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Dangers Abound When Church Services Promote Political Agendas

Christianity is getting more coverage in the news these days.

Fritz Stern, university professor emeritus at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Columbia University, said some profound words in a talk titled “National Socialism (Nazi) as Temptation.”

Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in the 1930s was amazing in the way he induced so many Germans to embrace his ideas and programs. Stern wrote about the reasons for the rise of Hitler’s fascist state:

“There were many reasons, but at the top ranked Adolph Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, a leader charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudoreligious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas.”

In his first radio address to the German people, Hitler declared: “The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”

Hitler was elected in a depressed economic Germany. The majority of the public thought he could bring them out of despair and to glory again. The results were the opposite.

In contrast to Germany in the mid-20th century, the law and spirit of America’s Bill of Rights has made our democracy strong. Our blessed land has weathered many “isms,” threats and even some self-proclaimed “savior” politicians, but our Constitution and Bill of Rights have kept America on an even keel for 229 years.

History reminds us that when any religious persuasion is stirred into the mix, the result is never democracy, but theocracy.

In the Middle Ages Martin Luther’s attempts to rid the Roman Catholic Church of perversions that had crept in ended up with a Reformation. He helped bring to an end the Roman Catholic monopoly on religion and economics all over Europe. Eventually some Protestants made the same church-state mistakes Rome had made. Some still do, such as Sweden’s Lutheran Church and England’s Anglican Church.

Founders of our Constitution broke the mold. They saw the dangers of control of church and state being in either government or church hands. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Anyone wanting to go back to the old way needs to read a little history of those who died to keep church and state in separate spheres.
 
John Hus was killed in 1415 for promoting the idea any citizen could read the Bible for himself. The state, taking its cue from the Roman Church, burned him at the stake.

Roger Williams, a Baptist, was hounded from New England for his opposition to a state church.
 
Henry Dunster, the president of Harvard College, decided not to have his fourth infant baptized because he had come to accept adult baptism, and was forced to retire.
 
All this was before there was a Bill of Rights. In America, the state has no right to harass or discriminate against people for their religious convictions.
 
Equally true, religious leaders have no place using their pulpits to promote a political agenda. An example of this occurred just last weekend in the Highview Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky. Kevin Ezell is the pastor.

A television segment of the worship service featured Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It was aimed at raising support for Frist’s plan to end Democratic filibusters of a handful of President Bush’s most conservative nominees for federal judgeships.

Ezell and the Family Research Council said Bush’s nominees were being blocked “because they are people of faith and moral conviction.”
 
To put such garbage in a worship service is a disgrace to any church. This kind of twisted rhetoric is harassment of people of faith and an example of how far down the ladder Southern Baptists have slipped in ethics as well as time-honored church-state relations.
 
Britt Towery is a retired missionary whose “Along the Way” column runs each Friday in the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.