Emma Morehart | Staff Writer
One of the critical goals of government is to give people the ability to run without stumbling, said the Rev. Barry C. Black, the U.S. Senate chaplain.
At 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Black will explain in his lecture, “Running Without Stumbling,” that one of the government’s roles is to prepare people for “seasons of emergencies.”
“Seasons of emergencies require the ability to run without stumbling, to exert oneself in an extreme way without stumbling, and good government ultimately not only prepares people for the sunshine, but it prepares people for the storms of life,” Black said.
Leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were just some of those who advocated running without stumbling, Black said, but his lecture will address other aspects of government, as well.
There is an ethical foundation to government, and this is made clear in the preamble to the Constitution. The document opens by listing five goals of the government: establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty.
These goals reflect the ethical responsibility the government has to its people, but the goals also resonate with religious tradition, and according to Romans 13:1-7, the government is ordained by God, Black said.
“Religion is what ethical foundations are all about, and it is religion that provides people with the responsibilities of citizenship,” Black said. “In Romans 13, he talked about the responsibilities of Christian citizenship. In Matthew 22:21 it says, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,’” Black said. “Religion informs what good citizenship should look like and what responsible citizenship should look like.”
Black’s background, which includes decades with the Navy and government, as well as what he said is his lifelong calling to ministry, gives him a distinctive mindset as the Senate chaplain.
“I think he has a very unique perspective, because obviously, he has a fair number of political views, but he doesn’t really have a forum to express his views on specific issues,” said Jane Campbell, chief of staff for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and a longtime Chautauquan. “He’s always sort of one step outside of the current debate, just talking about maintaining a level of respect, maintaining a level of integrity and focusing on the common good as we know it.”
Campbell has been attending Black’s Bible study group for two years and will introduce him at the Interfaith Lecture Series.
Black grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church but attended both a Baptist seminary and a Presbyterian seminary. He was a pastor in the military for 27 years and is now a pastor for 7,000 people on Capitol Hill.
“I’m probably a theological eclectic,” Black said, adding that he has served people of all different religions and denominations of Christianity.
As Senate chaplain, Black leads four Bible studies each week, officiates weddings and funerals, makes hospital visits, counsels his congregation and advises senators regarding ethical dimensions of the topics they debate in their chambers.
“I have performed ministry in a variety of venues, and this is just another one of those venues,” Black said. “It is very exciting, but it’s just another one of them. It is (different) in the sense that you’re pasturing very prominent people and their families. Not very many pastors have that opportunity, but in many ways, people are people. In some ways it is (different), and in some ways it isn’t.”