That seems like real bad news to me.
I am afraid of what this will mean for the Witness of the Church, when She decides to officially partner up with the State. I’m afraid of how the State will have the method to control the Church now – to tell her what to say, how to say it, because now money is flowing back and forth between the two institutions, lining pockets and influencing sermons, influencing votes, influencing which lectionary text to preach this coming Sunday.
I am afraid because the Church is a powerful witness when She stands outside the Capitol building and yells and prays and weeps. She has never, ever, historically been that powerful witness when She is allowed inside and given an official seat at the table. “When the Church and State get in bed, it is the Church that loses.” This always, always happens. The State consolidates its power with the help of the faithful, the State takes from the Church what it needs to conquer countries, imprison dissidents, and rule the world, and the Church is left a shell, its prophetic witness silent. Our Savior who was crucified by the State because of His threat to its power becomes just another “martyr” that the State uses for its own gain and power. The Church trades out the Kingdom of God for a Kingdom of this World, ironically imitating the socialists that the Christian Right has hated since Dostoevsky – aiming for heaven on earth, at the expense of preaching heaven at all.
I am not just worried about my conservative brothers and sisters. I am worried about how the liberal church will end up succumbing to this as well, substituting the Gospel of a Crucified and Risen Lord for a Gospel of social programs and activist work. If Christian conservatives swap out the Gospel of Jesus for a Gospel of No Sex, No Drugs, and Clean Living – Christian liberals can swap out the Gospel of Jesus for activism and social programs. And Lord knows I love activism and social programs. And Lord knows I think those are good and healthy and powerful things that the Gospel informs my participation in.
But then – the primary problem that I have with my Christian conservative brothers and sisters isn’t their sexual morality, or their ideas about small government, or even creeping nationalism. My struggle with many of my conservatives siblings is that they’ve substituted these political and moral commitments for their belief in the Gospel of a crucified and risen Lord, and no longer see them as distinct from each other. And that is something that every one of us, from every political and religious background, is vulnerable to.
We’re all vulnerable to our religious faith being subsumed under our political and social ideas, until we can’t see how it would be possible to have one without the other, and Jesus becomes just another way we support our political ideologies. And if this can happen with my conservative friends, Lord knows it can and does and has happened with my liberal friends and Christ have mercy it has happened with me.
And if all this can happen with legal separations that we as a country have put in place around the Church and politics, God have mercy on what havoc would be wrecked by that separation being destroyed. Maybe, perhaps, it’s too late. The alliances formed between the Church and the State in this past election and past decade seem to be already corrupting Her witness and decentering Her from the witness towards the Kingdom of God and now she is selling Her soul for a crown in the kingdoms of this earth.
My faith does and will always inform how I am an activist and how I write and how I vote, and I think Scripture is very, very clear that God prioritizes justice on a national scale in a way that does not allow the Church to be silent in the face of national and political issues. The Gospel of Jesus convinces and motivates and inspires me to fight for the least of these and fight against oppression.
But the Gospel always comes first. The Gospel – without political candidates quoting Scripture and trolling for donations – without trading votes in the Senate and House like trading cards for human lives – without meet and greets in the foyer of our Sacred space – without Jesus becoming a white-washed darling of State power and State violence and State immorality but always, always, crucified by the State that knew, at its heart, that undiluted and untamed and uncontrolled, Jesus Christ is a threat to the powers of this world. The State has a lot to gain from harnessing the Church’s power. The Church has everything to lose.