In a shamefully short interview (two questions?), Brian McLaren released a nice overview of how the church has historically interacted with the state, and blithely recommended the fourth model.   And while I agree with him, the embarrassing lack of detail in the article leaves much in ambiguity. Historic models for Church / State interaction:

  1. Church as umbrella OVER the state (Roman Empire)
  2. Church supporting the ends of the state – “In the Protestant era of civil religion the church existed to help the state achieve its goals.”
  3. Church Isolation – “the church [operates as] an isolated subculture where it withdraws from society and sees politics as dirty.”
  4. Church as Prophetic – Independent of State Power, but influences public opinion and policy – “It’s an option that takes us back to the first three centuries of the church. I would call it more of a prophetic role. We often use prophetic to mean negative. It’s thundering against sin. But the prophets were also poets, and a big part of what they did, as Walter Brueggemann says, is they funded the imagination with good possibilities. They created pictures – like swords being beaten into plowshares – that gave believers in God something to believe God for.”