Ben Carson was asked the “simple” question of whether he believed the Bible has authority over the Constitution. Carson squirmed and contorted his way out of giving an answer. But his non-answer spoke as loudly as any response he could have offered. Either Carson does not understand how our faith fits in American society or he is too afraid to admit it.
Many Christians have a fundamental misunderstanding of America. America is not a Christian nation. We are not governed by Christian laws. Some of our Founders were Christian, and some were deists. A few may have even been atheists. Regardless of their personal beliefs, the Founders insisted that every American be free to determine for themselves what they would or would not believe and to do so beyond the influence and control of the government.
Too many Christians have this idea in their minds that America is run based on Christian values, and that is simply not the case. You may desire America to be Christian. Your pastor may lament that we’re losing our way and need to get back to our “Christian” roots. But do not let your desires nor your pastor’s sermons fool you; America is a secular nation.
In Biblical terms, Christians living in America would be more closely akin to Daniel living in Babylon than David ruling in Israel. We are Joseph in Egypt, not Solomon in Jerusalem. But unlike Daniel and Joseph, we have the benefit of being citizens in a nation that insists so fervently that we be free to worship and serve whatever god we please that that freedom is enshrined in the Constitution.
There is no federal law that can dictate your faith. There is no federal law that can tell you who you must worship nor how you must worship. I’ve seen Christians arrogantly scoff at this notion and credit this freedom directly to God as though the freedom to worship the Father is a universal truth. To those who believe this, answer me this simple question: why are people dying in other nations for the same freedom you take for granted? The answer? They are dying because they are not privileged to worship in a country that has guaranteed them the freedom to serve whomever they please. But with that freedom comes the inevitable tension that arises out of our faith existing in a secular society and coexisting with people who do not believe what we believe.
This reality is hard for some Christians to understand, and I get it. But the truth of the matter is clear: the reason you are free to worship uninhibitedly in the United States is because of the Constitution. And while I understand I am merely repeating the words of an 8th Grade civics course, I believe too many Christians either never took that course, forgot the lessons, or are intentionally ignoring that reality.
The Tension of our Dual Citizenship
Here’s a thought that should create healthy cognitive dissonance: the reason the Bible can be the absolute rule over your personal life as a Kingdom citizen who is also a citizen of the United States is because the Bible does not have authority over the Consitution in the secular system of the United States. If it did, then your personal faith would be able to be dictated by our federal government. Some bureaucrat in D.C. would dictate to your denomination all of its doctrines. This would threaten the unique faith of every Christian in America. So forcing America to abide by Biblical standards weakens our freedom to be Christian. See how that works?
The Bible can have authority over your personal life; however, this does not equate to the Bible overriding the Constitution in our American government. The Bible can govern your home, but it cannot govern public places. It can rule your church, but not city hall. It can rule your life, but not the lives of those who do not willingly allow it. It can rule your private ministry, but it cannot dictate how your private business operates in the public square.
Be Careful What You Ask For
Consider for a moment if the Bible did take precedent over the Constitution. Are Christians truly ready to live in a theocracy? Are we prepared to outlaw every sin outlined in the Bible or only those sins that we do not publically commit? Sure fundamentalists are ready to ban homosexuality and abortions. But are you also prepared to make laws against the abominations that God hates outlined in Proverbs 6:16-19? Be careful trying to make America a Christian theocracy: none of us can live up to the standard.
So answer the question, Ben Carson. As a matter of fact, every Conservative candidate needs to answer this question. Because if you cannot understand the very necessary balance and tension in which our dual citizenship exists, then you are decidedly unqualified to lead our nation. Avoiding this question only signifies your reticence to confront the fundamentalists in your party. This is not leadership; this is cowardice.
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