to all (Gal. 6.10), but it is the role of the church to make disciples of the nation (Mt. 28.19-20) and the state can’t do that.

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