This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.
It is not unfair to assert that western history has been the story of the battle between the Church and the State. Most of that history consisted of the fight between the various kingdoms of the western world against the Church of Rome. Power struggles defined the nature of the relationship between the two. Each side was always attempting to get the upper hand. With the birth of the Reformation a dramatic change took place. Reformed theology strongly asserted the position that it is the duty of the State to support and defend the Church. Reformed theology clearly argued that the State was inferior in status and honor when compared to the Church. Reformed theology clearly limited the role of the State to its biblical injunctions of defense, protection, and biblical law enforcement. In numerous western European countries there was a spontaneous development of nominally theocratic states in which the potentates recognized the authority of biblical law. But this did not last long. As the effects of the Renaissance, rationalism, humanism, secularism, and a belief in the contractual nature of human civil institutions, began to spread, the war between the Church and the State was reinstated.
In the United States, the Declaration of Independence specifically repudiated the responsibility of Christians to submit to the God ordained authority of the State and replaced it with the right of revolution anytime the State becomes inconvenient. Additionally, the Constitution specifically repudiated the law of God as the law of the land and made sure that there would never be any religious test to hold political office. Secular humanism was ordained as the supreme law of the land. The question at the time of the American Revolution was this, which institution, the Church or the State, would evolve to be the dominant institution in the life of the citizens of this new country? Several hundred years later the answer to that question has been dramatically confirmed. The State reigns supreme. The Church has been relegated by the State to the position of being a public service organization.
Taxation has always been a symbol of sovereignty. The Church has the right to collect the tithe from its members because of its sovereign position in their lives as the bulwark and defender of the Truth. The State has the right to collect taxes (no more than 10% according to biblical law) because of its sovereign monopoly over the power of the sword and the duty to enforce biblical law. The fact that most US citizens have approximately half of their incomes forcibly extracted from them by the State clearly demonstrates the victory of the State in the lives of US citizens. The opposite fact that the average amount of money given to evangelical churches is about 2.5% of the net income of the members of those churches clearly proves the impotence of the Church. The additional truth that churches are fearful to enforce the tithe on their members and the reality that leaders in the churches have resorted to gimmick giving, emotional pleas, and cheerleading as a means of raising funds, only further illustrates that the Church has lost the battle for dominance.
As the battle has developed, the State has taken the position of trying to define the ministry of the Church. For the most part, evangelicals have adopted the definition of the ministry of the Church that the State has declared. According to the State, the Church is an organization that should be dedicated to serving the spiritual and physical needs of the general public. In short, the Church is a public service organization. Is that an unfair statement? I don’t think so.
Local churches have typically been exempt from taxation. That is a proper understanding of sovereignty. The State has no right to tax the Church. Unfortunately, a movement is afoot to begin the taxation of churches. In my own state of Colorado a couple of years ago there was a ballot initiative that would have resulted in granting the state the right to tax resident churches. What do you think was the response of the churches to this attack? Did they rise up and assert their right to be sovereign? Did they assert that the Church is actually superior in glory and honor to the State? Did they straightforwardly declare that the State has no right to tax the Church? No, the one and only argument that the local churches were able to muster is that they could not perform their job in serving the needs of the public if they had to pay some of their income in taxes. Have pity upon us, Mr. State, because if you take some of our money we will not be able to feed as many bums in our soup kitchen. What a disgusting example of total assimilation to the culture.
President Bush has further reinforced the concept of the local church as a public service institution by passing a law that grants federal funds to churches that perform public service activities. It was utterly amazing how quickly the churches lined up to try and get their fair share of the federal dollars. Seemingly totally unaware that federal money always comes with strings attached, the churches could not wait to complete their applications and begin to feed at the federal trough.
The identity of all the “successful” local churches in the Denver area is closely tied up with how much they do for the community. If they have programs for unwed mothers, latchkey kids, working moms, bums on the street, teenagers “at risk” (whatever that means), pathetic single males, and divorce recovery workshops, they are deemed to be doing the work of God. Engage in these programs and the local newspaper and television personalities will be coming around wanting to do interviews about how much the church cares for the community.
The god of these churches needs to be considerably sanitized in order to be palatable for the community. As a result, Jesus is always there to tell you that you are His precious child and that He loves you, no matter what you do. Additionally, Jesus loves all bums, divorcees, drug addicts, and teen teenagers who die in car wrecks caused by their own drinking and speeding. All of life’s hardships are tragedies that happen to innocent victims and it is the job of the church to rush in and provide comfort in terms of wealth transfers and repetitive chants about the love of God. Unfortunately for the members of these churches, the God of the Bible is ignored and the god of their own creation is publicly praised on a weekly basis.
The evangelical Church has largely adopted the position of the State with respect to its own ministry. Rather than being responsible to declare the whole counsel of God to the entire world, the job of the church is now to consist entirely in public service. In so doing the Church has become a willing accomplice to the State in the State’s attempt to be the dominant institution in society. This is exactly what is described in the book of Revelation. The Church in the United States today serves the government of the United States in the same way the false prophet served the beast in Revelation 13.