Apparently giving the matter little thought, many Americans practice as an article of faith this thing we call “the separation of church and state.” But what does it mean to separate church and state? Those who advocate this thing — this belief — insist religious belief, particularly Christianity, has no place in politics. Yet a Christian nation, our own, first established a government without an official religion.
Does Christianity require Christians to keep their faith entirely separate from their political beliefs? Did Jesus do such a thing? No. Jesus denied the authority of government to silence Him. In spite of official persecution, Jesus preached His message of redemption. Eventually, to stop Him from preaching, the Jewish Sandhedrin accused Him, and Pontius Pilate, using his authority as a procurator under the Roman Empire, ordered Him crucified.
After the death and the resurrection of Jesus, as He had predicted, official persecution of Christians continued. Here, for example, we have an example of how the Emperor Nero martyred Christians during the reign.
First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. (from here)
Eventually, as the popularity Christianity increased, Christian persecution within the Roman Empire subsided. Nonetheless, even among those who styled themselves as Christians, religious persecution remained a factor in human affairs. Therefore, centuries later, strife accompanied the Protestant Reformation. That is why many came to the New World. They came to escape religious persecution (See History of Religion in America and Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.).
Latter, what the Bible itself says about salvation — we accept salvation from Jesus as a free choice – and the diversity of religious beliefs in the United States led to only one logical conclusion. Christians decided their government, the government of America, must respect freedom of conscience (See An Act for Freedom of Conscience and Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.). Thus, as a nation, we established freedom of religion because of religious belief.
Consider once again these lines from The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Instead of letting King George III decide what his government needed from his subjects, free men chose to decide what they wanted from their government. The Founders did not want King George to define their rights. They wanted government to recognize and protect rights they already had, their God-given rights. So they fought for the kind of government they wanted.
Government is not god. Government did not create us. God did. God defined what we are and how we should live. Thus, our government is artifact of the relationship our forebears chose to have with God. Because so many accepted Jesus as their savior, they chose to obey His commands. They chose to love Him and each other.
The Founders realized that when they warred with their neighbors their Christian beliefs would not allow them (or us) to proclaim God is on our side. Being a Christian requires us to be on God’s side. So they set up a new kind of government, one that says God is right instead of might is right.
John 13:34-35 King James Version (KJV)
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
We have the opportunity to renew the faith of our forebears. We can look carefully around the world. We can examine the history of man. We can see that what a people believes about God determines how they govern themselves. If a People believe in a God who created an orderly universe, a God that expects men to love Him and each other, we can see that they will govern themselves a manner that promotes mutual respect for each other’s rights to life, liberty, and property. If a People believes in a hateful and selfish god — or no god at all — we can pray that God will have mercy upon their souls.