I stumbled across a 2012 Touchstone article by Hunter Baker this week that demands a second look by any Christian contemplating the tension between his faith and his government.  In brief, here is what Hunter Baker had to say:

The 2009 Iranian student revolutionaries demanded a secular government because they wanted to  escape the tyranny of an Islamic state.  And in 1979, their revolutionary predecessors demanded an Islamic state because they wanted to escape the tyranny of a secular government.   

What, if anything, can restrain a state from turning tyrannical?  Secular revolutions (e.g. the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Cultural Revolution, etc.) produced more blood and tyranny than the 300 years of the Spanish Inquisition.  And the Catholicism of the French did nothing to curb the horrors of the secular Reign of Terror.  Revolutionaries should take note of history, which tells us that a populous bent on secularism or religion poses no particular roadblocks to a tyrannical state.

In Muslim nations, the church is the state, whereas in so-called secular states, the state becomes the church.  So how, Hunter Baker asks, did early America manage to thread the needle between the two? 

Baker argues that the Calvinism of America’s Revolutionaries so emphasized man’s fallen nature that it fostered a tremendous suspicion of power held in human hands (it makes little difference whether those hands claim a secular or religious nature). “The United States Constitution,” he writes, “more than any other foundational political document, is an acknowledgment of the problem of Original Sin.”

One can imagine the protest of today’s libertarians. “Even if a debt is owed to the church and Calvinists in particular,” they might say, “today’s America doesn’t need the church for a healthy suspicion of government to survive.”  Not so, says Quaker philosopher Elton Trueblood. “A flower grows and becomes beautiful because it is rooted in the soil where it can access the things it needs to live…If you cut the flower and put it in a vase, it will remain beautiful for a time, but will soon decay and die.”

You can, and should, read the whole thing here.