Revisiting the Christian and State Relationship.

Kelse Moen, in the April 27, 2009 Emory Wheel, offers a most interesting observation concerning secession:

But there is another objection to secession, and this, I think, is the most important one. It explains the apoplexy we see in modern-day liberals—and even in some statist conservatives—whenever the topic of secession is broached. The Progressive philosophy, the foundation of modern-day liberalism, is built on a belief in the efficacy of central power—that the government possesses the means of curing any social affliction, if only we get the right people in power. Heaven is only an election away!

Secession threatens that view because it is a radical attack on central power as such. How often do we hear of those “backwards Christians” or those “redneck reactionaries” who won’t accept Roe v. Wade, the War on Poverty, or whatever other socially transformative project the Washington establishment is peddling?

Progressivism can only work if those rubes out in the countryside just shut up and go along. It’s always the fault of those obstructionists—they never gave Roosevelt or Johnson or Obama the chance to make the change we needed.

The problem becomes much worse when those rubes out in the countryside can just walk away. The social transformers begin to see that the society they wish to transform is growing ever smaller. The Progressives cry foul. And so they should. They do not value liberty; they value only ideology, and they seek to force the world to conform to their ideology at gunpoint. (Read the whole article here:, accessed 2009-05-01).

Here is the divide: one group believes in totalitarianism; the other believes in liberty.

Jacques Ellul nails it:

It is not true that people want to be free. They want the advantages of independence without the difficulties or duties of freedom. Freedom is hard to live with. It devours and demands . . . . Exodus tells us several times that when the Hebrew people were delivered from bondage in Egypt, when faced with the problems of living in freedom they wanted to go back. They had no provisions. The way was uncertain. The future was unknown. The strange will of their Liberator God was incomprehensible. Better slavery with a guaranteed minimum wage! . . . The more security and guarantees we want against things, the less free we are. Tyrants are not to be feared today,but our own frantic need of security is. Freedom inevitably means insecurity and responsibility. But we moderns above all seek above all to be responsible for nothing. Yet we want an air of freedom, an appearance of liberty. We want to vote. We want a party system . . . we dare to talk of freedom (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 167-169).

I have abbreviated Ellul’s argument. He pierces through our righteous pretensions and helps us understand where we have gone. The state has trained us to dependency; we are afraid to be free. We prefer to hand off our responsibilities to others. This leads to centralized power, and try this: it trains us to trust in man rather than to trust in God.

The state is dangerous. Not so much because its cheerleaders are all malevolent; they are not. But because it is the center of a system of things that subtly trains us to trust in other flesh. People lay their hopes upon the collective and disperse their responsibilities to it. The individual, in contrast, not trusting in the collective, having nothing else to fall back on, learns to combine with God (Philippians 2:12, 13). The result has a positive impact on others (James 1:25, 27; 2:15-17; Matthew 25:37-40).

When the day was wearing out and the vast crowd had nothing to eat, the disciples came to Jesus and reported the problem to Him. He told them to distribute food. As they distributed, the food was multiplied (Luke 9:12-17). Being a Christian strengthens us in acting on personal initiative and trusting in God.

The very opposite happens when we trust in the state. First, it is bureaucratic, impersonal; humanity is less likely to be expressed. Again, whatever aid the state distributes has first been taken by force through taxation. Since it is other people’s money, it is always spent more prodigally. Then there are the many layers of administrative machinery, all employees who are paid to arrive at output. At the end of the day just running the state machine has consumed most of the resources. People learn to gather at the spigot and wait for the machine to spit out its dollops of help. It saps initiative and rewards inaction. It certainly trains no one to trust in God.

The threat of secession, if it exists, is actually a help for the state; it would it avoid exposing the secret realities of its theft, inefficiency, and inhumanity. That threat has not existed in the United State since 1865. It is probably returning too late to make a difference; the state is already doomed by its excesses. Moen and Ellul combine to show that personal responsibility-taking and Christian character growth are more likely apart from centralized human power. The financial burdens created by the state guarantee secession. We will be better Christians and social afflictions will more likely be cured under small, or better yet, no government.

All the artificiality and redistribution and privilege created by centralized power—and all the trust in human solutions—needs to be stripped away. And so we come full circle: one group believes in totalitarianism; the other believes in liberty. Most totalitarians probably don’t realize that that is what they are. The question of secessionism can be a door to open the way to clarification and reassessment. Here is the point: Those who trust in the state do not need God. When they discover that the wizard is only a bankrupt man behind the curtain (Wizard of Oz reference), they may see new possibilities in liberty, and in our Liberator.


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