Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part I)

Yesterday I kicked off another series (hey, it's what I do.) This series, as yet still lacking an agenda, is going to be about politics. As I said then, I find politics fascinating. And I really love this country. I can worship as I please, speak as I please, blog as I please, travel as I please. We have more blessings than any nation in history. There is much to commend the U.S.A. and part of that is directly attributable to many wonderful politicians (although ultimately all blessings are from God of course.) However, there is also much about the U.S.A. that does not make me proud, and again politics plays a part there.

I can't think of much in life that's not affected by politics. In this way, politics are much like faith. A person's faith, in the form of one's worldview, informs everything that one does. This includes politics. Faith (or a lack thereof) guides what one believes about politics, and how one should engage in political activity or dialogue. I would even go so far as to say that one can't separate one's worldview or faith from any aspect of one's life. We may think we can compartmenatlize like that, but in reality we can't. The classic example is our last president. President Clinton's defenders in the Monica Lewinsky days said he could separate his personal life from his professional life. That lie was quickly shown for what it was. His personal lie to his wife became a public, political lie to the nation. The personal became the political.

So if our faith informs our politics, and I'm talking about my politics, I need to start with my faith and what it says about politics. Some of this will be a bit surprising or controversial to some. So be it. I appreciate any questions or discussion.

So what does my faith say about politics? First, it says that politics should not be my highest priority, regardless of my interest in it. Jesus commanded us to make disciples and help the poor. He told us to leave the work of government to the government and to focus on the things of God. God is to be our priority above all things, including politics.

My faith also tells me that submission to authorities is demanded in all circumstances save one: when the politicians try to mandate I act contrary to scripture, I must obey God above government. However, even here I need to accept that there will be earthly consequences to my choice. Many a disciple went to his death (or her death as persecution against Christians increased over time) for obeying God over a conflicting law. The key is that in these cases, disciples died for disobeying man, not God. They submitted to their government in all things until told to disobey God.

This leads to some interesting conclusions, one of which relates to the very founding of this country. Scripture is filled with directions given to people living under persecution, yet not one of these directions is to overthrow or rebel against the government. In fact, the Word is clear that whatever our circumstances, we are to submit and be good witnesses. Even slaves were not commanded to seek freedom first (though that's not a bad thing to seek), but rather to instead use their position to serve God: that is what's paramount.

Which brings me to the American Revolution. Honestly, I see no justification for the American Revolution in scripture. Now, before you light the torches, let me say I'm glad that the U.S.A. exists. And I don't doubt the intentions of the Founding Fathers. But I think that starting a war that killed many people was a violation of scriptures like Romans 13. In a Roman empire that was much more unjust and oppressive than 1776 Britain, Jesus did not call for overthrow. Nor did Paul or Peter or any other NT authors. They called for submission to authority unless submission meant disobedience to God. And when such occassions arise, we're not to rebel, we're to simply obey God and let the civil chips fall where they may.

Now, this may lead you to think I'm all about meek submission even when my "rights" are being violated. To an extent, this is the case, but it is not the complete picture. I believe that where the government allows for an opportunity to offer a defense in the legal system, Christians should have no problem taking advantage of it, ala Paul working within the Roman legal system. The twist here comes from the structure of our nation, where I am (in theory) part of the governing authorities as an elector in a democratic republic. Some forms of protest in this country are, in fact, not rebellion but designed-in components of democracy. To the question of how my faith leads me to behave in a democracy (beyond submission to authorities and prioritizing the things of God above politics) will be the subject of the next post. Following that will be a post or two on the church/state question, after which I think I'll turn towards more specifics along the lines of why I'm an independent, political affiliations, and perhaps a Christian perspective on an issue or two. If there's anything else you'd like me to address - even if only to provide fodder for mockery - let me know.

God bless!
...

By the way, for a little fun, here's a worldview quiz for you. I found it interesting the quiz didn't label me a funadmentalist!

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative

75%

Postmodernist

56%

Fundamentalist

50%

Romanticist

50%

Existentialist

31%

Modernist

6%

Materialist

6%

Idealist

6%

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

3 comments:

Not Crunchy said...

Isnt' there a fundamental difference between Jesus calling for an overthrow of the gov't and Americans calling for an overthrow in the 18th century? Jesus represented a tiny minority view in an extremeley formalized system of gov't. In contrast there was a huge contingency of colonials willing to fight to get rid of an oppressive English gov't in a new land (admittedly the Rome-Jeruselem / England-America parallel is there). If Jesus had called for overthrow, it would be akin to a fringe group today calling for such action. Not only would that have been a bad political decision on his part, but also not the "business" that he was in. I see what you're getting at - how do you separate your political self from your religious self, but you're coming from the perspective of living in a Christian nation.

R. Stewart said...

"Isnt' there a fundamental difference between Jesus calling for an overthrow of the gov't and Americans calling for an overthrow in the 18th century?"

Yes, there is. The former never happened because it wasn't appropriate. The latter happened despite there being no scriptural sanction for it.

"If Jesus had called for overthrow, it would be akin to a fringe group today calling for such action. Not only would that have been a bad political decision on his part, but also not the 'business' that he was in."

That doesn't affect in any way the rightness/wrongness of what the Revolutionaries did. It's not that Jesus didn't advocate rebellion; He actually went so far as to command submission to authorities with His "render to Caesar" answer.

"I see what you're getting at - how do you separate your political self from your religious self, but you're coming from the perspective of living in a Christian nation."

I don't think you can, or should, separate your political self from your religious self. More of that will come out over time. And I don't agree this is a Christian nation, although I am writing from the perspetive of a Christian trying to interpret scripture properly.

I'm not judging the Revolutionaries harshly. I just don't see a Biblical justification for what they did, and I see plenty of scriptural justification for the notion that the Revolutionary war was wrongly started. Am I glad it happened? I guess - as I said, I'm rather fond of this country. But I don't see how the Revolution can be justified on Biblical grounds to submit to authorities.

Susan L. Prince said...

Cultural Creative 75%
Romanticist 44%
Postmodernist 38%
Fundamentalist 38%

The rest barely registers. Enjoyed the little "quiz".

Your post is intelligently written. I often wonder about a Christian's political involvement...what it should be, and how it is reconciled with God's word. I come up with much of the same ideas that you post about here...submission to authority and being "good" witnesses, even when that means silence. I am reminded of Joseph, and his submission to the Egyptian authority when he was sold as a slave by his brothers. To me, Joseph epitomizes how a Christian should react in similar circumstances.

Thanks for posting this!