Saturday, April 14, 2012

Christians Judging Christians over Politics

The Sin of Judging & Political Engagement

I have been having a little debate over at SI about "ought" within the context of Christian political behavior. The position I have taken is that there is no "ought" in Christians and political engagement. If a Christian wishes to be engaged or not is left to their own descretion. Below is one except of the point I am attempting to make IF we conclude that Christians MUST be politically engaged.

Let's suppose that those who assert that (1) Christians "ought" to be politically involved, that (2) Christians "must" be politically involved and that (3) Christians who are not politically involved are irresponsible, bad citizens, and sinning against God and country, are actually right for arguments sake. That is where we land after all. Either it is a sin not to be politically involved or it is not. Either Christians are going to stand before Christ and given an account for voting or they are not. There is no middle ground. After all, if Christ will not have anything to say to non-voters for not voting, then this whole discussion is useless. So, that being said, there are a few more issues that emerge; hundreds is more like it.

1. Can I vote for a president who is for abortion because I like his tax policy? Would that be a sin?
2. Can I vote for a president who is for higher taxes because I like his abortion policy?
3. Can I vote for a president who is eliminating certain benefits from seniors and unwed mothers and their children because I like his abortion and tax policies?
4. I have some extra time on Thursdays and Saturdays and the local democrats or republicans need help signing people up to vote, am I sinning by not doing my part?
5. I have never made a political contribution, is that a sin?
6. Can I refuse to vote for a conservative president because I don't like his illegal immigration policies.
7. Which party is "more" Christian, democrats or republicans?
8. How do I vote for a president who is liberal on abortion but conservative on the other issues?
9. Is it a sin to vote for a politician who is for gay marriage?
10. Is it a sin to vote for a conservative politician if he is an atheist?

If this argument is true:
It is a sin not to be a good citizen
All good citizen are politically involved
Therefore, it is a sin to be politically passive

Then so is this one:
It is a sin not to be a good citizen
Good citizens know the best path for the country's policies & laws
Good citizens engage in the polical behavior that will move the country down that specific path
Therefore, it is a sin for Christians not to be politically engaged in those specific activities that move the country down the path that is best for its well-being and future health.

This would mean that it is a sin to vote for any politician who holds a view that may move the country down a path that is bad for the country.

Okay, now we have to figure out what is bad for the country.

So now we have this thorny little issue facing us. If it is true that being a "good citizen" means "x," and the Bible commands us to be good citizens, then it naturally follows that if we neglect "x" we actually sin against God. When we allow "others" to define what a good citizen is, as opposed to exegeting that information from Scripture, we are now in a position to create rules and standards that are firmly extra-biblical. Of course we have not even approach the question regarding who gets to define what a good citizen really is. That must be answered since the avoidance of sin depends on it.
This is why we should search the Scriptures to see if they give us any help understanding what a good citizen is, what God expects in terms of our relationship to governing authorities.

1. A Christian citizen is to be in subjection to civil authorities.
2. A Christian citizen is to recognize civil authories are ministers of God.
3. A Christian citizen recognizes that resisting civil authority is resisting God.
4. A Christian citizen pays their taxes.
5. A Christian citizen prays for the civil authorities.
6. A Christian citizen submits to civil authorities, kings, and governors for the Lord's sake.

Paul says we do this, recognizing the authority as a minister of God as well as for conscience sake. Peter clearly tells us we should be good citizens for the sake of the gospel. The Christian interest in society is the gospel. We seek to do all we can to be the most capable witnesses to that gospel that we can be. When civil authorities look at the Christian community, it should be as a very narrow religious entitity with a religious interest. They should not see us as one more group to pander to.
Christianity became the official state religion under Theodosius (378-395).

I strongly recommend that anyone who is truly interested in the question concerning church-government relationship begin with Scripture that actually addresses that issue specifically and then jump over to this period in church history and take a look at what resulted once Christianity began to become politically aware and involved. I will submit to you that since the late fourth and early fifth century, it has been utterly devestating. There may be an occassional bright spot, but only occassional. On the grand timeline, it looks quite dismal.

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