For most pastors, the question of how the church should relate to the state and to the society and culture around it arises in a very mundane way—in the form of a phone call asking you to deliver an invocation at a meeting of the city council or the PTA, or at a school sports banquet. Whenever this happens, I agonize a bit about it. Should I baptize a secular event with a little piety?
The intersection of religion, government and social needs is where this journal has positioned itself throughout its history, so I accepted an invitation from the Aspen Institute to listen in on a discussion of the Bush administration’s faith-based initiative.
My instructor in Sabbath-keeping was not a professor or a spiritual director, but a foreman at the East Chicago Inland Steel plant named Mike Paddock. His wife was the treasurer of the tiny congregation I served as a student pastor, and she wrote my salary check twice a month.
In Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose describes the pivotal day when Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their tiny band of explorers sent their large keel boat back down the river to St. Louis. The boat had carried all of their supplies, weapons and ammunition. It had served as a secure refuge from attack. Now it was gone and they were headed west, toward the Pacific Ocean, alone.
I love the story of the four men who carry their paralyzed friend to see Jesus and can’t get close because of the crowd. Undeterred, they carry him to the roof and lower him right into the middle of the crowd to the feet of Jesus.