A Double-Morality

I apologize for the seemingly ever-increasing size of my posts.  I think this one’ll bring me back to a readable level.  On a side note, today is November 27th, and we began playing Christmas music.  Glory Glory Hallelujah has a fantastic, epic version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, and it instantly takes me away.  Now, back to Bonhoeffer, and an interesting note he makes in his essay On the Possibility of the Church’s Message to the World.

“God’s entire law and the entire gospel belong to all people in the same way.  One might object that in the world the church demands the safeguarding of the rule of law, of property, and of honour, whereas it demands that Christians renounce all these things; that in the world, retribution and force must be exercised, whereas Christians ought to practice forgiveness and bear injustice.  This widely held objection, which leads to a double Christian morality, comes from a false understanding of the word of God…the orders [i.e. government] are not a second divine source of authority alongside and in addition to the God of Jesus Christ.  Instead, they are the place where the God of Jesus Christ establishes obedience.  God’s Word is not concerned with the orders as such, but with the obedience of faith rendered within them.”

I’ve been thinking about my eventual master’s thesis, and it’s going to be on the separation of church and state and the integration of faith and politics required for personal and religious integrity within political participation, and I think this is a prime example of where we’ve gone wrong in this regard.  These days (and in Bonhoeffer’s day), even the religious folk are secularists!  We’ve a notion that reality is divided, that there is a realm in which God is the King of everything, and a realm in which there are laws by which we all go about our daily business, and these realms only slightly overlap – that is, they overlap in the Church, and in the Church alone.  We think that the law (and the gospel!) were given to Christians and for Christians, and everyone else has no relationship with God.  He will be our God, and we will be his people, and everyone else can just go about their business, answering only to the law of the land.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not for some sort of Christian sharia law.  I don’t think we should start stoning adulterers, or anything of the like: the law, the government, these are what Bonhoeffer calls “divine orders”.  They’re instituted by God, for the governing of the people and the safeguarding of order.  In their own way, whether they recognize God or not, they are both his servant and representative.  And that’s just the point: whether they recognize him or not, everyone has a relationship to God.  The Law is for everyone, as is the Gospel, and when we separate the Church from the rest of the world, we create a false division within reality, or as Bonhoeffer mentions here, within morality.  There is no double-morality, and we need to let it go.

So what do we do instead?  That’s a very good question; perhaps I’ll write my master’s thesis on it.


2 thoughts on “A Double-Morality

  1. Sounds like a good topic. I’d be interested to read it, as I am more of a separate Church and State guy myself. More so than Amanda, for sure.

    It would be interesting to go back and look at the writings of some of the founding fathers of the US, as they had their own unique take on Church and State being both Puritans/Nonconformists and founders of a new country.

  2. My basic take on it is that our current common understanding of the separation of church and state is warped, requiring a person to be two different people depending on which context they’re in. We have a modernist notion of public and private that has completely secularized our culture, compartmentalizing religion to the point where it is almost entirely irrelevant in our own lives because we’re not able to actually do anything about it in “public”. I dunno about some people, but I find it difficult to put God in a box, especially a box as small as my “private beliefs”.

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