You say you want a secession; well you know, we all want to change the world. Hopefully, your reaction to the recent post-election secession petitions included at least a little laughter—after all, asking the white house for permission to secede is pretty funny. However, considered as acts of symbolical protest, the petitions are another significant indication of the deep dissatisfaction and division within our nation. And while the authors of some of those petitions may have conceived of them as nothing more than protests, there was and is a seriousness among some of the folks involved—a “wouldn’t it be nice if we could secede” kind of sentiment. The reality of state secession in the near future is probably very slim, especially considering the responses of some governors, but the principle may still warrant some consideration.
I call this little essay—or foray, or attempt, or what-you-will—“Why Kuyperians Won’t Secede” because Kuyperian thought seems to offer one of the more obvious challenges to the remarks I’m about to make. I want to claim that secession is at odds with the religious duty of a Christian. Immediately, the notion of sphere sovereignty could be invoked in order to argue that, in fact, secession is a question for the civil/political sphere while Christian duty is a question of the religious sphere; that our civil citizenship should be considered distinct from our (religious) Kingdom citizenship. This is only a problem on the surface, though. The important (Kuyperian) distinction between those two citizenships is precisely what makes the possibility of justifiable secession so unlikely.
Only when we begin to conflate our Kingdom citizenship with our civil citizenship can we seriously conceive of guarding the former (and the privileges thereof) with the intensity we ought to reserve for guarding the latter (and the privileges thereof). The discussion gets a little awkward, however, when we realize that our own nation was conceived out of something very closely resembling that conflation. A conviction that the state ought to safeguard life, liberty, etcetera is right and good, but our particular formulation of those goods as certain “inalienable rights” is a formulation that smacks of Deism—a belief system in which the political sphere takes on a truncated importance because God is not an immanent deity interested in defending or vindicating His Church. If the privileges safeguarded by our civil citizenship come to encompass not only life, liberty, etc. but the life of the soul, the liberty of the spirit, etc. then secession—trading a government that safeguards those privileges poorly for one that safeguards them well (we’re still assuming, for the sake of argument, that any civil govt. could safeguard them at all)—is not just an option, it’s an imperative. However, keeping the sphere-distinction in mind like good Kuyperians, we realize that civil citizenship only confers the kinds of privileges we are called to hold loosely.
Our civil citizenship is the gift that allows us to serve and bless the city. We don’t see St. Paul making use of his civil citizenship to hold property or to vote, but to get to Rome with the Gospel. And it’s no good nodding in agreement and then maintaining that secession is simply there as a “last resort,” because that does as much good for fostering good statesmanship as keeping a divorce attorney on retainer does for fostering marital cooperation. God is faithful; bless the city (excellent practical guidance for doing so can be found here) and the city will become (or return to being) a place worth living.