[The following was adapted from Mr. Linton's remarks at the January 4th Consent of the Goverened rally in Jefferson City, Missouri.]
It is refreshing to read the preamble of the Missouri state constitution. It shows the wisdom of the men and women who formed our government. It provides their view of the justification for government. The preamble of the constitution reads as follows:
We the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness, do establish this constitution for the better government of the state.
The foundation for the government of the state of Missouri is reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Who is this Supreme Ruler? I would like to address that question, but before I do I would like to discuss one possible objection.
Someone may ask whether this preamble violates the separation of church and state. I suspect that most of you are aware that the language of separation of church and state is nowhere to be found in the constitution of the United States. That language was first applied to the federal government through the First Amendment in 1878 by the US Supreme Court and later applied to the states in 1947 by that same august body. The language itself comes from Thomas Jefferson in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. Jefferson was not even in the country during the debate of the First Amendment. It is a complete mystery to me how his words could be taken as an interpretation of the First Amendment when he was not present for the debate. To now allow that language to be used as a mantra to rid the nation of its Christian heritage is a travesty. And Missouri’s constitution is evidence of that travesty.
Rather than quoting someone who was not present during the debate on the First Amendment, I would prefer to quote someone who was there. This man said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This command, we know as the great commission, is worthy of your reflection in this New Year. Consider it in this election year. What does it mean for our state and our nation?
I would like to make several points regarding this pronouncement. My comments will not be exhaustive. Many of you will have to flesh it out in the days to come. But I do have some preliminary comments. First, Jesus is the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Note that he claims all authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto him. This is no hollow claim, and it is no hollow recognition by the framers of the Missouri Constitution that they hold reverence to the Supreme Ruler o f the Universe as the foundation of Missouri’s government. Therefore, the Missouri constitution is a covenant between God and the people to conduct themselves in accordance with that relationship, to be in subjection to him.
Second, and likely most importantly, Jesus came to make disciples of nations. Notice that he did not say, go and have people ask for me into their hearts. He did not say I have come to create a new philosophy for you. He commanded much more. He came to change the world by making disciples of all nations. He came to create a new world to follow him. The unfortunate thing about speaking of “Christianity” is that it can be portrayed as a philosophy, as simply a matter of the heart. If post modern culture is successful in portraying the faith of Christ as simply a philosophy it may put Christianity on the shelf with all of the other post modern philosophies and relegate it to irrelevancy. Jesus did not come to start a new philosophy. He came to change the world by changing nations.
Third, when Jesus pronounced this command, he made it to his eleven disciples. He made it to those who would found his new Church. He made it to the Church. The institutional Church has authority in this world to execute the change that Christ initiated. I am not claiming that the Church should exert some ruling authority over the state. But I am claiming that there is a place for the institutional Church to reassert its role in the dialogue of the proper authority of the Church and of the state. For example, the state has no authority in providing charity to the poor. When the state takes responsibility for charity, it does so by law and charity dies because it becomes legal obligation and no longer charity. The state exists to execute justice. When the state takes the property of some in order to redistribute it to others, it is doing the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do, execute justice. It is unjustly confiscating the lives of its people. Charity is the role of the Church and the Church should say so.
Likewise, the Church should reengage in its role in education. Education is the process whereby culture is transferred from one generation to the next. Education is by its very nature religious and cultural. It forms the way the next generation looks at the world. It forms the way we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. It informs what we occupy, whether Wall Street, our own homes, jobs and churches. The Church has its very existence in cultural formation as Jesus claimed. And it is time for the Church to say so.
Fourth, you have an obligation as well. When you speak to your elected officials, you must remember that you are not seeking your will but the will of Jesus. This requires wisdom. You must keep several things in mind. You are not speaking for yourself. You are speaking for another. You must know his thoughts and desires.
You must also remember that your elected official is ordained by God to his or her position. It is a position of honor that God has given that elected official and the position must be respected.
There is great honor in being an elected official in the state of Missouri, but there is also great obligation. Jesus expects the nations to bend the knee to his kingship. He expects them to be disciples. That is an awful position to be in as an elected official. How does an elected official carry out that responsibility? Certainly, there are consequences that flow from a proper or an improper execution of that task. Your job is to assist your elected official to fulfill that obligation if they so choose.
In closing, I say I am slow to speak of Christianity. What Christ gave us is not a philosophy. He gave us a culture. We must pass that culture on to the next generation. I prefer to speak of Christendom, the new culture Christ gave us. And I am optimistic about the role of Christendom in the future. Consider the Great Commission once again. Jesus claimed to have all authority in heaven and on earth. He also commanded his Church to make disciples of all nations. If he commands us to so act and he has all authority to bring our actions to success, what can possibly keeping him from completing that task?
David Linton is a licensed attorney in the state of Missouri with extensive experience in business and utility law, lobbying and political campaigns. He is also a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America with a Master of Arts degree in Exegetical Theology from Covenant Theological Seminary.
The comments contained in this editorial are the views of David Linton and do not necessarily reflect the views of his clients.