Should our religious beliefs inform our political views?

The notion that our political views shouldn’t be informed by our religious beliefs is simply absurd. Those who hyperventilate about “theocracies” and “separation of church and state” (a phrase that many people now realize wasn’t in the Constitution) are just trying to silence Bible-believing Christians. If you take their views to their logical conclusion it would mean we should always do the opposite of what our religious beliefs would dictate.

We are self-governed, in the sense that we elect our representatives. Therefore, we are obliged to let our morality influence our political views.

Also consider that one of the complaints about Christianity is that parts of the church were “silent” during the Holocaust, slavery or civil rights movements, which in some people’s eyes implied approval.

The “wall of separation” argument has been misunderstood and misapplied. It is not in any founding government documents. Even when Jefferson wrote about the “wall” in a private letter, it was not in the context of the government limiting religious activities in public. It was to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with religious expressions.

If you want to bring Jefferson’s letter into the debate, then fairness requires bringing in the background letters of the founders which reflect how they really felt about God and government.

Here is the First Amendment in its entirety:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now focus on the complete portion of the first amendment relating to religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ” That’s it!

Was the intent of the 1st Amendment to restrict religious liberties or protect them?  You need to answer that before addressing any related issues.  The Bill of Rights was written to give rights to citizens, not government. 

The first freedom in the First Amendment is religious freedom. The Amendment was made to give religious freedom to religious people so Congress could not pass laws limiting their freedoms. It was not written to protect atheists from religious expression in the public square. If you look at successive drafts of the First Amendment, this becomes more and more clear.

According to the Constitution, any state could have their own religion (provided that their own constitution permitted it). Not that I think that would be a good idea. Also, there is nothing to suggest that churches can’t partner with the government (though I am leery of churches that come to rely on government aid).

But do I want, for example, religion taught in public schools? Definitely not. There are countless theologically bankrupt churches I wouldn’t send my kids to on a bet. So why would I trust that any government sponsored religious teachings would be doctrinally sound?

The U.S. does not become a de facto theocracy if our religious beliefs inform our politics. We still need go in the public square to persuade the countless non-Christians that our views make sense. For example, when I train people in pro-life reasoning at the pregnancy center where I volunteer, I always break the reasoning into secular and religious arguments. It is actually quite simple to argue the pro-life position without using the Bible.

If atheists or people of other faiths disagree with us, that is fine. It is part of the process. But anytime someone acts as if your religious beliefs shouldn’t inform your political views, they are wrong.

Also see ACLU profits from attacks on religious freedoms.

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9 thoughts on “Should our religious beliefs inform our political views?”

  1. Neil, I do believe in a separation of church and state. But my beliefs have nothing to do with our constitution. They actually go all the way back to Constantine, but that’s another story.

    In my opionion, I want to vote for someone whom I believe to be a Christian and will follow his Christian morals and values in making decisions. Yes, I would like a Christian as a leader. But then again, I would like to see Christians in every household accross America – why stop there – the world.

    What I don’t want to see is politicians using religion to gain power. This can corrupt. Plus, its the same as with your school scenerio. I don’t necassarily want religion taught in schools either (except maybe as an elective???). The same bankrupt theology that could invade our schools can invade our government. And finally, a government that is so-called Christian and becomes corrupt can do much more harm to America than never having a Christian government to begin with. That’s simply my opinion though. So I do believe in a separation of church and state.

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  2. Oh, and by the way, I would never ever try to silence “Bible-believing Christians”. If we’re silenced, then the God’s Word will never be spread.

    I just went back to glance at the post again and noticed that comment. 🙂

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  3. Hi Greg,

    Thanks for the comments. I wholeheartedly agree about not wanting politicians to use religion to gain power. Hypocrisy on either side is bad. I am not lobbying for a theocracy (that would be bad on many levels). I was mainly aiming at the false notion that we shouldn’t let our religious views inform our politics. If my faith leads me to believe that abortion is wrong, then there is nothing unconstitutional about voting, lobbying or even running for office on those views.

    Perhaps I’ll circle back to this topic later and write about how Christian politicans should work in the system.

    Your idea about the elective in schools is interesting, as long as sound preachers like you are teaching it! I figure that the more people getting into the Bible, the better . . . the Holy Spirit can take over from there.

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  4. 1. Jefferson’s letter was not a private letter — it was a presidental proclamation. It is collected in the official papers of the presidency of Jefferson. It was a carefully crafted statement, written with extensive corroboration of then-Attorney General Levi Lincoln. The Danbury church wrote expressing their fear that the State of Connecticut would abrogate their right to worship, either overtly with express banning of their sect, or less overtly by designating a state church. As Jefferson noted, the Constitution prevents such establishments of religion.

    2. While the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, the concept is woven throughout, especially in Articles I, II, III and IV, which give no official role in government to any religious body, and which give no official role in religion to any governmental entity, and in Amendment 1, which enumerates rights of citizens already present in the body of the Constitution, and then goes further to say Congress cannot even legislate in that area.

    Look especially at Article IV — there is no delegation of religious authority to state governments. States could not establish a church under the Constitution (which is what Jefferson told the Danbury Baptists).

    Moreover, each colony in the original 13 had disestablished its church to a great degree by 1778 — 9 completely, and 4 mostly. To establish a church, a state would have to have explicit authority to do so from the U.S. Constitution. There is no such authority, and never has been, under the Constitution.

    Establishment of religion is not required for good people to have good effects on politics. Establishment of religion is a general guarantee of corruption in government and church, however. Any student of church history should be aware of that fact.

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  5. If your point was that Jefferson’s letter was designed to protect the church’s freedom, you are correct. Many people incorrectly perceive it as the opposite.

    We are in agreement about it being a bad idea for a government to establish a religion. It is a fundamental principle of Christianity that you can’t coerce someone to believe. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let our religious and moral views inform our political positions.

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  6. Right. But another point is that no state could have created a state religion. In addition to the fact that such an act would have violated the state constitution — and would violate the constitutions of all 50 states today — it would be a violation of the federal constitution. History shows that we have a steady march towards religious freedom, especially after 1776. No state backtracked on disestablishment and on establishing wider religious freedom. Only one state had any small vestige of establishment left after 1819, and it was gone by 1833. No one has seen any need to test religious freedom on establishment since then, either.

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