The Inseparability of Church and StateRich Stigall
It was Puritan minister Roger Williams who first alluded to the separation of church and state, noting a “hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” In an 1802 letter, Thomas Jefferson further popularized the concept, and the constitutional principle was borne.
In our extremes, we take this edict and consider there to be a complete and utter gap between the government and the state. We proclaim the freedoms that we have, decrying any mesh between the two. Yet, I know a few employees of Uncle Sam, and I met them in the pew.
If we truly are a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, then the government must be composed of one critical element: people. People that we greet with a friendly smile as we hastily rush through the church doors on our way to a service or class. Or, people who we pray for, hoping for that opportunity to engage and to invite into the church. All in all, the government is simply people, and people have needs.
We were reminded of the needs and struggles of daily life as part of a recent Care Portal request. This request was a cry from a local government worker, praying for a different involvement by the church. In fact, the request was a request for prayer, for a local child welfare agency had been shaken by the passing of one of its family members. Two churches responded, committing to pray for the hurting family and the child welfare agency.
When we unite our lives with others, there’s a bonding of grief and celebration, sorrow and joy. It’s simply people engaging people, which sounds a lot like a mandate to the church. When the Great Commission becomes our hearts’ submission, we’re far more concerned with a spiritual omission rather than an administrative permission. It’s life on a mission, with the end goal of meeting the needs of others.
I hope that others are excited about this emerging church/state partnership. It’s a unique opportunity, one dictated neither by law nor force. And, to be frank, that’s something that even Thomas Jefferson could get behind.
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