Gov. Mike Parson and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson spoke Thursday morning about how faith has a place in their governance, with Carson hoping to see more involvement in social services by religious organizations.
Parson and Carson — and the governor's brother, the Rev. Kent Parson of Elkton Baptist Church — were part of the 2020 Governor's Prayer Breakfast, an annual interfaith event for leaders and Missouri residents.
Proceeds from the ticketed event support the Governor's Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values — a forum of select Missouri college juniors for three days of study in faith and leadership, as demonstrated by business executives, sports figures and government officials.
Carson, who was this year's keynote speaker at the breakfast, had been scheduled to speak at last year's breakfast, but he was kept from making the trip by a federal government shutdown.
That shutdown, which began in 2018, was over President Donald Trump's demand for funding to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Such disputes might be emblematic of something Carson said he wants to avoid — division.
"What divides us today? Just about everything imaginable," he said, adding "it's getting to be a real problem" for the nation.
He tied that to the Biblical passage Mark 3:24 — "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand," according to the New International Version of the Bible.
He also cited James 1:6 and Proverbs 11:9, which correspond to faith and reason — together with unity representing "a trinity of challenges our country faces."
Carson said understanding is needed, and while people don't have to agree on everything, he asked to not hurt people who don't agree. He added ego often gets in the way of unity.
He also spoke about the faith of George Washington and an experience of a seemingly miraculous healing from his own career as a neurosurgeon.
He said while state cannot run church and church cannot run state — per a Supreme Court ruling — that should not have to mean getting rid of faith from public life.
"We have to be willing to talk about what we believe in," Carson said.
Carson also said the involvement of churches is needed again on a large scale; every church adopting a homeless family to get them to be self-sufficient in a year would be better than any government program because of the personal relationships that would be formed.
He impressed to the crowd what his mother impressed upon him: the importance of reading.
Carson was born in Detroit to a single mom with a third-grade education who worked multiple jobs to support their family.
"That knowledge was the thing that allowed me to escape" from the mentality he would be a failure, he said of what he learned from reading and what it meant to him.
Parson, who introduced Carson, credited the secretary as being a man of faith who proudly represents it.
Parson added "it's alright to be humble," and if people quit worrying about what they don't have and were grateful for what they did have, the world would be a better place.