Assimilation: The State and the Second Commandment

This is part of a series of posts on the sin of Assimilation. Click here to see the entire series.

Exodus 20: 4-5 says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol,… you shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

Although it is generally true that most citizens of the United States do not physically engage in the practice of idol worship, it does not follow that we are not guilty of breaking the Second Commandment. It is certainly true that the primary intention of this commandment was to prevent the ancient practice of bowing down to idols of wood and stone. In our modern era, with few exceptions, people no longer bow down before idols of wood and stone. But the sin of idolatry goes further than the mere worship of inanimate objects. The key to the concept of idolatry is the concept of worship.

The prohibition against crafting idols also contains the prohibition against worshipping the idols. God goes on to give a reason why He prohibits the worship of idols; He is a jealous God. As a jealous God, He demands that all of His creation worship Him and Him alone. The essence of jealousy is exclusivity. Any worship that takes place that does not have the God of the Bible as the object of that worship is a transgression of this commandment. So we can get a perspective on whether modern men break this commandment by answering two questions: 1) Does man worship the God of the Bible as He requires, and 2) Does man worship anything other than the God of the Bible?

The positive side of this commandment is that man is required to worship the God who created him. No man is exempt from the requirement that he worship the true and living God. To not worship the God of the Bible is to break this commandment. With respect to the role of the State, as the Westminster Confession of Faith says so well, “the civil magistrate has authority to…see that unity and peace be preserved in the Church…that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed, (and) all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline be prevented or reformed….” In short, it is the duty of the civil magistrate to establish the worship of the God of the Bible. To not do so is to break the Second Commandment. The Constitution of the United States specifically repudiates this responsibility and declares that the duty of government shall be to not “establish” any religion.

Although very few men worship physical idols in this day, it is nevertheless true that other, non-physical idols exist, and many of them are worshiped. I would argue that the State itself has become an idol and is the object of worship by many Christians and non-Christians alike. The State declares itself to be the sovereign authority of the land. The State asserts that it, and it alone, is able to take care of its citizens from the cradle to the grave. The State regulates all of life, down to the minutest details, with rules and regulations (commandments) that all are expected to follow under punishment of law. The State declares its sovereign authority over all of life by taxing every transaction, every activity, every piece of property, and every transfer of property that the citizens engage in.

Those who do not engage in the State sacrament of voting are deemed to be apostates from the system of worship that has evolved. Voting is spoken of in high and loft terms and it is deemed to be our means of access to the sacred. Political conventions are resplendent with the pomp and circumstance befitting the most elaborate religious service, complete with choirs, chants, praises, prayers, and adoration of the saviors of civil service. Often the sympathetic tear does flow when one’s desired individual is appointed by the party to attain to the lofty goal of “public servant”.

Claims that “happy days are here again” are followed by threats to leave the country if so and so is elected. The fate of the entire civilized world is said to be resting upon the sovereign choice of the People in the next election. We are told that there is nothing so important or so empowering as the right to vote and elect those who will lead the free world into certain and unlimited prosperity. There is no limit to the claims of power ascribed to the elected representatives. They can stop unemployment, create jobs, create wealth, cause the stock market to rise, put a chicken in every pot, prevent war, bring peace and democracy to undeveloped countries in the world, establish justice in the land, enforce righteousness in land, and make sure that life will forever be defined as risk less. All of these items are claims of deity.

As Bob Dylan once said, “You gotta serve somebody.” The universe does not allow for a vacuum. If the true and living God is not the object of worship in the State, then something else will be. In our case, we have made the State itself the object of worship. In doing so we have assimilated to the world by brazenly breaking the Second Commandment.

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