Loss is Gain
3/26/12 at 01:28 PM 0 Comments

Don't Politicize Christianity

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This always happens. Every four years, you can count on Christianity and national politics to (temporarily) wade into the same pool. It never gets any easier to stomach, even though one has three years to prepare for it. It is presidential election season in America, and all the candidates have dusted off their 5 lb. Bibles, chosen a few verses that (they think) they can twist into supporting this position or that, and have started a game of religious one-upsmanship. They try to fool the weakminded into believing two things: 1.) that they are some paragon of the faith, unlike any politician who came before them; 2.) that Christ's message was nothig if not political.

I am happy to be the messenger in this instance, and the message I carry is this: the Christan system of beliefs is definitely not political.

Public policy - the intellectual side of politics - is all about crafting policy that will help the public live better lives. Interestingly enough, this is also quite like religious belief. I believe that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that only through him will anyone ever be reconciled to God. Accordingly, I do my best to follow his teachings, his "policies", if you will. I this way, I concede that religion and politics are vaguely similar. This, however, is where the similarities end.

Public policy is made into law, and we have no choice but to follow it. Religious belief is optional. Depending on where you stand, there is or is not a punishment for adherence or negligence thereof. But, as the saying goes, "You cannot legislate morality." Some religions do have a political aspect built into them, but Christianity is definitely not one of them. The idea, of course, is that is you legislate by your religious beliefs, thus direct the public by your moral compass, you will produce an increasingly moral society. The problem with this is that a religion focred on an individual will not stick. You can tell me until judgement day that my favorite color is purple, and if there is a metaphorical gun to my head, I may consent, but that won't change the fact in my heart that my favorite color is decidedly NOT purple.

Christianity was never meant to be a ruling philosophy, at least not in the sense that, say, democracy is a ruling philosophy. Christianity was, and is still today, meant to be administered at the individual level. Christ was God on Earth, and could have easily done some Jedi mind trick on humanity to make all believe, yet his ministry was focused on a small, backwoods region of the Near East. Why didn't he mach straight to Rome and make Caesar a believer? He didn't because that is never what was meant to be.

Christ wants our hearts and our souls. When he gets them, he tells us through the Holy Spirit to "go and make disciples of all nations." This was his very last commandment while still in human form. If one's last words are meant to be important to those who hear, we should take it to mean that evangelizing, and baptising in the name of Jesus is pretty important. If we do this, Christian morality will spread. As it spreads, there will be less and less need to legislate morality. The fact that we live in such an immoral society is a failure of we who claim to be evangelists, not of government.

Enough of this poppycock about using Jesus to support this political position or that. It is old, and tired, and played out. This is nothing more than civil religion, the idea that we will collectively find some sort of salvation. If you want to see change around you, pick up yor Bible and start changing those around you. Pray for them. Serve them. Take them with you to church. These are the ways to a more moral society.

Watching the GOP race to this point, with each candidate trying to get in front of the religious debate, reminds me of the times described when the disciples would squabble amongst themselves over who would be the greatest in Heaven, or who would sit at Christ's right hand. His response was always the same, "But whoever would be great amongst you must be your servant, and whoever would be first amongst 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." (Mt. 20:26-8)

So, which candidate strikes you as having Christ-like humility?

This is not to say, of course, that our faith cannot or should not influence our politics. Joel Miller recently wrote, "William Wilberforce required more than words to end the slave trade. It took laws." And those laws were in turn influenced by his and other's morality. The slave trade, however, is a much more clear cut moral issue than, say, taxation or healthcare. Jesus was (and remains) a great healer. He never sought out a doctor when someone brought news of an invalid. He went and he did something about it. Granted, we do not possess the power and authority over existence that Christ did, so we cannt simply up and go heal someone (though this is a spiritual gift which some are blessed with), but Christ never saw a problem and then sought out the local authorities to handle it. He did it himself.

If we as believers in the Resurrection repent of our worldly ways and truly change our hearts, then this strange desire to legislate morality will lose it's attraction. If we develop relationships with those who are lost, serve our neighbors in need rather than puff up our own "needs", and all the while humbly let them know why we do this and who it is that we ultimately do this for ("What you have done for the least of these..."), we will see radical change all around us. There will be no need for Bible thumping politicians. I will close with a psalm that sums this all up nicely:

"Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation."

- Psalm 146:3

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