THERE are three discoveries which are usually involved in the process of absorbing new territory into the domain of a powerful nation. First—always first—the discovery is made that the new territory is very valuable. Next it is discovered that the stronger power owes a duty to the weaker power to educate it in the ways of right living, in the meantime taking charge of its affairs and the custody of its possessions. And third, it is seen that the hand of God is in it pointing the way to destiny, and that the extension of sovereignty can be carried out as a really pious undertaking. And this third stage in the process appears to have been reached by the United States, for we hear the nation being called upon by its statesmen to go forward and take forcible possession of the riches of the Orient, “with reverent hearts” and “in the fear of God.” A happy combination indeed of “duty” and pleasure!
A MEMBER of the “United Christian Party” has sent us a copy of the “Declaration of Principles” of that organization, and informs us that “We do not seek to unite church and state, but we seek to unite professed Christian voters to work and vote for righteous principles.”
We do not doubt that this party is not working to secure his conception of a union of church and state, and therefore do not question his honesty in making this statement. His conception of church-and-state union is held by very many honest and good people, but it is a narrow one. He would have all “professed Christian voters,” unite to put in political office men who will enforce “righteous principles” in government. And it is certain that religious “righteous principles” are intended, because the call is to “Christian” voters.
This simply means, therefore, its enforcement of religious beliefs and institutions through politics, or the union of religion with the state. It can have no practical significance other than this. But this is just what is done under a union of church and state.
Of course, this would not mean that the state would side with one popular church against another popular church, as these people think would be necessary to constitute a union of church and state. They have in mind the well-known churches of the land, and a union of church and state means, to them, a union of the state with some one of these, to the exclusion of the others. But this, even if it could be done, would be but a mild form of church-and-state union, for the reason that the other popular churches would be too powerful to be treated with disrespect. They would be able to enforce their rights, and would of course do so. An illustration of this is seen in England to-day. The “Church of England” is the established church; it is joined with and supported by the state. But the Nonconformists are as large a body as the state church; and the result is they are treated with respect and no serious infringement of their rights is attempted.
It is where one church is powerful, and another weak and unpopular, that church-and-state union is seen in its malignant form. It is then that the dissenting body is despised and treated with contempt, and the rights of its members trampled upon and accorded no serious consideration. This is the way it has always been in history, and this world will never become so good that history will not repeat self in this respect. It should be remembered that the worst evils of church-and-state union were seen under the long reign of the papacy, when only one “Christian” church was known and recognized in the world. It was then that persecution raged most fiercely against a small, weak, and popular, despised bodies of true Christians.