WE take the following words from the Christian Statesman of January 25:—
The duty of serving the Lord is binding equally everywhere. Can it be that God has bound men by moral law every place but one? Can it be that he has left the great organization of government with its tremendous power and possibilities for both good and evil, unaccountable, without moral and organic power for its control? This is true if the folly of modern State philosophy be true, that religion has nothing to do with politics.
The above is part of an address delivered before the “National Christian Congress,” at Atlanta, Georgia, Dec. 19, 1895, by Rev. C. N. Donaldson. We respectfully take issue with the latter concerning what he affirms must be true from the standpoint of separation between religion and politics.
By the statement that religion and politics should not be mixed, it is not meant that politics should be conducted in an anti-religious or unrighteous manner, but that religious doctrines and institutions lie without the sphere of politics, and hence cannot properly ask for or be given political recognition.
The distinction between the two is simply this: The sphere of religion covers all thought and action pertaining to an individual’s duty toward God, and of necessity entirely excludes all human action in a representative capacity. The sphere of politics, on the other hand, relates only to the protection of individuals in the enjoyment of their rights, and is inseparable from that action in representative capacity which religion excludes.
There is a Christian principle, indeed, which should govern men in political action as in everything else; but that principle does not require that religious dogmas and institutions should have the support of the civil power. On the contrary, it requires the very opposite, since to give religion such “support” would be contrary to justice and a denial of the power and authority of God.
Christian principle in politics requires that an individual should act honestly and fairly to the best of his ability in making secure to all persons within the range of his action, those inalienable rights with which all have been endowed by their Creator. And as these include the right of an individual to think for himself and to act in harmony with his convictions of right and duty—so long as he invades no other person’s rights,—it is clear that religious legislation can have no support from the person who is governed by Christian principle in his political action.
Christianity means freedom—freedom to all persons to enjoy every God-given right and privilege, even those from which men have cut themselves off by sin. Christianity—the gospel—is the world’s great proclamation of emancipation; and those who would in its name restrict their fellowmen by putting their own religious ideas into the civil law, and enforcing them by the civil power, show themselves to be deplorably ignorant of what Christianity is.