Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Valentinian.jpgYou figure that Q90-FM, a Christian radio station out of De Pere, Wis., has pretty much made Jim Wallis’ day by pulling its sponsorship from Lifest 2010, a Christian music and preaching festival starting in Oshkosh July 7. It seems that controversy has been percolating for some time over the festival’s invitation to the head of the Sojourners social justice ministries to join 57 other speakers at the four-day jamboree.

In an essay on its website, the radio station explains that its investigations revealed that Sojourners is “a seed of secular humanism, seeking an unholy alliance between the
Church and Government.”

While we are commanded by Jesus to help the poor, Jesus said our
greatest calling is in Matthew 28:19: Therefore go and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Coming under federal
control may make this impossible without legal and financial
persecution. The movement in our nation toward the forced
redistribution of wealth through taxation ensures this–when the
government controls where the money goes, freedom to express the gospel
of Jesus Christ will eventually be eliminated legally, as it has with
every Church and State merger since 371 AD. The state becomes god. We
believe in the biblical teaching of voluntary
redistribution of wealth through the charitable giving of God’s people.

Sure, the redistributive progressive income tax has been around since 1913, but I get it. Q90-FM has a problem with Wallis’ support for federal faith-based initiatives, be they Bushian or Obamaite. What perplexes me is the reference to the year 371. The Roman emperor at the time was Valentinian I, a tough general from the Balkans who, though a staunch Christian, pursued a policy of religious toleration. He actually lightened the tax burden on the provinces, though–shades of Obamacare–he did appoint doctors to care for the Roman poor. Nothing in Valentianian’s reign, however, suggests a new church-state merger.

Perhaps Q90-FM was actually thinking of the 380s, when the Roman state really got its alliance with the church going. Of course, it was the church that largely benefited–gaining exemption from taxes, exemption of clergy from public services, exemption of bishops from secular courts, rights to provide sanctuary to fugitives, and all-round powers to order society according to Christian principles. Meanwhile, emperors Gratian and Theodosius put the screws to pagans, Jews, and
above all Christians who didn’t toe their own orthodox line.

Come to think of it, Q90-FM might have found that world rather appealing.

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