Caesar vs. God

Anybody who has known me longer than about five minutes knows that I have exactly zero patience with people who try to mix religion and politics. What people may not know is why I feel so strongly about keeping my religion and my politics separate.

I am a Christian.

I am also a liberal.

These are not mutually exclusive terms — but way too many religious leaders have tried to convince me that they are. I have no time for these people. They are not interested in my spiritual growth. They are interested in using my faith to manipulate me into supporting political positions that they find personally advantageous.

I find it remarkable that so many of these demagogues recoil at the very mention of the phrase “separation of church and state.” (Try it sometime. Use those words in front of some politicking preacher, and see if he doesn’t look at you like you just dropped an f-bomb on his grandma.)

Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Jefferson did not come up with that concept. Jesus did.


The notoriously manipulative, sanctimonious Pharisees came to Jesus with a question meant to trap him in his words: Should a man of God pay taxes? If he said yes, they could accuse him of promoting idolatry by putting the government ahead of God, or some such nonsense; if he said no, they could accuse him of attempting to undermine the government.

Jesus wasn’t having ANY of it. He saw through their nonsense and offered an unimpeachable response: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render to God the things that are God’s.” With that simple but profound statement, Jesus delineated the roles of religion and politics and made it clear that they are two distinct concepts that serve different purposes and have little bearing on each other.

I render to God when I live my life in a manner consistent with my understanding of His will for me. I render to Caesar when I participate in the political process and try to support others’ right to live their lives in a manner that is consistent with their understanding of God’s will for them.

If people have a problem with that, they can take it up with Jesus. He’s got way more patience with Pharisees than I do.