Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Honest Political Opinion

Let the controversy continue. I see the church being divided when it comes to political opinion in a pretty hard way. It divides the nation, but we let it divide the church as well. With something so dividing, I feel like the discussion should be had in a very honest and open way. So, let's get into it. 

I guess I'll start with the Religious Right. This has been the party most associated with Christianity for quite some time. However, the only real stand-out point between just the Republican party and the Religious Right is that these are the people who would have us be a distinctly Christian nation guided by Christian morals. Now, that sounds pretty good at first glance, but it gets a bit muddled up in my opinion. Take the emphasis put on not allowing same-sex marriage as an example. Since marriage according to the Bible is one man and one woman, this party does not support it. I'll say that I don't at surface level agree with same-sex marriage, but let me explain. Christian marriage would not allow for it, but do Christians have a monopoly on marriage? Hinduism practices marriage, so it’s not a distinctly Christian practice. Should we outlaw any non-Christian marriage? Should Vegas weddings be made illegal since they are often far from the Biblical example of marriage? It would seem hard to push all of our Christian ideals off on the nation at large. I've said it multiple times before, I say it now, we are NOT a Christian nation that is set apart by God. Israel was the only one, and the church is now. So, the church is set apart, but our nation is not. God gives us freewill to be a part of His bride; people should not be legally bound to live in the church. I'm sure I'll end up saying more about this, but for now let's just leave it at that. 

OK. The Republican Party. Marked by small government, capitalism, working hard, and elephants. Like I said before, the Religious Right isn't really far off from here. So how does it measure up in terms of Christianity? I should say to begin that I think this party works pretty well when it comes to creating a prosperous nation. However, prosperity isn’t a concern of Jesus, and in fact, he condemns it from time to time. 1 John 3:17 says “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet closes their heart against them, how does God's love abide in that person?” The same might be said of those who despise all forms of financial aid to the poor because it “builds character” and “you have to earn what you get.” Granted, many make the argument that this is the church’s job, and not the government’s, and I would agree with that. However, most who say this (and in all reality, me when it comes down to it) really are not anywhere near where Jesus would have us be in terms of benevolence and compassion. Most of the time, we don’t give a crap about the poor, and if I said that from a pulpit, many might care more that I said crap than they do about the poor. Jesus loved the poor though, and asks us to do the same. What if “loving your neighbor as yourself” actually meant not spending more than half your income on yourself while spending the other half on your poor neighbor? It’s a heck of a thought. 

The church described in the NT is one marked by persecution and love. They willingly went the second mile when asked by a Roman soldier to carry a pack one mile and they were often martyred by a nation that rejected them. This seems to be a far stretch from the 2nd Amendment loving, gun toting, give me liberty or we’ll secede mindset of the Republican Party. This is also the party that is most likely to support the death penalty and war, both of which do not exactly measure up to the “enemy love” ideal set forth by Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t have us love “Merica” and all the butt kicking that comes with it, he would have us love our enemies and turn the other cheek. The government “does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4), however, we are told just a few words back that as the church, we should “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). So, it would appear we don’t get to be a part of that. We instead are told to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14-18).

Now it’s time to switch to Left wing of things. Both parties like bigger government in some areas, this side just likes it less in issues of values and morals and more in the domain of finances and other areas. Christians in this party tends to not feel as though they can push morals off on people, but include other issues of life in this. Most notably, abortion most commonly gets thrown in with this party. I’ve written more extensively on being “pro-life” and so I will just recommend looking back, but this tends to be an issue that gets at a lot of Christians, and I can’t blame them. 50,000,000 babies have been killed via this means, and I wonder if we’d give that more of a thought if they would have all been born first? While I don’t think we can push our morals off on people, I think this is an issue that Christians should work to better because a healthy respect for life is a great attribute for a country to have (and that’s all I’ll say here since I already wrote on it).

This party usually gets the wrap for being “socialistic” or “communistic” as well. Honestly, that kind of sounds like what the early church was about, at least at a lower community level. One of the things that gets me though is how these things tend to be incredibly wasteful and godless. No nation has ever tried “communism” without “atheism” being very attached to the idea, and that’s kind of unsettling to me. I don’t know why it is, it just is. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” says Paul (1 Cor 13:3). This makes me not so sure this can be praised as “Christlike” if it does not associate with Christ. Plus, at a national level, the idea just really doesn’t seem to work out the way utopians want it to. Just an observation.

I'll say it, labeling this party as communism isn't fair. However, This party is surely connected with larger levels of governmental control in these areas. Whenever the government runs an arena, there will be insane amounts of waste because of the concepts of third-party purchasing (someone using someone else's money to buy something they will not personally use). So, there will always be waste. I think some of this is actually connected to the idea of doing something without love as I mentioned above with 1 Corinthians 13:3. It's impersonal. Also, programs that do seek to help people usually perpetuate the cycle of poverty rather than break it. While I say that, it is better than nothing. There are times when I am running somewhere and am able to do little more than give a few dollars to the person with the sign on the side of the road. However, this does nothing to break the cycle of poverty. Neither does a single meal. The answer to breaking the cycle of poverty is love, not money. When you have the type of love that frees you from monetary selfishness, there's the ticket. 

Now, I don't plan on everyone agreeing with everything I just said. I'm sure there are countless counterpoints and differing views. However, it's cool because the rest of my view actually makes up for any inaccuracies or discrepancy in opinion.

This is where we come to my real opinion about politics. What party do I associate with? NADER!

Just kidding. None of them.

How could I vote for a party that doesn’t respect life or a slew of other things the way I feel they should? Neither side is the Jesus side of things despite each claiming to be. Here’s what Jesus said about politics “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25). Pay your taxes. That’s all Jesus says about it. That’s really all that Paul says to do in Romans 13 as well, in addition to submitting to authorities (e.g. not breaking the law unless that law contradicts God’s law).

A guy named David Lipscomb taught (concerning politics) that Christians should neither vote nor participate in government, because that was earthly kingdom business and we are to be about Kingdom of Heaven work. The only thing he said we should do is obey the law to the extent that it doesn’t make us go against God, and to pay our taxes. I think it’s possible to be very actively pro-life and benevolent without being involved in government. I think when we are about Kingdom work we do what really needs doing.

The early church was not concerned about making any government more churchlike. They focused only on making the church more Christlike.

For Lipscomb, being involved in government meant having to make too many decisions that simply were not in line with Christian thought. After all, the government is an avenger, and Christians are told not to be.

So, am I saying that it’s wrong to be an active member in government or vote? Nope. I think there are good reasons not to but I don’t think I can truly justify saying that as a hard and fast rule. However, I am very willing to say that earthly kingdom work is 1,000% second to heavenly kingdom work.

For myself, I don’t vote and am certainly not in line to change things about our government. I am far too concerned with changing things about our church that seems to be so nation influenced to be concerned with any of that other garbage. I want to change the hearts of men and women, not the heart of an institution.

After all, discipleship is strongest in situations where persecution exists. The early church we admire so much existed within a governmental frame that was far more oppressive and negative towards Christianity than ours is. It was when the church became associated with the state (Constantine) that some of the strongest corruption entered the church. It seems the church is more negatively influenced by the state when associated with it than the state is positively influenced by the church.

The church does not need the government in order to be effective in this world; the opposite may be true in fact.

Quite frankly, I think the church has better things to worry about, especially on something that divides people so often and makes them so lividly angry. "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18)

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