Monday, September 22, 2008

The Church and The State

I have been thinking about the interface of Church and State, lately.

Today First Thing on the Square had a post on "The Real Problem With Bishops". In this entry, it was argued that Biden, Pelosi, and other Catholics in public office needed to represent the Catholic Church's stance on social issues. One bishop even took the stance of denying communion to politicians.

This intrigues me. On one hand, the Church wants public officials to represent Them in public office, excluding everyone else's conscience, while on the other hand, this one bishop felt that the political position itself was 'unholy" enough to deny communion.

I have also read where there is academic understaking of how the Jews/Judiasm identified themselves in ancient history.

Why all of this quadmire? Because the Church can't define itself in today's climate of globalization, and individuality.

While I can understand and agree that the Church on one hand must define what it means to be a part of the Church, how does that affect a member's participation in the "world"?

I think Niebuhr's model of the cultural interface, and the Quadralateral hold some promise of understanding and starting the dialogue across the spectrum of beliefs in the Church.

Niebuhr understood the call to the Church to be "in the world but not of it" in four ways....
The Christ IN Culture is the Scriptural part of the Quadralateral. This represents the Christ figure's role in the world. This challenge is not without understanding the Church's place within the Jewish Tradition and understanding its connection to other religious traditions.

The Christ OF Culture is Tradition's role, as far as understanding the values of the Church.

The Christ ABOVE Culture is Experience's role, in affirming that God is still above the world.

The Christ AGAINST Culture is Reason's role of critique in and of the Church.

While understanding that the Church must have a voice, the Church must alos allow difference to other voices. This means that there would be a stark difference between the Church and Islam in regards to "Law" and opennes to other traditions, understandings, etc. The Church is not called to oppress in the name of religion, nor to become a Kingdom of this World and its Systems and understandings of itself. The Church is not God, but an instrument of God.

The Church, as a political institution, should not forget its first mission and call to alleviate the suffering in the world. This first call is multi-dimensional.
Any Christian is called to this position,.
The individual's alleviation of suffering is found within the Church's doors, whether in counselling, charitable service, pastoral ministry.

The Church should also not forget it's call to permeate the public discourse so that its voice is heard loudly, boldly and clearly. These are those whose call is to the political or public service areas of mission and service. These are offices of public service.

In a free society, such as America, the Church should not just beome political in its understandings of itself. A political institution does not bring a redemptive message to those who have no hope. This mission is a domestic and foreign mission of charity, and human rights. Therefore, the Church and State should remain in separate spheres of influence, otherwise, those who disagree in regards to conscience, could not disagree, for fear of intimidation from the Church. The Church should always have an open ear to others.

The Church's message must be open to change, so that its message is accommodating to reason's challenges. Reason is the Church's friend, for reason is universal in scope and should be a mission of development in education.

The sacred and secular realms should understand themselves as opened before each other and influencing the other in growth and pertinence and relavance to society. The American Experiment is, after all, a unique one.

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