March 5, 2017
Because the Church is the Kingdom of God in the world, offering itself to the world as a new and different way of life, it does not seek ‘establishment’ by or in any otherwise secular government. The Church grows because people join it and submit to the sovereignty of God. Mr. Jefferson need fear no incursions from the Pope! But the Church has the right and the responsibility to judge every initiative, of whatever body, that impacts or seeks endorsement by her members against the patterns of the Kingdom. This is not the Church getting involved in politics. It is the Kingdom of God becoming visible in a specific place and time.
One of Vermont’s Episcopalian bishops came out years ago in favor of affordable housing for all. The Episcopalian publisher of a large Vermont daily – who opposed his bishop on this topic -- insisted that he should be granted equal time in the cathedral pulpit. The bishop responded that he did not give equal time to adulterers either!
What is opposed to the Kingdom of God does not become right or neutral because it becomes a political issue! The truth of God’s Kingdom is true even when there is not election cycle going on. By the same token, the political postures of one or other candidate or party – articulated to secure the votes of church-goers – do not amount to a mandate from the Kingdom of God to vote one way or another.
The Church speaks the truths of God’s Kingdom not to back one party or candidate, but to keep her membership aware of the sovereignty of God.
Make no mistake; citizenship can be hard for serious Christians. Since neither party nor almost any candidate is the “party of God” it is easy to scrap all Kingdom issues and select the ‘winner’ based on ‘non-religious’ issues (economic policies, immigration policies, educational policies, defense policies, welfare policies, etc.). But the fact is that this forfeiture of conscience in favor of ‘non-conscience’ issues is exactly what the Kingdom of God will not tolerate (even if it is what candidates and parties hope for). All issues that have an effect on our life together have relevance to the Kingdom which is God’s plan for our life together. For non-believers, the civil right to vote is sovereign. For
Catholics, the exercise of that right must be an expression of the sovereignty of God!
Not everyone was happy with Cardinal Bernardin’s concept of a ‘seamless ethic of life’. But he came as close with that as anyone ever has in articulating the absolute and universal claims that arise from the notion that God is King.
Obviously, the Catholic understanding of the church/state issue is different from almost every other one. The relationship she cares about is actually between the forces that touch our lives – the modern state is only one such; the devil is another, and so is cancer! -- and the Kingdom of God.
And all of this is by way of prelude to talking about Lent as a time to renew our allegiance and review of membership in the Kingdom of God that is socially present in the Church.
Really and truly and ‘regally’ yours,