Monday, August 11, 2008

A Brief Thought On Christians and Politics

A recent Facebook communique concerning this topic got me thinking, how should we think of the Christian's role in politics? Well, disappointingly, the easy answer is that it isn't easy. Here are a few reasons why.

1) Provenance - The Old Testament Law was written directly for a specific ethnic population (Hebrews) who were tied to a specific location (Israel). The New Testament brought the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) to bear on all peoples (the nations of the Gentiles), but it was removed from its political and physical components. The seed of spiritual fealty to God is reckoned through Christ and the Law is only fulfilled by faith in Him. Therefore, their can be little direct application of the Old Testament or the New on modern political considerations within any country.

2) Philosophy - Philosophizing Scripture is problematic. It requires significant and in-depth understanding of Scripture, interpretive methods, theology, and philosophy. Next, it is necessary to be completely honest in the handling of the text and what it does and does not say. It should not be tweaked or "spun" to make it say what you want it to.

3) Interpretation - Interpretive method has already been mentioned. We must take into account, however, that different groups have different interpretive methods or different theological devotions that affect how they interpret specific things. This means that they will disagree on what the Bible means on specific topics, and therefore what it says about situations in our own lives.

4) Relevance - Last but certainly not least, we must understand that our nation is a post-Christian one. Most of our citizens still claim some form of faith, but it is generally a skewed one. Most also are secularists when it comes to policy. Further, we have more and more people that claim other religions or no religion. If we believe in the American ideal, that this country is a melting-pot and should be home to any who seek freedom, then we must create policies that are fair and balanced for them, too. We cannot force non-believers to worship Christ. There is a place for a healthy separation of church and state, even if that separation has been abused thus far.

These are only a few reasons, mind you, that it is exceedingly difficult to form or enforce policy for all people as Christians, although I do believe it can be done. Mature and educated Christians are needed in politics (calling all seminarians!). I believe these individuals can create policies that are beneficial to all of society without "stuffing the Gospel" down non-believers' throats.

Here are a few reasons why Christian-informed policies are beneficial to all of society.

1) Principles - The Christian faith, and the rule of law, are both founded upon the principle of absolutes. There is right (virtue) and there is wrong (sin). The Christian stands for these principles due to his belief in a God of order and law. There may be "gray-areas", but they are a muddling of right and wrong. The Christian will always strive for right and order. The Christian wants good for society, even if that good doesn't always appear good. This takes great wisdom and maturity on the part of the policy maker and the policy enforcer.

2) Love - The Christian faith is altruistic. There is a place for mercy, grace and forgiveness. We can call this "love" for one's fellow. The Christian is devoted to the good of their fellows. They pray and work for their fellow's best interest, especially spiritually.

3) Science - The current struggle between faith and science is a modern one. Much of our scientific advancement and discovery came about because of the Christian affinity for order, understanding, and contemplation. Because we believe that God exists, that he created a world of order, and he revealed himself in that order, we should be able to measure that world and its order. Science and faith should be best friends, hence theology's old moniker, "Queen of the sciences".

4) Politics - Politics can be summed up as the science of ruling. It measures and makes statements about people and about behavior. Christians, while understanding and seeking to minimize human sin, strive to benefit humanity. What could be more necessary in politics?

So we should see that mature Christian politicians would be beneficial for American politics. We must also see that Christianity is diametrically opposed to the prevailing humanism of our day. Really these are two competing worldviews. I would argue that the superiority of Christianity is demonstrated in that it can create good policies that are still in the best interest of the humanistic pagan, while the converse is generally not true. Humanistic paganism has consistently persecuted Christianity. It also stands against true order, sacrificing it for selfish gain.

If there is consternation at that point, I would invite my readers to look at our last century and in every country for proof. The major destroyers of order, freedom, and life have been humanistic pagans (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot) . I would also invite debate on this point. I stand with the first century apologists who stated that the Christian was the model citizen, though they did not pay homage to Caesar. The reason that they, and we, are model citizens is because we believe in the ideals that make a country not only function, but thrive (Galatians 5:22-23 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.).

The Christian politician, then, must make policy by examining Scripture and focusing it on the events and agendas that are advanced by society. He must be willing to create a policy that helps society but also upholds Scripture. He must also be willing to say no to policies that are desired by the populace but fly in the face of Scripture (such as abortion, homosexual marriage, etc.) The Christian would generally be considered a conservative, but not necessarily a Republican. Party politics are always detrimental to both faith and good politics. Morality cannot be a foreign concept to the politician, and it must not be defined by some sort of personal ideal. Morality must rather be defined by objective truth. The Christian is thus connected to his Bible.

With these considerations in mind, do we have any politicians worth voting for in the upcoming election, or is it politics as usual - the lesser of two evils? Let's require more of our politicians. Better yet, let's require more of ourselves and support those young minds in pursuit of moral law. We may yet see a brighter day. God bless America!

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