Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Politics. It's not for me.

I believe that abortion is a form of murder.

I am opposed to gay marriage—although to be perfectly honest I don’t really care whether or not it becomes law. I don’t get worked up about it. All things being equal, I’ll vote against legalizing it, if given the opportunity. That is about the extent of my outrage.

I will vote for candidates who are Christians over those who are not—even if I am more politically aligned with the latter—although I cannot recall when has ever happened.

Truth be told, I don’t get very excited about politics, and in particular I am not at all motivated to become actively involved in political campaigns aimed at electing Christian candidates. I’ll vote for them if they are running, but I won’t go to their rallies or man their phone banks or knock on doors or give money to the campaign, and it’s not because I am cheap.

The Christian political machine makes me very uneasy if not embarrassed.

The reason is simple: I see nothing in the New Testament that even remotely resembles a call to political activism. I don’t read Jesus saying: “Don’t pay your taxes, because the government uses that revenue to funds crimes that violate God’s law.” Instead I read: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Surely Jesus knew that his tax payments would support slavery, help to build abominations, and fund murder—including his own.

Nor do I find Paul writing: “Let's rise-up against Roman slavery” even though Christian principles firmly establish, to anyone whose parents married outside of their own family, that Christianity is unambiguously opposed to any form of human bondage. Instead I read that the imprisoned Paul sends the runaway slave Onesimus back to the slave-owner Philemon—with some strong advice that Philemon grant his freedom—but also with the clear impression that if he doesn’t—well then Onesimus can witness just as well if not more powerfully as a slave than as a free citizen.

Giving the gospel trumps all politics. So much so that Jesus and the apostles, to a man, appear to be apolitical. One’s political situation, fortunate or severe, is simply not a priority, it’s an opportunity. Slave or free, rich or poor, democracy or totalitarian state—those circumstances are ordained by God, and regardless of where you find yourself the command is to give the gospel, not change the government. Christians should help their fellow man, but the gospel is a gospel of redemption, not a call for social action.

I see no teaching whatsoever that is along the lines of: work to change the government if it is not aligned with God’s law. I see only instruction to obey those who, by God’s sovereignty, have been placed over you. And while it can be argued that your primary responsibility as an individual Christian is to God's law, and that given a choice a Christian should obey God's law rather than man's law, it does not follow nor is it taught that it is our responsibility to ensure that our government is obedient to God’s commands.

I have the textbook ingredients to be a theonomist—being a biblical inerrantist with a Presbyterian, covenantal doctrine and an optimistic postmillennial eschatology—but I find in scripture no support whatsoever for dominionism. None. One of the most intractable conundrums in my theological walk is how there can be people with whom I agree with on virtually everything when it comes to doctrine—but I cannot see any solid ground for their pro-theonomy positions. It is such a disconnect, that I wonder at times if I am missing something obvious.

Every once in a while I think that we Christians should remind ourselves that Constantine’s rule was no panacea for Christianity. It laid the groundwork for transforming Rome from the model episcopate of the early church to the monstrosity it became in the Middle Ages. And instead of chanting that there is no such thing as “separation of church and state” in our constitution, we should remember that the modern idea of the separation of church and state was championed by Christians to prevent their abuse at the hands of states, precisely at a time when the states in question were effectively Christian theocracies.

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