Wednesday, October 10, 2012

october synchroblog: faith and the public square

In this Pentecostal reign of the Spirit, God is constantly at work in individuals, groups, institutions, and in the church. In plain theology, nothing is outside the sovereignty of Jesus Christ; there are no checks and balances. The Constitution of the USA says religion shall not be established nor the free exercise thereof interfered with, and along with many others, this country has a long history of institutional separation with functional interaction between church and government.

As soon as humans moved from hunter-gathering into settlements, they became political creatures. People gradually discovered more-or-less organized ways to engage together to define local and national boundaries, regulate trade, make laws for commerce, and provide for citizen safety. You get the idea!

We're blogging specifically about "faith and the public square." A theocracy? Probably not a good idea for many many reasons, though we know they originally modeled and still hold New England Town Meetings after the biblical model of the summoned assembly, the ecclesia. But a king like the rulers of those other nations? That's also a bad idea. In elementary school we heard about taxation without representation being tyranny and learned to recognize good government as government for the people, by the people.

Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we renounce sin, death, evil, hatred, and the devil; we embrace God's values of love, justice, freedom, truth, and resurrection. We begin a lifetime of living in the world and for the world as the prophets called us, as Jesus showed us. Living justly and acting rightly includes protecting and providing for society's most vulnerable, creating good overall working conditions, feeding the hungry (not with leftovers, but with good stuff), stewarding creation well, campaigning to depose bad guys from crooked leadership and elect better ones. In some cases a lone individual can make a real difference; at other times, a group or more intentionally political effort yields better results. Beyond voting on election day, anyone's direct engagement with governmental processes varies tremendously in terms of how, when, where, with whom.

Whatever any individual Christian's involvement in bringing their faith, values, and voices to the "public square" concerning commerce, trade, immigration, education, or other concerns, almost everyone celebrates Holy Communion together.1 The Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, is God's sign of the new covenant of love, justice, and reconciliation in Jesus' blood; it is Passover, Exodus, Jubilee, and more. We celebrate the Lord's Supper on behalf of all the world, which (of course!) includes individuals, groups, institutions, agencies, and other entities. Jesus commanded us, "Do this!" This religious ritual? Yes. In doing so we create a microcosm of a redeemed world, of the new creation. "Do this?" Pour out our lives as Jesus did, break bread to feed a hungry world, break our bodies open to mend a broken creation. As we keep celebrating the sacred togetherness of Holy Communion in more-or-less organized ways to help heal the planet and heal ourselves, we make a serious religious and political statement, whether or not we frequent that "public square" to assert our theological and political claims.

1 The Religious Society of Friends - "Quakers" - and The Salvation Army are the two denominations I'm aware of that have no formal ordinances/sacraments.

Other October synchroblog participants include:

We The People by Wendy McCaig

Pulpit Freedom, Public Faith by Carol Kuniholm

Plumbers and Politicians by Glenn Hager

Conflating Faith and Politics by Maurice Broaddus

You Cannot Serve Two Masters by Sonja Andrews

Would Jesus Vote by Jeremy Myers

A Kingdom Not Of This World by Jareth Caelum

I am a Christian and I am a Democrat by Liz Dyer

5 ways to make it through the election and still keep your friends by Kathy Escobar

God’s Politics? by Andrew Carmichael

Why There’s No Such Thing As The Christian Vote by Marta Layton

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