Church…State???

Earlier this summer I had occasion to be driving from the UP of Michigan back to Iowa. I stopped for lunch in Appleton and ordered a burger at a local Culvers.  As I was eating I looked out the window and across the street could see a simple office building, nicely maintained with a sign I could only partly see – but what I could see said, “…..rch Society.”  I immediately wondered whether the John Birch Society still existed and whether this might be its office.  And indeed it does still exist and there, across the street from the Appleton, Wisconsin, Culvers is its headquarters.

 

Some of you will have no idea what this “John Birch Society” might be, but others will recognize this name as being synonymous with hardline libertarianism and rabid anti-communist agitation in the 1960’s and beyond.

 

It prompted me to wonder whether there was a connection between the infamous and ‘red-baiting” richreading 20130502Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy. In fact, there isn’t.  Sen. McCarthy died (in disgrace) a year prior to the founding of the John Birch Society.  Even so, it is fair to say that the spirit of Senator Joe McCarthy was embraced by the founders of the JBS.

 

Joe McCarthy is today widely considered to have been a demagogue. He smeared the reputations of countless individuals in government, entertainment, the military and education with flimsy charges of communist affiliation or sympathy.  He conducted congressional hearings to ferret out these supposed communists and those hearings were carried live on the fledging television networks of the day.  These hearings mesmerized the nation.  Their most memorable line came from an Army attorney who challenged McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”  In less than three years McCarthy had died, at the age of 48.

 

What might any of this buy levitra online australia have to do with Christian faith? A lot, I think.  In this country we decided long ago that there would never be a formal connection between religion and state and enshrined that decision in the first amendment to our constitution.

 

This so-called “separation of church and state” (not language of the amendment itself, by the way), has led to much confusion about what role churches and people of faith might have in the political processes of our nation. In fact, of course, as church we are purveyors of morality and ethics.  But we are not promulgators of law.  As we approach another presidential election – one that might be the most gutter in living memory – I am convinced that people of faith must bring that faith and its teachings and convictions to the public square.  For example, it is, assuredly, not illegal to be bigoted, but it is immoral and as people of faith we must say so.  As people oriented to styles of life characterized by grace and forgiveness and justice-doing, and honesty and forbearance and joy and peace and especially love, we must not shrink from the imperative of commenting on the morality of public discourse and process.  As people who follow Jesus, we have a stake in the welfare of all and we must not shrink from critique of words and proposals which demean and defame and divide the body politic.

 

It is not only true that there is but one church, it is also true that there is but one human family. Let us be bold and courageous in the defense of that one family.

 

With great hope!

Rich Pleva
Conference Minister
United Church of Christ in Iowa

One comment on “Church…State???

  1. Charles Pleak on said:

    Well written. I preached a similar message at the all community church service on July 3, that everyone had the duty to be involved.

    Blessings to you,
    Charles

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