Christianity’s Fatal Slide Into Politicism
Today’s tip o’ the hat goes to Matt Dabbs, whose Kingdom Living blog is one of the blogs that I regularly follow. Matt has been carrying on a conversation regarding the recent discussion on gun control. In his most recent post he received a comment that was illuminating to me, and Matt’s response was even more illuminating. I would like to add my two cents worth here.
In his response, Matt pointed out how as government (specifically the US government, but it can be true of any other government) expands two things happen. One, the government takes more responsibilities away from the individual citizen. Just think of the ways in which the US government has taken over responsibilities that were once the sole obligation of an individual or family – retirement, health care, education, occupational safety, food safety, even such things as mandating the way in which we drive our vehicles and how wide the gaps can be between slats in a baby crib. The federal government has a say in virtually everything we do today – you cannot even mow your lawn today with a gas powered mower without dealing with a dozen safety modifications that were mandated by the federal government because some ninny thought it would be a good idea to stick his hand under a mower with the engine running.
As these encroachments have occurred there have been some grumbling but few outright rebellions. We (or at least most of we) think that Social Security is a good thing, and that having someone make sure the beef we buy at the supermarket is safe is a pretty good idea. So, little by little, bit by bit, inch by inch we surrender our “God given” responsibilities and for the most part we do not even whimper. So the federal government tells our schools what to teach? Oh, well, who’s playing in the Super Bowl this year? The federal government mandates that I have to pay a chunk of my salary to a national ponzi scheme known as Social Security? Rats, I think I misplaced a cuff link. What’s fer supper, Grandpa?
The second thing that happens is the corresponding reduction in the number of “freedoms.” But, you let just one bill get introduced either in the House of Representatives or Senate that restricts a so-called “right” and you would think the sky was falling. Where is Chicken Little when you need her? It is obvious that we have a problem in the United States regarding the proper ownership and use of guns. But, unlike the federal creep into the realm of responsibilities, you let one representative or senator mention “well regulating” the “right to bear arms” and shazaam, that senator or representative is viewed as popularly as Adolf Hitler in all his brown shirt glory. There is an obvious disconnect here, and it could be argued that one of the main reasons the United States is in it’s current state of moral collapse is that we as a culture have surrendered all of our fundamental responsibilities to “Big Brother” without a corresponding relinquishment of our so-called “inalienable rights.”
Simply stated, you cannot have the one without the obligation of the other. If we want the freedoms we must shoulder the responsibilities. If we want the government to care for us cradle to grave, then we have to relinquish the power of self-determination.
I have read the Bible through and through a number of times. Pardon me if I am missing it, but I simply cannot find in the pages of Scripture where a human is afforded the “God given” rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Prior to the coming of Jesus, God’s chosen people spent almost as much time in captivity as they did in their national freedom. Jesus was born at a time when the Jewish people were dominated by a foreign power. After it’s inception the church spent the first 300 years of its existence speaking from the minority position – sometimes abused, sometimes persecuted, more often simply ignored.
The amazing thing is that it was during these periods of slavery, abuse and persecution that God’s people actually thrived: the Israelites in Egypt, the Jews in Babylon, the Jews under the Roman Caesars, the church in its many persecutions. It is a fact of history that when faith in God becomes a “national” process that the purity of the faith declines precipitously. Note the kingdom of Israel under Solomon and his successors, the “imperial” church under Constantine and his followers. There appears to be a natural law that the more faith in God becomes entwined with secular politics, the more corrupt and dysfunctional that faith becomes.
So what does all of this have to do with doing theology in the fog of contemporary life? Simply this: we as disciples of Christ in the 21st century who live in the United States need to decide once and for all whether we are going to be slaves of Christ or whether we are going to be slaves of the Constitution. There are many things about the United States that makes me proud and thankful to be born an American. But I have to remind myself that my birth in America was simply an accident of nature, and that there are many, many other things about the United States that are profoundly disturbing to me.
The fact is, the closer a person gets to the crucified Son of God, the further one must separate himself or herself from the US Constitution. The Constitution was written from the bottom up. It’s source of power is “We the People.” It is a purely humanistic document. The disciple of Christ gets his or her power from the top down. The source for the power of a disciple of Christ is God Himself. When you make the confession that “Jesus is Lord” you are making a political statement as well as a religious one. You are stating your allegiance to the cross and everything for which it stands, not the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands.
The Church of Christ is not a national church. It is trans-national. It is uber-national. It is meta-national. It is all of God’s people joined in the simple yet profound allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah and to God as the Father.
To all my readers outside of the US, sorry that I have spent so much time addressing American issues. Be grateful to be where you are. God has made it possible to be a part of his kingdom regardless of your place of birth or residence. Thankfully, that includes the United States.