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The RoundTable

The State

Spring 1990


Major Articles

  • The State and the Follower of Christ – Mark Scheu
  • Health Care with a Human Face – Steve Wineman
  • Let Every Person be Subject: A Biblical Theology of the State – Bill Wylie Kellerman

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Regular Features

  • Why This Issue – Pat Coy
  • Cover – Artwork by Fritz Eichenberg
  • Centerfold –  Photos by Mev Puleo
  • Peter Maurin on the State
  • Book Review: War at Home: Convert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It – Pat Coy
  • From Karen House – Virginia Druhe
  • From Central America – Mary Dutcher
  • From our Mailbag
  • From Little House - Mary Ann McGivern, SL
  • RoundTable Talk – Tom Nelson, CM

Why This Issue:

There is precious little new construction in our "depressed" neighborhood, an area depressed in more ways than economic. But there is one new building going up. It is impressive not only in juxtaposition but in its own, sprawling right.

The building is one of three new police "superstations" slated to replace the local precinct stations as the city moves to centralize the police force. In doing so, local government is opting to isolate the police force, removing it more and more from a neighborly relationship with the people it is intended to serve. Such is the pattern with an increasing number of state functions in this country; it is not a pattern that bodes well for lovers of human freedom and responsibility.

It does not have to be like that. Jesus has shown us a different way in relation to the state, a way that maximizes human freedom and self respect, that builds up community rather than tears it down (even among traditionally opposing groups). It is also a way that patiently yet prophetically challenges the ultimate authority of the state by consistently asserting God's dominion over the created order.

Dorothy Day's comment on Christ's injunction to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's, typifies the profound challenge Jesus issues to civil authority. Dorothy argued that by the time we finish giving to God that which is God's, there should be very little left to give the state!

That the nation state is destructive of human freedom and community is best evidenced by its reliance on violence as the final arbiter. So argues Mark Scheu in a lead article that synthesizes a wide range of material while offering an indictment of the state's moral corruption. By examining Romans 12-13 and the Sermon on the Mount, Bill Wylie Kellerman illumines a scriptural view of the state as servant of God under the judgment of God, while reminding us that it is the responsibility of the Christian to call the state to this role.

Mary Ann McGivern's house article takes us graphically inside the lives of a number of refugees who have sought succor at the Catholic Worker. They are victims of the current nation state system, as their seldom-told stories reveal so well.

Just as we centralize police and other community services, so do we with health care. Steve Wineman examines the health care field with uncommon precision, revealing an authoritarian system in financial and moral collapse. He proposes a radical alternative model based on community health centers that are participatory, democratic, education-oriented, and which rely on personal initiative and mutual aid. Here is not simply another critique, but one wedded to a creative yet viable alternative model.

It is the experiment with alternative models that we hope you will join us in. According to the Lentz Peace Research Lab, under the present nation state system there were 42 wars in the 1980's, leaving over 5 million human dead in their wake. Sixty two percent of the dead were civilians. We don't have to repeat such a debacle...

- Pat Coy



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