I see those verses as simple. We must submit to the goverment, whether we like our leaders or not. There is a plan. God has his reasons for putting certain leaders in office. I will encourage believers to not be caught up in looking at the chess pieces, but look at the moves that are being made. God can use ungodly leaders, like Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar. If we just looked at them, we would be distracted and say “I don’t like them because they’re ungodly.” But if their policies are enforcing and protecting the will of God, then we should be happy. That’s why I’m saying don’t get caught up with the chess pieces, but with the moves that are being made. God bless you brother!
Can I share with you why the word simple is powerful?
Obeying God will bring us in step with the spirit of God, other believers and the word of God which guides us in every situation, even voting
Psalm 37:23 Amplified Bible (AMP)
“The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way [and blesses his path].”
Thank you for sharing that. By my earlier response, I hope it didn’t sound like I lean on my own understanding. I ask God to direct every step, every action, every intent, even when it comes to voting. I look at the issues and say “What does God say in his word about this issue.” Every problem mankind faces and the answer to those problems lies within the pages of The Bible. I could have used a better word than simple. Words are powerful indeed. We use them to bless our God and use it to curse and discourage others, but hopefully everyone does not curse and discourage others. Thanks for your reply. God bless!
@CamKufner You have a heart for the hurting, and that can shine so brightly for Christ. I’d be curious on your thoughts on Shawn Hart’s talk at the ReFresh youth conference this summer. As one of his points, he emphasized anyone in the world can feed the poor, house the homeless, love the orphan. The question is whether we are doing it in a way only Christians can do, in a way that gives God glory than simply meeting needs.
Hi friends, @Interested_in_Government,
I think this is an interesting discussion. I’m very grateful that we’ve stayed focused on more general, theological considerations about voting and civic participation.
As I had this discussion in the back of my head, I noted with interest this argument by Richard Horsley, as explained and endorsed by N.T. Wright:
The book thus invites us to approach what has been called Paul’s theology, and to find in it, not simply a few social or political “implications”, to be left safely to the final chapters of a lengthy theological tome, but a major challenge to precisely that imperial cult and ideology which was part of the air Paul and his converts breathed. His missionary work, it appears (I am here summing up in my own way what I take to be the book’s central thrust), must be conceived not simply in terms of a traveling evangelist offering people a new religious experience, but of an ambassador for a king-in-waiting, establishing cells of people loyal to this new king, and ordering their lives according to his story, his symbols, and his praxis, and their minds according to his truth. This could only be construed as deeply counter-imperial, as subversive to the whole edifice of the Roman Empire; and there is in fact plenty of evidence that Paul intended it to be so construed, and that when he ended up in prison as a result of his work he took it as a sign that he had been doing his job properly.
If Jesus is Messiah, he is of course also Lord, Kyrios. The proper contexts for this term, too, are its Jewish roots on the one hand and its pagan challenge on the other. Taking them the other way round for the moment: the main challenge of the term, I suggest, was not to the world of private cults or mystery-religions, where one might be initiated into membership of a group giving allegiance to some religious “lord”. The main challenge was to the lordship of Caesar, which, though certainly “political” was also profoundly “religious”. Caesar demanded worship as well as “secular” obedience; not just taxes, but sacrifices. He was well on the way to becoming the supreme divinity in the GrecoRoman world, maintaining his vast empire not simply by force, though there was of course plenty of that, but by the development of a flourishing religion that seemed to be trumping most others either by absorption or by greater attraction. Caesar, by being a servant of the state, had provided justice and peace to the whole world. He was therefore to be hailed as Lord, and trusted as Savior. This is the world in which Paul announced that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was Savior and Lord.
A few questions: first, do you think this is an accurate reading of New Testament theology?
Second, if so, how does the announcement that Jesus is “Lord” subvert our expectations for Christians to wield political power?
I think the argument as presented within the context is accurate enough. In many nations today that try to stop Christianity, it is mostly because the leadership and its ideology do not want the population to serve God but instead the state. Communist countries are like this as is the case for dictatorships and so on. The Roman world was no different, all power to Ceaser, Rome and so on. Even religions are like this. Power to the upper strata of leaders and all followers subservient to their teachings/interpretations etc. Cults are also the same.
So nothing new under the sun here for any of mans history to this point. So in my mind, while the argument as shown is solid, it is NOT the whole picture by any means.
We have been placed into a system that offers the vote for its citizens and this includes Christians who are members of the country offering it. Christ said, “give unto Ceaser that which is Ceasers and give unto God that which is Gods”. Here we have the sovereign creator submitting to His own plan for human government and authority even though it is flawed and sinful.
The Lord at no time challenged the establishment of Rome while here on earth. The Roman system wanted to release Him if you recall. He certainly took apart the Pharisees and Saducees but only their arrogance and hard hearts. Not the temple rule or processes while He was alive. After the resurrection and the institution of the church Gods plan for believing mankind is internal rule through His Word and Spirit indwelling and guiding us and so on. Love for God Love for fellow man and so on.
Again, He has not removed or revoked human government as such. He even allows satan to rule this planet given there is a bigger event going on in the background of history. I refer to the angelic conflict and fallen realm who are at war with God. There is much here but if we go back to the idea of Jesus being Lord, and He is, we must apply some sense here. We are still under human government and one day it will be replaced with His Glorious rule. Until then we choose to vote as best we can with what we know, we can do nothing else. We are to pray for our leaders and government and perhaps the church does not do this enough. If that’s correct then we have a different set of things to talk about. When any nation ( should maybe say people within a nation) turns away from God you will see its decline from one generation to the next. I think this is what we are seeing in most of the western world today. We have mocked God, replaced Him with science and moral confusion. We are taking down fences around things that should not be taken down and we set ourselves adrift in a sea of chaos and indulgences.
We prefer the lie over the truth and God gives us over to our hearts. What a man sows, so shall he reap.
Whew, what a good question! While I also respect some aspects of the Mennonite/Amish tradition that @KMac pointed out, I do think that Christians need to be as actively involved in the culture as possible, and politics is the domain in which what are ultimately worldview issues get expressed into legal forms. So, yes, I think we cannot sit by idle and be totally uninvolved. At the same time, we must be detached from the domain of politics in a way that non-Christians (especially secular humanists) are not. We cannot have too much faith or confidence in the process of politics to do that which can only be done through the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of human moral agents.
However, I do think it is possible, even though the New Testament was obviously written at time when most, if not all, structures of culture where drastically different from our own, to find some rules, principles, and images by which we can develop an ethical position that should then inform our voting tendencies–even if it doesn’t give us exhaustive or explicit knowledge about current political contexts.
That said, I think each of us needs to wrestle with the text and decide what are the most primary or fundamental moral issues that God wants us to directly address, and then see if we can do something about them by engaging wisely with the culture and its political forms. It seems to me (especially after reading Richard Hays’ magisterial work, The Moral Vision of the New Testament) that most Christians, to include the Roman Catholic church, have historically come to a fair consensus on some foundational, ethical commitments. I think, for example, that these are some of those:
- All human life is sacred and demands the maximal amount of dignity, regard, and protection as can be given barring extenuating circumstances. Extenuating circumstances may be, but are not limited to, just wars, just capital punishment, and the allowance of some pain and suffering for the greater good of the sufferer (e.g. Chemo-therapy for the sake of overcoming a malignant tumor). If that is the case then I think all Christians should prima facie work out an ethical system that seeks to protect and defend human life starting with the most defenseless forms of human life, and then moving vertically up toward those who have the greatest personal and communal resources. Thus, in practice:
The unborn child is the most defenseless form of human life, and therefore Christians should advocate for the unborn in all cases.
The severely disabled, mentally handicapped, elderly, and terminally ill should probably be considered the next category of human beings that require our care and therefore political advocacy
The financially impoverished, especially if they also fit into the aforementioned category of disability, should receive strong support and advocacy
Immigrants, especially refugees, who have fled other parts of the world where conditions are hostile to their existence, or there is some degree of physical persecution
Beyond these first four categories, I think the question of which kinds of people require the greater degree of political protection and advocacy becomes slightly more difficult to ascertain or, at least, rate. I do not think the current trend of political advocacy for people who have a particularly loose view of human sexual behavior, for example, should translate into a greater degree of political advocacy, especially if they are mentally and physical healthy and financially stable.
In sum then, I think on point 1, Christians should advocate for pro-life candidates only, should advocate for candidates that are serious about providing good health-care for the most severely disabled amongst us, and for the elderly, candidates who are serious about finding or developing programs that help lift folks living under an identifiable poverty line out of that poverty, candidates who seriously attend to the care of immigrants, especially refugees, who are fleeing war-torn parts of the world or some other form of actual persecution, and then who have reasonable policy platforms that treat everyone else about equally.
- Freedom is a good and should be defended, even at the expense of comfort, ease, or convenience. While our only true freedom comes through Christ, Christians should desire that no one live in a culture that restricts freedom on those domains of culture which are crucial to human flourishing. These are, as far as I can tell:
The freedom of religious belief and expression. On this issue, the Anabaptists had it right; no one should be coerced to believe in a state-sponsored form of religion, yet religious belief should also not be relegated to the private sphere by the state.
Freedom of speech, and the freedom to exchange knowledge openly especially in traditional academic environments
Freedom to work, since work is part of our God-given mission, and when we do work and do it well, we serve God and people through what we create.
In sum, on point 2, and as an Evangelical I recognize that sometimes we, like Jesus and the Apostles, will find ourselves living in a culture where there is not freedom of this sort. We may find ourselves in a political context where to speak of our religious faith would result in incarceration, or death. However, why would we want to advocate for policies that make that more likely, and not just for ourselves, but for others who have different religious persuasions? Although God might use persecution to increase His harvest, I think we want to vote in candidates who will advocate for freedoms that continue to allow us to openly share the Gospel with the culture, and engage in religious dialogue with folks from other faiths.
- Regarding relationships, foreign and domestic, I think we would want to also take into consideration biblical principles that we would at least believe lead to more human flourishing rather than less. Thus, we would want to elect candidates who always have peace and relationships of mutual beneficence with our foreign partners, and war only as a last resort, or when there is an extraordinary evil that must be stopped (but, this also can be a matter of authentic disagreement between Christians of good faith, in that some Christians might feel bound to an unconditional posture of non-violence). As to internal or domestic affairs, I do think we would want government to give more power to families and local communities, especially when it comes to relational issues (e.g. parenting, marriage, sexual ethics, schools etc). However, if government is going to be involved, then we should probably elect candidates who will be favorable to:
Biblically acceptable forms of marriage and parenting
Biblically acceptable forms of sexual education in the schools
Biblically acceptable forms of marriage and divorce procedures (i.e. yes, there probably should be a new discussion on things like “no fault divorce laws” and whether or not they help or harm human flourishing).
In short, on point 3, I think we should try and form our own relationships according to the biblical model, and, since we believe that the biblical model of relationships is true, we should also advocate for these as part of our engagement with culture. Of course, this does not mean that we reduce our advocacy of biblical models of relationship down to just political advocacy, but I do think there are no good argument for why we wouldn’t match up our political advocacy with our biblical commitments with regard to family and community relationships.
@CarsonWeitnauer, this is super-interesting stuff, but could you elaborate on what expectations you have in mind? I’m not sure what you mean.
Thank you for the follow-up question.
I want to stay away from a partisan discussion as I don’t think this is the context for that conversation.
At the same time, your question brings to mind this passage from Matthew 20:25-28,
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
As one starting point, sometimes the narrative around political power can sound to me like this: “Let’s organize Christians to vote in a unified block for these particular candidates. Doing so will allow us to amass power such that we can advance our policies against the interests of our political opponents.”
Perhaps there is some pragmatic wisdom in this approach.
At the same time, I think we need to ask ourselves whether we are thinking and acting within the ethical framework of the Scriptures. Or, alternatively, if we are trying to shoehorn our Christian commitment into the pathways of the world.
Hi @Brittany_Bowman1 What issue are you recommending to set aside, and who are you recommending to set it aside (this forum, Christians in general, etc.)? When you say that “Christianity has been so public in supporting the conservative right”, do you mean that the American Right has publicly appealed more to Christians than the American Left has? Or do you mean that Christians on the Right are more visible in the press as a distinct voting block than the Christians who are active in organizations on the Left?
@jvaughn, those are really great questions. Thanks for the chance to clarify a bit. Can I answer your questions with a “none of the above?”
Perhaps it isn’t that Christians have done an effective job of mobilizing or that the American right necessarily appealed more to Christians. I know many Christians on both sides. Instead, I think there is an increasing trend in politics for humans of all religions/political stances to identify too closely with government. My concern was in getting too deep on one position that might create the tone of this being the “right” answer, when only Christ is our ultimate answer. I really value Anthony’s thoughts.
Sometimes, elections can produce three crowds: those who feel a devastating defeat, those who shout a shallow victory, and the rest who seem to go on with everyday life. The two extremes seem to have built their very identity on politics, in a way that either says “our only hope is in human accomplishment,” forgetting all human plans have flaws. Meanwhile those who go on with everyday life seem to have their identity elsewhere (preoccupied with work, their families, or (hopefully) the peace of Christ).
Perhaps one of the most penetrating questions we can ask instead of “What do you think on this specific issue?” is “Why do you care/not care about politics at all?”
On the reason for caring about politics, what would you hope to find out?
This is tricky. It would seem that in the matter of use of government for justice by Christians, the question seems about whether the use of political force (i.e. government) to achieve one’s vision of justice is a stumblingblock to the gospel message–or framed perhaps differently, inconsistent with the “ethical framework of the scriptures”–seems more directed toward the Christian Right than the Christian Left. In whatever sense this is the case, it’s hard to know how to respond without understanding better where that perception is coming from. Whatever degree we are more apprehensive of political discussion than theological discussion is more convincing evidence to me that our Christian commitments are intertwined with the pathways of the world than that the political activities of Christians upset non-Christians–especially those whose worldviews are essentially political (and legalistic). Now, I also think that even well-intended legal means are not necessarily wise. Was the Prohibition amendment unjust or unwise? It may have been unwise. Certain laws in Texas restricting sexual behaviors may have been ultimately constitutional but still unwise. The movie Have You Seen Andy? gets to some social consequences of the sexual revolution and maybe leads to some respect for the desire to see government involved in the struggle. But not every political intervention is wise.
Carson’s point about the ways of believers vs. the ways of the Gentiles [Matt 20] brings me back to my other recent response about Christian politics:
I think when believers raise Matt 20:25-26 with reference to leadership in the church, it will very often raise “concerns” with their leaders that one is questioning the role of “Biblical authority”. Yet, Jesus says “It will not be this way among you.” If you change church culture, you will inevitably change the church’s relationship to the world (John 17:21-23). (Anything else might just be some form of image management.) I can tell you, many kind, well-intentioned Christian leaders don’t know any other way than pulling rank in some fashion, even if done nicely. First one needs to determine how it applies within the Body of Christ, and then how that application informs our dealings outside the Body of Christ.
There have been a large number of people that have no use for any Christianity that recognizes a legitimate role for government to protect unborn children. Not every point of contention is as extreme as this issue. Many conservative Christians see other progressive policies as a violation of some ethical/moral boundary. Even so, it might not always be wise to force certain behaviors, however right they may be. I’m not an extreme libertarian, so I don’t see government being primarily about preserving individual autonomy; but I do think there is some political wisdom in the libertarian camp. I don’t necessarily think obscene speech is protected by the 1st Amendment, for example; however, it might be difficult to outlaw obscenity without providing an instrument for undermining the legitimate scope of the 1st Amendment. It is not merely the legality or legitimacy that is important, but also the wisdom of the law.
In America at least, the Chief Executive power is not the highest authority in the land. The Constitution is the chief power, and it derives its authority from the will and consent of the People who ratified it. Which means, to me, that each American citizen bears some of the collective Rom. 13:4 responsibility for the justness and wholesomeness of the society, even if in some cases it means supporting unpopular laws (hopefully wise and just laws) or resisting popular, unwise laws. The question of whom Jesus would vote for seems to me a little like posing to a Christian policeman “who would Jesus shoot?” I think policemen “do not bear the sword in vain” so that question as posed might be presupposing some unhelpful assumptions.
All that said, I don’t think believers should seek political conformity on issues or generally seek to be apolitical. As I understand it, Biblical unity should transcend the politics in a way that allows us to hear each other well and respond in a humble and gentle spirit. Of course, we have a long, long way to go to get there. But we shouldn’t be surprised if the outcome of gracious discourse sometimes may look like a united Church that votes as a block, especially if worldly society more and more openly embraces and imposes wickedness. But the mind of Christ isn’t about us parroting the same political opinions.
Interesting question. But Bible tells us that it is God who sets up authorities. In this sense, if we look back in history, He sets up just about anybody. And I believe God will always have eternity in mind when it comes to who should become President. Like if we ask, who made Trump or Duterte President? I don’t think we have a debate on this, do we?
I appreciate your thoughtful contribution to the discussion. It led me to reflect more on my own political posture.
If we all fully knew the truth and we all were fully committed to the good, then it seems comprehensible to me that we would all want the same political outcome. For instance, when we are in the new heavens and earth, and “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” is a reality, then we will all see and celebrate the political order of God’s perfect kingdom.
At the same time, this side of heaven, we have imperfect information, imperfect intentions, and limited resources.
There are very likely better ways of articulating this tension, but on the one hand…
I have hope that politics will be made right one day. One day Christians will ‘vote as a bloc’ that Jesus is Lord - and he will be Lord in every way, and we will worship him with joy.
On the other hand, I have a modest and chastened sense that the people I vote for or the policies I affirm are the best ones given the many complexities of political involvement in today’s world.
The ‘already-not yet’ tension is another way I have heard this articulated.
I think especially since we are having this conversation in RZIM Connect, which is a global community, thinking through political engagement in many different countries, cultures, and forms of government becomes even more difficult. Also, as we seek to prayerfully reflect upon the Scriptures, which discuss how God’s people have interacted with kings, generals, priests, and other governmental leaders, we are inevitably making some significant interpretational and applicational decisions to move from their cultural context to, say, a constitutional, democratic one.
Another complexifying factor, especially in America (though perhaps in other countries too), is how heated the partisan divide has become.
Yesterday I was saddened to see a prominent New York Times columnist make these claims:
The point is that demented anger is a significant factor in modern American political life — and overwhelmingly on one side. All that talk about liberal “snowflakes” is projection; if you really want to see people driven wild by tiny perceived slights and insults, you’ll generally find them on the right. Nor is it just about racism and misogyny. Although these are big components of the phenomenon, I don’t see the obvious connection to hamburger paranoia.
I’m not saying that most conservatives are filled with rage over petty things. What I’m saying instead is that most of those filled with such rage are conservatives, and they supply much of the movement’s energy.
However, you can easily find the same kind of language from conservatives about liberals. Here’s a Fox News contributor from the fall:
And so the left devours its own as rage bots only see dissent as evil.
Today, however, another New York Times op-ed piece, “No Hate Left Behind,” offered a more balanced perspective. But the statistics are alarming:
Just over 42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as “downright evil.” In real numbers, this suggests that 48.8 million voters out of the 136.7 million who cast ballots in 2016 believe that members of [the] opposition party are in league with the devil.
Their line of questioning did not stop there.
How about: “Do you ever think: ‘we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died’?”
Some 20 percent of Democrats (that translates to 12.6 million voters) and 16 percent of Republicans (or 7.9 million voters) do think on occasion that the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposition died.
In an environment where many people are passionately believing the absolute worst about each other, I think we need to be especially intentional to get outside of this framing and find a way to live within the storyline of the Scriptures.
Thank you, @CarsonWeitnauer. I appreciate your measured and thoughtful replies as well. I hope I haven’t given the impression that I disagree with the notion that our . Even (or especially) on a topic like abortion, I think we need to not demonize people. We are in a spiritual battle, but as you indicate, our perception of how this battle is playing out in the lives of people requires some humility. I think a genuine desire to understand another’s position, no matter how certain one feels about its value, should go beyond the desire to show what’s wrong with it, and this value for the truth and for people often has a pleasant side effect of disarming anger. We are living in a time where Gal. 5:15 and Mt. 24: 10,12 describe the general temper, and believers need to take care not to get caught up in it. On that note, Robert George and Cornell West had a public dialogue with Rick Warren called the Cost of Freedom at Biola, and it was a really interesting case of crossing the political divide on matters of faith. (The whole talk can be found on YouTube.)
As a counterbalance to the NY Times account of the hate, it’s instructive to read the #1 bullet in Danusha Goska’s Ten Reasons, since she formed this opinion when she considered herself on the left. After various news outlets dismissed the #WalkAway movement as a Russian fabrication, proponents started uploading videos about their personal stories of the hatred and intolerance that they experienced as leftists from other leftists. To this day, I don’ t know that I could give financial support to my alma mater, given the vicious harrassment of Prof. Robert Oscar Lopez that was allowed to occur there in the name of tolerance. This man resigned after winning a long battle for tenure. Or the hordes of students that show up to shut down non-progressive speakers at the universities. Which is not to say that no weird things happen in non-left circles. But even the left/right dichotomy is not, I think, very useful in terms of categorizing political philosophies; it maybe pragmatically relates to voting strategy. The underlying philosophies are maybe harder to pin down, because they aren’t being thoughtfully discussed.
I suppose I’ve come to think of the ‘alt right’ as the ‘identity politics’ of cultural Marxism (as some people put it) casting its shadow on the right wing. (I don’t think I heard anyone talking about an ‘alt right’ before 2016.) While I have a hard time thinking of that as resembling conservatism, people seem to be thinking of any alternatives to radical progressivism as a kind of conservatism, and inasmuch as it seems anti-Biblical (bigoted) as well as opposed to some of the nobler aspects of the conservatism I grew up with, it is disturbing. Just as the waters between classical liberalism and radical progressivism have become improbably mixed, it seems the waters have become blurred murkily between classic American conservatism and some mysterious mixture of reactionary patriotism and ‘white identity’ politics. Less principle and more reaction seem to be the name of the game.
It possibly might help discussion for believers (or people in general) to realize that their voting choices are not just a matter of (limited) perception but also of priorities. There are many pro-life Democrats and many pro-amnesty Republicans. Any single vote may be simply choosing what is believed to be the less destructive set of policies. Not that it is necessarily easier to understand the differing priorities but this is an important piece of the puzzle.
@jvaughn Late re-joining the party, but I appreciate you taking time flesh out your thoughts. I’m still pondering a bit and will need more time to respond fully.
My reason for dodging specific politics here is, as Carson mentioned, the global and welcoming nature of RZIM Connect. We have a wonderful community and home to ask faith-based questions. In the context of “already, not-yet” we must be careful of a younger believer seeing political opinions loudly voiced and interpreting these opinions as deriving from the infallible Truth we find in the Bible. No political victory is ever worth such a sacrifice, and so that is why caution is in this specific context to tread lightly.
It can be important for Christians to engage in politics, as we are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Similarly, we should be engaged in work, in neighborhood life, in our local church, etc. In being engaged with others’ lives around us shows we seek to live as Christ incarnate, to enter into others’ lives with grace and kindness with the intention of sharing the only true Light. Furthermore, RZIM is a global community, and there are many political contexts.
We need Christian in politics, just as strongly as we need Christian in business or as parents. I see politics as nothing more than a Christian duty in the context of a bigger God. We caution against over-idolizing other roles, and it’s important to keep politics in check, as well. For example, if a businessman over-idolizes his work, he risks alienating his family and relationships. However, if he dismisses his work as fitting into God’s context, he could justify over-charging his products or mistreating employees, since there would be no eternal consequences for his larger work. Similarly for parents, who could over-idolize or neglect their children, etc.
I circle back to my previous post, in asking, “Why do you care/not care about politics at all?” Ultimately, our calling in each earthly role is to allow Christ’s light to shine to bring Him glory. For those who do not know Christ, work, politics, community, etc. is their only hope. Whether our earthly role is business or family or politics, we must be diligent to bring each into the context of only being a foreshadow of Christ. We can weather both victories and failures because Christ is our larger Hope.
I think this is an important line:
Which is not to say that no weird things happen in non-left circles.
I don’t want to suggest a false moral equivalence nor a moral relativism. There can be important moral differences between different groups.
At the same time, I think that there is a pronounced emphasis in our time to say that the “out-group” is worse than the “in-group”. This is a common tendency in all cultures; it seems to me that various factors have recently amplified and intensified this approach.
For this reason, let’s please be careful to avoid using pejorative labels for groups of people.
For example, imagine a political discussion in the time of Jonah. “You’re a Ninevite!” was probably a pretty mean insult among Israelites of the day. I imagine public polls would suggest that many Israelites would think the world would be a better place if a plague hit the city and all the Ninevites died. I get it.
At the same time, the Lord’s perspective was far different. “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons…?”
I’m so totally tardy to this party! But, I’m here and it’s still going to, I’ll share my basic thoughts.
@edgarjmp opened up the discussion with a really good question about Christian voting and living in a Christian country. Also, I think somewhere in the responses I read, I saw someone speak on choosing a candidate that God would approve of, so that will be included in my thoughts.
I live in the US, which is a pluralistic-secular society and not a theocracy. With that in mind, my voting possibly impacts not only my life but the lives of others as well, that’s in a broad sense. From a myopic perspective, when making decisions regarding my voting, I keep in what impacts my life and rights as well. Politically, I consider myself a liberal-conservative; meaning, I’m not completely conservative my in viewpoints, nor am I completely liberal. My voting reflects this and how I vote is on an issue by issue bases. I.e. I live in Maryland, a state that has some of the most rigid gun laws in the U.S.; however, I’m not interested in having more of my rights taken away by the state or the federal governments. I cherish the right to own firearms and desire the right to carry (Maryland isn’t an open-carry state; and one can only conceal carry under specific instances). Guess what, I’m not voting for anyone who pushes a platform that threatens that.
@Brittany_Bowman1 said, “… I find it very challenging to reach the unsaved on the liberal left because Christianity has been so public in supporting the conservative right.” Firstly, I’d like to say that Christianity in and of itself doesn’t support any political party. Secondly, what we predominantly see in the U.S. is conservative white Christian identifying individuals who support the political right/Republican party. Ironically, black Christians in general tend to support and identify with the Democratic party and some Libertarians. So, what we end up having is this extremely skewed image of Christianity due to the very intentional comingling of politics and religion, namely Christianity. And as of lately, it’s become even more convoluted as gender has been, in my opinion, strategically thrown into the mix with the election of several more female politicians across the country serving in various offices and capacities.
Yet, at the end of all of this, I lean on Roman 13:1
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
I can’t honestly say who is the person most pleasing to God in an election, the person of God’s choice could be the opposite of whom my vote was cast. God’s plan is too complicated for me, but His sovereignty is quite simple even in the most complex of situations and circumstances. So, for us in America, Trump didn’t get the position on his own merit, but in the grand scheme of God’s sovereignty, he’s president for the duration. How will God use this or has used it thus far? That’s too big for my mind. It’s been like this very every president and politician that’s has held an office.
Next, I do my best to remember Jeremiah 29:7
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
It still ends up my being one of my responsibility to pray for not only the city but the country no matter the outcome of any election.
None of this is exactly an easy thing for me always. Sometimes I struggle with how things are in this country. And oftentimes, because life isn’t so cut and dry, I’m navigating the gray areas and seeking to make the best decisions I can make when it comes to voting for candidates and matters that don’t directly impact me, again, I go back to how my vote impacts others besides myself.
It is hard to comment on the “weirdness” on one’s own “side,” for many reasons: one of which is that the perception of such (and its perceived significance) depends a lot on who you’re listening to. But a reason that often also gets overlooked is that one doesn’t necessarily consider oneself on the same “side” as all the people that are voting for the same people. Whatever bad things are happening, if it is perceived at all, one tends to perceive them as perpetrated by an unrelated extreme minority and blown out of proportion by the opposition. And if that is the conclusion one comes to, someone on the other “side” (the other side of what exactly?) can feel dismissed by that conclusion. How does one address that without moral equivalence preventing any meaningful conclusions?
I appreciate your discretion, but I think you will have to give specific examples of what you might be considering pejorative. Even a term such as ‘alt right’ I feel is clouded with assumptions and misunderstandings, but it is difficult to find another term to distinguish people in one philosophical camp from another. (And the terms some people use to identify themselves often cloud things more.) Such things are lot harder to tease out, and I’m not sure how much of that would be allowed here anyway. Another question that might not be possible to answer here is: “If there were a philosophy within a “side” (given a particular political context) that was in principle in discord with Christian morality, how would you know?” If you believe in coherence and correspondence, it would seem at least a possible to know. Or put another way, how do you identify “important moral differences between groups”?
It’s possible some people might think the term ‘cultural Marxism’ assumes more than, say ‘alt right’ but there is some common philosophical basis for what underlies what is now being called “intersectionality” and previously “critical theory.” It might be the wrong forum to question whether the varied forms of collectivism since Marx have a systemic urge to subvert existing cultural institutions; however, if there is such a systemic thread, then there is possibly a common thread between what Richard Wurmbrand experienced in Romania and what Prof. Lopez experienced in California. And if believers perceive something fundamentally opposed to Christianity itself in a philosophy, even a political one, what is the significance of that, if true? How obligated are they to warn other believers if that is what they perceive? If postmodernism is particularly dangerous, is it more prevalent in some philosophies than others? Is materialism more deeply embedded in certain philosophies? As far as pejorative terms are concerned, is there a general society in which Marxism suffers from the social censure that Fascism does?
@Brittany_Bowman1, I think maybe the only way for a younger believer to understand that different political opinions can be thoughtfully held by believers hopefully based in some way on the Truth of God’s word is to actually hear how different believers attempt to hold these opinions in relation to God’s word, and hopefully in a way that doesn’t elevate their importance. Some Christians believe capitalism is evil; some believe socialism is evil. Maybe neither is true; maybe both are true; the truth of those claims would depend a lot on how the terms are defined.
To answer your question about why I care, it is because I believe that good government can (in limited ways) “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”; and I also believe that bad government can do great harm to a society, has enormous influence to undermine the values and conscience of a society and to propagate and spread the brokenness of society. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I think there is a sense in which all citizens in America are in government and are accountable for our stewardship of the country. With regard to the ultimate hope, one’s hope in Christ should far exceed one’s hope in their parenting skills; yet I think it would be seriously misguided to minimize the importance of good parenting for the spiritual health of the next generation.
Since this is an RZIM forum, I’d wonder what would be the reaction of the RZIM Connect community to the opinions expressed in the Death of Truth event by Ravi Zacharias and Dennis Prager, particularly the Q&A. How does the ‘death of truth’ impact our ability to flesh out the social and psychological consequences of political philosophies?