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Monday, January 15, 2018

Institutional Respect--Appropriate and Necessary

Today we honor Martin Luther King, Jr.  Consider for a moment why America so dearly needed him.  One of his last acts was to support a living wage for garbage collection laborers.  Now there was likely nothing illegal about the laborers’ terms of employment.  The workers may well have been told before employment what they would be paid.  There were probably no legal grounds for alleging dishonesty or deceit.  But MLK as a a Baptist minister was well acquainted with the ministry of Jesus.  The operative concern for Jesus was not a strict constructionist view of legality.  If it were, the perfect place for his ministry would have been within the Jewish religious hierarchy.  Rather than being a strict constructionist, he would willingly break laws when they inhumanely stood in the way of loving acts of kindness.  Laws (the “form” of righteousness) could in no way take the place of a loving spirit (the substance of righteousness). To do so would be counterproductive and sometimes even diametrically opposed to kindness (as well as wider views of justice).

Authentic Christianity can never, never thrive as a dogmatic theocratic form of state governance.  It boils down to a simple question of professional appropriateness.  For Christianity to usurp the role of secular governance would be to sabotage spiritual creativity and freedom.  The joy of Christianity would drown in a cesspool of corruption and greed.  The heart of Christianity is not a set of ideological doctrines that can be fashioned into theocratic state rules and regs to which all must bow down in idol worship.  (Theocratic Type A males enshrine themselves in governance, not Christ).  That is, so far as atheist and nonbelievers espy the dangers of theocracy, I do so even more. For as much as they cherish the state, I cherish the integrity of the Christian Way with ultimate regard—a Way, full-stop, not “holier than thou “ (than secular government).  But simply in the nature things, a line that must not be crossed institutionally for the good of all.

 I began acknowledging today’s tribute to MLK.   We are all aware that he heavily influenced public policy.  But to repeat, for Christianity to be effective it must respect the special God-given role of government.  Needless to say, if King had conspired to topple the state in order for it to be run by a cadre of Baptist ministers, I think we can all agree the likelihood is that the state would be worse off, the integrity of the Baptist Christian mission on permanent vacation on a LaLa Pacific island, and MLK honored in puffery but not in fact.  His dream, rather—thank God--was grounded in faith AND “Faith is the key to unlocking barriers” (Vinney Myers).