"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master, that's all."
Can church and state ever really be separate in such a way that one is not the master of the other? Or is it like the 'separate but equal' doctrine of the pre-segregation South? Separate, but one a little more equal than the other?
I don't like the idea of the Church being subordinate to the state (historical examples: Prussia, Russia...). I do like the idea of the state being subordinate to a supranational Church (historical examples: Christendom, the early Caliphate). But, this seems completely impractical and impossible to implement at the current time. So I have conceded that it is better for them to be separate, hoping that the State will not stomp all over the Church too much...
American-style separation of Church and State will work best if the Churches involved do not have any particular ideas about how the State should be run- if they assume that God will look after his own in this world, I guess. American-style separation of Church and State will work poorly if the Churches are opposed to the State, even to the passive degree of forbidding their adherent from participating in the workings of democracy- e.g., in Italy before Mussolini, Catholics were not supposed to vote or work for the government. If a Church has very strong ideas about what the laws of a country should be, it will cop flak for voicing them (e.g., from people like Kerry O'Brien), on the basis that the State is leaving the Church alone, so back off. Yet, voicing those ideas might be absolutely essential to what that Church is.
I am reading a book ("The Judgment of the Nations") which suggests that 'Western Democracy' is an indirect product of Calvinism. You probably know that I don't have much time for Calvinism, but when you think about which countries have been relatively democratic over the last few hundred years, it seems to fit. Here is a big long quote:
"In an age when the Papacy was dependent on the Habsburg monarchies and when Catholics accepted the theories of passive obedience and the divine right of kiongs, the Calvinists asserted the Divine Right of Presbytery and declared that "the Church was the foundation of the world" and that it was the duty of kings to "throw down their crowns before her and lick the dust from off her feet." But these theocratic claims were not hierarchic and impersonal as in the mediaeval Church, they were based on an intense individualism deriving from the certainty of election and the duty of the individual Christian to co-operate in realising the divine purpose against a sinful and hostile world. Thus Calvinism is at once aristocratic and democratic: aristocratic in as much as the "saints" were an elect minority chosen from the mass of fallen humanity and infinitely superior to the children of the world; but democratic in that each was directly responsible to God who is no respecter of persons. Calvinism is, in fact, a democracy of saints, elect of God, but also in a sense self-chosen, since it is the conscience of the individual which is the ultimate witness of his election...the great experiment of the Cromwellian Commonwealth, short-lived though it was, by the momentum of its religius impulse opened the way for a new type of civilisation based on the freedom of the person and of conscience as rights conferred absolutely by God and Nature. The connexion is seen most closely in America where the Congregationalist Calvinism of New England ... leads on directly to the assertion of the Rights of Man in the constitutions of the North American States and to the rise of political democracy."
"An elect minority chosen from the mass of fallen humanity and infinitely superior to the children of the world." Doesn't that sound like Americans to you? :)