In Statu Confessionis
The Church must always be in a state of confession. If the Church were to remain in a constant state of confession, there is some small possibility that the Church might never have to reach the state of crisis in which the state might imperil itself by negating the work of the Holy Church.
The Church is Holy, the State is Not-Sacred in itself, or the State would be mentioned in the Kingdom to Come. The State possesses a Holy function, yes, but is not Holy in and of itself; only in its function is the State Holy, and only so long as it remains within its limited function. The Holy function of the State is this; to maintain law and order in moderation, not in the extreme, in order to allow the Church to work out its Holy Essence. The Church is Holy and functions. The State is Holy only as it functions and its function is circumscribed.
The State is able to sing, “Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.” The Church is motivated to add, “Go, tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
For those few still reading, explore with me a moment more. Christ, the pure expression of God-ness, enters the world to create the (confessing) Church. This is not the local expression of congregation only, but the Church for the world. A person might express the gospel of the Christ without ever setting foot in the walls of a “church-house.” Christian faith is a “Go-Tell,” not a “Come-Hear.” The “Come-Hear” produces the bloated almost believer, who will finally act as if he (he is almost always male) can decide who has it and who lacks it; indeed, he is the fellow who decides what it is, if there is an it at all.
A State in Holy function may virtually ignore the Holy Church. No matter. The State, to behave correctly, must only maintain order, allowing the Church to concentrate on its mission. The Church cheapens the State when she (the Church) refuses her mission. The State imperils the Church when it denies her the confessing order. When the State divorces the Church, often by forcing her into marriage, the State loses its most valuable servant.
When does the State step out of its Holy function? We might see at least three possibilities, each of which we examine as we look back at them, from the action of the confessing Church.
- When the State will not allow the Church to question its (the State’s) actions. The State is awesome in its temporal power. One cannot imagine the end of the State, but the State will end, swallowed up in a “lake of fire.” The Church will endure. The Kingdom of Christ, like the Society of Eden, is that place where life is eternal and death is limited. The New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven, is the Stateless Kingdom, where God rules and humans celebrate God. The State Temporal, as we know it now, ends and it must accept that limit (of time) and this limit, of power in scope. The State can be too much law and order, such that the gospel work is deterred, or it can be too focused on its aim at one group of persons within the culture, as the Jews under the Nazis, or Blacks in the United States during slavery and Jim Crow. In each of these examples, the Church was invited to be an ally of the State, offered inducements to join against the smaller groups and rewarded for its pathetic silence. The Church, to be in confession, must be prophetic, which will mean to reject the polluted aims of a totalitarian state, even if that works to her (the Church’s) temporal disadvantage.
- When the State confuses its voice with the voice of God. When this occurs, as it almost inevitably does, the State creates victims. Impoverished people are kept away from wealth, sick people from healing medicine, disenfranchised persons from the vote. The Church speaks for the victims created by the unholy functions of the State. The gospel message of Truth to Power is this; there is no power but God. The Church has an unquestioned obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if their own poor choices contribute to their hopeless position. Hope must be held out to the hopeless, and it must be real hope, something for now and more for later, which is the reckoning of hope for us all.
- When the State, through its actions, creates a machinery by which persons can and will be victimized, the Church should not only sop up the blood from the nearest crushed body. The Church must point to the broken bones and declare, with Nathan, to the State, “You are the guilty party.” Granted, it is better the way Nathan expressed his message,” to King David, when Nathan told David, in David’s righteous outrage against evil, “You are the man.”
The Church is meant to serve God, whose power and glory alone it announces. The State serves God, and is so Holy, only in so much as it protects the culture in which the Holy Church functions. The Church must be courageous, but must triumph by persuasion, not by edict. The Church must be prescient, triumphant in the moment by looking backward to the center of history, the Cross-Resurrection, and forward to the end of history. In all the confusion and desperation of life, the Church has a duty. We would seem to be those who stand for the victimized, but, in actuality, we stand for the Triumphant, the Eternal, King of all Kings and Queens, Power over all.