Make no mistake, when it comes to politics, I am not left leaning nor “liberal.” Those terms are fast losing meaning, but when I think about social issues and politics, I know that I do not fall in line with many of the ideas that my Democrat friends suggest. I am not going to list all of them, but I will simply say that I believe that many of the “freedoms” and “rights” that Democrats advocate are, in fact, enslaving people. And I’m equally concerned that many in this left-winged contingent talk a lot about “equal rights” but clearly intend to silence any and all voices suggesting some form of morality that transcends what is decided by popularity. There is, as I see it, a concerted effort to silence any voice that suggests there is a Creator who has sovereign rule over all of creation. Christians are not the only victims of this too. It’s fast becoming popular to talk out of both sides of the mouth. One side says people need to be equal and allowed the freedom of expression and out the other side of the mouth are made statements to reduce any and all influence from Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and others). So please do not accuse me of being a “liberal” by what I am about to say.
I’ve seen several posts on social media advocating a picture as a “way forward” in terms of political policy. It looks like this:
I’m not opposed to people having the freedom to express these ideas as their opinions on political policies. I am thankful that people can do that. What I want to do is interact with these ideas as a Christian who takes Scripture seriously and who is more committed to the kingdom of God than to a specific country/government. I intend to provide a “play by play” through each of the statements on this little ditty of an image.
First, I’m in agreement about Obama (kind of). I would much rather have someone better than him in power. But if him being gone means someone else takes his place who is worse than he, I’m fine with Obama staying. Yet no matter what I think about who is currently in power, I must resign myself to trust that God has some sort of sovereign plan at work with Obama being President. After all, the apostle Paul wrote,
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Rom. 13:1-2)
This does not mean Christians shouldn’t participate in the political process and vote according to the convictions. We should. God works through means and in our country, God works through people to elevate people into power. So we should continue to vote accordingly. But at the end of the day, Obama didn’t side step God’s plan and back door himself into the presidency leaving God confused or frustrated.
Second, I do not know what “Borders: Closed!” means. As a Christian who is commanded to love my neighbors and to care for the oppressed and the poor, I find great reason to disagree with this simplistic statement. Our immigration policies are broken and the system has failed. It’s easy to be opposed to immigration when all that you hear is that a bunch of terrorists are trying to sneak into our country to blow us up with nuclear weapons or that all immigrants are violent criminals seeking to kill Americans. The problem is that such a picture is simply untrue. The overwhelming vast majority of immigrants are simply looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families. Many of them are leaving very dangerous and oppressive situations in their native country. I am compelled by Scripture to love them, care for them, and to advocate their future. It’s easy to sit in my easy chair in my warm house as I oppose immigration reform. It’s much more difficult to do so if I take into account all that the Bible has to say on loving my neighbors and caring for the poor and oppressed. And it’s become equally difficult when I meet people who are suffering from injustice in other countries or who are living in the U.S. as immigrants who are treated poorly by our “system.”
Third, the only reason why the United States officially speaks English is because of our British heritage. If the French had won, we’d be speaking French. I thank God every day that the French did not win, as my two years of French were painful and discouraging towards language acquisition. Anyway, I’m not opposed to having an “official” language per say. It makes sense that there would be a common language that is officially used at the federal and state level. I just am uncomfortable with the thinking that is often behind statements like this. For some Americans, there is an assumption that “American” equals “Better” and all other cultures should be minimized and assumed to be negative. As a Christian, I long for the future day when Jesus shall be exalted in every language on earth (Rev. 5:9). Plus, it seems awfully ignorant to forget that our country was created by people from all over the world. The United States was settled by people from many different countries and many different languages were spoken regularly (Dutch, German, Chinese, etc.). And if we really want to go back to the “way it was,” I think we should make the official language that of the Native Americans who lived here long before the Europeans got here and stole their land from them and destroyed their cultures. Oh, and guess what? There were many languages used by the Native Americans. My concern is that most of the “Let’s speak American” type of rhetoric is really just anti-Hispanic. The census of 2011 found that there were 52,045,277 Hispanic and Latino Americans, making up 16.7% of the U.S. population. That sure seems like a lot of people and the numbers are growing quickly. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Chinese becomes and official language in the future because we owe them a lot of money!
Fourth, I don’t even know what is meant by “Culture: U.S. Constitution & The Bill of Rights.” Is this an argument to go back to the social culture of the 1700’s? If so, are they suggesting that we should return to slavery and women losing their rights? What about the use of 21st century technology like Facebook (where this image appears)? A statement like this may mean a lot of things, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions because maybe it’s simply intended to suggest that we should do all that we can to ensure that our nation adheres to the legislated policies and founding documents. My one concern is that Christians have a much higher authority than a few pieces of paper that were written by men and are shaped by popular demand. Our authority is God. My allegiance to country is always going to be transcended by my allegiance to Jesus.
Fifth, I’m not sure what to think about requiring people who receive social help being drug free. In some ways that makes perfect sense. And in other ways, it’s kind of making a lot of assumptions. Plus, what kind of care are we talking about? Are we talking about food or money? You see, that’s my big gripe with this simplistic image that is spreading around on the walls of many Christians. It doesn’t adequately clarify it’s positions. I have personal experience with drug addicts and can tell you that some of those addictions are far more powerful than people may understand. It’s not as simple as waking up and making a choice to do drugs. Some of the drugs that are out there are physically (and mentally!) controlling! And many drug users are victims, sadly (e.g., children who grow up to be adults). If we are talking about giving people food to eat, let’s feed them. If we are talking about giving them cash so they can buy more drugs, let’s not. And let’s have a lot of clarification about what exactly is meant here.
Sixth, my issue with “no freebies to non-citizens” falls into line with what I previously said about #2. Interestingly, did you know that a lot of “freebies” (i.e., LAND!!!!) was given to non-citizens when this country started? And did you know that all of that land was stolen? Hmmm.
Seventh, I agree that there needs to be balanced budgets, tax-reform, and term limits on politicians. No criticisms here.
So what’s my big gripe? I want us, as Christians, to be careful in what we post and repost and “like” and comment on. I think there can be serious flaws to over-simplifying political issues in a way that devalues the authority of Scripture and the ignores the social concerns of Jesus and the prophets (i.e., the poor and oppressed). Let’s search for a deeper and more life-giving answer than “Republican” or “Democrat” or “Tea Party.” Let’s look to Jesus, the founder and protector of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
What do you think? Am I making this too complicated or over-simplifying the issue? What say you?
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Quick feedback & thoughts in response to your responses:
1. Agree, yet, there simply aren’t many who could do worse.
2. Fix Immigration; enforce laws that are in line with
civil/moral/biblical/constitutional ideologies. Be good neighbors, yes. Love
the poor, the broken, help as we can…I’m all about that. But we do have
limited resources as a nation, and the US has become for some a welfare ticket.
A leaky border has created a tremendous on US resources and the spread of
criminal activity that fair immigration & integrous borders may diminish.
To be able to carry out of scriptural mandate should be tantamount, but it has
to be thoroughly integrated into the whole system of US Government, which has
been wrongly deemed unlawful (sep of church & state bullshit). John Adams
said the prerequisite for this Constitution to function as intended,
was that “Our Constitution was made only for a
moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of
any other.” So we either need a new guiding set of laws of we need to use
them as intended. I think this includes your acknowledgement that we have a
scriptural mandate to love our neighbors, to care for the oppressed and the
poor, as well as up hold the rule of law for our nation. In my opinion, this is
what being a Republic was intended to be versus a democracy-liberty within the
bounds of the agreed set of governing boundaries.
3. First of all the 13 colonies never warred with the French; they allied with
us against the British Empire during the Revolutionary War.
Second, I think the “English as official language” is not always
anti-Hispanic. Some is what you say, a fear response. But more so against a
loss of culture, probably akin to what the First Nations people experienced
when the original 13 colonies were forming and as the USA expand westward. You
mix that in with a dose of manifest destiny and we get racism and crimes
against humanity, and such prejudiced that it makes me sick. So I think I
somewhat agree with you but think the larger issue really has to acknowledge
everyone’s sense of loss, fear of change, etc…before we can move forward.
4. I’m with you on this…very vague, not life giving and opens the door to all
sorts of misunderstand. One thing I’ll add, the culture of the late 1700s (the
culture of those who would support the biblical mandates that led to the
revolution, the emancipation proclamation, etc…) led to a culture that bred
the positive changes in our culture and around the world (over time). We also
(the US) have also done some damage around the world and in our own back yard
5. I think you said it well.
6. I think helping people start off well almost always works out for the
benefactor as well as the beneficiary. And I think if we could carry out our
mandate as a nation (some of the things I wrote about in #2 & 3) there
would be less resistance to helping people out with “Freebies.”
7. If politicians were impacted in the same ways as ordinary citizens from
the results of not balancing the national budget, taxation, and had to have the
same health & life insurances as most Americans, you would have term limits
installed unopposed. As it is now most positions in National Government
encourages the person in said position to do the work of keeping their job,
rather than doing the actually work of their position. Who would want to have a
good job, great pay, great benefits, plus countless other perks, and then lose
it because you did your job, completed your duty thereby losing your job and
all it entailed?
John, thanks for taking the time to respond. Here’s my response to your response to my response… wait… I’m already confused! ha ha!
I think I wouldn’t push back on most of what you say except the comment about being a country of limited resources. On one hand, I can accept that. No country is limitless in resources. Yet, having traveled significantly around the world, our resources are often VASTLY superior and beyond what most have. So it’s kind of dependent upon what one means by “limits,” right? We’ve always been a generous nation (in some ways), so this isn’t a chastisement against Americans as being a bunch of selfish jerks. We’ve done a lot. I just think we can do more. The amount of wealth in our nation is amazing. And no, I’m not also arguing from a “take from the rich and give to the poor” type of socialism quasi-marxist ideal 🙂
I realized the French and the U.S. were never at war. My point about “winning” was in respect to colonization. The French had forts and colonies in multiple locations in what is now the United States (e.g., Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, etc.). If the French had continued to colonize and had made our land a focus and had gone to war with the British (and later us) and had won, it is most certainly possible that we would be speaking French. Of course, none of this really has any bearing on the issue at hand 🙂 However, we appear to agree on this point.
Anyway, great thoughts… appreciate them!
I’ve finally hidden a couple of my remaining overly political Facebook friends for posting that one.
Like most of America, I’d rather see Obama replaced with someone who has priorities more like mine. I imagine that like most of America my priorities differ from those of many of my neighbors. Given the presidents of my lifetime, we could do a whole lot worse than Obama, so I’m not too upset on that front.
I dislike some of the xenophobia in that screed, but I find the “DRUG FREE:” part particularly irritating. A huge chunk of welfare benefits goes to parents… what should we do to support families where one or both parents is using drugs? Cut them all off? Repossess their kids and have the state raise them? There’s a reason kids are only taken out of their homes in extreme cases, and anyone advocating for such would do well to research the topic.
I’m also an opponent of term limits. Leading in my church is damn hard, and required years just to get to the minimal competency I now enjoy. I cannot fathom the learning curve associated with leading the United States as part of a team of 100 or 435. I’d rather see people serving for 20 years than for four (two House terms) or six (one Senate term). I’d rather not see increased unfamiliarity with how our government runs. Given the reactionary nature of our electorate, tossing out one party or the other with some regularity, I’d rather not have severe pendulum swings where everything is up for a massive overhaul every five to ten years. There’s something to be said for staying power, even if our media have made it popular to loathe Congress.
I’d fix immigration by opening our borders to all non-felons, and to felons with changed lives. If someone wants to come to America, great. Our “limited” resources are astronomically greater than just about anywhere else in the world, and we have much, much more than enough to share.
It’d be fun to write up my own stupid Facebook meme of political ideologies, but I imagine it wouldn’t sweep the nation. I imagine it’d make me look stupid, too… memes aren’t for deep thought, O Mr. Geraty 🙂
Yep, to take away welfare from children is a significant issue. So, I wonder if removing kids from situations that are bleak would be somewhat important. That being said, I’m so discouraged by the child social services that I can’t see that as being a viable option at this point without HUGE reform. My interaction with the “system” has not left me thinking the primary concern is about the kids. It’s often about keeping jobs, making budgets, and stalling the situation until the kids turn 18. And that’s based off of several situations I have personally been involved with as the pastor of couples having to deal with the “system.”
I just totally disagree with you about term limits. Perhaps there’s some merit to your concern about being completely incompetent because new leaders are always going through the learning ropes, but there can certainly be term limits that are not so short that people are always “freshmen” in transition.
Two quick thoughts:
1. In points 2 & 6 I think you are probably conflating God’s instruction for the Church with the responsibilities of the government. You are commanded to love your neighbor. The government is commanded to punish wrongdoers.
2. With respect to your fourth point, I’m not entirely sure what is meant by the photo, but it’s definitely not what you’re thinking.
Here’s a slightly more in-depth look at that first thought: http://www.armchair-theology.net/theology/how-both-parties-abuse-the-bible-in-the-same-way/
Dave, thanks for your response! First off, I love your blog. I’ve been reading it for awhile now and I’ve always found it very fun to read. Plus, I love the name of your blog. As I’m transitioning from writing academic scholarly papers to a popular level book, I find it quite the vision to attain! Arm chair theology for the normal person! ha ha!
Anyway, I’m not a politician or really very well read on political theology and all of the various implications of Christian ethics, so I could totally be wrong on many of my assumptions here. I’m still trying to figure out how I can both hate the government and its system and hate the government and its system 🙂
That being said, I’m not sure about whether I’m conflating God’s instructions for the Church with the responsibilities of the government because I was intending to criticize the public policies that a certain group of politically minded people are putting forth. I have no doubt that I am commanded to love my neighbor. I also have no doubt that the government is not the Church nor the Church the government.
What I am mostly arguing for (or against?!) is any type of legislation or arguments made by Christians that are supported and advocated in the political process that are not rooted in what I would call “kingdom ethics.” If someone is a Christian and they are voting for a policy, I would hope that their vote would reflect the values that they are convinced are most in line with “kingdom ethics.” Does that make sense? Or is that also something you’d disagree with? If I didn’t make that clear and if it appeared I was holding the government to the same standards as the Church, I apologize. That was not my intention!
Finally, you actually proved my point! I’m not thinking anything because the statement about culture and our countries founding documents is simply… well, unclear. If you interpret it in a woodenly literalistic sense, it could mean the hyperbolic ideas I sarcastically (ironically?) made. I doubt it does, but when people say things like, “We need to go back to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” I want to know what they mean. As I’m sure you’d agree, a lot has changed in over two hundred years. Plus, the whole issue of hermeneutics is obviously not just a biblical issue, but can play into how we interpret and apply documents in our countries history. On top of that, our country is set up in such a way that legislation can actually be voted on that would change those original documents’ application in society. It’s very, very complex.
And that’s why I made my hyperbolic statement about the way that issue is unclear to me 🙂
Wow, thanks for the kind words! I look forward to reading that book.
Here’s what I perceive to be your main point:
“If someone is a Christian and they are voting for a policy, I would hope that their vote would reflect the values that they are convinced are most in line with ‘kingdom ethics.'”
It depends on the policy. Slavery? Absolutely, vote against it. Certain elements of the social safety net? This means taxing everyone – including the members of the church, and thereby reducing the church’s capacity to serve the poor – to do a job that the church should be doing. I find that to be a grey area.
I am so torn when it comes to issues of immigration/entitlement programs.
On the one hand, when people are in need, you want them to be helped. And the most obvious way to help them is to have a safety net that ensures some level of basic provision. And the government seems the only institution capable of administrating that. For that reason I will probably always be in favor of some sort of “safety net” for all.
On the other hand, that’s not really what most of the debate is about. Entitlement programs and benefits available to non-citizens currently can include (depending on locale) cell phones, cards that pay cash, food cards that allow for the purchase of any and all foods (candy, soda, etc.), medical care, education (in Spanish for Spanish-speakers), and so on.
That’s a tempting package for Mexican citizens, even those who are not at all impovershed by world or Mexican standards. And of course they are going to game the system; to their credit even. Gaming is what people will always do to systems. I don’t hold any of that against them.
The problem is that we seem overly willing to become a European-style welfare state, without recognizing why we have become so much more prosperous and generous than any of them in the first place. Americans give astronomically more than any other nation per capita, almost entirely due to private charity. The European quasi-socialist states provide entitlements to all of their citizens, but are generally bankrupting themselves doing it, and are becoming utterly useless to the rest of the world in the process (both in terms of charity and military might).
Europe is starting to fail in its NATO requirements even, mostly because they are crippled by the entitlement programs.
If America joins that party, there may not be a prosperous, altruistically-minded superpower left in the world when the next Nazi-esque regime starts trouble. So there’s a lot to be said for keeping to our democratic-republican, free-market, more-or-less-meritocratic ideals. Sacrificing our status as “superpower full of deep-pocketed and generous free peoples” in order to become a gigantic cash-strapped nursery for an expanding class of dependents could be the path that harms the most people in the long run.