People like to ask if Jesus would support this idea or that position. Should a Christian be a Republican? Can a real Christian be a socialist or even, gasp, a fascist? It is rather obvious, in a plain reading of the Bible, that Jesus kept himself apart from the partisan wranglings of society. After all, he was called to a much higher purpose, the salvation of mankind. Compared to taxes, and being God, he is in a much higher theater of operations.
His politics, such as they are, are monarchist; he’s the King of Heaven. Until his reign is established in fact upon the earth, he’s left us with laws and ideals, not an ideology. With that, a few things are rather clear. First, they apply primarily to individuals, not to cultures or kingdoms that will pass away. If you think about it, government is run by individuals, and they have a divinely created conscience and are accountable, as individuals, to the laws of God. No person is covered or exempted because of his or her family, community, church, or society; except for the Church and Christian family, governments serve God’s purposes whether they know or accept his hand or not. Since governments make power available to sinful men, how good or godly a government may be depends on the virtues of its leaders; even good, government does not supplant the Church or its work carried out by believers.
Would Jesus participate in Occupy Wall Street? Participate, no. Show up, he might. Jesus was apt to drop by where he was least expected and usually he said things that made most of his listeners squirm. He might even condemn the greedy with assurance of divine justice. He as likely would condemn the sins of those gathered—fornication, substance abuse, sloth, or covetousness, for many gathered would rather demand the wealth of others than work for their own. He might cry out for justice for those truly in need, through no fault of their own. Jesus was always indiscriminate in his calls for repentance, and he still is!
However, when Jesus called for justice, he wasn’t looking for a government solution. His was less a social message than a personal one. Society will heal when its people are healed of their sin. Righteous citizens will create a righteous society, if not a righteous government. Righteous leaders will influence those who follow them to become righteous, not in self-righteous posturing, but in humble repentance and faith in the Savior. If only our politicians understood this, for I am weary of their pathetic attempts to win our votes.
Would Jesus support the Tea Parties? Again, he might show up and decry the irresponsibility of leaders who spend money they don’t have for programs to win votes. He would find no lack of injustice to condemn in the growing oppression of such a government. That doesn’t mean he would ignore the greed in the hearts of protestors. While I agree with them to a greater extent than the OWS crowd, I have no doubt that many are also neglecting their personal obligations before God, not the least many Christians. Whether OWS or Tea Party, he would surely denounce hypocrisy, the sin of pretending to be one thing while doing another; Jesus rebuked hypocrites with strong words. He would find many to rebuke in all of the various parties and movements, among both politicians and celebrities; few of us escape that one!
The American Church has fallen into a mixture of gross materialism and unthinking compromise. Our Savior said the world would hate us in our differences, but many of us seek to blur those differences to avoid the world’s hatred. More seriously, far too many of us neglect our duty, that our love of God and our neighbors should inspire, to extend Jesus’ invitation to them. Acting self-righteously, we hate sinners, not just their sins, and reject those who offend us—gays, abortion supporters, social justice seekers, illegals, the wealth, the poor, and those who just aren’t like us! We would prefer to forget that our sin and theirs is the same, except we’ve sought Christ’s forgiveness and trust him to make us righteous. Many of us forget that saved sinners are different from the unsaved ones, only by God’s grace and not by our own virtue. It’s easy to think “we” are “nice” while those “others” aren’t “nice,” which of course has no spiritual merit whatever; indeed, by doing so, we set aside his Great Commandment!
Seen correctly, we have the genesis of spiritual freedom. Released from the shackles of spiritual slavery and the bondage of death, we are truly free. Here, too, is the genesis of political and economic freedom, now enshrined in our historic documents—Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and others—written by men whose thoughts were saturated with Biblical thinking. Here is where I find it much harder to separate ideals from ideology.
The world lived comfortably with slavery for most of its human history. Great Britain began the process of ending slavery in the Nineteenth Century, led by Christians like William Wilberforce, and then, to a great extent, forced the rest of the world to give it up as well. Of course, the United States had to fight a war before it was over, but again Christians were among the most vocal opponents of slavery. It was more than slavery, Christians led the world, more and more, to value life itself.
So, can a Christian be pro-abortion (leaving aside for the moment the sincerity of the term, pro-choice). My heart says, “No!” My brain isn’t far behind. Opposing abortion, like opposing slavery, hinges on believing that all life is precious, and each life has a natural right to exist and live freely. My opinion, purely personal at this point, is that as abortion has become more accepted and practiced, the respect for life itself has fallen. Kill a fetus, why not a young child. Find a handicapped child inconvenient, kill it for our convenience, but say it was for the dead child. We wonder at the ease of Islamic radicals to kill “the innocent,” but give no thought to killing the most innocent of all. Some question “right to life” when many of us support the death penalty, but the distinction is clear between innocent life and far from innocent murderers.
However, the “right to life” of a lesbian or gay man is just as precious. The current controversy and political situation makes this difficult. Frankly, the origin of such proclivities is not really understood (I have discussed this issue in another post). Advocates have forced the acceptance of homosexuality as an inborn difference without scientific proof. I dread the day when the matter may no longer be openly discussed for fear of criminal charges or lawsuits. I suspect that gays will be no better served by that than straight people. The AIDS crisis should have been a warning not to ignore the health consequences of gross sexual perversity, whether straight or gay.
Nevertheless, Jesus always showed mercy to sinners, as should we. I feel deep sympathy for an infertile couple or an impotent man, and I believe we should also show sympathy for the homosexual. I know at least one gay man who is gay, most likely, because he was molested as a child, yet he accepts himself as gay, unhappily. Could he be restored to heterosexual life? Can a woman who has been raped or molested as a child be restored to normal sexual relations with men? I believe the answer should be the same. Sadly, I believe we have trivialized something that is far from trivial, treating sexual intimacy superficially when I believe it is tied to our deepest instincts and longings, closely related to our need for true intimacy as opposed to casual physical contact. Human preoccupation with sex should tell us that this is psychological dynamite, not fizzy pops!
The greatest law is the Great Commandment. This should be a no-brainer for Christians, though I fear it is not. Again, this refers first and primarily to individuals, not to governments which, I think we might all agree, never love! However, the Great Commandment ought to guide me as I consider my political choices and affiliations. Do my choices demonstrate my compassion for my neighbors, near and far? We dare not be rhetorical here. Choices have consequences, often unintended but not quite unforeseen. I cannot afford to ignore the painful reality of human sin and dishonesty and entrust my compassion to those who gladly use and abuse it for their own ends. For this reason, I cannot be a socialist. I feel sadness for those who can, especially for those who think they’re doing God’s will. I think they are grossly mistaken.
I have explained why I am not a socialist. I’ve also questioned the entire concept of Left and Right. Because I see individual liberty and economic capitalism as more conducive to the free expression of my Christian faith, I am hard pressed to understand so-called Christian socialists; I have read some of their books and see them all fall into the same trust in government to achieve God’s will. Worse, they seem to accept that we can relinquish our obligations before God to government, and I believe his children will answer for such abandonment to those who, in the end, do not, will not, and cannot get the job done. In God’s economy, the ends clearly do not justify the means!
Nevertheless, while I certainly hope such people will consider my thoughts here, it is not mine to judge them. They do not and will not answer to me but to God. The reverse is also true. I do not answer to them. One final comment relates to this perspective.
Those on the Left, even those who may claim themselves to be Christians, are often angry and abusive of those who disagree. I am even more distressed when I see it from those who otherwise seem to share my views! I am intrigued by such anger. It is almost as if they direct their anger with God at those of us who follow him. What have we, who merely wish the freedom to live our lives without government intrusion, done to harm them or inspire their hostility? Such anger and its accompanying discourse is so prevalent that many prefer not to discuss politics or religion. Having had some of the vitriol directed my way, I understand their reluctance; it is vile and unpleasant in the extreme. Yet my question remains: “Why?” I believe the answer is more than a desire to “shout down” opposition, though I recognize that impulse. Anger also masks doubt; if a person cannot truly defend his position or even doubts its validity, he may find himself angry with himself but then directs it against those who demand he face his position’s weakness. Like a rat in a corner, they turn to attack viciously as their only option.
It’s sad to see this common among those “discussing” political issues; it is indefensible when such ugly, angry interchanges occur between Christians, whatever their brand. Rarely is this the righteous anger of a Jesus over-turning the tables of money-changers on the Temple grounds; this is typically the anger of unruly children ignoring the clear teaching of their heavenly father to love their neighbor as they would be loves (I have been overly brief for this subject; it warrants a post of its own). Indeed, in the end, it all comes back to this: issues, ideas, ideology, theology—none entitle us Christians to speak or act unlovingly with spite or hatred toward those who fail to share our convictions. Our business is to carry out God’s wishes, each of us personally, and to operate among our neighbors with godly integrity, even as we carry out our responsibilities as citizens. It is upon us to do the work of God, not our government, while keeping our government* as a preserver of order and safety and, hopefully in my view, personal freedom. (Revised October 13, 2012, original post November 13, 2011)
*Romans 13 clearly teaches that God establishes human government for the purpose of maintaining order and restraining sin. In many places, the people have little influence on their governments. Not so the United States—we, the people, by our Constitution, are the government; we rule through our representatives, though some of our representatives have come to ignore this except before elections. Here we have the chance to influence what God has established although in the end the power and authority still comes from God. If we, the people, fail to do our job properly, that God may take away what he has given.