One of the things I have pondered the most in my adult life is what a Christian’s involvement in politics ought to be. There may be no hard and fast rules for this, but it is topic that is near and dear to my heart because I can see how have I constantly allowed politics to consume my life. I know that I have to be extremely careful not to allow the politics of this world to shape my hope for life or to become a wall that prevents me from sharing Jesus with other people.
This past year has seen my politics change from conservative to libertarian, and I thought I would share with you five ideas I have helped lead the way to this switch. I am not asking you to agree with me, just simply to think about these ideas.
1. Freedom is found in Jesus and not a form of government. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is 1 Peter 2:16; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (ESV). This verse is found in the middle of a section where Peter is urging his readers to submit to the government, including the emperor. These people weren’t free because of the government, but because of the choices they were able to make as they followed Jesus. He set them free from sin and death, and continued to lead them into greater and greater freedom.
Look around us and we will see that many people in the United States are not free. They are enslaved by debt, by addiction, by bad relationships, and a number of other reasons. More often than not their enslavement is caused by a series of choices that they have made. True freedom is not dependent on the government, but on following Jesus.
A tangent to this idea is the reality that all freedom is a gift from God. Our founders understood this and that is why they wrote; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Declaration of Independence tells us that our liberties are a gift from God and not from government. Government’s job (at least in the United States) is to make sure people are able to enjoy those rights.
2. The politics of this world utilize two tools: propaganda (spin) and violence (force). I am indebted to Dr. Mark Moore from Ozark Christian College for this idea. I think the idea that propaganda is one of the tools of politics is essential to remember, because so many of us can get caught up in the spin of politics and we never stop to ask what is really true. President Bush was involved in propaganda when he urged us to go to war in Iraq. President Obama is involved in propaganda as he tries to convinces us of the need to pass health care reform. When there is an agenda on the line you can be certain that half-truths and bold face lies are being thrown around. We have to be very careful not to take things at face value. I am especially leery when I hear some one say: “this is the truth” (like I am just to trust them to be unbiased and to present the real facts of the issue.).
The fact that the government carries the sword is not a necessarily a bad thing. Please remember, it is one of their God-given duties to enforce laws. The rub is that the only way the Government has to enforce laws is through force. Therefore the United States has a military and different law enforcement agencies. Since that is the case it is very prudent to keep Government from being able to use that force as much as possible, and that requires keeping Government small.
3. Focus on principles and not agendas. This idea builds off the reality that the government uses propaganda to get its agenda accomplished. The problem is that most of us don’t have the means or the time to really dig into the truth of the matter. Who has time to read 1,500 page bill or track down ever stat used in a speech? It would consume our lives if that is what we had to do to participate in the political process, and excuse me if I don’t trust politicians and talk show hosts to tell me the truth.
When I talk about principles I am talking about political principles rather than moral principles. I don’t do this because of some misguided understanding of the idea of separation of church and state, but because some times we can allow our moral principles to cloud the issue. For example, I know that many well-intentioned Christians support health care reform because of the Christian principle that we need to help people in need, and so they are okay with the Government stepping in and taking over a part of life that the Constitution doesn’t give it the power to take over.
By focusing on political principles such as limited government and following the rule of law things are able to be much more clear rather than trying to navigate through the murkiness of political spin. It is also my belief that when the Government in its proper spot the moral issues of our day will take care of themselves.
4. The United States is governed by the Constitution and not the Federal Government. Our founding fathers created the Constitution to govern our government, because they understood that without restriction the Government would eventually rob us of our freedom. What we have found out is that even with the restrictions found in the Constitution the Government has grown in size and scope as it slowly takes away our personal liberties.
We do not ask the question, “Is the federal government allowed to do that?” enough. We have put too much trust in the politicians we have elected to office and we believed that they would do the right thing. They haven’t. Our politicians have shredded the Constitution in order to get their agendas accomplished and get re-elected. Unless we, the people, once again insist that our federal government submit to the authority of the Constitution we will continue to see our liberties ripped away and our economy destroyed.
5. The Government is evil. The Government is evil is because it is run by men and women who have wicked hearts. They are too easily seduced by money, power, sex, and fame. Since that is the case the question is raised, “Why should we trust them?” I don’t think we should. One of the problems that have plagued this country is that we bought into this notion of American greatness and we became so patriotic that we didn’t question what our Government did. We need to own up to the fact that the United States has done terrible things in this world.
We can no longer naively believe that what our government does, whether it is here or abroad, is good. From torturing prisoners to stealing our money through taxes and inflation the Federal Government continues to be evil. This is another reason why it is so vital to have a limited government that is held in check by the Constitution. When the Government is left to run unconstrained it will reek havoc in the lives of people.
My hope is not in a great United States but in Christ Jesus and His Kingdom. First and foremost I am citizen of His Kingdom, and so no matter what happens to the United States my hope is secure. Thank God for that reality.