Back to the Constitution!
A personal word to my fellow Baptists on the one year anniversary of DBO.
Dear DBO Readers:
For about a year now I’ve been writing on the issues that face our great nation. There is a widespread belief in our land that as long as the Republicans are in control, everything is going to be OK. Big government is not a problem as long as “our guys” are in power. This is a very widespread opinion, even among my closest colleagues in Baptist life. This is all over the world, in fact. This is the influence of post-constitutional America, and it has spread wherever Americans have gone.
The result of this is that you have unconstitutional programs all over our society. Now, few things are more unmistakable than the vision of our Founders. It’s just plain and simple. They said no big federal government, no intervention in foreign wars, no standing army, no direct taxation, etc. Now, this is of great importance to me, because just as I believe in the supremacy of the Bible when it comes to matters of faith and practice, so I believe there is one basis for our freedoms as a nation, and that is the unalienable rights given to us by God as expressed in the founding document of the land, the U.S. Constitution, which itself is based on biblical law. These are the two touchstones of our nation, just these two: The Bible and the Constitution. This is important to me, because it’s part of my stewardship responsibility before God not just to be faithful to the Bible but also to be a good citizen, and being a good citizen means that I must follow the law of the land and not necessarily whatever my government tells me is right or wrong. For me this is really a matter of obedience, a matter of honoring God.
The Constitution is of critical importance to me. It is to be understood and it is to be followed. It’s not a minor matter; it has never been a minor matter. As I have said many times, our Founders rebelled against tyranny because they saw a mere man usurping the unalienable rights given to them by God. They risked everything they had to take that stand—their livelihoods, their families, their sacred honor. As the years have gone by, we’ve sort of become comfortable with big government. We say, “It’s the job of government to take care of my needs and to pay for my retirement, my prescription drugs, my medical bills, etc.” But the time has come, after all these years, for Christians to get busy with political reform in our nation. Big government is not in the founding documents of the nation. It’s just not there. I’m telling you folks, it is impossible to support what Congress is doing with our tax dollars (such as abortion funding through Planned Parenthood, or supporting godless art through the NEA, etc.). It’s impossible to support that from the Constitution or, for that mater, from the Bible. It is still defended, amazingly, by most of my “conservative” friends and still practiced as if it were biblical. It’s really amazing to me. For 20 years we have been fighting the battle for the Bible, saying over and over again “It’s the Bible! It’s the Bible! It’s the Bible!” How come the same people who say that keep ignoring what the Bible says about government? How come they hang on to legalized theft (welfare) and abortion rights? It’s a relic of the tyranny we experienced under King George. The people who hold to big government try to advocate it by saying that the president is born again and that he prays. They even spend time with him in the White House while he signs bills like the one banning partial birth abortions. They do this without ever asking him, calling him on the carpet if you will, like Nathan did to David, “What about saline abortions, Mr. President, or RU-486, or suction abortions? These are just as evil! Why don’t you take a stand against these evils as well, Mr. President?” I mean, it’s all basically the same pattern: oppose big government when the Democrats are in control, but support it when the “conservatives” are in power. They forget that the church is always to judge culture, including government. Using tax dollars to pay for people’s drugs is a nice thought, but you know what? It isn’t biblical. Scripture never makes that connection. There’s not a passage they can turn to, a verse they can turn to, to make that connection. Any connection is purely manufactured.
So, without any Scriptural support, without any Scriptural connection, they infer that government must do these things out of compassion. It’s true, as believers we are to be compassionate, but the Bible teaches that such compassion is never to be coerced or forced out of the populace through taxation or threats. You see, what big government is doing is denying the idea of true, biblical compassion, which is always voluntary. It just completely assaults the idea that the redeemed community of God can take care of the needs of its own people and still have enough resources left over to help others. The seeds of this problem were sown, I believe, in the Reformation, when a state church developed (rather than independent churches comprised of believers). Instead of a universal church you now had national churches, and the government and the state came to be very closely tied together. It was a matter of political power, basically. The government of the Reformed states needed to control everything so that they would have a base of power to stand against the Catholic states. The result was state Christendom. That’s why in Europe today—where I’ve lived, by the way—true Christianity is a very small thing, a persecuted minority, buried under Catholicism or Protestantism. Hitler knew this well and tried to get all the German Christians to take the oath of loyalty to him. Only a very small group of Christians refused and they were severely persecuted as a result. Some of them literally paid with their lives, including one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, about whom I’ve written numerous essays. Bonhoeffer was right, but he was going against the grain.
So, state Christianity is simply not compatible with the gospel, pure and simple. There is no divine connection between the two, none whatsoever. I will not let up on this matter because it is such a far-reaching issue to deal with. If we are going to say “Back to the Bible!” then we must also be willing to say “Back to the law of the land, back to the Constitution!” I challenge you, my brethren, to meet this standard together with me, working together to build God’s kingdom rather than our own pitiful empires.
December 19, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.