Does “Separation of Church and State” Mean that Government should get out of the church’s “ministry”?
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
-- Daniel Webster—American Statesman
As a Christian, I believe in, and follow the teachings of Christ on a personal level. As a Patriotic American, I understand that it is my duty to obey the Constitution and all laws passed in accordance therewith, as the “supreme law of the land”. Some (Liberals) have argued that to deny welfare or specifically, broad-spectrum health care benefits, to the “poor”, is the epitome of Christian hypocrisy. It is not contradictory, in my view, to be "ministerial" (having a servant's heart) towards the truly needy, and yet restrict that ministerial attribute and action to the private sector rather than government. Keeping the government out of welfare is both and act of Christian faith, and a fulfillment of our constitutional duty of citizenship.
It is my contention that God calls His people to minister to the needs of the world because we have a love relationship with Him, and NOT because we have to “prove” our salvation, or because we feel “compelled against our will” to give of our resources to those who truly need help. As Christians, we are called (commanded) to have a “ministering spirit” (an attitude of giving). But doing the "acts" of a Christian does not make one a Christian, and can, if we remove God from the picture- as is happening in the U.S.- cause society to decline. IT is NOT that I disdain the Christian value of charity, but rather that I MORE disdain the distribution of power to government to do what Christians are called instead to do.
The greater danger to our culture is not the poverty or want, but the tyranny of power that will certainly come if unchecked. It is an ancient maxim that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887). In true American Colonial/Patriot spirit, I fundamentally distrust the "king" and his men, especially when the balance of power between the citizens and their government is askew. I believe that when Christians "delegate" their true service from God to the government, it cuts God out of the picture and contributes to moral decay of the nation. It is interesting that many of those most vocal about "separation of church and state" (an historically false notion in American law and politics) nevertheless desire to government to be in the "ministry" business- allocating to government what is clearly the mission of the church.
When Christians abandon their personal ministry to the poor, in favor of government welfare, their own faith is diminished. In a way, if we empower government to do the mission of the church because "God isn't moving fast enough", or in the manner in which I see fit, or ALL poor people aren't getting a fair shake, or whatever, we are admitting our lack of faith in God, AND presuming to know what is HIS will concerning that social/economic status of an entire class of people. In other words, God uses adversity to bend people to His will, or to harden their hearts against Him. (Sometimes sickness, disease, and poverty are the natural results of poor lifestyle choices which consequences are intended to teach us life lessons.) Who are we to presume that HIS methods are "ineffective"?? And, who among us has not heard testimony of a brother or sister who was in dire straits and appealed to God for deliverance, to have their prayers answered in a supernatural way? These testimonies bolster the faith of all who hear and God is given glory for the answered prayer.
I am not using this argument as an excuse to tolerate (ignore) the poor in our midst, but to keep a perspective that social welfare is the domain of the church of Christ, and NOT of the government. Remember in the OT when the Hebrews wanted a king and God said that a king would build armies, devour the nation's wealth, send the young men off to war, etc.?? God was saying to them, "let me manage your affairs- trust me to work out the salvation of man. A king will suck the blood from you." (My paraphrase). The bottom line is: seek God’s intervention and accept His judgment. Look at the trouble Abraham and Sarah caused when they thought to “help God out” because they thought He was moving to slowly in performing His promised seed.
Christians DO have citizenship duties. (See my article “Render Unto Caesar”). As American Christians, we have a duty to hold each other accountable in the faith, and to hold government accountable to our fellow citizens. We should be faithful in observing the law, and even helping “McGruff, the crime dog, “take a bite out of crime”. Theft is the illegal taking of the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the use thereof. I consider theft to be an immoral act, notwithstanding that it may be perpetrated by government. (See my other articles on “the Purpose of Government” and “The Rule of Law”) For the argument to be made that it is my "duty" to "ante up" for programs that are OUTSIDE of the constitutional authority of the government, especially when I have a moral argument against the use of those resources, the presumption must be made that those resources are NOT my property to begin with. It is theologically unsupportable to insist that one is “less a Christian” because they resist and resent the unlawful taking of their property (theft) even the theft is used to “help” a needy person, or any other “cause” deemed worthwhile by the “benevolent” government.
The arguments swirling around the issues of public welfare and health care must consider first, what is the constitutional authority of the government to be in the health care industry in the first place. Next, if government is constitutionally permitted to regulate health care, and mandate health insurance (an entirely different question) then by what means may or should that mission be financed. Fundamental legal authority must be established for the government to take the private property of its citizens for that cause (it does NOT reside in the “general welfare” clause.) In our system (from the founding of the republic) it is the individual right of private property and the opportunity for creation of individual wealth that was intended to balance the power between the government and its citizens. (See my article on “Private Property- The Balance of Power”) If we empower government beyond its legitimate scope, for ANY purpose, however noble, we risk exactly the kind of tyranny from which our founders sought to liberate us.