(This article was written for the May 2004 edition of Evangelicals Today.)
First of all I want to make it clear that I will not vote for any of the candidates running for president in the upcoming Philippine election. It is not because none of the candidates are qualified. It is because I am not qualified. Being a US citizen with a permanent resident visa, I am not allowed to vote in your elections.
Now to the point. Since Bro. Eddie announced his candidacy I have heard many opinions about whether or not he should run. The most passionate negative opinions have usually been built on the shifting sand of the “separation of church and state” doctrine. I do not presume to know God’s will for Bro. Eddie, but I do know something about the separation of church and state.
Here’s a sample conversation I have had too many times recently: “Pastor, what do you think about Bro. Eddie running for president?”
My response is usually something like: “Since I can’t vote, why don’t you tell me what you think.”
“Well, I just don’t think it’s right.”
“Because preachers belong behind the pulpit, not in the palace.”
“And why is that?” I ask.
“You know, separation of church and state, and stuff.”
I have found that if the conversation goes on long enough “separation of church and state” always comes up. I have heard many church members, even pastors, quote the separation line like it was a Bible verse. Separation of church and state sounds so spiritual it must be in the Bible. Right? Wrong.
If it is not in the Bible, then it must be in the US Constitution since American media mentions it so much. Right? Wrong again.
Separation of church and state was actually first mentioned by the author of the “Jefferson Bible,” an edition of the New Testament that removed all references to the supernatural including the virgin birth, the resurrection, and all miracles. Who was this blasphemer who created the separation of church and state doctrine that is so popular in Evangelical circles today? The separation idea first appeared in 1802 in a letter US President Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of concerned Baptist pastors in Danbury, Connecticut. In the letter Jefferson assured the pastors he would not allow his non-Christian beliefs to influence public policy because he held the opinion that there should be a “wall of separation between the church and the state.” Note that this was Jefferson’s personal opinion, not US Constitution and certainly not the Bible.
Jefferson’s separation idea actually did appear in a constitution 150 years after his letter. The Soviets believed separation of church and state to be essential in building a godless government, so they wrote Jefferson’s separation clause into their constitution. In other words, if we want to build an atheist society, then the separation of church and state makes sense.
However, if we want to build a Christian society, then it may be a good idea for Christians to get involved in every level of society, including civil government.
For what it is worth, here is Victory’s three-point church policy on political involvement. It is not the only way to approach the subject, but it is our way, for now.
1. We encourage all Victory members, including pastors and staff, to get as involved in the political process as their schedule permits. We cannot be salt and light from the sidelines. We must get in the game. Support a candidate. Run for office. Get involved.
2. We will not allow any Victory leader or member to use the pulpit, discipleship group, prayer meeting, or Victory name to promote or endorse a candidate or a political party. We will use the pulpit to give a biblical perspective to specific issues without reference to personalities and parties. We will also use the pulpit to train and disciple future leaders who will one day run for office.
3. There will be one exception to our “no endorsement” policy. We feel it is our right and responsibility as a spiritual family to endorse the character and integrity of church members who run for office. We hope that one day there will be many Victory members serving God and country in all levels of civil government.
As an American, I cannot vote in your elections, but as a Filipino you must. As a foreigner I will not get involved in Philippine politics, but as a Christian citizen you must. It is time for Filipino Christians to come out from behind the non-Christian idea of the wall of separation between church and state and get involved in all levels of the political process.