Friday, May 3, 2013

A Christian Republic

First let me address the question of whether a Christian republic makes sense at all.  Then I will get into the details of what a Christian republic would look like, and whether the United States could be a Christian republic. 

Jesus taught humility.  He turned the world upside-down.  He taught that the least are the greatest, and the greatest are the least.  In His sermon on the mount, He taught not to resist an evil person, not to judge, not to do anything for a show, but to simply be righteous before God.  He told His disciples to forgive, and to repay good for evil.  That if someone steals your cloak, give him your tunic also.  This was revolutionary, to say the least.  And it is the greatest teaching of all.  In light of this teaching, and other things written in the New Testament, its reasonable for a Christian to wonder whether Christians should be involved in government at all.  There is some level of force and coercion in government, no matter how innocent a particular system may be.  Is it humble to assume power?  Can a Christian live the sermon on the mount and be in a position of authority?  There is this difference between being someone of worldly influence and being one of Christ's sojourners on earth.  The former is bold and ambitious; they take power and act with strength.  The latter is meek and humble; they shy away from authority and just try to be good to people.  If there's going to actually be a Christian republic, it will require some combination of the two.  Is that possible?

First, it should be recognized that there will always be some form of government.  The idea of anarchy is absurd.  I have respect for Tolstoy - he is my favorite Christian anarchist - but he only makes sense in his own context.  Monarchies were at war with other monarchies in Europe, and Christians were killing other Christians in war.  The only reason for the killing was the monarchs themselves.  This caused Tolstoy to have a certain hatred for government in general, because he could see that governments were the only reason Christians were going to war against other Christians.  And of course it is a heinous and preposterous thing for a Christian to war against another Christian.  The crusaders could be praised compared to the monarchs of Europe's eighteenth century, because they went to war against Muslims, whereas the monarchs of the eighteenth century caused Christians to go to war against other Christians.  In that context, its very understandable that Tolstoy was an anarchist.  But that's not how the world is today, or much throughout history, and anarchy is simply not a reasonable position.  If anarchy were reasonable, there would actually be a society of happy anarchists in the world somewhere; but there's not.  So we must acknowledge that there will be some kind of government.  And its obvious that this government will have some impact on our lives, and the lives of others around us.  How do we as Christians balance being in the world, but not of it, and being the light of the world?  To be not of the world means to be different than the default evil of the world.  Ever since the first sin, evil has been the default of the world.  Unless God brings righteousness into the world, the world will be evil.  So unless God intervenes, the world will be evil.  To be the light of the world means to be the righteousness of God; in other words, the intervention that comes from God.  As this relates to politics, the default of politics will always be evil.  But politics does not have to be evil, if there is some intervention of righteousness.  The principalities of this world are generally evil, but if God intervenes in a certain principality, it will not be evil.  So it is not necessarily true, and Christians should not think so, that every government is evil and will always be evil.  To think that means that you assume that God will never intervene in the world.  Or that Christians will never shine the light of Christ in the world.

Christians should influence the world, I believe that is clear from reading the Bible.  That's what the Great Commission is designed to do.  But how should Christians influence the world, and what role should Christians play in the world?  Is it bottom up, or top down?  For the most part, it is bottom up.  Christians take the meek position of preacher, not the bold position of ruler.  We simply preach the kingdom of God, and humbly live it.  So that the main way we influence the world is through making disciples of all nations.  It doesn't come through new laws or new legislators.  It comes through preaching and teaching and setting the example.

A ground up influence is what Jesus taught.  But to what end?  Is it just making disciples?  If so, how many disciples will be made until some of them have to be in positions of worldly power?  In other words, is it not a ground up method of taking over the world?  Or at least it could be.  If God purposed that only a few would be true Christians for the entirety of the world's existence, then I suppose Christians would never take over the world.  But that doesn't seem to be the case now, since most of the people in the most powerful nations on earth profess some form of Christianity.  And prophecy tells us that the Church of Christ will take over the world.  The yeast (kingdom of God) works it way through the whole dough (world).  The gospel is preached in every corner of the earth.  The rock (church) grows into a mountain (kingdom of God) that fills the whole earth.  There's a number of places in the Bible where you can find this said or indicated.  If indeed Christianity will take over the world, then at some point the governments will reflect Christian ideology. 

The United States is probably the closest thing to a Christian republic the world has ever seen.  And yet its still very far from it.  A Christian republic does bring freedom to its citizens, because freedom is a Christian principle.  And the United States has brought much freedom to its citizens (except for its period of slavery, and various other things).  But a Christian republic is more than just freedom.  A republic represents the will of the public, so for any Christian republic to work, a majority of the public will at least have to profess Christianity.  The morals of Christianity would have to be engrained in the public.  At the center of that morality is a deep respect for the image of God, and a love for humanity.  We treasure freedom, but not so much that we allow murder to go unpunished, because we treasure life even more.  A secular revolution may fight for freedom and end with the guillotine, like the French Revolution.  No one wants that.  So the idea of freedom does have to be balanced.  We can tolerate a number of things, but if we tolerate some things, it can become intolerance.  For instance, if a nation tolerates violent extremists bent on toppling the order and oppressing the public, that's not really tolerance at all.  Its foolishness.  So to preserve freedom, there would have to be some level of intolerance.  There's many other details to get into, regarding the exact nature of a Christian republic.  The point here is that there are a number of principles and morals involved; freedom is one of them, but it is not the most important.

There's a difference between legislating morality and moral legislation.  It has everything to do with what comes first.  Morality should come first.  If anyone thinks that morality can be legislated, he's fooling himself.  Morality is something in a person, and it cannot come from legislation.  But moral legislation can come from moral people.  In other words, it does work when morality comes first.  It does work when the legislators are moral, and they seek to make moral and just laws.  If they seek to make a moral and just society with laws, they will fail.  But they can succeed in governing with morality and justice, if they themselves are moral.  What do I mean?  If the society is immoral, it really doesn't matter what the laws are, the society is lost.  So in this whole discussion about what a Christian republic is, the first key is that the public is generally Christian, and genuinely Christian.  If half of the public is genuinely Christian and truly lives by the Bible, the other half can be restrained by the law.  But if more than half of the public does not live by the Bible, the law will have no effect.  That's besides the fact that the legislators will be elected by the public, and an immoral public will elect immoral legislators, who in turn make immoral laws.  The best that can happen is for half the public to be truly moral, and the other immoral half to be restrained by fear of law.  The law will not make them moral, since evil resides in the heart even when its not acted upon, but the law can restrain their wicked hearts, so that the wickedness is only in the heart.

Equality is another Christian principle.  Not that everyone should be on exactly the same level, either in honors or riches, but that the disparity between lowest and highest is not so great.  In other words, everyone should be reasonably fed and clothed, while no one spends ridiculous sums on cars and palace estates.  Each person should look out for his neighbor.  This mostly happens with individuals, communities, churches, etc.  Its not the duty of the government, even a Christian government, to feed and clothe every one of its citizens.  But it can make laws and provisions to foster that sort of thing.  It can set a wealth cap to prevent hoarding.  It can make laws to bring justice to the oppressed.  And a number of other details.

The United States is far from being a Christian republic.  Its barely a Christian nation currently.  Too much worship is given to freedom and not enough respect given to life.  Too much emphasis is put on wealth.  If things were to continue as they are today, the US would become utterly corrupt and ultimately ruined.  If the nation were to return to the good things present in its roots, that would be an improvement.  It would not be a Christian republic, but as I said previously, its probably the closest to a Christian republic the world has ever seen.  In my next note I hope to lay out some things that would transform the US from a secular republic into a Christian republic.

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About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.