A chorus of men and women of various races and backgrounds assembles on the stage area. The Leader of the Chorus steps forward and introduces the skit.
Leader: Please come and join us. We are from the Twelve Tribes Communities and we would like to welcome you to our play. The name of our play is, “Where did the Constitution Come From?” It is a play about freedom - something most people take for granted today in America. But, do you know what happens to freedom when religion and politics mix? Do you know what happens? We hope to show you through the characters in our play and the events that took place in their lives, what REALLY DOES HAPPEN when the church and state mix.
Please be sure to get one of these programs that are being handed out now. In the back of the program you will find references for the quotations used in our play. The words and events that are about to unfold before you actually took place. You can find these characters and their words and actions recorded in history. They have a story to tell and those who have ears to hear can learn from what they went through. For history will only repeat itself when men and women do not learn from its mistakes. So, we invite you to make yourselves comfortable for the next half hour and watch our play. Listen carefully to the words of these men from the past. Take note of the outcome of their lives, and hopefully learn from history’s mistakes. Thank you for joining us. We hope you find our play interesting.
Musical introduction (Shenandoah) sets a mood of anticipation.
Chorus: (speaking in unison) Where did the Constitution come from? Where did America’s freedoms come from?
A young woman in a nice dress and straw sun hat enters from behind the audience.
Christian Girl: I know! I’ve always been told that the freedom of worship, the freedom of speech, and all our other precious freedoms were handed down to us from the rich tradition of Christianity. Why, everybody knows that the Constitution was written by our Christian forefathers. I just read about it in this Christian literature from “Focus on the Family”. It says: “The Constitution was designed to perpetuate a Christian order…. This really was a Christian nation, and as far as its founders were concerned, to try separating Christianity from government is virtually impossible and would result in unthinkable damage to the nation and its people. Much of the damage we see around us must be attributed to this separation.”1
A man in work clothes steps forward from the edge of the audience and speaks.
Non-Christian: Excuse me. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but I am an American. And when I hear things like what you just read about America being Christian, I get concerned. Really concerned. Because I consider it my constitutional right as an American that I don’t have to be Christian if I don’t want to.
Christian Girl: Oh, we Christians certainly don’t want to take away the rights of others. Why, if it wasn’t for the Christian Church and Christian organizations like this one, (holding up literature) human rights wouldn’t even exist!
Non-Christian: (crossing to her) Do you mind if I take a look at that?
Christian Girl: Please do! It’s from Focus on the Family. They’re Christian. They’re a really big organization...
Non-Christian: So, what’s this stuff here? It says the Supreme Court ruled that “the federal government... was responsible to enforce civil laws according to orthodox Christian standards”? And this here: “...we could cite for you case after case where the U.S. Supreme Court defended... the Gospel of Jesus Christ”? And this: “...the court found that an attack on Jesus Christ was punishable as an offense against the United States of America”?2 So what does this mean? Are they saying that I should be punished if I’m not Christian?
Christian Girl: Let me see that...
Voice 1: (a member of the Chorus) Is freedom really a Christian tradition?
Voice 2: What did the Early Church Fathers think?
Voice 3: What are the facts of history?
Droning organ music plays. Enter from stage right a masked figure with a tall white mitre hat, and a sign around his neck, which reads, “SAINT AUGUSTINE.”
Chorus: Listen to the words of Saint Augustine.
Voice 1: Spoken 1500 years ago!
Voice 2: He is called the “Father of Western Christianity.”
Voice 3: He shaped Christian thinking more than anyone else in history.
Augustine: What... is worse for the soul than the freedom to be in error?3 The Christian Emperor... thought it well... to bring those who [were] against the cause of Christ into the unity of the Catholic Church, even by terror and compulsion...4 The heretics [however]... are unwilling to be compelled. They say, “Let us come in, of our own good will.”5 But this is not the Lord’s order! He says, “Compel them to come in.” Let compulsion be found outside, the will shall arise within.6
Christian Girl: What is he saying? He isn’t talking about forcing people to believe… is he?
Non-Christian: He sure is! He said, “by terror and compulsion...”
Christian Girl: But, isn’t that unjust? Isn’t that persecution?
Augustine: If we wish to speak or know the truth, there is an unjust persecution, which the [ungodly] make against the Church of Christ, and a just persecution, which the Churches of Christ make against the ungodly…. The Church persecutes from love, the heretics from cruelty; she for correction, they for delusion; she to recall from error, they to throw into error.7
Christian Girl: Wait a minute! That can’t be right! Christians don’t persecute people!
Non-Christian: (astonished) Maybe you don’t, but is that what history proves?
Voice 1: Listen to the words of Petilian.
Voice 2: He lived at the same time as Augustine.
Voice 3: Augustine called him a heretic.
Chorus: Decide for yourselves who the heretic is!
A large man with a pointed black hood, wearing a sign that says STATE OFFICER enters from stage right dragging behind him a man with a simple-looking mask and a sign that says PETILIAN. The officer thrusts Petilian down on his knees at left in front of Augustine, then crosses to right of Augustine.
Petilian: Jesus Christ never persecuted anyone... [He came] to create faith by inviting men to Him, rather than by compelling them.8 [Love] does not persecute, does not inflame emperors to take away the lives of other men; does not plunder other men’s goods; does not go on to murder men...9
Augustine: The thing to be considered when anyone is coerced, is not the mere fact of the coercion, but the nature of that to which he is coerced, whether it be good or bad... by the laws of emperors… many cities... became Catholic under the influence of that fear which is to you so offensive…. I have therefore yielded to the evidence…. For originally my opinion was, that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ…. But this opinion of mine was overcome…. For… my own town… was brought over to the Catholic unity by fear of the imperial laws.10
Petilian: You wicked persecutor… under [the] name of peace you wage war with kisses, under [the] title of unity you [try] to ensnare the race of men.”11
Augustine: Was it my duty to [prevent] these measures?… No! Let the kings of the earth serve Christ by making laws for Him and for His cause.12
Petilian: But what have you to do with the kings of this world? … You draw them by the defilement… of your falsehood… over to your wickedness… that they… should think… they are doing the work of Christ if they kill us whom you hate…. The Lord Christ [says]: “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is doing God service…”13 So you too do not cease to murder us… For even if you do not murder a man with your hands, you do not cease to do so with your butcherous tongues.14
Augustine: (angrily turning his back on Petilian and addressing the officer) Christian Judge, be not provoked by the atrocity of their sinful deeds…. Do not lose now that fatherly care which you maintained when you extracted the confession of such horrid crimes, not by stretching them on the rack,… not by scorching them with flames, but by beating them with rods (hands officer a large stick). The necessity for harshness is greater in the investigation, in searching out a hidden crime, in making inquisition.15
As the organ music drones, the officer leads Petilian off stage left.
Chorus: Those were the words of Saint Augustine.
Non-Christian: Did you hear that? He said, “inquisition”! You know what that means, don’t you? I mean, everybody’s heard of the Inquisition.
Chorus: What did the Founding Fathers of America think? Listen to the words of Thomas Jefferson.
The lilting melody of “Shenandoah” rises, and from stage left a masked figure enters with white hair tied back at the neck, wearing a sign, which reads, “THOMAS JEFFERSON.”
Jefferson: Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned. What has been the effect of [such] coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites...16 (pauses and gathers intensity)
The care of every man’s soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglects the care of it? Well, what if he neglects the care of his health or [property] ... ? Will the [government] make a law that he shall not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others, but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.17
Christian Girl: That’s right! I’m so glad that the Founding Fathers put into law the liberties that came from the Protestant Reformation!
Voice 1: But is America really founded on Protestant principles?
Voice 2: What did the Reformers stand for?
Voice 3: What did the Americans stand for?
Chorus: Listen to the words of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson: (reads) We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights... - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, (speaking with special emphasis) that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government…. (Jefferson withdraws to edge of stage area)
From stage left enters a masked, bearded figure with a hood, wearing a sign, which reads, “GERMAN PEASANT.” He looks nervously about, then addresses the audience.
Peasant: We tried to exercise these rights in Germany 500 years ago. We had been poor peasants for generations. We worked for the nobles in their fields. We hunted for our own food in the woods and streams and meadows. Then they raised our taxes. They even taxed us when our relatives died. They outlawed us hunting for our food. We were oppressed, so we asked the nobles to set us free. We appealed to them as our Christian brothers. We said, “Christ has delivered and redeemed us all... the lowly as well as the great… We should be free, and wish to be so…18 Martin Luther had preached against injustice, so we hoped that he would help us. At first he urged the nobles to be fair. But then fighting broke out. And within days Dr. Luther was calling for our blood...
The thunderous chords of “A Mighty Fortress is our God” reverberate in the air. From stage right enters a heavy-set masked figure with a large 16th-century cap, wearing a sign, which reads, “MARTIN LUTHER.”
Chorus: Listen to the words of Martin Luther.
Voice 1: “Father of the Protestant Reformation.”
Voice 2: Hear his advice to the nobles.
Voice 3: Hear what he told them to do.
Luther: Stab, beat, strangle to death whoever can. If you lose your life in doing so, blessed are you; you can never attain to a more blessed death. For you die in obedience to the divine word and command.19
Christian Girl: Martin Luther said that?
Luther: Preachers are the biggest killers of all. For they stir up the rulers to resolutely carry out their duties and to punish pests. I killed all the peasants in the riot; all of their blood is on my neck. But I blame it on our Lord God; it is He who commanded me to speak thus...20
Christian Girl: That’s horrible!
Luther: For the hand that carries the sword and kills is then no longer the hand of a man, and it’s not the man but God who hangs, who breaks on the wheel, who beheads, who kills and wages war. These are all His works and His judgment ...21
Voice 1: Following Luther’s advice, the nobles killed nearly 100,000 peasants.
Christian Girl: But ... but... there ought to be equality for all people! Rich and poor... black and white ... Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Jew...
Luther: Jew?! The Jews are brutes; their synagogues are pigstyes and ought to be burned. Moses would do it were he to come back to earth. They drag the Divine Lord in the mud; they live badly and on plunder. They are malicious beasts who ought to be wiped out like mad dogs.22
Chorus: These are the words of Martin Luther.
Christian Girl: That’s awful! Dr. Luther, how could you say such things? Don’t you know that no murderer has eternal life?
Luther walks away toward right and claps hands twice.
Peasant: (pleading with the audience) Be thankful for the liberties you have! Don’t give them away! Remember what you have heard today!
As the peasant speaks, the state officer enters from stage right, seizes him from behind, and leads him off stage left to the resounding strains of “A Mighty Fortress.” Luther watches for a moment and then exits stage right. The Christian Girl and the Non-Christian are left stunned.
Non-Christian: I don’t get it. The nobles were Christians, the peasants were Christians, and Martin Luther was a Christian… so how come…?
Christian Girl: Ohhh! That was so horrible! Luther sounded like… Adolf Hitler!
Non-Christian: Didn’t you know that’s who Hitler got his ideas from?
The delicate tune of “Shenandoah” rises from the crushing aftermath of “A Mighty Fortress” and Jefferson steps forward.
Jefferson: Religion is a matter which lies solely between a man and his God… he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship… the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions… the whole American people… declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” - thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.23 (withdraws to edge of playing area)
Christian Girl: (greatly relieved) Oh, yes, I know all about that. The First Amendment to the Constitution. It keeps the State out of the Church. We don’t want a “state church” that just does what the government tells it to.
Voice 1: But what about a “church state”?
Voice 2: What about a government that just does what the church tells it to?
Voice 3: Remember what happened in Geneva, Switzerland, under John Calvin!
“Onward Christian Soldiers” is played. From stage right enters a gaunt, masked figure with a long beard, wearing a sign, which reads, “JOHN CALVIN.”
Chorus: Listen to Calvin’s own words.
Calvin: Godly princes may lawfully compel obstinate and rebellious persons to worship the true God... for, though faith is voluntary, ...such methods are useful for [putting down] the [stubbornness] of those who will not yield until they are compelled.24
Non-Christian: He sounds just like Augustine!
Voice 2: Under Calvin’s influence the government of Geneva executed 58 people and banished 76 others.
Voice 3: The most famous execution was that of Michael Servetus in 1553.
Enter a masked figure with a goatee and 16th-century cap, and a sign, which reads, “MICHAEL SERVETUS.”
Servetus: I, Michael Servetus, am called a Unitarian. I questioned the doctrine of the trinity. I fled from persecution in France, only to find myself stranded in Geneva, waiting for a ferryboat. The ferry did not run on Sunday. Knowing that everyone in Geneva was required by law to attend church on Sunday, I made an appearance in church. I was immediately recognized and imprisoned. At my trial, I was convicted of denying the trinity and rejecting infant baptism. Even though heresy was no longer a death penalty offense, Calvin called for my execution. The government complied, and for these opinions of mine, I was burned at the stake. As the flames reached my face I shrieked in agony. I burned for another half hour before I finally died. I am only one of many who suffered such treatment in a “church state” where government just does what the church tells it to.25
Calvin: God does not even allow whole towns and populations to be spared, but will have the walls torn down and the memory of the inhabitants destroyed... lest the [contagious disease] spread.26
Calvin points to Servetus and the state officer seizes him and takes him off stage left.
Non-Christian: (indignant) This is disgusting! How can these people act this way and claim to know God?
Calvin: (turns on the Non-Christian, malignantly) Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime... There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks... We spare not kin nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.27
As the final strains of “Onward Christian Soldiers” reverberate, Calvin exits stage right.
Chorus: Those were the words of John Calvin.
Voice 1: Father of the Reformed Churches.
Voice 2: Father of the Presbyterian Churches.
Voice 3: Father of the Congregational Churches.
Chorus: Listen well and learn.
Jefferson steps forward.
Jefferson: I can never join Calvin in addressing his God. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was demonism. If ever man worshipped a false God, he did. ... Not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent Governor of the world, but a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all than to blaspheme Him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin.28
Jefferson withdraws to his place at far left.
Christian Girl: I never even heard these things! Why didn’t they teach me this in school? Didn’t they want me to know?
Voice 1: Do you know who Roger Williams was?
Voice 2: He founded the state of Rhode Island.
Voice 3: He was one of the first to suffer persecution in America.
Chorus: He understood separation of church and state.
From stage left a masked figure in simple Pilgrim attire enters, wearing a sign which reads, “ROGER WILLIAMS.”
Williams: Like many others in the 1600s, I came to America seeking freedom - the freedom to live by my conscience and speak my convictions. In England, where I was born, it was dangerous to be honest and sincere. The Church of England was a state church, deeply involved in English politics. She persecuted anyone who spoke openly of her corruption. My only hope of refuge was in the Colonies.
The Puritan settlers of Massachusetts said they wanted the Church to be pure. This was also my desire. But when I arrived in Boston I found them unwilling to sever their ties with the English state church. I could not therefore join their church, without sharing in the bloody guilt of persecution that stained the Church of England.
For a while I settled in Salem, and spoke freely there, but in October of 1635 I was summoned to court to answer for my “new and dangerous opinions.” Swiftly I was found guilty of heresy and banished from the colony. They denied me the common air to breathe in. What were my offenses? One, claiming that civil government had no right to enforce religious opinions, and two, saying that we should not take land from the Native American tribes without payment. I was given until mid-November to leave Massachusetts. When I continued to speak my opinions in my own home, officers were sent to arrest me.
They did not find me. Forced to leave my wife and three small children, I fled into the winter miseries of a howling wilderness. During fourteen weeks I wandered with scarcely any food, sheltered only in the smoky lodges of the natives. The mercy and compassion that I was denied by my so-called “Christian brothers” I found among the so-called “godless heathens.”
From my experience I learned the necessity of the separation of church and state. Only then can liberty of conscience be upheld for every person.
As the droning organ music rises the masked figure with mitre enters from stage right, wearing a sign, which reads, “THE POPE.”
Chorus: Listen to the words of Pope Gregory the Sixteenth.
Voice 1: Spoken in 1832!
Pope: It is an absurd... opinion, ...a form of madness, which declares that liberty of conscience should be... maintained for everyone.”29
Chorus: Listen to the words of Pope Leo the Thirteenth.
Voice 1: Spoken in 1888!
Pope: It is a crime for private individuals and a crime for states ... to treat different religions in the same way ... The Church judges it is not lawful that the various kinds of divine worship should have the same right as the true religion.30 It is in no way lawful to demand, to defend, or to grant, [unrestrained] freedom of thought, of speech, of writing, or of religion, as if they were so many rights which nature had given to man.31
The Pope exits stage right.
Christian Girl: Did you hear that? The Pope said that! Oh, my goodness! This is scary! You don’t think it could happen here, do you? (ends up down right)
Voice 1: What happens when Church and State mix?
Voice 2: What does history teach us?
Voice 3: Where is the world headed now?
Chorus: Are you ready for what is coming next?
As the organ music drones, the Pope enters stage right between Calvin and Luther and places his arms around them. The “heretics” are brought in stage left and made to kneel in a group by the hooded figure of the state officer, who then takes his place next to the religious leaders. Leader of Chorus steps forward and addresses the audience.
Leader: Have you ever wondered why it’s the people with good doctrine who persecute and kill the people with bad doctrine, and not the other way around? These things may not make sense to you now, but if you admire these men as “great men of God,” then one day the spirit that convinced them to take the lives of people who disagreed with them will probably convince you to do the same. This spirit was not the one that communicated to men like Thomas Jefferson the worth of human beings and the rights they were given by God. In fact, it was to keep that murderous spirit at bay that the founders of this country erected a wall of separation between church and state. Consider what happens under a “Christian nation,” where religion and politics mix. Consider the horrors that have always taken place when church and state marry. This will only come about in America if you allow that protective wall of separation to come tumbling down.