Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christian Politics

I live in the United States, where there is famously said to be a "separation between Church and State."  In fact, one of the founding fathers went so far as to call it a wall of separation, emphasizing just how distinct that those who framed our Constitution wished for this separation to be.  Yet there are a couple of problems with this separation, as it is understood and advocated today in my nation, often enough by virtual anarchists and liberals alike.  For one thing, the separation between Church and State proposed centuries ago was for the explicit comfort of the religious conscience, not as a stand against it.  People of different churches wanted to be sure that no one church could use the power of the state to make them violate their consciences, and also wanted to be sure that the state would never suppress religion.  So the separation of Church and State was always meant to be a favor to the Church (whatever church it may be); the people who were uneasy about a state religion were themselves religious.  They didn't want a separation for the purpose of religious and moral anarchy, but rather to secure the freedom of religious folks.  

But for another thing, it's simply impossible, in practice, to have so stark a separation between Church and State as both the leftists and the virtual anarchists desire, without having voters and politicians betray their faith as individuals.  

Example:  Abortion.  Let us say that a certain politician, whom we'll call Mr. Elected, truly believed, due to his faith, that abortion is murder.  There are lots of perfectly secular reasons to oppose abortion, but let's say this Mr. Elected's sole reason is his religion, because for some reason all the secular reasons alone just don't convince him.  If he really believes in his religion, then he must really believe that abortion is murder, with or without any secular reasons.  And if he really believes abortion is murder, then he must believe that it should be illegal, because protecting people from murder is one of the foundational duties of the government.  So here we have a man who, if he does not work to abolish abortion, is acting as if he doesn't really believe it's murder.  After all, even if everyone disagreed with you that killing a five-year-old would be murder, would that stop you from trying to prevent this murder in the name of "not imposing your personal beliefs?"  Of course not.  If you didn't try to oppose it, it would be stark evidence that you didn't really believe it was murder, and in the case of Mr. Elected, it would be a sign he didn't believe in his religion either.

Doesn't "Mr. Elected" sound like the name of a
mayor or something in a kid's cartoon?

So many politicians--to my horror, a great bulk of them professing to be Catholic--claim "I personally believe that X is wrong, but I won't impose those beliefs on others."  They are liars.  Because usually "X" is either something so heinous as abortion (where merely believing it's murder should be enough to make one oppose it politically), or something that the politician is actually endorsing for state sanction, such as gay marriage; and once you support the state sanction of something, you've gone beyond merely "not imposing" your beliefs and have actually gone into partaking of that "something," via your political support of its sanction.  If I, for example, were to suggest that people should be given tax breaks for lying, that goes beyond merely not imposing my religious prohibition against lying; in order to "not impose" that, I would merely have to say the government shouldn't arrest people for it, or something like that.  To "not impose" would simply require noninterference, not state-sanction.  But when I propose tax breaks and other incentives for lying, now I'm an active participant, whether through my vote or my action as a politician, in lying.  It proves that either I don't believe lying is wrong, or I certainly don't consider it a big deal.  I betray a lack of conviction, and show that on some level I believe my moral code is not a matter of fact--which my religion requires me to believe--but a matter of opinion.  

Christians are not at liberty to treat our firm convictions as if they are mere opinions.  That goes from the Christian who is a mere citizen exercising his right to vote, all the way up to Presidents, members of Congress, and Justices of the Supreme Court.  Voters and politicians alike, if they attempt to separate their politics from their faith, are attempting to "serve two masters," a secular utopia and God.  But Jesus rightly said that he who serves two masters will love the one and hate the other.  And when politicians and voters are willing to minimize their religious beliefs out of some imagined obligation to an exaggerated version of "separation between Church and State," it's crystal clear which master they love and which they hate.  

Oh, stop bein' a wise guy!

I am not saying a Christian society has a duty to set up a theocracy.  I admit that I do not believe theocracies are inherently evil or terrible if tempered with love and patience toward unbelievers, but it's just not what I'm advocating here, as I don't believe we Christians have any moral obligation to set up such a thing.  However, we do have a moral obligation to vote in ways and to pass/advocate laws which reflect that we see our religion as a reality, not as a mere opinion.  And we do have a moral obligation to refrain from passing laws and government-involved actions--and to oppose such laws and actions--that would actually violate our ethics and beliefs, or especially those which would require Christian citizens to violate their beliefs (e.g. requiring doctors to refer patients for abortions, requiring Catholic businessmen to cover birth control in their insurance plans, or requiring religious photographers to take pictures at a gay wedding).  If we truly act upon the conviction that our values are objective, just as surely as it's objective to say "murder is wrong," then our political choices will naturally follow.

Basically, there may be a separation between Church and State, in the sense that the state may legitimately refuse to force others to practice or embrace a certain religion.  But there can never be a separation between Faith and Believer, if the believer is genuine.  For a true believer, his faith must reign over his entire life, including his votes and political choices.  Politics simply isn't some "magical bubble" where Christians are allowed to act as though our religion is merely a preference or an opinion.  If our religious beliefs are true, then they are just as true in the voting booth, and no less true if we enter into political office.  We may claim, like so many dodgy politicians, to "personally" believe in our religion, but our actions--political and otherwise--will speak far more loudly than our words.

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