Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Church, state will never separate

Church, state will never separate

(My Clovis News Journal column for February 3, 2012, with a paragraph, which I had removed for the newspaper's consumption, reinstated.)

Much is made of the separation of Church and State, but the truth is that while Church and State sometimes temporarily separate, on the insistence of those who get caught in the middle, they will never divorce. They were made for each another.

Church is possibly a little older than her partner, but she hides her age well by getting a face-lift every few years. State just matures and gets more efficient, sly, and paranoid as he ages.

Church and State grew up together. Theirs was a tumultuous childhood; both were very cruel as children. Church enjoyed torturing, even killing and burning, animals and people, while State focused his attention on people. Both have encouraged people to fight one another on their behalf. Both Church and State have always insisted on being supported by their neighbors, claiming that this was so they could protect the people from unseen, or exaggerated, threats. Except for some rather horrible tantrums, both have gotten better at hiding their natures from casual observers as they've gotten older, and even today most people will come to their defense.

No one knows when Church and State first married; it seemed as if they had always been a couple. They slap each other around a lot, and do a lot of shouting and cussing at one another- because it isn't a peaceful marriage, but it is a convenient arrangement that neither wants to end.

Church and State will each occasionally do something good for society, in order to encourage people to say how essential they are. Each partner has their supporters, and some people actually support both. A very small minority support neither, and throughout history this demographic hasn't usually fared well at the hands of the couple's fans. Yet, neither Church nor State has been very loyal to their ardent supporters.

No one objected to the marriage for many years, until a few people decided Church and State would be less harmful- to each other or to innocent bystanders- if they could be kept apart. This separation is opposed by those who want the couple to stay together in order to use them against specific enemies. Only the naive believe that this pair will ever be limited to bullying bad guys.

So, a while back there was a more concerted effort to split up the couple, and a separation- at least on paper- finally happened. However, it was only for appearances. The couple may live in different apartments but they are still "friends with benefits" and only give lip service to the separation when it seems useful. Most people try really hard to pretend they don't see the nudging and winking in public. But, knock on one partner's door and the other will usually be sitting on the couch, perfectly at home, in the background.

The truth remains that while you may believe the couple is separated, they are still married and will never divorce. There's just no real reason to. They are too comfortable with the status quo and gain too much from the marriage. 'Til Death do They Part.



  1. It depends a lot on how you define "church."

    Even among Christians (says the libertarian pagan), there's not clear agreement on what role that a church should have in a society. There isn't a "universal church," and from the historical evidence, there never was. I'd argue that without Constantine's political maneuvering, the idea never would have caught on. A state supported cult, yes, but One True Church?

    If Christians can't agree among themselves, then "the Church" doesn't exist. Throw in all those other pesky belief systems, and things are divided much further.

    That doesn't stop some people from proclaiming that there is only One True Church, all while moving heaven and Earth to make sure that they get to call the shots.

  2. I guess I would define "church" as a social bond based upon the external manifestation of internal beliefs regarding the supernatural. It doesn't seem to matter if there is one One True Church or a million of them- as long as "laws" are based upon any of those beliefs, church and State are in cahoots.

  3. While a particular church or belief system can be co-opted by the state, individual faith and the state are inherently at odds, because the state seeks control over the hearts and minds of the people as well.

    I wrote an interesting piece to that effect:

  4. Of course, personal faith has little or nothing to do with "the church", but even that can be used to foster a belief in the legitimacy of The State. Most of the people in my family never question whether The State is legitimate simply because the Bible says it is- or at least can be. They may question the legitimacy of a particular puppetician or "law", but never the foundational question.

  5. That word "supernatural" is iffy. I'd tell you that by definition, something that exists can't be supernatural. I'm not the only person of faith who will tell you that.

    Without that word, isn't a "church" just another political method to organize people?

    For example, the global warming crowd have a higher authority that can only be approached through a "priesthood," and you are not allowed to dissent from the Revealed Truth.

    Admittedly, that's an easy target. But I've also met atheist groups who would ban any discussion of religion from the public sphere. Or Keynesian economists who will tell you that the only meaningful economic control is through government.

  6. By definition I think "supernatural" means "imaginary", so I would agree that "something that exists can't be supernatural".

    And, yes, I'd agree that without involving the supernatural (or belief in the supernatural) a church just becomes another political method. And, yes, global warming is very much like a church. In some cases it even appeals to the supernatural in the form of "Gaia".

    I have also met atheists who would ban religion from public. That's not me. I am not threatened or disturbed by anyone's beliefs (other than thinking that holding false beliefs is harmful to those who hold them), as long as no "law" is based upon those beliefs.

  7. *grins*

    I could make a strong argument for Gaia, at least in terms of several series of several interconnected systems with variable and mutually dependent feedback loops. The original Gaia hypothesis is a fascinating read. But I can't give you her telephone number or email addy…

    It's a nice theory, but it's not enough to govern human behavior. Especially with "tipping point" mathematics that may or may not be accurate.

    Personally, I think that "free to choose" applies to matters of faith just as it does with trade. I like parity as well. If someone wants me to live under their beliefs, it's only fair that they live under mine, right?

    I think we agree on this one.