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U.S. Senator says "Keep Your Faith to Yourself"

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Liberal U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says the Republican Party is “controlled by two interest groups that don’t represent America”: theocrats and economic royalists. “I respect faith,” Schumer says. “I’m a person of faith myself… I’ve been in too many inner-city black churches, working-class Catholic parishes, rural Methodist congregations, little Jewish synagogues to not know that faith is a gift—it’s a gift.”

In “religion according to Charles Schumer,” faith is a gift as long as a “person of faith” keeps it to himself. Schumer isn’t the first person to advocate a closeted, pietistic faith. Jay Bookman, writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, states that “faith should be personal, not political.”[1] He would never have said this to Martin Luther King, Jr. We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of the efforts of William Wilberforce who tirelessly worked to stop slavery based on the convictions of his Christian faith. Through his efforts, the Slave Trade Act received the royal assent on March 25, 1807. What if Wilberforce had said, “While I’m personally opposed to slavery, I don’t believe it is right for me to impose my view of morality on these slave traffickers and the slave trade because my convictions are based on religious convictions”? Schumer tolerates religion when he can force it to fit one of his leftist causes like redistribution of wealth in the name of Jesus.

According to Schumer and others like him, 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,” he and his secularist friends 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.”[2]

Schumer continues by arguing that America’s Founding Fathers did not want religion determining what their government does. Where does he find this in America’s founding documents? Thomas Paine argued for the war for independence based on the Bible! That’s right. Before he wrote The Age of Reason, Paine was a Bible believer who argued persuasively for its principles in the realm of civil government. A. J. Ayer remarks that “the first argument that Paine brings against the institution of kingship is scriptural.”[3] Paine declared that “government by kings was first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from which the children of Israel copied the custom… As the exalting of one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their governments yet to form. ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s’ is the scriptural doctrine of courts, yet it is no support of monarchical government, for the Jews at that time were without a king, and in a state of vassalage to the Romans.”

Paine has an extended discussion of Judges 8:22–23 in Common Sense where he describes “the King of Heaven” to be Israel’s “proper sovereign.” He then spends several pages quoting, discussing, and making application of the importance of 1 Samuel 8 to the politics of his day. He concludes this section of Common Sense with these words: “In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) by the world in blood and ashes. ’Tis a form of government which the word of God bears testimony against, and blood will attend it.”

Mark A. Noll, McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, argues:

If Paine’s Age of Reason (with its dismissive attitude toward the Old Testament) had been published before Common Sense (with its full deployment of Scripture in support of republican freedom), the quarrel with Britain may have taken a different course. It is also likely that the allegiance of traditional Christian believers to republican liberty might not have been so thoroughly cemented. And it is possible that the intimate relation between republican reasoning and trust in traditional Scripture, which became so important after the turn of the new century, would not have occurred as it did.[4]

In a word, if Paine had not argued from the Bible to make his case for political independence, then Charles Schumer and the rest of us would be Germans living under a Nazi flag, since it was the United States that helped Great Britain win World War II.

Footnotes:
[1]
(May 2, 2005), A11.
[2]
Rheta Grimsley Johnson, “‘People’ vs. Fundamentalists,” The Marietta Daily Journal (September 2, 1986), 4A.
[3]
A.J. Ayer, Thomas Paine (New York: Atheneum, 1988), 40.
[4] Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 84.
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