Mark Hatfield on The Christian and the State

CT interviews Oregon's governor on the Church's responsibility toward government.

This article originally appeared in Christianity Today on June 21, 1963.

In a student forum at George Fox College, Oregon's Governor Mark Hatfield recently discussed special concerns in the area of religion and politics. The occasion was a meeting of the Athenian Club, which sponsored the forum, moderated by Professor Arthur O. Roberts. The following excerpts are taken from student questions and Governor Hatfield's answers.

Q. What is the Church's responsibility toward government? Should the Church act as a lobby or should Christians in their individual capacities act to influence legislation?

A. I believe that we have to distinguish between the Church as a spiritual body and the church as a local congregation. In theology we speak of the Church as the body of Christ, the body of believers. I believe the responsibility of the Church in a spiritual sense is one that is directed toward government in terms of prayer, in terms of concern, in terms of interest, in terms of involvement.

The church as a local congregation has, of course, the right to pass resolutions and to make its voice known either through personal pronouncements of representatives or as individual members. I feel that in the local church the influence is much greater when individuals make their positions known than when mere resolutions are passed by the local congregation. Both can be helpful.

But as a former legislator, I believe I was far more impressed by receiving letters or communications from individuals, stating why they supported or opposed a particular bill. All of us have been at meetings where someone has gotten up before a group and has made some pitch. Then someone else jumps up and makes a motion that they all go on record as supporting this position, ...

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