Saturday, February 20, 2016

An Examination of Generalities

If you will allow me to generalize for a moment, I want to look at some common general themes found within the two main party platforms.

Many Republican Christians push for the legislation of Christian morality. Believing that domestic tranquility, justice, and welfare can be best achieved through legislating morally correct laws that make sin punishable under those laws. These laws ostensibly protect those within society who theoretically live in a way that benefits the society as a whole, while moving those within society who are destructive to the society into institutions where they theoretically can receive help while repaying their debt to society.

Many Democrat Christians push for a broader net of secular social services to catch those within society who need help. Believing that the general welfare, domestic tranquility, justice, and liberty can be best achieved by creating a government that can be trusted to assist those who need help and support and creating legislation to protect those within society regardless of whether or not immorality or just poor choices led to that need.

So in response the Republican generality, I would suggest that the emphasis on law removing sin from society is an admirable but ultimately futile goal. As demonstrated by Old Testament Law, this rigid society structure merely codifies punishment and acts as a stall tactic until true reconciliation is achieved. As far as I can see from human psychology and historical president, only through faith in Christ, and living according the Holy Spirit, can remove sin from within society. 

In response the Democratic generality, we must understand while the idea of a social safety net is certainly fits within the context of Christ's message, it is the Church's role within society to aid those who are in need so that they might also hear the good news of the gospel as their physical needs are met. Furthermore, the establishment of a stronger democratic base could have a restrictive influence on the ways that the church may fulfill this vital function.

The people who argue for the legislation of Christian morality are missing two fundamental truths about our government. All government is inherently self interested, and the American government is secular by nature. The establishment of Christian morality within a free society is and should be through the reliance on Christ and the Church. The idea that by legislating we can remove sin from within society is heretical, and gives the government way more power and control than it should have. Considering government's self interested nature these excesses allows for government to expand beyond its function of worldly authority and to pursue a strongly paternalistic relationship with its citizens. However, the fundamental misunderstanding is that legislating morality will not remove sin, only Jesus can do that. Criminalizing sin will not prevent sin, only living in accordance with the Holy Spirit can. When Romans 13:4 is talking about earthly authority crushing the evildoer, this is not a blanket statement about all sin, this is about creating a stable society in which right Christian action can lead to salvation for the people of that society.

The people who argue for the legislation of expanded social platforms are often missing the fundamental truth that it is the Church's job to be a fundamental part of the social safety network within society. Over and over throughout Jesus ministry, He talks about the poor. Do a word study on orphan (and for contemporary context as you study replace that word with foster child) or widow. One of the greatest dangers in this type of belief is the elevation of the government welfare state above the Church. The emphasis and reliance on a self interested secular government invariably becomes at best a hindrance to the populace's ability to grow beyond that reliance or at worst becomes a system of institutionalized idolatry. Earthly power is given by God to governments to provide justice for a society, but only if what belongs to God is given to God.

The bottom line is the Church should be the first-responders when assistance to the poor is needed. Not just in the institutional sense, but in the personal practical sense as well. Furthermore, we are well served to remember that the only requirement in giving aid to the poor throughout the new testament was placed on the givers, to share the message of salvation with them. We can get lost in the idea of punishing the evil of society instead of promoting the collaboration in a practical secular safety net as a complimentary part of the Church's initial response. By placing the responsibility for the punishment and safety of the needy and sinful of a society on the shoulders of secular institutions instead of making it a foundational, practical tenant of daily Christian life and weekly church participation, we are profoundly missing the larger opportunity of sharing the message of Christ with others.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Problem of Christian Politics

I am starting this blog in hopes of starting a conversation within the Christian community.

The issue that I want to explore in this blog and particularly during this election cycle is this: What is the role of the Christian in American politics and more specifically in American political parties?

We should establish up front what this blog will be:
This blog is my 100% best effort to produce well researched, true information to add to our discussion.
This blog is meant to be a conversation between Christians of all backgrounds, but everyone is welcome to participate regardless of faith, opinion, or background.

We should also talk about what this blog will not be:
This blog will never endorse a political party or candidate.
This blog will never allow the questioning of someone’s faith based on a political belief.
This blog will never exclude anyone who is genuinely interested of the subject at hand.

Why this topic?

One thing that I see in churches and in Christian relationships is how political beliefs and political party affiliation are driving wedges between Christians around our country. This is not something that is unique to a specific political party or to a specific church, but is an all-encompassing issue that I feel is not being addressed in the Christian community out of fear of backlash.

The colloquial wisdom says that polite conversation should never include religion or politics, and while we certainly have a dearth of social civility when we discuss these matters, I still feel that we need to examine these ideas as a Christian community. The church should be the safest place to bring issues of politics and religion under examination but we can’t because political ideology, affiliation, and identity have become a religion.

People are not able to separate their religious values from their political ones, because politics has become a false idol within the hearts, minds, and churches of many Christians. I have seen too many Christians try to fit their religious beliefs into their political beliefs, instead of forcing their politics to reflect their faith. I have seen too many Christian say that they are willing to support the lesser of two evils as long as it keeps the greater evil from winning. I have seen too many Christians tear down politicians who the bible says that they should be praying for (1 Timothy 2:2), respecting (Romans 13:7), and submitting to (Romans 13:1). I have seen too many Christians, within the same denomination, professing the same beliefs, have relationships damaged because their political conclusions were different. (see Matthew 18:6 and 1Corinthians 10:32-33)

Different political conclusions are not the issue, different political conclusions within a body of believers shows the strength and health of the group, instead it is the damage to faith and relationships that comes  from people choosing to value their political convictions above the convictions of their faith.

People put politics before faith for a very simple reason, our brains cannot differentiate between religious and political thought without training. If we look at studies on political participation, we find that the same areas of the brain light up during both political and religious discussion. Furthermore, there are studies that show correlations between different braincompositions and political party affiliation

The meanings of these two pieces of evidence are this: 1. our brains do not automatically distinguish between political and religious thought, and 2. our brains are designed for political diversity within an otherwise homogeneous group. If we accept both of these ideas as true then we must consciously train our minds to understand the differences between political and religious thought and discard any political leaning that does not match our faith. If we do not, our brains and our human nature will push us toward a political Christianity that is both a false religion and inherently exclusive to those who’s brain compositions correlate most strongly to our own.

This is where the danger comes. If we look at 1st Corinthians 12 the idea is very clear:

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another.26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

Yes, this even includes political beliefs.

My next post will be on the roles of God and Government in the Christian Life.