Friday, February 24, 2006

Politics and Christianity

I love politics. I really do. I love watching people jockey for a job that I wouldn't want if someone held a bazooka to areas unmentionable. I really like watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report. I like watching CNN and FoxNews (in very small doses). I like thinking about the midterm elections and whether the 2008 election will be Clinton-Kerry vs. Rice-McCain or something else.

However, Christians in politics is a a big connundrum. To me, for a Christian to enter politics makes me wonder if that person has decided that God's way of doing things doesn't work. They have decided that their duty to the Kingdom of God is to pursue power in the way that this world defines it: through power.

Of course, I realize that a lot of good has been done in this world based on Christians being in positions of power. Whether or not you believe that the Emancipation Proclamation did any actual good or not (it only released slaves in areas that had seceded and were not under Union control), the idea of what it represented was a foundational piece of moving toward racial equality. So it's impossible to say that having Christians in politics is totally a bad thing.

I guess the point that I'm thinking about is that the Kingdom of God is not about laws. It's not about forcing people to do something against their will. Jesus never begged anyone to follow him. He presented who he was, the cost of following, and then if someone walked away, Jesus let them go. He didn't force people into doing something. And laws are all about forcing people into doing things.

To take the race issue up again, Affirmative Action has been an effective program in giving minorities opportunities to get jobs and education that had been closed to them. But did it change the minds and hearts of all the majority, the Caucasians? No, of course not. It even hardened them in some cases. Laws can cause people to act a certain way or to acquiesce to certain actions, but it cannot force a racist to love someone they are prejudiced against. Only the Spirit of God can do that.

Politics is about power, seeking it, gaining it, hanging onto it. And power will disappear and change and take new forms in new parties and new countries. But the Kingdom of God is an eternal Kingdom, one that has survived persecution, popularity, being in power, Crusades, wars, exploration, new countries, and marginalization. May we seek the Kingdom that is about changing hearts and not the one that is about forcing actions.

13 comments:

Tony Arnold said...

Since Kingdom work is not about politics, I have no comment about politics and Christianity. :-)

Tony

Justin said...

AMEN AND AMEN PHIL!

I love politics as well, I even thought about majoring in Poly Sci, but the more I participate the more I realize that either side is fascist in its own way about these things.

Republicans want to control what I can do... laws against homosexuals, more stringent laws keeping people from divorcing, boycotts against television shows, terri schiavo, and the list goes on (some would include abortion in that, but I don't. that's for another post though)

Democrats, on the other hand have their own fascist leanings. I can't use my money like I want to, I have to give it to the government in order to pay for other people. I don't have the right to teach my children what I want to, because the all knowing state has better ideas. The god of the left is the state, and the god of the right is some sort of convuluted version of Jehovah.

Changing hearts is the only way to change the world. Forcing people to give their money hardly makes people want to help others, especially when they don't see the people being helped improving but being enslaved to the state, rather than enslaved to poverty (or people). Just the same, Homosexuals have been around since the beginning of time, but creating laws against them didn't really change their desires.

The government should be secular, and laws should be based on protecting individual rights. I can't hit you because I'm infringing on your right to not be harmed, but I should be able to marry another man because that doesn't affect you in any way. If you think that my morality is wrong and in danger of sending me to hell, then its your job to change my heart, not make me a second class citizen because that will certainly make me despise your viewpoint.

I'm preaching to the choir here I know. Libertarian Party--- the government just does what it absolutely has to do. That's the way I lean these days.

Ahnog said...

I think your reasoning is poor. Government, like the family and the church, is ordained by God. Christians who are gifted by God to serve in government are not doing something contrary to Christianity.

Ahnog said...

Government is not about power--government is about protecting the righteous from the wicked.

True, many in government use it to fulfil the flesh's lust for power, but it doesn't follow then that everyone in government has that purpose.

Phil said...

I can see what you're saying to some extent, Jack. However, government and politics has become so much about power and its use and abuse that I have trouble seeing followers of Jesus being able to be successful in it and remaining true to the call of Christ.

I freely admit that I might be wrong, but how I see Jesus calling us to act doesn't seem like it's very compatible to how people in government (on both sides of the aisles) tend to act. (Generalization alert!)

Justin said...

so jack, are you saying that God ordained Adolf Hitler, or Mao, Stalin, rulers who murdered innocent people. The passage in Romans says that the government only should be feared by those that do wrong. That would not be the case in some situations.

I have trouble with that passage, I will admit. Though, if that passage is taken literally, aren't we usurping God's authority by voting. If God is supposed to choose the rulers, then when we choose our own rulers, is that not us saying we're better than God?

Kat Coble said...

I majored in Political Science. I worked in Washington.

Should Christians not enter medicine because some doctors perform abortions?

Should Christians not practice law because many attorneys are crooked?

Should Christians not teach at the University level because many professors are morally bankrupt?

Respectfully, I think that the call to be in the world but not of the world means exactly that. We are to go to the worldly professions to which God calls us, and to make our mark for Christ in that arena.

Jesus tells us to render unto Caeser what is Caeser's. To me that includes participation in the political process. Jesus also made plain his beliefs when he called Matthew the tax collector and dined with Zaccheus. And met with Nicodemus. Government officials are as welcome into the kingdom of God as anyone. And I would believe strongly that the converse is also true--that those from the kingdom are enjoined to participate in the political process as they are called.

Phil said...

Ok, so let's posit that Christians can and should participate in the process.

How do you do that without giving up your Kingdom identity and without seeming like a "Christofascist" as I've seen Christians described before?

Are the temptations the same as at other professions, but just heightened because of the power involved in politics?

Tony Arnold said...

ahnog quote: Government is not about power--government is about protecting the righteous from the wicked.

I have a real problem with that statement. I find no factual basis for it, in fact empirical and historical evidence leads to the direct opposite behavior much too often, which is one of Phil's primary points.

Example of contradiction in your logic: Our fore fathers would have had no reason to rebel against England if their righteous gov't was protected the colonies against the wicked.

Our government was not developed for that express purpose stated. If you read the constitution and all the writings and debates leading to it, the purpose of our government was not to protect the "righteous" from the "wicked'.

Furthermore, who determines the righteous? As Justin pointed out, Hitler's idea of the righteous was as wicked as one can be.

As I read through this debate, including my own words, we are making Phil's point. In a simple discussion we are spending our energies on something other than Kingdom work. We are being distracted by debate. This has to cause Satan to chuckle.

"See, I don't have to convince man to agree with me, I just have to get them arguing with each other and loosing their focus on my enemy."

Tony

Tiffany said...

To add onto Katherine's comment: someone is going to govern. Someone will always be in secular authority. (Remember what happened when God tried to establish a true theocracy?) There will always be a need, whether or valid or not, for human leadership.

Therefore, to my way of thinking anyway, there is a need for right-thinking Christians to take on that responsiblity. The best politicians are the ones who come to the job reluctantly.

I've run into this way of thinking a lot, actually, being a lawyer. As a Christian, how can I be a part of an industry built on conflict and greed? The answer is that this system exists, like it or not. There is a real need for Christians to take on this mantle, and be a force for the Kingdom within a secular framework. There are some things in law that I will not do because of my faith. But I hope that those who work with me in the courts see Christ's love in me in what I do do.

I think the same thing applies in politics. Forgive me, but I think to argue otherwise is to be on the path to advocating complete withdrawal from anything not directly "Christian", which I know you don't believe, Phil.

However, let me state, unequivocally, that I do not believe it is the job of Christian politicians to impose their morality on anyone. The job of government is to ensure social justice, something the American political system does a poor job of indeed. Again, to me, there is a need for more Kingdom in the government (if I can distinguish that from "Christian" involvement in government, which we have too much of.)

Kat Coble said...

How do you do that without giving up your Kingdom identity and without seeming like a "Christofascist" as I've seen Christians described before?

When you walk with the Lord in the light of His word, what a glory he sheds on your way....

Sorry. Hymn reference moment.

I really think it's a matter of being God-focused and God-directed, as are all things we undertake.

Being one of the annoying (and growing) crop of Christian libertarians out there, I have to say that I think it's extremely necessary for government to be constrained while simultaneously calling the Church to action.

I think it is necessary for Kingdom workers to do both.

Ahnog said...

Justin asked, "so jack, are you saying that God ordained Adolf Hitler, or Mao, Stalin, rulers who murdered innocent people. The passage in Romans says that the government only should be feared by those that do wrong. That would not be the case in some situations."

No. I am saying that the institution of government, like the institution of the family and the church, are ordained of God. Just as their may be homes and churches that are not what God intended, there may be governments who are not what God intended, but this doesn't negate the fact that government is an insitition created by God.

Justin said...

tiffany,

I'd beg to differ to say that the government should be about bringing social justice. We don't live in a christian run state. If the government shouldn't be able to make laws against homosexuals, it also shouldn't be able to steal from people in order to create a faux system of "justice" that redistributes wealth. Poverty doesn't occur because there's a big pot full of money and some people are taking more than their fair share. Poverty happens because of social conditions and governmental situations. When the government makes it hard for people to make a living, and when they force a group of people to be dependent upon them in the name of "social justice" seems just as facist as anything else.

The government, in my quasi libertarian opinion, exists in order to protect the inalienable rights guaranteed by the constitution. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee.

We as christians shoudl be in the business of helping people, supporting the widows and the orphans. if Jesus wanted a government that redistrubed wealth, he certainly could have done it. But if his actual plan works, if we spread the kingdom, then poverty wouldn't be a problem the state has to deal with, cause we would take care of it.

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