The Enlightenment Compromise
The Enlightenment Compromise is a two-edge sword: it keeps Christianity out of politics and politics out of Christianity.
The Enlightenment belief in the separation of Church and State has been used to exclude Christianity from the public realms and push our faith into the private realm of our homes and churches. Christians have acquiesced in this Enlightenment belief and largely confined our faith to our private life while we have accepted secular political beliefs in our public life. We have, in effect, attempted to serve two masters: Jesus Christ as our personal savior and some other idol (the State, Money, Nation, Race, Self or others) as our public savior. From the beginning this ideology, the separation of religion from politics, has sought to exploit the differences among Christians, kept us fighting against ourselves and exclude us from the culturally formative public realm. This strategy has been remarkably effective. Until recently, Protestants and Catholics (as well as other Christian sects) have remained at enmity and effectively been pushed out of a ever increasing public realms. Today, not only has politics be secularized, but also education, business, the media and increasingly the family. It is only the full scale rout of Christianity in our increasingly secularizing world that has Christians waking up to the fact that their real enemy is not fellow Christians of rival sects but the secular forces of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ideologies.
Our understanding of Politics and Religion is highly influenced by Enlightenment ideas. Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke and David Hume sought to get religion out politics by privatizing the Christian faith. Today our very understanding of politics is devoid of any reference to religion. Likewise, most Christian theology is deeply personal with practically no reference to politics. For most people religion and politics are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Nearly all non-Christians and most Christian actively resisting putting the two together. This is a central belief of Enlightenment secularism that religion should stay out of politics. This belief is very understandable in non-Christians and very troubling amoung Christians as it is a sign that they serve another lord in politics. Christians United! believe that our faith cannot be separated from anything we do since we believe Jesus is lord not only ourselves but over all people whether or not they acknowledge Him. We of course recognize that a government is a very different thing than a church, business or school. Each has its separate function which the others should respect. However, we believe that Christ is Lord of each institution and hence we cannot deny Christ’s central role in each institution. Yes, there is a separation between Church and State as well as Business, School and Family. However, we do not believe with the secularists that the State is the lord over all these institution. Only Christ is lord of all. Given this understanding, Christians United! can probably best understood as a political organization. The Enlightenment project has sought to rid the public realm of Christianity and thus we see the need to fill this political void as a necessary first step to revival. The abandonment of politics by Christian has led to its debasement. Today politics at best is about providing people with essential services and at worst the pursuit of power. The Kingdoms of this World have debased politics to a cynical grab for power through money and propaganda. Politics was not meant to be like this. Jesus said that its leaders were not to be like that of the present Kingdoms lording their power over others. Christian leaders are to be servants of all. Note well that we are to be the servants of all: not just our friends or our fellow Christians but the servants of both Christians and non-Christians. Christian politics is about providing a vision for the people in which they can find purpose and meaning. This vision is about love. The leader as servant laying down his life for the people. The politics of Christ’s Kingdom is very different that the Kingdom of this World. We wonder why everyone hates government when it follows the way of the World. If we think our leaders are lying money-grubbing power seeks who is going to respect them? We only follow them for what they can get for us and we only obey them because they hold the levers of power. We have become no better than our leaders and become just as debase and corrupt as the leaders we despise. Does it have to be this way? Those under the spell of the “Powers and Principalities of this World” insist that there is no other way. This is the way of their master. Christian emphatically reject this (or at least they should)! Jesus is Lord! He is reigning right now. The resurrection has broken the power of death. The tyrants weapon of last resort, the threat of death, has not power over the servant leader. Jesus has show the way and we could follow if we truly recognize Him as lord and if we truly believe in the resurrection. We could have leaders who are servants. We could have leaders who we love and respect and want to follow. Christ has shown the way if we would only follow it. This is what Christians United! seeks to do.