The Immorality of Christian Secession

In the last essay, “The Idol of Christian Secession”, the issue of whether the unity of the United States was an idol for certain American Christians was dealt with. Having tackled that subject, it is now time to deal with an objection that certain Christians and traditionalists might raise against the idea of Christian secession: namely, that it is an immoral idea. Indeed, a potentially powerful objection that otherwise sympathetic Christians might have towards the idea of Christian secession is that they could claim that there is something morally wrong with splitting a country apart, especially a country like the United States. And if it actually was the case that secession was an immoral act, then this obviously would be a serious problem for the idea of Christian secession. So the key question is: Is there something immoral about the idea of secession?

In response to the claim that secession is immoral, it can be immediately answered that, intuitively and logically, there does not appear to be anything intrinsically wrong with the idea of secession. After all, secession is not the equivalent of a forced famine, or a genocide, or an unjust war; nor does secession require any of these things to occur, for it can easily be done in a peaceful and orderly manner. Thus, at a theoretical level, the concept of secession appears to be, at worse, morally neutral. And this perspective of secession as being morally neutral rather than immoral is played out in reality as well. After all, even though they seceded from each other in the early nineties, a person would be extremely hard-pressed to rationally justify the claim that the Czechs or the Slovaks are an immoral people because they engaged in secession; in fact, nearly no one today considers the Czechs or Slovaks to be evil or illegitimate because they divided Czechoslovakia in two. And numerous other examples of real secession-like events, where we do not consider the people “immoral” for seceding, could be given as well. For example, Britons who voted to leave the European Union were neither immoral nor evil for doing so; perhaps one could argue that they were misguided and made a poor political choice, but they were certainly not morally evil when they cast their vote for secession from Europe. Thus, even in daily life and on the international stage, secession, in and of itself, is not treated as a moral evil. Nor should it be. Now, it is true that the way in which some group secedes might be immoral—for example, if a secessionist group uses terrorism to achieve its ends, that would be immoral—but in such a case, it is the method by which the secession occurs that is evil, not the secession itself. So the manner that a group uses to secede must be clearly separated from the mere idea of secession, for, as stated, the mere concept of secession appears to be quite neutral from a moral perspective.

But perhaps the aforementioned conclusion is too hasty and too broad. After all, could not the following moral objection be made against secession: if the reasons for secession are frivolous, then secession, in such an instance, would be immoral. And indeed, there does seem to be something unsettling and questionable about dividing a country in two for merely trivial reasons. Yet even here, two problems exist with such an objection. First, it is highly doubtful that, practically-speaking, any group of people would wish to secede from another group for merely frivolous reasons; the reasons that the group may have for secession may appear trivial to outsiders, but those reasons are almost certainly not trivial to the group seeking secession. So that is the first point to note. But more importantly, the second point is that when looked at from a moral perspective, even frivolous secession is morally neutral so long as it is done in a humane way and is freely consented to by the parties involved. Indeed, so long as these conditions are met, there is nothing immoral about secession in such a case, even if this secession is apparently trivial. And the example of the peaceful and mutually agreed upon secession by the Czechs and the Slovaks once again comes to mind as a case in point of this fact; to many foreigners, the secession between these two groups was unnecessary and even appeared to revolve around trivial matters, and yet regardless of this fact, no one considered this secession to be a moral evil merely because it seemed unnecessary to outside observers.

However, the anti-secessionist Christian might launch an additional objection by claiming that secession is a type of country-wide divorce, and just as a marital divorce done for trivial reasons is immoral, then so too is a country-wide divorce. Now, in response to this, it can again be pointed out that it is highly doubtful that any group would seek secession for frivolous reasons. But at the same time, it also needs to be made clear that although the unity of a country is indeed similar to a marriage in many ways, it is dissimilar in at least one critical respect: namely, whereas a marriage is a divinely-sanctioned bond where a man and a woman become one flesh, the bond of different groups within a country is not a divine bond of a similar nature. Thus, for the Christian, whereas a frivolous divorce would indeed be immoral given that such a divorce would be separating a divinely-sanctioned bond for no good reason, the same cannot be said for the divorce of groups within a country. At worst, a national divorce would be the breaking of an unwritten contract of unity between different groups within a country, and nothing more. And so, as stated, so long as such a contract was broken humanely and with the agreement of all parties, there is little to view as immoral in such an outcome. Thus, for the Christian, even frivolous secession is not necessarily immoral.

Yet, in light of the last point, what if certain American Christians actually do believe that the United States is somehow a divinely-ordained and divinely-protected country? Indeed, what if a Christian from the United States believes that his country has been bestowed some special divine blessing and bond—like a Christian marriage—thus making secession in the case of the United States somehow immoral, even if it would not be so for another country. Well, to this, two things can be said. First, even if a Christian accepts the relatively questionable claim that the creation and continued existence of the United States has somehow been divinely-sanctioned, given where the country is today, both socially and morally, it is doubtful that the divine hand still blesses America in any special way. Second, even if, for the sake of argument, it is accepted that the United States is still a country with a divine blessing on it, the American Christian must nevertheless consider the fact that if God was willing to divide the Kingdom of Solomon into two separate kingdoms (Israel and Judah) because of Solomon’s sin (1 Kings 11:9-13), then the same divine fate could be just as much in-store for the United States today—possibly due to America’s own present sins. Thus, even if the United States is still some kind of divinely-blessed country, secession is not necessarily immoral in such a case, nor is it necessarily against God’s will that such secession occurs. Furthermore, as an important side-point, it is also note-worthy that in the Biblical narrative about the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), God Himself was the author of a type of secession amongst different people; and this very fact should give pause to any Christian who claims that secession is inherently immoral, or unbiblical, or not desired by God.

Finally, given that the United States is itself a country born of revolution and secession, it must be said that there is something deeply ironic about any broadly anti-secessionist Christian who nevertheless views America with affection and love. Indeed, there is a certain level of inconsistency in the thinking of any Christian who has a deep affection for the United States, but who simultaneously views any instance of secession as immoral. After all, by such a Christian’s own standards, the United States should be seen as an immoral country given its secessionist founding—or at least it should be seen as a country birthed in immorality. And yet it is highly doubtful that many conservative or traditionalist anti-secessionist Christians view the United States in this negative way, which means that either their positive affection for America is misguided or their reasoning about secession is incorrect. And what is rather clear is that the affection such anti-secessionist Christians feel for the United States is quite rational and normal, which means that it is most likely their antipathy to the idea of secession which is incorrect. Thus, the very fact that such anti-secessionist Christians and traditionalists live in and love a secessionist and revolutionary country like the United States should help to show any such Christians that secession, as an idea, is not something to be viewed as inherently or generally immoral.

So, in the end, no Christian should view the idea of secession as intrinsically evil or immoral, even in the case of the United States. There is, in fact, nothing to the idea of secession that makes it anything worse than morally neutral. And as the next essay in this series will argue, far from being merely morally neutral, in many cases, secession is the most moral course of action that a country can take to solve the issues troubling it. Indeed, as will be argued in that future essay, rather than secession being immoral, what is truly immoral is maintaining a false and forced unity on a fundamentally divided and oppositional people, especially when secession for such people would be an entirely viable option. That is real immorality. And it is precisely that sort of evil that Christian secession seeks to avoid.

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