Someone today told me that God is a conservative, as opposed to being a liberal.
Ironically, that may seem easy to say now that the Democrats are in power; but back when the Republicans had control, I remember empathizing an awful lot with the liberals.
There’s something fundamentally wrong with calling God “conservative,” because God is much bigger than politics. God is more powerful than any king or president, and he’s bigger than even the most bloated, most intrusive government. That’s why the Psalmist says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” (Psa 146:3-4, NIV)
God makes whatever he can out of what we do, with our piddling princes and kings, whichever party is in power. He is neither conservative nor liberal nor statist nor libertarian, because his thoughts are on eternity and are eternal.
But what’s more disturbing is that we run the risk of committing idolatry, if we come to depend on God’s politics. By believing that God is conservative or liberal—or even libertarian—you have put your faith in the governments of men, rather than in the power of God. Then when the “wrong” party gets into power, you may actually believe that God has forsaken you. How many times, every election, do we hear, “If so-and-so wins, it’ll be the end; the US is going to hell. And I’m going to move to Canada.” Do you really believe that, just because so-and-so won an election, that God has forsaken you?!
The even greater risk, however, occurs when your favored candidate actually does win the election. Will you give him the same trust and faith that you give God? Just because he claims to be God’s representative? And now that he claims to have the power, will you ascribe to him the same divinity that you ascribe to God? And when all his plans come to nothing, will you then continue to believe in him? Or will you then believe that God has forsaken you?
Frankly, it’s better for religious conservatives that liberals are in power, because it tests their faith in God, and it forces them to rely on that faith and to identify with it, because the other side has torn down their idols.
Religious conservatives: God wants you to depend on him, no matter what party is in power. He has you under his wing. Keep your faith in the one true God.
Religious liberals: God wants you to depend on him, no matter what party is in power. Obama is not the second coming, and his plans will come to disaster, just as all the others have. Keep your faith in the one true God.
Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller back in February posted a video commentary, saying that just because people like Bush and those who support him are wrong—very, very wrong—that doesn’t mean they’re evil. He makes a compelling point.
Of course, then I run across a story like that from Christopher Anders of the ACLU, describing what he sees when he visits Guantánamo. I knew without even asking that congressmen never visited Guantánamo, that very few of the people who support or allow it to go on have visited. I myself have never visited, and I never want to. I’m sure I would instantly vomit all over that worshiped ground and would be immediately employing the services of a psychologist in order to deal with the trauma of such a visit.
Here’s the Penn Jillette video:
I am innately unable to treat vile injustice as a mere intellectual pursuit. I am unable to maintain emotional distance. I would make a horrible counsellor. That’s why when I read a story like Chris Anders’s, I have a truly difficult time grasping that men like Bush and others who place their approval upon these proceedings are not in truth evil. A few snippets:
“It turns out that the main basis for ‘conspiracy’ and ‘material support for terrorism’ charges against this skinny, graying man who is pushing 50 is that he was a cook in training camps sometimes frequented by Osama bin Laden.”
“[E]ven Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg were able to have German lawyers. But the prosecutors claimed today that the Military Commissions Act overrides the Geneva Conventions, that the Constitution does not apply, and that the cook therefore cannot talk to his Sudanese lawyer without a security officer listening in on his attorney-client conversations.”
“[T]he prosecutor argued that the ancient protection of the Ex-Post Facto Clause of the Constitution (which prohibits the government from applying criminal laws retroactively) does not apply at Guantánamo and that Congress could do anything it wanted to do with the Military Commissions Act — even criminalize acts that were not crimes when done.”
“The main goal of the judge was to try to explain to the detainee the few rights that he has under the Military Commissions Act.”
My own father this past holiday posed to me whether we can actually remain safe against terrorists while the Constitution is in force. The bile and acid of revulsion welled up in my gut, and I thought I was going to spew our turkey dinner across his living room carpet.
The Constitution was written to protect us, the innocent, against our own government. We are supposed to have a government of law, not of men—whether evil or just merely wrong—and the Constitution is the highest law in the land. If we willingly chop down every law in the land in order to get at the devil, then when the devil turns back toward us, where will we hide, having destroyed every law under which we might have taken refuge?
Moreover, the Constitution was designed to prevent injustice and to ensure that only justice was done. Now, I know, we regularly discard the Constitution in this country, out of fear, out of prejudice, even out of hate. But that makes the practice neither right nor just, because real, live human beings, whom God has charged us to love, become the objects of our injustice.
Lashing out in violence against other human beings, even in the name of antiterrorism—which is in fact fear—will never produce peace, will never save us from terrorists, and will never protect us and make us prosperous. Rather, it will only bring upon us the very terror we fear.
But even if one doesn’t believe that peaceableness is more likely to benefit us than violence from fear or hate, one certainly must admit that peaceableness is the moral response to fear and hate, and violence, the immoral response. I for one would be unable in good conscience to stand before my Maker, knowing that I had supported a politician in his quest to do such violence on my behalf.
There are two possibilities: Either this small insight is genius to my fellow American, and he is a childish ignoramus. Or else I have a conscience, and he is evil.
(I am not saying which one.)
Perhaps you can at least sympathize with the following sentiment: May God judge you and me according to the good or evil of which we approve by our own consciences, and in that holy judgement, may He show us the same consideration we have shown others.
P.S. Compare Matthew 7:1-2.
Joel Engardio wrote at the ACLU blog regarding the gay-rights march that went past Manhattan’s Mormon Temple:
But some of the protest signs were especially ugly and demeaning to the Mormon faith. One sign made fun of the protective, spiritual undergarments worn by Mormon men: “Keep your holy undies out of our business!”
I chuckled. But it bothered me to consider doing to the Mormons what they did to me — and they did pay for some disgusting and deceitful TV ads in their campaign to eliminate my rights…
I’m not protesting the right of Mormons to believe or say that gay unions are wrong and sinful. The First Amendment guarantees them the right to decide who they deem worthy of membership and marriage in their church. It also lets them preach what they want, even at our front doors.
I thought about divorce. Mormons detest it. Yet the state allows it and some 50 percent of straight couples do it. And still, Mormon families seemingly flourish in spite of it. Why the need to ban gay unions if there isn’t a need to eliminate the right of divorced people to marry? Why can’t gay couples get a marriage license at city hall and just not be allowed to marry in a Mormon temple? There’s precedent for it. Catholics, Muslims and Jews aren’t allowed to marry in Mormon temples, but they still all sign the same state-issued marriage certificate before going off to have their own ceremonies in a place of worship that welcomes them.
Of course, there is no reason.
Unfortunately, if we continue on the politically charted path we are on, we may end up without a choice. As long as religious people—and Christians in particular—continue to believe that government can solve problems that God can’t, they will continue to ask government to push a religious agenda against those they consider heathen. And the heathen will lash back with their own laundry list of government action, to protect “civil rights” like the right not to be hated by religious people. And so the government will make more and more of our religious choices for us, telling us not to believe this or not to preach that. And we will have no one to blame but ourselves, because we were the ones who asked the government to get into it, instead of asking the government to get out of it.
This past April, a lesbian couple sued a photographer for declining to photograph their wedding. The the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ordered the photographer to pay over $6000 as a discrimination settlement.
Now, naturally, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission doesn’t actually have much to do with human rights, because it’s a government program. (Human rights: yes, photographers are human, too.) It’s like the Internal Revenue “Service”— No thanks, guys; you’ve “served” me enough already. Or the Department of Education, which marks the spot where American education is buried. Or… Well, you get the point.
Apparently, the lesbians were hurt and upset that someone might not agree with their lifestyle. No, I’m not exaggerating. Here’s what one of the couple said at the hearing before the Commission, as quoted by NPR:
There was a shock and anger and fear. … We were planning a very happy day for us, and we’re being met with hatred. That’s how it felt.
In response, Patrick McIlheran said, “Sounded to me more like a simple matter of declining a job on account of religious beliefs, but that apparently now constitutes ‘hatred.’”
Similarly, Jennifer Morse opined, “Lesbian law suit abolishes the private sector.”
She wrote that back in February. Just today, she rejoiced that “we won” on California Proposition 8.
So apparently, she has no problem when government forces lesbian couples not to marry, based on her religious beliefs, but she gets bent out of shape when that same government takes pity on them for feeling the hatred of her religion.
The Christians lobby the government to delegitimize lesbianism, because otherwise, the lesbians would succeed in lobbying the government to delegitimize Christianity. The argument is no longer about moral belief versus lifestyle. Each side now is fighting with fire, and the side that loses is going to be victimized, literally and directly. So each side digs in its heels, deeper and deeper.
We’re waging our own private little war. And I warned against it, over 4 years ago, just after gay marriage came to Massachusetts:
Even if we could at this moment win in Massachusetts, we wouldn’t be able to stop the gay marriages popping up like up whack-a-moles around the country…
Don’t I trust in God? Doesn’t He have the power, even against the odds, to pound down all those moles? Yes of course He does, if He wanted to. But God doesn’t want to. God doesn’t even care.
To the extent He does care, He sides with the homosexuals. God lets us make choices for a reason. He wants a relationship, freely given and freely received. So He lets us make poor choices as well as good ones. He doesn’t force us to follow Him, and neither does he force others. Is God’s kingdom a kingdom of men, enforced by the sword? Or is it a kingdom of His Spirit, enabled by His grace through faith in Christ?
God is real. He can use us. He can change sinners’ hearts. I believe in hope and prayer and persuasion, with meekness. It’s in there. Read it again! Paul said it to Timothy and to Titus. He urged us to pray, rather than to make political enemies, “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Peter wrote about it. Read it in the last chapters of Romans. In doing what is right, as much as is possible live at peace with everybody, so that we can have an effective witness.
What does God have to do with politics? Politics means strife. He cares about people. He accomplishes more in one day in our families and jobs and churches and in our other relationships, more than our government programs have accomplished in our lifetimes. I know I can’t depend on the politicians I see, but I can depend on the all-powerful Invisible. In the end, that takes the more faith.
And so I’m disheartened, because the fight goes on. It’s a fight we can’t win, not by God’s standards, because it’s impossible to love the sinner while you approve of the gun pointed at him. And if you think there’s no gun, then what power do we expect the government to use? Maybe we really are just trying to keep a divine institution, just trying to live without having immorality forced on us. But we’re doing it the wrong way, fighting over government power.
We’re supposed to be better than that. Do we trust in God? Or do we need to resort to government force? (And if force doesn’t come into it, then what’s all the fuss?) In a political war, even if we win, we lose. We lose not just the homosexuals but everyone else, too. We’re just another one of the warlords, and the peasants get caught in the middle. Even if we conquer the land, the people will hate us. That’s already the biggest obstacle I face; before people even want to hear about Jesus, first I must convince them that I’m not out to get them.
If God’s word is clear about sex, how much clearer is it on Godly love? That message is written on practically every page. We’ve puzzled so long over the lesser issues, we can no longer see the basic morality in peaceful evangelism. Far more insidious than any form of sexual immorality is the sin of statism.
This war has been going on long enough that we don’t even remember who lobbed the first salvo. Uh— Actually, I do remember. It was the Christians.
I was reminded of Psalm 146 because of something said on the Christlib mailing list.
Praise the LORD.Praise the LORD, O my soul.
I will praise the LORD all my life;I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,in mortal men, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,the sea, and everything in them—the LORD, who remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressedand gives food to the hungry.The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the alienand sustains the fatherless and the widow,but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The LORD reigns forever,your God, O Zion, for all generations.Praise the LORD.
How frequently do we put our trust in princes, rather than in God? How often do we turn to the President, to the men and women in power, and plead with them, “Please give us security in these uncertain times”?
What ever happened to trusting in the Lord in times of uncertainty?
See, it’s easy to turn to a man, whom we can see, and ask him to use his power to force people throughout the country and around the world to “fix” things. That requires little faith, because we can see him, and we think we understand the cause and effect. He orders it; it is done. It requires little faith, even though there is no way any human being could possibly understand the complexity of a world economy, or of foreign wars, or of any of the other things that make us feel insecure. But to believe that God, whom we cannot see, will somehow touch the hearts of the right people in the right places at the right times in order to work everything together for good, that requires faith.
We’re like the Israelites in the wilderness. When Moses went up onto Mount Sinai. He was gone for 40 days. I can just imagine what was happening at the base of the mountain:
“How long are we going to wait for him to come back down?”
“Who knows what might have happened to him up there? For all we know he’s probably dead!”
“In the meantime, we’re going to die out here in the desert.”
“Yeah. I mean, Moses got us out of Egypt, and that’s great and everything, but let’s be reasonable about this. Moses is gone, and we have no one to lead us.”
“I know. Aaron, make us gods who will go before us…”
Because it is easier to believe in an idol we can see than in a God we cannot.
Eric Schansberg writes about Colorado’s Amendment 48:
73% of (voting) Colorodans reject basic science
Or perhaps they don’t want to put it into their Constitution (a plausible but relatively rare argument)?
In any case, 73% of voters rejected Colorado’s “Amendment 48”:
This measure would amend the state constitution to define the term “person” to include “any human being from the moment of fertilization.” This definition would be applied to all aspects of the state constitution, including the provisions that ensure that no person has his or her life, liberty, or property taken away without due process of law. Thus, the measure would essentially have the effect of banning abortion.
But he’s missed the point. This is the basic reason why we cannot rely on politics, on government, to tell us right from wrong.
Yes, this may be one case in which we as libertarians can in good conscience see a proper role for government. And we can say that the government is being unjust to those unborn children. And we can lobby for the rights of the unborn. And we can call the government unjust, and we would be right.
But governments have always been unjust, at least in part. And government will always be unjust. That shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing. In other words, we don’t need the government to wipe out the injustice in our little corner of the world, as long as we live in a free country. Because the government does not define morality for us. God does.
And that’s the difference between God and government.
Thanks to Michael S. Rozeff for the pointer on the LewRockwell.com blog to this article on Obama’s messianic appeal. The original article (dated February 11, 2008) is by Kyle-Anne Shiver, entitled “Obama’s Politics of Collective Redemption”:
Over and over again, Obama invokes his double mantra: “It’s time for change!” and “Yes, we can!” …
A number of internet postings indicate that a great many see Obama in not only political terms, but also wrapped in the untarnished cloak of some vague spiritual-awakening…
A lust for transformation is a common feature of revolutionaries, and when they succeed in grabbing power, the results usually are brutal. Less than a century ago, massive numbers of people fell for a different political messiah on the European continent, and they were products of an education system and cultural establishment widely regarded as a world leader.
That place was, of course, Germany. And the political messiah promoting “change” was Adolph Hitler.
Hitler’s slogan: “Alles muss anders sein!” (“Everything must be different!”)
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