Religion and Government

· Christianity, Government, Law

Religion and Government


(Published 09.05.10: unfinished: work in progress.)

It is commonly assumed that Christians have had little to to with politics in the governance of their communities. In the 1st century AD, Christianity and politics were inextricably intertwined. In ancient Rome, many, many different cults were brought to Rome from all over their empire, including many from the East, in the 1st century AD. Such cults as “Mithras” and “Isis” were popular in Rome but as it did not threaten “structure” the life of their adherents, they were not seen as a threat to the loyalties of the Good Roman citizen to the Roman emperors.These cults with their esoteric mysticism offered spiritual guidance yet without making demands on public life.

But Rome was, by then, a structured society and people were expected to live as good citizens of the Roman state. The religion of Rome was political in that it dictated the whole of one’s life in the public world. Many of the Roman emperors claimed to be sons of a god, and some even went so far as to claim divinity. (This, divine authority,  was not an uncommon belief in many religions.) Emperor worship was a feature of the Roman religion. The mystery cults were directed towards the private, the personal, and devotional, the internal spiritual, while the religion of Rome was directed towards the public, the external, the corporate and the political society. The one was not seen as a threat to the other.


However, Christianity was seen to be a direct challenge to the political religion of Rome. The Roman State would never have persecuted Christians if the worship of Jesus was seen as a private cult, but they were seen as in competition with the political religion of Rome. The practice of Christianity as a religion brought the church into direct conflict with the religion of Rome. It became a clash of religions not cults.

Mathew 28: 18-19 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This demands complete allegiance.

Christians today need to reject formulations of the faith that makes no demands on the political world. Christians must put back the nerve back into the gospel. The gospel that troubled King Herod, the gospel that made the idolaters at Ephesus riot, the gospel that made Caesar quake in his boots. [1]

Emperor Constantine I

(Born ca.272 d.337)

Until about 360 AD, there existed serious controversy among the Christian clergy about the Divinity of Jesus. Emperor Constantine I convened a Council of Nicene to resolve this dispute that was splitting the church. “The Nicene Creed,” adopted in “the First |Council of Nicea (325)” was later revised with additions by  “The First Council of Constantinople (381), is the creed that summarises the orthodox faith of the Christian Church and is used in the liturgy of most Christian Churches.

The following is the text of the 1975 version:

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.


The involvement of the Roman Emperor Constantine I, is well documented, and clearly shows that the Nicene Creed was adopted by the ruling Emperor and the Bishops of 325 AD on a consensus of opinion by representatives of State and the Clergy. It was adopted and used in the liturgy of the Christian churches and resolved the conflicts of the different interpretations of the Holy scriptures including the divinity of Jesus.

Religion and Politics of the Middle Ages

The Holy Roman Empire founded by Charlemagne in 800AD lasted 1000 years until it was dissolved by emperor Francis II in 1806. This political entity of lands in western and central Europe stretched across modern day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, eastern France, Belgium, Netherlands, western Poland, the Czech Republic, and Italy in the 12th century. The Crusades were a wars by Western European Christians to recapture the Holy Land from the occupying Muslims. The crusades began in 1096 (the Middle Ages) until the late 13th century. It is an example of European expansionism and colonialism to spread their own cultural and religious beliefs to foreign lands. Again an example of the coordination of state, military, and church working together as a unit. [3] 

In the middle Ages, the Catholic church was the only Church that had its own governing structures and large coffers. The Bishops and Archbishops played a significant role in government as they were the intellectuals of the day, being well read and knowledgeable of the scriptures, and hence ecclesiastical laws. These bishops sat on the King’s council and had rights of appointment to the House of Lords. Often these Bishops were wealthy and came from noble families. Bishops “ruled” over groups of parishes known as “diocese.” Parish priests were from humbler backgrounds and often had little education. They attended to the sick and indigent of their community. [4]

The Anglican Church

The Church of England (Anglican Church) separated from the Roman Catholic Church for political and doctrinal reasons, to become the first established church in England. During the “Reformation” in Europe, Protestant churches had already challenged the position of the Pope, and some Christians in England had also felt uneasy with the absolute power of the Pope. At about this time, Henry VIII, the ruling King of England wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, as he desperately wanted to produce a male heir, unsuccessful so far. The Pope refused to grant permission for a divorce or an annulment, so Henry VIII was forced to separate the church in England from the rest of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the authority of the Pope was rejected and the English monarch became the supreme head of the Church of England, with the power to appoint archbishops and bishops, and to regulate their own ecclesiastical laws no longer subject to the Vatican. [x]

Here, again, we see the inter-twinning of Church and State and how even monarchs were bound by the laws from the Vatican.

Hebrew Criminal Jurisprudence- Theodore Spector

“Full justice has never been rendered to the magnificent and admirable system of Hebrew Jurisprudence. No other system in the world is so rich in commentary and codes as the Jewish and no system can disclose a lengthier traditional line of men devoted to the study of Law.

There is no army of police to compel obedience to a Jewish Law or “judge’s” decision and no person to incarcerate the insolent for Contempt of Court. But Jewish Law, Civil as well as Ecclesiastical enjoys the homage of the bulk of the Jewish race. It is orderly reasoned, logical, and is a living system and is developing and is therefor entitled to the name Law, as much at least as public international law, which also emanates from no sovereign authority and has no sanction, has been largely evolved by Civilian Jurists, and depends for its observance on the voluntary assent of the family of nations that calls itself civilised.

The basis of Jewish Jurisprudence and its point  d’ appris, is, of course the Bible and especially the Five Books of Moses.

The Pentateuch, the Jus Scriptum, is the only foundation of Jewish Law and the Jus non Scriptum the nearest analogue to our English common Law. A work like the Pentateuch distinguished for its literary merit, it theology, its ethics and the pre-eminent excellence of its system of Civil Institutions, could not fail to exert a more wide and powerful influence on the opinions and practices of mankind. Moses made no secret of the high estimate which he placed upon his labours as a Law giver; [b]What nation is there so great that hath statute and judges so righteous as all this Law which I send before you this day,” [/b] is the confident tone in which he claims the obedience of his countrymen and the admiration of the world.

Says Grotius in his truth of Christian religion,

“The most ancient attic laws which in after times the Roman were derived, owe their origin to Moses’ Law.”

He expresses the same opinion in his treatise of the Right of War and Peace,

“Who may not believe that seeing the Law of Moses has such an express image of Divine Will, the Nations did well in taking the Laws thence?” [5]

Anglo-American Jurisprudence and the Bible

The English constitution is referred to as “the unwritten” constitution. English government, and laws and the English social structure are rooted in tradition rather than in documents. There is no single document that embodies the entire constitution of the nation.  But certain documents are organic English law and are revered about all others. Some of these are discussed here:

1.  Magna Carta (June 15, 1215)

The Magna Carta is the pre-eminent legal document in English history, established about the same time the English common law began.

The Magna Carta acknowledges and pledges submission of its parties to, God’s governance of mankind. The English King is said to rule [b]by the grace of God.[/b] Bringing honour to God.

God was not claimed to be a party to the charter after the manner of ancient Israel, but He was nonetheless called to witness, and to some extent enforce, the charter.

The charter acknowledges the existence of God and intends to be consistent with God’s will.

Magna Carta follows the biblical pattern of government by covenant: 1. the authority of the charger is based on honouring God; 2. mutuality is indicated by the assent of both king and barons; 3. the community  of relationship is referred to as “our kingdom”; 4. irrevocability is shown by extensive use of the word, “forever”; 5. the purposes of the charter have never been modified; 6. the charter is binding on future generations – indicated by the term “for us and our heirs”; and 7. the charter continues to serve as a framework for the administration of English laws today.

2. Confirmatio Cartarum (November 5, 1297)

The primary purpose of the Confirmatis Cartarum (confirmation charter) was to confirm the Magna Carta.

Like the Magna Carta the Confirmatio acknowledges God’s existance and that rulers rule by His Grace and for His Honour.

The Magna Carta and the Confirmatio applied to the church as well as to everyone else.

3. Bill of Rights (December 16, 1689)

The Bill of Rights came about during the Glorious Revolution in England and the accession of William and Mary to the throne. (It is also the direct ancestor to the American bills of rights including the first ten amendments to the American Constitution.)

The Bill of Rights acknowledged Christianity as a part of England’s legal heritage and claimed that the Protestant religion is an integral part of its national identity.

The Bill of rights claims that God raised up the new civil rulers of England. Implicit is a submission to god’s governance of mankind and a recognition of divine intervention in civil affairs.

England is acknowledged to be a nation under God. [6]

It seems to me that Britain has(so far) conformed to the Magna Carta of 1215, as well as the Bill of Rights of 1689 and is part of the English heritage.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – 2nd June, 1953

This initiation rite of investing the Monarch with regalia and crowning is performed by the most senior cleric of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other clergy and members of the nobility also have roles and government officials and guests attend including foreign representatives. The essential elements of the coronation have remained largely unchanged for the past thousand years. The Monarch then swears an oath to uphold the law and the Church. Following that, the monarch is anointed with oil, crowned, and invested with the regalia before receiving the homage of the Monarch’s subjects.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: “Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements.?”

The Queen: “I will.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury: “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolable the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England: And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?”

The Queen: “All this I promise to do. The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.”

Once the taking of the oath concludes, an ecclesiastic present a Bible to the Sovereign saying, “Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.” The Bible is a full King James Bible, including the Apocrypha. The Holy Communion is then celebrated, but the service is interrupted after the Nicene Creed.

The monarch additionally swears an oath to [preserve Presbyterian church government in the Church of Scotland. This part of the oath is taken before the coronation. 

The above narrative was described in detail to show the influence of the Magna Carta and the involvement of the Monarchy, the nobility, government officials and others with Christian traditions for thousands of years. The Monarchy and the British Government are committed to uphold the Laws of God.[7]



The popular band wagon today is to have a secular government and everyone seems to be hopping on to this wagon. Separation of church and state refers to the secularity of government and the freedom or religious exercise. The U.S. Bill of rights was passed in September 25th in 1789 includes:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” [X]

Today there are those who, out of innocence, believe that it is wrong, or improper that religion should have any part to play in the governance of a nation. Little do such people realise that religion has play a part in every society since the Roman Empire or earlier and will continue to play its part in today’s as well as the future governments. Religion is part of the fabric of civilisations and cannot be divorced from the perception of men or rule or those who are ruled. To believe otherwise is to be in denial of our our societies and communities psyche.

In recent years, Supreme Court justices, politicians and religious figures have advanced the argument that the Founding Fathers based the US Constitution on God’s word. Some have asserted that the Founding Fathers meant for the Constitution to be understood as a Christian document of governance for a Christian nation.

The attack on the principle of separation of church and state has not come only from the Republicans. In the 2000 presidential election, the Democratic ticket was vocal in advancing a religious foundation for American politics. Speaking in Detroit on August 27, 2000, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman said of the First Amendment: “[T]he Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

In addition to Madison, influential Federalists such as John Adams and George Washington “fully shared Jefferson’s views on the separation of religious and civil affairs” (Jacoby, p. 27). Even the “omission of God was not a major source of controversy at the Constitutional Convention” (Jacoby, 29).

There was intense debate over whether or not to include reference to God or Jesus Christ in the course of the Constitution’s ratification by the states. The Reverend John M. Mason, a New York Federalist, cited the lack of any mention of God in the Constitution as “an omission which no pretext can palliate” (Jacoby, p. 30). A Boston opponent of ratification predicted ruination for the United States if God were not mentioned in its Constitution.

At the state ratification conventions, a number of members were appalled by the clearly secularist intent of the Constitution and proposed religious amendments to establish God or Jesus Christ as the source of governmental power. In the end, however, these proposals were rejected by those who insisted that the document be an explicitly secular one, and that the foundations of the new republic be secular.

This intention was even more evident during the debate over the Bill of Rights. Before deciding on a series of amendments to the Constitution, the House of Representatives originally agreed to revise the wording of the preamble to the Constitution to clearly state that government was constituted for the benefit of the people and derived from their authority alone. (Emphasis added).

Ultimately, this idea was rejected on the grounds that the original phrase “We the People” was evidence enough of the popular basis of the Constitution (The American Constitution: Its Origins and Development, Alfred H. Kelly and Winfred A. Harbison, p. 175).

The intensity of this debate over God and his authority undermines the claims of those on the religious right who argue today that the Founding Fathers simply forgot to mention God or took for granted his authority. As Jacoby concludes, “[T]he founders knew exactly what they were doing, and so did their fellow citizens on both sides of the issue” (Jacoby, p. 33).

The Constitution was based on the belief that if human beings are allowed to think freely, they will come to understand and master the natural world, including society. Could mankind aspire to a greater or nobler achievement? Why, then, is the religious right and its main political ally, the Republican Party, lying about the Constitution and the authors’ intentions? What purpose do these lies serve?

The crisis of capitalism has fostered the collapse of the traditional bourgeois-democratic means of answering, or at least diverting, the legitimate concerns and protests of working people. In Europe and the US, the major political parties, representing the ruling financial elite, can barely pretend to respond to the concerns of the majority of the population.

Whether it be on the war on Iraq, the loss of jobs, or the dismantling of social reforms, the gap between the people and their elected representatives has never been greater. This has created a genuine concern within ruling circles regarding how to keep working class resentment and anger from turning into a conscious recognition of the need to struggle for revolutionary change against the capitalist system.

In the United States, the decay of democracy has taken the form, given the collapse of the trade unions and the political putrefaction of American liberalism, of an ultra-right minority, basing itself on the most reactionary religious ideologies, accumulating enormous power. Under conditions in which bourgeois democratic forms of rule are breaking down, and the working class has yet to understand its revolutionary tasks, this ultra-right minority has come to exercise a virtual veto power on the policies of the government.

With the help of a cowering complicit media, the Christian right is promoting the most backward conceptions to use against any form of opposition based on rational, scientific and humanistic principles. This, then, is the source and purpose of the lies about the US Constitution.


[1] Political Christianity in early Church:
[2] Emperor Constantine I and the Nicene Creed of 325:
[3] The Church and State in the Middle Ages:
[4] Christianity in the Middle Ages:

[5] Jewish Jurisprudence:
[7] The Coronation of a British Monarch:

[x] Henry VIII and Anglicanism:
[X] The British Monarch and the Church:

[X] U.S. Bill of Rights:

Additional References:
[A1] 16th,17th European History
[A2] Religion-Middle Ages:
[A3] Politics-Middle Ages:
[A4] Religion and politics:
[A5] Political Christianity in Early Church:

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