A Resting Place

"It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me."

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Of Jesus, Caesar, Elephants, and Donkeys

I usually prefer to write about things I already have figured out, so my readers know I'm smart and keep coming to read my stuff and learn. This morning, I'm going to write about something I'm very confused about. If you're another Christian struggling with this issue, or you've got it down, please help me

It's the issue of how the kingdom of God and the church relate to politics and government. This used to be really simple for me, back in the day. It went something like this: America is a Christian nation, but all the evil secular humanists were trying to change it into a secular state, and so we had to fight against that by trying to convince people of things like the strange idea that Thomas Jefferson was a good, evangelical Christian. While America is a "Christian nation," it's also one that contains religious liberty, which means that, while all our laws should be entirely Christian, and this nation should remain "one nation under God," (and by God we mean Jesus), all the other religions have equal rights in our nation. But they don't really count. But isn't it a grand thing that they're free to follow their pagan lifestyle in this great ol' Christian America?

As you can see, this point of view gets really confusing and results in a befuddled view of what it really means to be a Christian. It results in a strange view of Christian political action. Let's take the homosexual controversy for example. Christians argue that we should not give legal status to "married" homosexuals. When asked why, our reason is that God would not approve of such a thing. When our opponents point out that we have religious liberty in America, and a religious belief is not a good enough reason to pass a law, we give them the same answer every time: "Well, America was founded on Christian principles."

But this gets us nowhere fast. It's not even really a logical progression. "Yes, we have religious liberty, and that's really important, but it doesn't mean that we're not Christian, too." As if everyone can freely practice their own religion, as long as the government makes laws based on one - Christianity. Sounds a lot like the first century Roman Empire to me. "You can practice whatever religion you like, as long as you say 'Caesar is lord' and come out to play with the gods at our festivals."

With this past election, all sorts of confusion about America and Christianity has ensued. Is America Christian? Is it Christian to fight for our moral values? A deeply divided evangelical Christianity is showing the depth of its division on this issue. Dobson, Falwell, and the Religious Right are louder than ever. Now, the "Christian left" is organizing and preparing to mount a counterattack. Bush's inauguration speech is getting the theonomists riled up, and Doug Wilson is calling the President a false teacher. Other Christians are nervous about the extremes of the Religious Right (see Michael Spencer's recent stuff on Dobson and the homosexuality issue). I am nervous about a battle between the Christian right and left.

But in the midst of all this, I cannot yet get my head around an answer. There are so many questions involved that need answering. I compiled a short and incomplete list of them a few weeks ago while my head was spinning on this issue, and I'm going to add a few now. Here they are:

What should the Christian's position be toward government?
What is the meaning of Romans 13, especially in light of Nero?
How does eschatology relate to politics?
Is the Old Covenant civil law restricted to OT Israel and Judah, or does it have application to the modern times?
If so, how? Do we kill adulterers and Sabbath-breakers?
Does the church and church discipline replace the OT civil government for Israel?
OT - Israel, a physical nation, God's covenant people, with accompanying laws
NT - Church, God's covenant people, but "exiles" throughout the world, with its accompany "law of Christ" - Church discipline would then be punishment for breaking of laws
Does the NT specifically address what to do when nations are disobedient to God?
Should a nation become Christian?
Is there any hope of a nation becoming truly Christian?
Is there any hope of winning a nation over by conversion rather than by political action?
If this happened, would the nation then inact Christian laws?
If a nation inacts Christian laws, which ones? with what punishments for breaking those laws?
Will we ever establish an ideal government before the return of Jesus? (an eschatology question)

(Stay tuned for an upcoming confused post on how I try to deal with the eschatology questions.)

So what should we do? Is the Republican Party really the best representative of Christianity? Can a Christian be a Democrat? Does the statement, "Jesus is Lord," pertain to government as well? Should we call on them to bow to Christ? Or is Jesus only supposed to be Lord of the church? If a nation is supposed to be Christian, how do we avoid the corruption of power that has always accompanied the combination of church and state?

Feel free to join me in my quest for an answer.


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