Serving God as a public servant
By Allen Palmeri
December 16, 2003
Secretary of State Matt Blunt cares deeply about faith – and Missourians
KIRKWOOD – Because Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt cares deeply about serving God as a public servant, he is re-reading Mere Christianity, the classic apologetic written by C.S. Lewis.
Bluntly speaking, he does not separate Christ and state.
“I think it’s important to ensure that the values that made Missouri great, that made America great, which really are grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition, continue to be the values that we take into the future," said Blunt in an exclusive interview with The Pathway Nov. 25.
“Like most of your readers, I begin and end my day with a reflection on what the values of our faith are. One of the great commands of the Gospel is service. That’s why I’m in public service. It’s certainly a great opportunity for me to serve Missourians in state government. There’s no greater reason to be engaged in community service or public service than Christ’s command to us as Christians, which is to be involved," he said.
Blunt grew up in a Baptist family. His maternal grandfather was a pastor, and his late grandmother “was an extremely strong Christian and a great example for me. I think about her spiritual example a great deal in my daily life."
Yet his tie to Southern Baptist life is more than familial.
“Like most mature Christians, I went through a period of real reflection about which denomination, in my view, was really the one that best reflected the tenets of the Gospel," Blunt said.
He grew up being known as the son of Roy Blunt, a former two-term Missouri Secretary of State and current U.S. Representative who is the third-ranking Republican and the House Majority Whip. Matt began to step out on his own when he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy , an achievement that led to his current 14-year naval career, including more than five years on active duty. His Baptist heritage has gone with him wherever he has sailed, but it was not at all clear that he would remain in the fold.
In fact, had it not been for the theologically conservative influence of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile , Ala. , Blunt may have drifted off into another, more theologically liberal, port.
He was stationed at Naval Station Pascagoula ( Miss. ), serving as an engineering officer aboard the guided missile frigate USS Jack Williams, when the teachings of Dauphin Way hit home. At a pivotal point in his life, Blunt found himself attending a Southern Baptist church that is noted for preaching the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Three of its theologically conservative pastors – Herschel Hobbs, Jaroy Weber and Jerry Vines – have served as presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Blunt was in good hands. He became a member.
“After a lot of reflection, I really became very comfortable with my position in the Southern Baptist community," he said. “( Dauphin Way ) is a tremendous church, a church I greatly admire. It really was there for me when I really needed a strong church."
Realizing that Southern Baptist doctrine is so well-grounded in the Bible, Blunt concluded that belonging to a Southern Baptist church was an appropriate foundation for a future public servant. In 1998, he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, and in 2000, he was voted in as Secretary of State. Currently he attends Second Baptist Church , Springfield .
“Baptist churches throughout the state are often the real anchors in the community," Blunt said. “We have lots of communities that have multiple Baptist churches. There are a lot of great cooperative arrangements in those communities where Missouri Baptists are working together to serve their community, serve their state and serve to take the message of Christ to the far corners of the planet."
Blunt’s Navy career has had a primary influence in shaping him as a leader. As a 32-year-old lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserves, Blunt remains poised to serve his country. Typical of the view from within his political party is the opinion expressed by Rep. Jack Jackson, R-Wildwood, a retired Marine fighter pilot and a fellow Southern Baptist.
“I would consider it an honor to fly Matt’s wing into combat," Jackson said.
Blunt is the only statewide official in Missouri ’s history to have been called to active military duty. He served for six months at a base in London in Operation Enduring Freedom, America ’s initial military response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was an officer at Commander, U.S. Naval Activities United Kingdom, which is one of nine subordinate commands under Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, the unified combatant command responsible for U.S. military operations in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East .
“Because of the nature of the assignment, I was able to continue to manage and direct the Secretary of State’s office while mobilized," Blunt said. “It was certainly a challenge, but I was fortunate to be in a situation where I could do that. I was pleased to serve, but I really didn’t do anything daring or bold.
“As a private citizen, I support our policy in Iraq . I think we’re providing greater freedom to the people of Iraq than they’ve ever enjoyed before. Hopefully there will be some greater religious freedom than they’ve ever enjoyed before."
The topic of religion is never very far from Blunt’s lips – even as his name surfaces as a possible gubernatorial candidate. He cares about the separation of church and state but succinctly points out that “it doesn’t mean that we should separate God from our civic culture.
“One of the exciting things about Missouri Baptists is on individual levels and corporately as churches, we are servants to the state," Blunt said. “I think that’s a role we fill very well."