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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Seperation of Church and State

It seems that every time I turn around I hear more and more arguments for the separation of church and state, as though there was some physical hedge or wall that the people or government could actually increase to keep these two amorphous entities from connecting. It is true that our nation was so gun shy of a State-sponsored religion that it made certain provisions to guarantee that no such model would carry over to the new U.S.A. However, it is also true that the Enlightenment thinkers who framed the constitution (I say framed because they in no way filled in the paint-by-number portrait that exists today, they only set up parameters for such a document) sought out a supreme explanation for God, humanity, politics, and society through the faculties of reason. Unfortunately, for many of us under 45 this has most obviously failed. We are seeking to understand the world as it is presented to us, rather than setting up Procrustean frameworks that uncomfortably demonstrate our knowledge.
But what does all of this have to do with keeping the government out of the pulpit? Everything. However, it's not what you might think. I am no segregationist preacher; I happen to think that the Church should and must have a voice in the political arena, as such is that gateway to the official social arena in which we minister. You'll not hear a separate-but-equal argument from me concerning the establishment of religion nor it mirror image in government; I personally think it's all a puppet show. Here's what I mean. In all of the arguments made for the separation of church and state we hear that a union of the two would have disastrous effects on our communities. However, it is plain to me that a law-school version of this separation is completely impractical and in many ways unnecessary and unwanted. About an hour ago my church hosted its annual back-to-school luncheon for the local ISD teachers, staff, and administrators. This event is held in the context of the local church as the primary avenue of support for the schools. We pray for the coming church year, we pray for the students and teachers, we pray for their families. We eat together, we fellowship, we declare our support for the progress of education in our community. Above all, we pledge to act as a single entity, a single body in this town. Oh, and just for the statisticians out there, today we had 95% of all teachers, staff, and administrators voluntarily attend our meal.
All of this goes to say that on the practical level there is no separation of church and state. As long as both the church and the state are made up of people, and as long as the church ministers to people, and as long as God still works in and through people, there can be no authentic separation. I understand that the law students and the legislators and those driven by materialism will argue this on both a philosophical level and a practical level, my vision of the church and the world allows for no such division; we are one, and we are all called by the same God to act according to his nature and his purposes. I have never been prouder of my people or my community than I am today. May the Lord make this a blessed year in both church and state.

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