Book Review: Colson’s “God & Government”
God & Government
by Chuck Colson, Zondervan, 2007.
God & Government is an updated version of Chuck Colson’s 1987 Kingdoms in Conflict. Subtitled “an insider’s view on the boundaries between faith and politics,” it is an interesting and generally centrist evaluation of the complex relationship between religion and the state.
The book is a worthwhile read for a Christian for several reasons. First, Colson adequately addresses both sides of the “church/state controversy,” an issue that is constantly cited in arguments against Christian activity in the military. He acknowledges that there are some Christians who would like nothing more than to elect a President-Pastor, and some secularists who would like nothing more than to eliminate the public existence of religion. He maintains that
Both extremes—those who want to eliminate religion from political life as well as those who want religion to dominate politics—have overreacted and overreached. (p51)
Colson argues against Christian citizens who would, whether they realize it or not, turn America into a theocracy. Some Christians have implied, perhaps innocently, that they would elect a person purely based on religious affiliation. Colson notes that
Politicians should be selected based on qualifications, abilities, and moral character. (p331, emphasis added)
Colson also addresses the critics who think religion should be left out of politics. Many religious citizens want not a Presidential religious leader, but a President that shares their values—which include religion. Colson notes that
One’s political life is an expression of values, and religion, by definition, most profoundly influences values. (p136)
Colson does a reasonable job of explaining the proper roles of the state and the church, a discussion from which both sides could benefit. Importantly, he notes that the phrase “separation of church and state”
…applied to the institutions of church and state, not religious and political values…Separation of church and state does not mean that America was to be free of religious influence. (p136, emphasis added)
Given that the book first came out in the late 1980s, it is notable that with some updating (references to terrorism and “Islamo-fascism”) it is still current in its analysis of the continuing struggle over the relationship between church and state.
For the average Christian fighter pilot looking for guidance on how to live a Christ-centered life in the military, this book offers little practical advice. For those who are interested in the larger issues of religion in the military, secularist attacks on public Christianity, and “separation of church and state,” the book is a worthwhile (if long) read.
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