If the U.S. government creates policy based on biblical principles, aren’t we then a theocracy?

Q. I appreciated your response to the question, “Is Pope Francis right that Christians who chase away refugees are hypocrites?” It makes a lot of sense to me. But I have a followup question. Is Jesus—and more broadly the Bible—talking only to individuals about how they should act, or also to entities, such as government? If the U.S. government creates policy based on biblical principles, aren’t we then a theocracy? I believe that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles but I also believe in church-state separation. If I think our government’s policy on refugees—or anything else—should be different based upon my Christian beliefs, aren’t I a hypocrite?

I think I’ve addressed many of the concerns you express in another post entitled, “Should Christians try to impose a moral code legally on people who don’t believe?” I invite you to read that post, as I think it will answer many of your questions. In it I basically argue against theocracy, but then note that as a Christian, “If you are a citizen of a democracy, you have an obligation to support and work for legislation, and promote social measures, that will encourage people to live by the most transferable values of the kingdom of God.”

The United States is not governed by explicitly biblical principles. But that doesn’t mean it has been established on no principles. It embodies the ideals of liberty and citizen participation. As Lincoln said, it’s supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.” You are one of those “people.” And so you have a responsibility to make your voice heard and  contribute to the shaping of our nation’s policies and programs, according to your informed conscience and Christian convictions.

Everybody else is supposed to be doing this, and they have a right to be disappointed if you’re not, even if they disagree with you! So get into the mix and don’t worry about theocracy or hypocrisy. We need concerned, compassionate voices like yours now more than ever.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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