By Darrell Bock
The real danger in mixing or divorcing church and state is not to the Christian Left, Middle, or Right. The danger is to the church. Our cultures need communities that know no national boundaries, that do not depend on their legislatures being of one brand, and that are open to serving a neighbor's need. To be a member of the church is to recognize that there is more to our world than our culture or the state. God calls the church to be distinct from our culture, but to influence it in its own unique way, to be a visible, third influence in our world.
A recent poll by Ipsos covering 10 countries shows that the United States is by far one of the most religious cultures on our planet. While the new pope, Benedict XVI, laments how Europe has lost her way and is becoming a secular community, religious vibrancy among the masses is so high in the United States that one can hardly cover politics and not run into it. France was on the other end of the spectrum with the highest percentage of nonbelievers in God, while South Korea was second in unbelief. Only Mexico of the 10 countries surveyed comes close to the United States in religious fervency.
What do we do with our religious interest? In some countries, like Mexico, there is a concern about too strongly mixing faith and politics. The same hesitancy is true for Italy, the most religiously robust of the European countries polled.
One of the great calls to the faithful is that we must engage and influence our culture. Some critics credit the now-defunct Moral Majority with creating the newfound interest in integrating faith and civic life in the United States. But the United States has always integrated faith and politics. This was evident in the days of the Pilgrims. Alexis de Tocqueville noted it in the early 19th century in his famous study, Democracy in America. Faith in God deals with all of life, so culture and the state are inevitably a part of the equation. The question is, How does an individual believer best integrate faith into the surrounding political culture?
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