The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Segregating the Church from the World

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There are some Christians who take themselves out of the battle over worldviews by using the Bible to make their case. They believe the Bible teaches that Christians should stay above the fray of social involvement. I’ve dealt with many of the arguments for this position in Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths.[1]A pastor in Auburn, Alabama, takes an approach that secularists have used to silence the church while giving meaning to the church. James L. Evans, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church, criticizes Roy Moore’s book So Help Me God and its call for the state, the state of Alabama in Moore’s case, to acknowledge God. Evans writes:

[I]sn’t the church a public acknowledgment of God? When congregations pray, aren’t they engaged in public prayer? When the Bible is read, doesn’t that count as Bible reading? . . . People of faith who accept these arguments need to realize how they demean the role of the church in the world.[2]

Moore is not demeaning the “role of the church in the world,” because, if we follow the logic of Pastor Evans, the church is not really in the world because the church’s message is confined to the institution of the church. If a pastor preaches on the evil of despotic governments, individual Christians can nod in agreement but not take the wisdom of a pastor’s counsel beyond the doors of the church. “As long as you preach your sermons and teach your Sunday school lessons in the context of a church service and keep your views private,” secularists would argue, “we have no problem with your religion. It’s when you make your religious views public that we object and will do something about it.” Here is how one editorial writer put it: Christians can “rant and rave against humanism and feminism and any other `ism’ on Sunday, come Monday, the children belong in school.”[3]

“Christians, Keep Your Faith Personal and Private!”

Jay Bookman, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, states that “faith should be personal, not political.”[4] This was the view of the Roman Empire and every despot who used the sword in defense of his divine right to rule. The biblical message was not confined to the church. Even those outside the Christian community understood this. Vocal and physical opposition was raised against those who preached the message of Christ’s kingdom:

“But the Jews, becoming jealous [that Greeks were embracing the full implications of the gospel] and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and coming upon the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus’” (Acts 17:5–7).

Claiming there was another king other than Caesar had political implications. You could believe there was another king, but you couldn’t say it because other people might believe it and act on it. This is exactly what despotic governments want Christians to believe. The church does its thing in its self-imposed cloistered community, while the long arm of civil government and its courts and schools do their thing. The hope is that if civil government ever becomes tyrannical, it will respect the jurisdiction of the church and let it continue its ministry. History is not on the side of such misguided optimism.

A Pastor Who Knew Better

The position taken by Pastor Evans has not been shared by everyone, and thankfully so. Charles B. Galloway, author of Christianity and the American Commonwealth; or, the Influence of Christianity in Making this Nation,[5] shows a great deal of perception in a sermon he preached on the Duties of Christian Citizenship:

That is a cheap conception of the Christian religion which limits the sphere of its operation to what has been called “other worldliness”—to a ceaseless contemplation of and concern for the things that are heavenly. It takes the whole man—the entire sweep of his being—and is concerned for everything that affects his character and destiny from daily bread to eternal life.[6]

He goes on to reinforce this idea in his address on The Ethics of Politics delivered in 1907. “We should abolish, and forever banish,” he says, ‘the false distinction between the sacred and the secular. The functions of citizenship are as sacred as the songs of Zion. The ballot is as holy as the book of common prayer.”[7] What’s interesting about this statement is that Galloway delivered it to the Press Association of Mississippi, explaining that as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ “he did not submit to a limitation of his activity that might help defeat the gospel that he was commissioned to preach. He frequently said that he did not believe in two consciences, one for politics and one for prayer-meeting; one for the ballot box and one for the church pew.”[8] He was echoing Paul’s sentiments about the role of the civil magistrate and its relation to civil government. If civil government is off limits to the gaze of God’s Word, then what will stop a tyrant from oppressing the Church? Paul urged Christians in his day to offer “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings . . . on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Christians today see this situation as normative for all time. It’s not. All first-century Christians could do, if they were not Roman citizens, was pray and petition the government because they had no political voice or standing in the empire (Acts 22:22–29). This is not the case in America.

Galloway continued his argument for the proper relationship between the Christian as churchman and the Christian as citizen. “The duties of citizenship and Christianity are not in conflict. No fealty to God can be disloyalty to country. Nor can patriotic service to country be infidelity to God.”[9] Galloway’s biographer comments: “He believed that the duties of citizenship rest upon the same moral and spiritual foundation as to the claims of the church, and that there can be no reduction of the privileges and obligations of the citizen without doing violence to every public interest and to the kingdom of God as well.”[10]

The Church as Ghetto

Blacks were treated this way for the longest time. Segregation was a part of daily life in the black community. We forget, or have never been told, that Washington, D.C., from 1920 to 1960, “was a financial, spiritual, and cultural stronghold. Because Washington was a segregated city, blacks simply created their own metropolis.”[11] A case can be made that black society in Washington rivaled that of white society in almost every respect, but there was a line you could not cross, no matter how educated a black person you were or how skilled you might be as a musician or an athlete. Blacks remained segregated. The same thing will happen to the church if Christians follow his misguided worldview.

Endnotes:

[1] Gary DeMar, Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: How Misreading the Bible Neutralizes Christians (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2004).
[2] James L. Evans, “Christians’ attention too focused on state,” The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (June 1, 2005), A13.
[3] Rheta Grimsley Johnson, “`People’ vs. Fundamentalists,” The Marietta Daily Journal  (September 2, 1986), 4A.
[4] (May 2, 2005), A11.
[5] Charles B, Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth; or, the Influence of Christianity in Making this Nation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, [1898] 2005).
[6] Quoted in William Larkin Duren, Charles Betts Galloway: Orator, Preacher, and “Prince of Christian Chivalry” (Emory University, Georgia: Banner Press, 1932), 219.
[7] Quoted in Duren, Charles Betts Galloway, 220.
[8] Duren, Charles Betts Galloway, 220.
[9] Quoted in Duren, Charles Betts Galloway, 220.
[10] Duren, Charles Betts Galloway, 220.
[11] Mark Cauvreau Judge, If It Ain’t Got that Swing: The Rebirth of Grown-Up Culture (Dallas, TX: Spence Publishing Company, 2000), 4.

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