To Vote or Not To Vote

I sometimes get angry at people, but usually I can control myself and not let it show. However, last week I displayed it for all to see. We had our caucuses in Colorado. When the head of our party in our precinct said he would not vote for a candidate he didn’t like, I lost it. In a two party system, EVERYONE should vote, and it should be a party vote not a person vote! AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT.

On the way home, my wife reminded me that God is sovereign and in control. Nothing happens outside of His will. Then, at 2 a.m., that bit of wisdom woke me up. What does scripture say about voting? This missive will focus on two scriptures that struck me in the middle of the night.

In his dedication to Parliament at the front of “Ill Newes From New England,” John Clarke states the Lord Jesus has been given all power in Earth and has chosen to wield that power by a “two fold administration of power suitable to the two fold state or being of man.” Baptists at that time used Matthew 22:21 (Render unto Caesar…) to support this position. We live in a world that has both a “Caesar” side and a “spiritual” side. In a Republic like ours, voting is in the former. So, a Christian should be able to vote using good sense. In fact, God puts in place governments and our participation is a responsibility. Ah-ha! Support for my contention.

BUT, not so fast. Romans 14 came to mind. So, turned a few pages further on and read verses 2-14: One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him….One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God….13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

I submit that eating or observance of days can be extrapolated to voting.

  1. In a party-based system, every vote counts. A Republican or Democrat that refuses to vote because they don’t like the candidate has cast a vote FOR the opposing party.
  2. Someone who has made his/her vote a test of their faith should stand firm if they choose not to vote.
  3. However, such a person should not participate in the leadership of the political process and refuse to vote. (In my next post I will address the question, “Is he/she a Daniel or a Pharisee”?

As always, feedback is welcomed.

Why must pastors sign government-issued marriage licenses?

Baptists like John Leland influenced the creation of our Constitution. Last week, I met a fellow author in Windsor. As we walked out of the library, I mentioned what our early Baptist forefather John Leland said, that the idea of Christian Nation “should be exploded forever.” “Oh, yes,” my friend answered. “My Christian history classes talked about him.”

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John Leland

Many of my friends disagree with Leland’s POV and they’re in good company. In 2011, Focus on the Family posted an article on their website. It discussed the spiritual aspect of civil marriages. This year they again affirmed this position that the civil marriage license should have spiritual significance.

Yet, in the reality of today’s culture, civil authorities and conservative religious institutions use the word “marriage” with two different definitions and applications. Until the church and the state decouple the use of this word, situations like we now have with Kim Davis, will occur more frequently. IMHO John Leland would want to see this unlinking. Some nations (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey) require a civil ceremony separate from a religious one. So, in those countries, a couple that wants to be married before God, must have a separate ceremony.

“Render unto Caesar…” What do you think?

Early Baptists believed Matthew 22:21 was our Lord’s indication that there is a two-fold form of government, civil and spiritual, and that these should be separate. How we define separation impacts how we view our society today. What do you think is meant by separation of church and state?

Most folks today will say the term “separation of church and state” comes from the phrase wall of separation appearing in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. However, the idea was not new. Our Baptist heritage is replete with proponents of both a “civil and spiritual state.”

In 1644, Roger Williams used the term wall of separation. [“Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered,” The Complete Writings of Roger Williams (New York: Russell & Russell Inc. 1963), Vol. 1, 108]

Thomas Helwys believed government exists for the benefit of all citizens be they “heretics, Jews, Turks, or what-so-ever.” [A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, Classics of Religious Liberty 1 (by Richard Groves), Copyright, 1998, Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, USA.] This could not be true if one religious belief became THE established faith of the land.

John Leland, leader of Virginia Baptists following the Revolutionary War, discusses the idea of a “national church” in a sub-section titled “The Reasons of Their [Baptists] Dissent.” In that book, he writes, “The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” [“The Virginia Chronicle,” The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, G. W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, New York, 1845, p 117-118]

In his dedication to Parliament, John Clarke states the Lord Jesus has been given all power in Earth and has chosen to wield that power by a “two fold administration of power suitable to the two fold state or being of man.” [Ill Newes From New England, H. Hills, 1652, p 4-5]

What do you think is meant by separation of church and state? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Impact After the Revolution

“The Revolutionaries” is the seventh segment in The Courage of Your Faith series. What is meant by separation of church and state? What implications does that have today?

After the Revolutionary War, states faced the need to set up their own governments. Most leaders felt a Christian population was required for good government. Men like Patrick Henry wanted the new Virginia government to impose a tax that would be distributed to all teachers of the Christian religion. This bill would have passed had Baptists not opposed it, taking the stand that a separation of church and state was required.

This idea was so important to them that Baptist John Leland had a “secret” meeting with James Madison concerning the new Constitution of the United States. It was held east of the City of Orange. Baptists would not support the new Constitution unless there was an amendment guaranteeing separation of church and state. Without Baptist support, Madison would not be sent to the Constitutional Convention from Virginia. If Virginia had not voted to accept the Constitution, other states would have followed suit. And the United States would have never have been. A park commemorates this meeting. In the park is a monument to Leland and Madison. The words on the monument are here.

Is the United States a Christian Nation?

Most Christians today (evangelical or not) will jump up and down and yell, “YES! YES!” But what does it mean to be a Christian nation?

We were founded upon Christian principles. The founders called upon God for guidance and felt a self-governed people needed to hold to scriptural truths. So, in that respect, YES we are a Christian nation. But early Baptists believed God had defined a “civil state and a spiritual state” as in Matthew 22:21. We pushed to have James Madison amend the Constitution, strengthening this distinction.

While the term “separation of church and state” derived from a letter sent to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut in 1802, the idea was part of Baptist writings from Thomas Helwys (A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity) to John Leland (A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia). These Baptist forefathers wrote that “all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” They held that the government role is to “protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another.” So, in this respect, some may say that we do not have a Christian government. The founding of the US was arguably the first time a government did not establish a state religion. The United States was unique among the nations of the world.

I gave a talk to the Windsor Optimist Club on how Baptists were responsible for the First Amendment. During a Q and A at the end, the question was asked, “What about things like nativity scenes on display in public buildings?” Interesting question!

See more at “The Courage of Your Faith,” (www.coyfaith.com) in “The Revolutionaries.” The “The Courage of Your Faith” consists of 12 short stories from our history and 12 Bible Studies on issues as relevant today as they were in the past. Each study includes supplemental information and a Power Point slide presentation. I will feature different studies monthly…for example, Lottie Moon and Missions during November/December and “The Separates” in May.

All documents can be downloaded at no charge.  Have fun and let me know what you think. If you like it, please pass it on.