The State Should Not be the Enforcement Arm of the Church

Why aren’t we more political?” is a common question we hear asked around here. Like all religious associations, we exist as a group because we all agree on a set of doctrinal interpretations. Those commonly held interpretations are what attracts a group of believers into a congregation, and congregations into a denomination. Every religion and every denomination can be defined by their commonly held interpretations.

Political associations are no different; political associations exist because their people agree about the proper role of government—and the corresponding use of that governmental force. Those commonly held beliefs about when & how to deploy government force are what attracts a group of citizens into a local political party, and motivates those local parties to affiliate into regional and national parties. Every political organization can be defined by their commonly held beliefs about the proper role of government.

This, then, becomes the time to ask; “Why would anyone assume that just because we have a common religious interpretation, that we must also share a common belief on when & how to deploy government force? Those have nothing to do with one another!”

Jesus told people to “go, and sin no more;” but Jesus never told the well-connected Jewish leaders to petition Cesar to outlaw sinful behavior. Likewise, Christ told His followers to feed the hungry, and care for the poor; but He never said “Render unto Caesar that which is God’s—so Caesar can take care of the poor.” There is a massive difference between encouraging people to care for others, and honor God; as opposed to deploying a militarized police force, to require compliance with, or the funding of, some denomination’s religious teachings.

Many will look at our teaching on Ultimate Reconciliation, along with our stance on nondiscrimination, and our detailed doctrinal disagreement with the anti-homosexuality teachings of fundamentalist denominations; and incorrectly assume that we are the Religious Left. The reality is that all of our doctrinal interpretations are Scriptural; having nothing, whatsoever, to do with the application of government force to shape society one way or another.

The Church can and should speak-out on matters of human rights: The Exodus from Egypt, and return from Babylon were both about human rights—slavery. Esther’s story touches-on both the value of women, and the human right of self-defense. Many centuries later, when the Jewish leadership dragged Jesus before Pilate to be tried for claiming, they said, to be King of the Jews; Christ responded that His kingdom was “not of this world.” Pilate washed his hands of the need for a governmental response to these false political accusations, because Pilate understood what Jesus was saying; that His message was religious, not political—His kingdom spiritual, not physical. Neither Jesus, the Apostles, nor the Prophets ever taught political change. They taught a change of heart!

The CUA is primarily education orientated. We stress a correct understanding of the Good News, which leads to that kind of change of heart. Avoiding partisan politics has always been the position of the CUA—going all the way back to our founding. There are audio recordings on our website that include a very short dialog from the CUA’s founding Board Meeting in 2007, when two of our founding directors discussed that our kind of “Progressive Christianity” is non-political:

The CUA: Progressive but Non-Political. Dr. Bohanon and Rev. Stetson clarify the difference between progressive Christianity in a spiritual sense, which the CUA supports; and progressive politics, which the CUA does not endorse as an organization because we take no position on political issues or parties.https://christianuniversalist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CUA-is-non-political.mp3 (02:18)

These days, you won’t hear many theologians using the phrase ‘Progressive Christianity’ as they did then. Because, a similar sounding term ‘Progressive Theology’ has come to describe congregations who teach that society needs to “progress” by loving traditionally ostracized people groups—typically by promoting partisan change towards politically “Progressive” ideas; Democratic Socialism, Feminism, and legal preferences for minorities. This is the complete opposite of what our CUA founders were saying about the Association being non-political. The CUA’s message is, and has always been, the truly Good News that: Through Christ, all are reconciled to God. All of our Mission is in support of that singular, most important, doctrinal truth.

World history is replete with groups ostracized, beaten, or killed because some religion convinced some government to outlaw what “those non-believers” are doing. It seems surreal to need to point-out the fallacy of using of government force to compel religious behavior in contemporary society. But, apparently, we need to keep addressing this issue; because we still have partisan political movements, like the Religious Right, and Religious Left trying to deploy government force against those who don’t share their religious convictions.