Jon Stewart recently skewered Fox News’ Stuart Varney. Varney disagreed with the pope’s recent critique of capitalism; Stewart’s sharp satire exposes the intellectual and moral vacuity of Varney’s protests against the pope’s comments. (If you haven’t seen it, you can find the link to Jon Stewart here.)
One of Varney’s moves is to attempt to separate the political from the spiritual. He says, “I personally do not want my spiritual life mixed up with my political life. I go to church to save my soul.”
In this context, separating the political from the spiritual is a way to nullify an essential part of Jesus’ teaching and ministry: the building of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was not strictly, nor even primarily, concerned with saving souls: the prayer that he taught his followers is, “… thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven….” The Lord’s prayer expresses the desire that the world be put in order, and that that order be under the authority of the God who is always on the side of the widow and the orphan; on the side of the outcast and the poor.
Those who claim that the political and the spiritual do not meet may be, in fact, followers of one of the world’s great religions– but it isn’t Christianity.
There are good reasons why we have “the separation of church and state,” but Varney is not supporting the continued prohibition of state-sponsored churches. What he is supporting– and anyone else who dismisses the political dimension of religious conviction is also supporting– is the tight-banded neutering of the gospel. It’s a convenient way to avoid the claims that God makes on our communal life together– of which the political is part– and thereby to avoid questions of conscience.