The Church Is Always Political. Always.
The church is always political. Always.
The state is always religious. Always.
In a fitting finale to his Cultural Liturgies series, James Smith points out in Awaiting The King what seems obvious once he’s said it, namely that: “citizens are not just thinkers or believers, but lovers.”
The political institutions we live within are not simply seeking to shape our thinking, but to capture our hearts with a vision of the good life which they inculcate. So in that sense they are rival cults; competing centres of worship to the church.
This means of course, that there can never be separation of church and state, as if separation were merely a spatial reality. No, for as Smith says, politics is a project, not simply a realm in which different stuff happens to what happens in church. Laws that the state puts in place are what Smith calls “social nudges” that make us certain kinds of people with certain kinds of values. We are nudged towards practices that we enact, that in turn shape our loves, all of which feeds back into the vision of the good life we wish our state to promote.