The website poll has declared "Politics and Faith" the subject for tonight's adult excursion into the intersection of our faith and everything else. This topic is fascinating for a variety of reasons. First of all, virtually no politician can rise to the national ranks without a stance on faith. If I say JFK and faith, one will think of the Roman Catholic Church. If I say Jimmy Carter and faith, one will think of a Southern Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia (although President Carter is no longer Southern Baptist, I'll explain that one tonight) and President Obama received much scrutiny for his membership at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. During the last presidential campaign, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, made this statement at a high profile speech on faith:
Almost 50 years ago, another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. Like him, I am an American running for President. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.
It might be fair to say that many public leaders have made similar statements. A question I would like to explore tonight – is a statement such as this valid for a person of faith?
St Paul also has some interesting statement on our relationship with civil authorities. There is also a very interesting document by 3rd century Church Father, Hippolytus of Rome that says concerning those who could be admitted to the catechumenate (baptism preparation): If someone is a military governor,a or the ruler of a city who wears the purple, he shall cease or he shall be rejected.
This will be a very good discussion. If you can't make it tonight, I hope these questions and thoughts will stir some theological thinking today. Until tomorrow, here's a collect in keeping with the theme of this morning's email:
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Book of Common Prayer, page 820
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Fr. Steve Rice
Rector, St Timothy's Episcopal Church