Church and State

Several Christian traditions have been closely aligned with the government of certain countries. When one thinks Russia the Orthodox Church comes to mind as well as Greece and other Eastern European nations. Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, etc have strong connections to the Roman Catholic Church. While England and the Anglican Church are almost synonymous, it seems. Scandinavian nations collect taxes for the Lutheran Church. And so forth.

The government of nations like Sweden are perceived as liberal [strong socialistic values]. These countries were among the first to approved female priests and gay marriage. I believe the Parliament has a voice in theological decisions *.

Yet Spain, for example, a very Catholic country seems to uphold the same values as Lutherans in Sweden regarding the well-fare of the citizens and human rights.

Any thoughts?*

The United States is unique in that regard. I believe Christians have influence in our own government but not one particular denomination. Catholic populations in Central and South America dominate and gave birth to 'Liberation Theology".

Please define “strong connections.” All the countries you cited do have a long history of Roman Catholicism, but the reality on the ground today often suggests the absence of a strong connection rather than its ongoing existence.

France has had a law separating church and state since 1905. This separation has been in the constitution since 1958.

Probably because of all the dictators, military juntas, colonialism, exploitation etc. Its easy to see why they favor a theology of liberation.

For example, President Putin of Russia is an Orthodox Christian *. Yet if we read the newspapers/ watch TV we see a man who is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people in the recent downing of the Malaysian airliner. Putin literally took a part of the Ukraine [Crimea] and than accused the Ukrainians of aggression.

Where is the Orthodox Church in reprimanding Putin? If President Obama took such brazen action, the Church [including my own bishop and the presiding bishop] would be calling for peace and scolding the President for serious sins. :shrug:*

My point is this: where is the Church of Russia? Francis beseeches the Russians to seek peace and prayed for those who suffered a terrible death.

The R.O. Church likes him.

I did hear they criticized him over some pro abortion policy he had.

But even their Patriarch is a former KGB shill, Putin is ex KGB, they are like two peas in a pod. Like the odd couple but with warheads and proxy wars.

To be fair after I left the Roman Catholic Church, I spent about six months in a ROCOR parish, learning about Orthodoxy. I enjoyed it a lot, and many of the members had serious concerns about the cuddles that the ROC gives to the Russian state, and even bigger concerns over the recent establishment of canonical relations between the ROCOR and the ROC.

The church and state are hard to completely separate. In the West they have historically had much closer ties. One thing I find interesting is that when advocating for laws that some perceive as ‘religious’ the objectors will shout that you can’t have laws based on religious faith. That is an interesting claim. For many people the law against murder is at least in part based on religious faith. Are we expected to get rid of those laws? Laws concerning social welfare are very much linked to religious faith. But the same people who object to an abortion law, because it is religious, don’t get their dander up over welfare laws.

In the past we had many laws that was in large part based on religious belief. We had blue laws, crimes against nature laws, marriage law and more. It appears to me the courts, which really control the law, and the people have no problem with religious based laws unless they restrict our ability to have sex with whoever we want and in whatever way we want or in some other way stop us from being entertained or distracted.

They did no such thing. The US constitution prohibited a national state church and infringements on the free exercise of religion. Many of the states that signed the federal constitution had state churches, religious test, and otherwise supported a specific religion. This separation of church and state is a later invention made law by the courts. Obviously the original intent was not how it is treated today based on the evidence from the various states.

I don’t claim to know what happened, but a quote form Thomas Jefferson resonates with me. He said, ‘the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers’. The few media companies that control most of the information presented to the American people are not best at informing people of the facts. They are good at sensationalizing stories and creating controversy.

I see claims like this frequently made. More typically it is addressed at Islamic terror. My question is why do you expect you would be informed of such a thing if it did occur? If Putin was scolded how would you know the Orthodox church did so? You would likely rely on the US media to discover this for you and report it enough that you encounter the story. My observation of the media is that it covers very few stories in depth. It will find some sensational story and run it seemingly non stop. But when you look at what they are presenting it is just a few of the same facts (which may change later), lots of opinion, and, with many shows, lots of yelling and talking over people. If you want to know what some celebrity is doing you’ll find plenty of coverage of that. If you want to know the intricate details of an event on the other side of the world good luck.

Concerning this particular issue it might be that the Russian people perceive the event differently from Americans and contest what Americans assert as fact.

They did no such thing.

Wrong. Thomas Jefferson even declared that’s what they did, using the same words.

The US constitution prohibited a national state church and infringements on the free exercise of religion. Many of the states that signed the federal constitution had state churches, religious test, and otherwise supported a specific religion. This separation of church and state is a later invention made law by the courts. Obviously the original intent was not how it is treated today based on the evidence from the various states.

That’s because they had not hammered out nullification yet, and it wouldn’t be until the Civil War. If we were to go back to religious tests for state offices etc, even fundamentalists would be outraged (especially if the religious test was not fundamentalist in nature).

Jefferson wrote those words in 1802, in a letter addressed to the Danbury Baptists. While the Constitution and the Bill of Rights don’t use that phrase, it is understood that there is a separation between Church and State in the same manner as there is a “right to privacy” - in that they are not specifically spelled out but the principle is present in the letter of the documents.

Thomas Jefferson was neither a participant in the drafting of the current federal constitution nor a signatory. The phrase you are referencing is his opinion in a letter. Because of his influence and position his opinion should be highly regarded. Regardless of his opinion the restriction was limited to the federal government, not the states. In fact the clause in the amendment references specifically ‘Congress’. In the early days the US was more of a confederation than the unitary state it has become.

I’m not sure how nullification relates to this issue. The states were not nullifying federal law. The federal government was, in the beginning, limited in power and scope. Over time its power grew to be absolute.

I’m not sure why you think religious tests would be unacceptable, even to fundamentalists. I recall with detail only one state’s test and it basically prohibited those who denied God, those who denied the truth of the Old and New Testaments, or those who denied the truth of the Protestant religion. Despite this restriction at least one Jew and Catholic held office under this clause.

Here’s an entirely different example of Church and State:

The Church of Finland has been reeling over the issue of gay marriage. I posted some time back that over 30,000 left the Lutheran Church because they felt the archbishop wasn’t addressing anti-gay comments/ actions in the Parliament.

Archbishop Kari Mäkinen, head of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church has issued this unflinching apology to the LGBT community:

“When I think of the outside pressure and treatment that we have been guilty of displaying towards sexual minorities as a church and as a society for decades, and how it still continues, I think it’s time for an apology. Without any explanations or prevarications.”

I think the distinctive irony is that while the state in Finland is defending the scriptural understanding of marriage, the Lutheran church there is supporting a heterodox view.
How sad that the Lutheran church there has jettisoned scripture in this matter.


Again two quite different responses from Church officials to the actions of government. The Patriarch of Moscow did express condolences to the Malaysian Prime Minister But I could not find any comment directed to the Russian government.

On an entirely different issue the Archbishop of Finland voices contrition to those who have suffered “silence, rejection and looking away” due to sexual orientation and urges the Parliament to pass gay marriage provisions.

Is the Church reflecting different positions toward government action/ inactions? And why?

The Evangelical Lutherans have in the past funded “cure the gay” efforts, which Archbishop Mäkinen has publicly opposed. The Archbishop argued that God created gay people and they did not need “curing”. He was also the first archbishop in the world, of any religion, to vote in favor of marriage equality.

“Marriage adds to the value and the foundations of society, and we should not ban anyone in a long-term loving relationship from contributing. Same-sex marriage is vital to society.”

Archbishop Mäkinen said the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been guilty of cruel treatment towards gays for decades, and that it needs to end.

“Cruelty is cruelty,” he admonished, “even if it has become more subtle than before.”

The Archbishop said he hoped that his apology would encourage others in the church who have been guilty of discrimination would follow suit.

There are liberals in the church, but the Catholic Church itself does not approve of the ordination of women as priest nor does it advocate same sex marriage. Are you trying to say here that the Catholic Church is becoming more liberal?

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