Give What to Caesar?
Neither Jesus nor the Church believe in Separation of Church and State. I do not know if you are aware of this but that separation is an American Concept but not one enjoyed throughout the world and not one the Church endorses. As Americans that might surprise us but let’s look at what is behind this.
Robert Reilly in his book American on Trial: A Defense of the Founding explains that Jesus’ words today were radical for his time. We can look at them and say, “Oh Jesus wants us to pay our taxes. Ok.” That is not really what he is saying.
Reilly explains that the truth is, as Jesus says, that which belongs to Caesar give to Caesar and that which belongs to God give to God. Simple enough until you realize when Jesus said those words everything belonged to Caesar. The state was god and soon after Jesus’ death and resurrection the Emperor was considered God. The state was the end all and be all of existence.
Remember those words from Pilate: ‘Truth, what is truth.’ If you looking for truth you will find it in the structures of the Roman Empire. So what Jesus is saying is we owe Caesar all that his temporal powers demands but we owe to God everything else.
St. Augustine puts it this way I give my money to Caesar and myself to God.
Do you see these words are going to be radical to the ears of those who live in fear of offending the Roman Authorities? Can you imagine Herod hearing these words.
So, what happens if we eliminate religion from the state?
The state becomes God. It is no coincidence that those political systems that became the most tyrannical rejected God. Always beware of the political leader who claims to be God in his country. That is one of several signs of the tyrant. The reason is that the leader will tell you there is nothing that belongs to God and everything belongs to him or her because he is God.
Jesus introduces the political understanding that temporal authority oversees the affairs of the world and God oversees everything else. If we believe in separation of Church and state what that says is temporal authority oversees the affairs of the physical realities and whatever force you choose to obey will oversee the affairs of your spiritual needs. The concept creates two separate spheres of authority that have nothing to do with each other.
What Jesus creates is what we saw created later in human existence. The political leader oversees the physical realities but everyone answers to the spiritual authority who is God.
Abraham Lincoln was a deep man of prayer even though he did not belong to a denomination. By the way, his grandfather worshipped in Hingham Massachusetts at a place today that is called the ship Church.
What we believe as Jesus indicates is we as Catholics have a duty to obey the civil authority because in doing so we are obeying God it is actually the fourth commandment. Now we do not have to obey unjust laws but we must obey just laws. Then all humanity becomes subject to God. So what is the difference between what we have now?
As I said, right now we have two separate spheres civil authority and spiritual authority which have no connection to each other. That creates an atheocracy there is no god. Our god is our authority therefore we are god and we are the political power on Earth. It is a return to the idea that the state is the divine power.
Hierarchy of Values
What we as Catholic believe is a hierarchy of authority where you have the civil that answers to the spiritual power of God. Not the pope, not the archbishop—God. That is an important distinction.
The civil authority is ruled by reason and as Pope Benedict XVI explains responding to the spiritual authority purifies our reason to make it more pure.
Always remember we as Catholics believe in faith and reason not faith or reason. Fundamentalists believe in faith with no reason and atheists believe in reason without faith. Faith without reason leads to the inquisition and faith based terrorist acts. Faith without reason—9/11.
Reason without faith leads to genocide NAZI Germany, Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, China, etc., etc.,
We need faith and reason to create the most just society—reason and faith working together. That is not found in a society that believes in separation of Church and state. It is found in a society that understands that faith purifies reason and reason holds faith accountable so that the most just society can be built.
This is what the founder of the country tried to create. They understood through faith and reason that humans had to build a country that took into account the faith based understanding of the imperfection and sinful nature of human beings. So power had to be limited and separated to prevent tyranny which is rooted in unbridled Earthly authority. Our constitution was created with a good understanding of faith and reason.
One of the greatest manifestations of separation of Church and state is the rise of atheism which creates a science only ethic. What does a science only ethic look like? When scientists become the ultimate authority of all things. That is a science only ethic.
The election coming up is a serious business but the division that leads up to it is proving more and more the truth of the book of Genesis. When people turn from God they become their own God and a billion gods living on the planet create war and chaos over and over again. Peace and justice can only be found by seeking the source of both through the way, the truth and the life. Faith and reason need each other to build the most just society. Forces in this country have been working to create a science only ethic by eliminating the faith piece. That will only find themselves re-creating the division first seen at the tower of babble because one without the other does not work.