Book Review: “Demonic” by Ann Coulter

“She’s crazy!” my friend proclaimed from the front of the vehicle when I mentioned that I had just finished listening to Ann Coulter’s Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America via the text-to-speech feature on my Kindle.

I’ll admit that this is a common reaction to Coulter–and one that I’m inclined to agree with.

I’m disappointed that this is the case, though, because her “crazy” often ends up masking that she’s also brilliant.

Coulter’s Demonic is typical of her books in that it is brash, liberal-bashing, and stuffed with well-researched connections between historical and modern events.

Coulter’s thesis is that “the Democratic Party is the party of the mob, irrespective of what the mob represents.” She argues that the Democrats gain power by encouraging mob behavior and then by manipulating said mob to their own means.

In the first part of Demonic, Coulter compares the behavior of modern day liberals to that of Gustave Le Bon’s description of a mob in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (published in 1896).

“All the characteristics of mob behavior set forth by Le Bon in 1895 are evident in modern liberalism–simplistic, extreme black-and-white thinking, fear of novelty, inability to follow logical arguments, acceptance of contradictory ideas, being transfixed by images, a religious worship of their leaders, and a blind hatred of their opponents.”

Coulter unpacks each of these characteristics, citing dozens of prominent examples for each accusation. To the accusation that all American politics is simply mob behavior, she offers conservative counterexamples (For example, the criticism that Ronald Reagan experienced from conservatives during his eight year presidency as a counterexample to political “idol” worship.)

In the second part of Demonic, Coulter argues that Liberal mob behavior has its roots in the lawless French Revolution–a revolution about as foreign to the American Revolution as you can get (despite modern attempts to compare them). In this second section, Coulter devotes less time to insulting modern liberals and focuses on the history of the respective revolutions–leaving the reader to draw parallels with modern times as she contrasts the French Revolution’s godless mobs and the American Revolutionaries’ objections which, only as a last resort (and with careful advance planning by a thoughtful assembly), resulted in violent war. Interestingly, Coulter describes how the Founding Fathers were of a split opinion regarding the original Boston Tea Party–with some arguing that it was too close to mob behavior while others argued that it was not mob-like because it had been carefully planned only after lawful attempts at protest had been exhausted. Apparent in all the Founding Fathers’ discussion of the Tea Party was their inherent distaste for mob behavior.

Which leads to the third part of Demonic, in which Coulter describes the tendency of liberals to instigate, abet, and defend violent mobs. Coulter gives the college campus protests of the sixties, civil rights mobs (both on the pro- and anti- civil rights sides), and the Central Park rape case as examples of the above. She also works through a number of media accusations of violent behavior from conservatives, finding that in most cases the accusations were overblown (or the violent individuals and groups were not conservatives after all.)

Finally, Coulter attempts a psychoanalysis of liberal mobs, asking “Why would anyone be a liberal?” She answers her own question by saying that liberals 1) have a thirst for popularity, 2) ignore the history of the French Revolution and therefore commit its same mistakes, and 3) hate traditional morality and are willing to do anything to overthrow it. Coulter ends by trying (not entirely successfully) to explain her cryptic title, explaining that Satan is the father of the mob.

Can you see the “crazy” even in just my description of Demonic? Coulter has a determined animosity towards liberals and makes no attempt to hide it. She isn’t going to “play nice” or “soften the blow” with meaningless affirmations. She says it exactly as she sees it.

Unfortunately (I think), this animus is likely to make most people dismiss the connections Coulter has made between historical and current events. I think her readers are likely to either agree with her animosity and be confirmed in their biases against liberals and liberalism or they are going to disagree with her animosity and take offense–most on either side missing the historical warning against mob-like behavior.

For my part, I like to think that I’m a more discriminating reader–able to glean valuable insight that will help me to combat mob behavior wherever it is found (on the left or the right or anywhere else) without adopting Coulter’s abrasive attitude towards the Left.

And I pray, that by God’s grace, I would recognize that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).

While I fully support strong action against unlawful mob behavior, my war is not against the mob. While I am a committed conservative, my war is not against liberals. My war is spiritual, not physical.

I have a different strategy than political machinations, than legal cases, than military action. My strategy is to fasten truth as a belt around my waist, to let righteousness guard my chest, to prepare my feet to share the gospel of peace, to trust God to deflect the devil’s arrows, to let salvation be a crown on my head, and to fight with God’s word to advance the gospel of Christ (Eph 6:13-20).

I will love my enemies–not in the sense that I will capitulate to a mob’s demands–but in the sense that I will sacrifice in order that they can know salvation in Christ. How can I do any less when my Savior responded to the truly evil mob (including myself) who demanded His death by offering His life to the Father as a ransom for the mob’s sin?

Book Review: Culture of Corruption by Michelle Malkin

To be honest, my knowledge of current events (especially current political events) has greatly declined since leaving my parents’ house.

It’s much easier to stay informed when you’re surrounded by people who want to discuss current events with you. It’s much easier when you have time (due to not having to pay rent :-P)

Nevertheless, I know enough of current events that when I started listening to the audiobook version of New Deal or Raw Deal (link to Amazon), I saw some scary parallels between FDR’s politics and that of our current president.

Reading Michelle Malkin’s Culture of Corruption only confirmed the parallels I’d already begun to draw.

Pay-to-play cronyism? Check.
Unaccountable “brain trust” or “czars”? Check.
Tax evasion? Check.
Saying one thing and doing the opposite? Check.

Obama’s administration has it all–while claiming to be changing Washington’s “business as usual.”

Malkin meticulously catalogs the “business as usual” behavior of the men and women Obama has chosen to surround himself with (and reminds us that “birds of a feather…”)

For me, this provided a good run-through of Obama’s various appointments–something I’ve paid little attention to for this administration (in contrast, I could have named most of Bush 43’s cabinet in his first term). On the other hand, many of the indictments of the various appointees involved detailed reports of corporate intrigue, which this reader finds…less than intriguing.

I have to confess that I skipped pages here and there, not wanting to spend valuable time exploring the intricacies of donation “bundling” and corporate buy-offs.

In all, I feel much more educated regarding some of the names and various scandals surrounding Team Obama. For that, I am grateful. Otherwise, this is one of those books that is deeply interesting to the sort of people who are deeply interested by it–and not so interesting to people who aren’t too interested. (How’s that for a say-something-without-saying-anything recommendation?)

Rating: 2 Stars
Category:Current Events
Synopsis: Malkin exposes Team Obama for the cronies and crooks they are–showing how business under Obama is most certainly Beltway business as usual.
Recommendation: If political exposes and the intricate details of political corruption is your thing, this book will also be your thing. If not, probably not.

WiW: Breathing Room/Living Space

The Week in Words

While reading John Keegan’s Penguin Lives biography of Winston Churchill (unsurprisingly titled Winston Churchill), I found the following quote by Churchill, describing his vision for the world:

“The cause of the poor and the weak all over the world will [be] sustained; and everywhere small peoples will get more room to breathe; and everywhere great empires will be encouraged by our example to step forward into the sunshine of a more gentle and more generous age.”

Churchill said this in 1910 or so, four years before the world would be drawn into a Great War.

At the same time, German thinkers and political theorists were developing their theory of Lebensraum or “Living Space” which Hitler would take as a main Nazi party doctrine.

Hitler writes of the principle of Lebensraum in Mein Kampf:

“Without consideration of traditions and prejudices, Germany must find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil, and hence also free it from the danger of vanishing from the earth or of serving others as a slave nation.

The National Socialist Movement must strive to eliminate the disproportion between our population and our area—viewing this latter as a source of food as well as a basis for power politics—between our historical past and the hopelessness of our present impotence.”
~Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf found in the Wikipedia article on Lebensraum

Living space, Hitler declares. Give us living space.

Breathing room, Churchill proclaims. Give them breathing room.

I couldn’t help but be struck by the similarities between the two phrases.

“Living space”

“Breathing room”

The same sort of vision.

One led to the destruction of over six thousand Jews and many thousand more minorities (whether political, ethnic, religious, or social).

The other led to the liberation of Western Europe from encroaching totalitarian regimes.

Similar dreams, completely at odds with one another.

The two men would be pitted against one another in the largest war the world has seen yet.

Hitler would fight for his Lebensraum, bowling over nation after nation in Europe.

Churchill would stand, for the most part alone, to regain “breathing room” for the many marginalized peoples of Europe.

What is the difference between the two?

While Hitler argues for the benefit of himself and his people, those he has considered to be the “master race”, Churchill argues on behalf of the poor, the weak, the “small peoples”.

The same goal, but two separate targets.

Fight for my rights, for my people, for my way of life?

Or fight for others?

Not to say that Churchill was not interested in Britain’s rights or people or way of life. In fact, he was, rather oddly, a British imperialist–and certainly interested in Britain’s interests.

But he was nevertheless conscious of the rights and desires of the downtrodden, the oppressed, the “small peoples”–and it was this that made his “breathing room” so different than Hitler’s Lebensraum.

Don’t forget to take a look at Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”, where bloggers collect quotes they’ve read throughout the week.

Book Review: “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd

View my disclosure statement for more information on how I choose books to review.

America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles. Our founding fathers were Christians. America is a second Israel, a chosen nation to promote God’s message around the world. Christians in America need to take America back for God–we need to outlaw abortion, pass laws to protect the sanctity of marriage, and fight for Christian prayer in schools.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It certainly does to me–a homeschooled daughter of conservative Christians. My school textbooks read America as a Christian nation through and through–until the corrupt sixties destroyed everything. Admittedly, I generally took this story of history with a grain of salt–but I know plenty who had been raised on the secularly revisionist history of the US who now take this “Christian” version as gospel truth. To them, the call to “take America back for God” is THE calling of the American church.

Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation challenges these and other assertions of the “religious right.”

Boyd’s primary thesis is that Christians miss the point when they make political involvement central to faith. Boyd argues that there is a fundamental difference between the way “the kingdoms of the world” operate and the way “the kingdom of God” operates. The kingdoms of the world attempt to change behavior by exercising power over people; while the kingdom of God changes hearts as the church demonstrates what Boyd calls “power under” living–service and self-sacrifice, following the example of Christ in the cross. Boyd argues that when Christians emphasize politics (a “power over” approach), they dilute or pollute their Christian witness–and fail to walk in Christ-like “power under” love.

I have to say that this book was rather uncomfortable for me–pretty much all the way through. While Boyd states from the beginning that his beef is not merely with the “religious right” but with any political agenda that the church takes on as its own, 100% of his criticism is of the religious right. As a conservative, and one who would probably be lumped by pollsters into the category “the religious right”, I struggled against the temptation to be offended by Boyd’s one-sided criticisms of conservatives.

I spent at least the first three chapters “reserving judgment”. I wanted to hear Boyd out, to really listen to what he had to say. And I’m glad I did.

Boyd’s strength in this book is his clear emphasis on how the kingdom of God differs from the kingdom of the world–and that the primary concern of the Christian should be to exercise kingdom of God “power under” rather than kingdom of the world “power over”. He makes a wonderful point that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world are completely distinct–and should be kept completely distinct.

“To be sure, a version of the kindgdom of the world that effectively carries out law, order, and justice is indeed closer to God’s will for the kingdom of the world.… But no version of the kingdom of the world is closer to the kingdom of God than others because it does its job relatively well. For God’s kingdom looks like Jesus, and no amount of sword-wielding, however just it may be, can ever get a person, government, nation, or world closer to that. The kingdom of God is not an ideal version of the kingdom of the world; it’s not something that any verison of the kingdom of the world can aspire toward or be measured against. The kingdom of God is a completely distinct, alternative way of doing life.”
~Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation

Boyd does a good job, in my opinion, of urging Christians to see living in a Christ-like, others-serving, “power-under” manner as their primary call; rather than seeking political influence as their primary goal. What Boyd does less well is clearly articulate how a Christian might have a godly attitude towards and involvement in politics. That is, one could easily read Boyd and think that the only appropriate thing a Christian can do in relationship with politics is to quietly vote his or her conscience. While Boyd never explicitly says that a Christian could never campaign for a candidate or cause, run for office, or otherwise “move and shake” politically–that is the impression that this book gives.

Because I am not a huge fan of the “Christian nation” narrative made popular in works such as Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory, I was not particularly worried about or offended by Boyd’s alternate narrative which makes America out to be an almost completely secular nation (a la current secular revisionist history.) However, my reading on the subject (two excellent books on church and state and the founding of America are Jon Meacham’s American Gospel and Steven Waldman’s Founding Faith) suggests that the reality fell somewhere in between these two extremes. Again, since my presupposition (as well as my reading of history) falls somewhere between the two extremes, I took Boyd’s rendering with a grain of salt, just as I have with Marshal and Manuel’s. But I wonder if Boyd’s extreme secular interpretation fo history would drive away those who have fully bought into what Boyd calls the “Myth” of a christian nation–making them unable or unwilling to see his true thesis amidst their (partly justifiable) outrage.

I have tons more thoughts on The Myth of a Christian Nation–but I’m already running rather long. This book (and the book club with which I read it) challenged me greatly, changing my mind on some things, clarifying my thoughts on others, and encouraging me to search deeper on yet more. Even though I do not find myself agreeing with everything that Boyd has written (or perhaps because I do not agree with everything Boyd wrote), I am very glad that I read this book–and that I chose to hear Boyd out through the sections which I could have chosen to take deep offense at.

I encourage other readers to do the same. Read this book, choose to reserve judgment, choose to quell the offense you might be tempted to take, choose to search through and pray through Boyd’s thesis. Maybe Boyd will change your mind. Maybe he won’t. But I promise you that you’ll have a deeper and wider perspective on the kingdom of God and on how politics may or may not fit in that for having wrestled with Boyd’s arguments.

Rating:4 stars
Category: Religion and Politics
Synopsis: Boyd argues that “the quest for political power is destroying the church.”
Recommendation: Many may find this book offensive (I know I was definitely tempted to take offense)–but I think Boyd’s thesis is certainly worth grappling with. Christians (particularly those who are interested in politics) would do well to read this book and wrestle through the ideas found within.

WiW: A “Christian” Nation?

The Week in Words

I’m still working my way through Greg Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation with my Monday night book club–but as so often happens, one book spawns another. When I saw Jon Meacham’s American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, I was curious to hear what he had to say about religion in America. I’ve only read the introduction so far, but it appears that this could be a VERY interesting treatment of the topic.

Meacham clearly sees the United States as unique and exceptional (I’m a bit of an American exceptionalist myself), but attributes this exceptionalism neither to a Christian founding of the nation nor to a non-Christian founding of the nation (as many might). Rather, he seems to attribute this exceptionalism to the interesting balance that the founders merged between secular government and religious freedom. I’m most intrigued by the potential of this book.

On America’s early years:

“America’s early years are neither a golden age of religion nor a glowing hour of Enlightenment reason. Life was shaped by evangelical fervor and ambitious clergy, anxious politicians and determined secularists. Some Christians wanted to impose their beliefs on the rest of the country; other equally committed believers though faith should steer clear of public life. In the fulcrum stood the brilliant but fallible political leadership of the new nation. The Founding Fathers struggled to assign religion its proper place in civil society–and they succeeded.

On opposing claims made regarding the Founding Fathers:

“The right’s contention that we are a ‘Christian nation’ that has fallen from pure origins and can achieve redemption by some kind of return to Christian values is based on wishful thinking, not convincing historical argument….Conservatives are not alone in attempting to appropriate the Founding for their own ends. Many Americans, especially secular ones, tend to stake everything on Jefferson’s wall between church and state….The wall Jefferson referred to is designed to divide church from state, not religion from politics.

On how religion has shaped America:

“Taken all in all, I think history teaches that the benefits of faith in God have outweighed the costs….Guided by this religiously inspired idea of God-given rights, America has created the most inclusive, freest nation on earth. It was neither easy nor quick: the destruction of Native American cultures, the ravages of slavery, the horrors of the Civil War, and the bitterness of Jim Crow attest to that. And there is much work to be done. Yet while the tides of history are infinitely complex, other major Western powers have had a worse time of it than America, and our public religion, with its emphasis on the supremacy of the individual and its cultivation of moral virtue, is one reason why….Religion alone did not spare America, but the Founding Fathers’ belief in the divine origin of human rights fundamentally shaped our national character, and by fits and starts Americans came to see that all people were made in the image of ‘Nature’s God,’ and were thus naturally entitled to dignity and respect.

Quoting Robert Ingersoll (in what I view as the most provocative statement yet, especially in light of our discussion group):

“Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world….our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword…

I’m interested to see how Meacham develops these thoughts throughout the book!

Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.

The Secret Socialist (Part 3)

I have heretofore described the Scriptural role of the government to administer justice and the Scriptural call to the church to be agents of mercy. Here, I shall attempt to describe what I see as the union of the two.

We are aliens in this world.

Whenever a Christian enters into the realm of politics, he must realize that in doing so he is stepping out of his native land into the affairs of the land in which He is a sojourner.

A Christian belongs to the kingdom of God–a kingdom firmly established on mercy, love, and nonaggression. This is the kingdom whose people decry self-defense, instead offering their cheeks to be struck. This is the kingdom whose citizens give to those who steal from them. This is the kingdom whose people would much rather be cheated than go to court.

The kingdoms of this world, on the other hand, are kingdoms (established by God) for the carrying out of justice. They are responsible, first and foremost, (at least inasmuch as Scripture reveals God’s plan for the kingdoms of this earth) for the punishing of wrongdoers and praising of the righteous.

The two kingdoms could not be more different.

The kingdom of God recognizes that Christ has borne the whole punishment for all sins–against God and against mankind–and therefore demands that citizens extend mercy to all. The kingdom of the world still labors under the fallenness of sin–and must punish wrongdoers lest injustice prevail.

The question, then, is how a Christian is to go about dealing with the political world. How is a Christian to navigate these opposing worlds of justice and mercy?

There are three common “takes” on a Christian’s involvement in politics.

Some take the conservative view, demanding justice on this earth–politically and personally. People should get what they deserve and nothing more. This is the view of the harsh disciplinarian, the uncompromising taskmaster, the down-with-the-welfare-state-up-with-the-military-state politico.

Others take a liberal stance, arguing for mercy at all costs. These are the bleeding hearts, the fairness police. They want redistribution of wealth, equal access to everything, a mother state who babies her citizens, and a non-aggressive foreign policy.

Still others urge avoidance. Best to stay out of politics, they say, lest you forsake the kingdom of God in your involvement with the kingdoms of this world.

But are these the only options for Christian involvement in the world?

My personal take lies outside of each of these. I believe that inasmuch as God’s revealed will for the governments of this world is that they be ministers of justice, I as a Christian should work to promote justice in political affairs. And inasmuch as God’s clearly revealed call to His church is that they be ministers of mercy, as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, I should seek to live a life marked by mercy.

What does this mean for me?

In my political involvement, I fight for justice–laws that reflect just practices, punishments that befit crimes, honest court systems. Yet as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I would never dream of making use of these courts to demand justice for myself. I am called to extend mercy to those who misuse me.

As an American citizen, I support just war (of course, the definition of just war is fuzzy and must be considered carefully) entered into by the state, whether preemptive or retaliatory. But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I clearly recognize the call to never take justice into my own hands and wage war on my own accord. I could never bomb an abortion clinic or assassinate even the most evil of characters.

I disapprove of the governmental redistribution of wealth in order to secure social programs as an injustice to the deserving and the undeserving alike (punishing those who have earned their money justly and rewarding those who have failed to justly earn money). But as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I seek to liberally give my own money, goods, and services indiscriminately.

From my conception of God’s plan for the kingdoms of this world and for the kingdom of heaven, I am politically conservative and personally liberal. I work to promote a political system that is founded on justice–and seek to always live a life marked by mercy.

Of course, I like all people, am fallen–and regularly fail to live up to this goal. Too often, I demand justice for myself when I ought to extend mercy to others. And too often I request mercy of the political system, when I ought to accept and promote justice. But the above is my ideal–and I pray that by the grace of God, I might grow more and more to walk mercifully as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven–and to promote justice in this nation in which I am an alien.

The Secret Socialist (Part 2)

Social justice.

It’s the catchphrase that’s taking the American church by storm. Maybe it’s taking the entire nation by storm.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to define.

Clearly, it’s involved with social issues. Social justice is applied to social issues from poverty, hunger, homelessness, sexual exploitation, and lack of access to medical care.

And it’s somehow related to justice. At least, that’s what the name implies. It implies that it seeks to apply justice to these social issues.

The problem is, the name “social justice” is often misleading.

Sometimes the things that are lumped under “social justice” are truly justice issues. Sexual exploitation is the result of someone doing a wrong to another. Justice argues that the one who does the wrong be punished. Justice–wielding the sword to punish wrongdoers. In other cases, people are unjustly denied things they rightly deserve. Justice says that they should be given what they deserve. Justice–rewarding the one who does good.

But many of the things considered to be “social justice” are not justice at all. “Social justice” argues for feeding the hungry, giving homes to the homeless, providing money to those without money. Truly, some of the hungry, the homeless, and the impoverished are there because injustices have been done to them. Others are there because circumstances outside of their (and any others’) control has placed them there (medical conditions, children born into poverty, etc.) Others are there because they have placed themselves there via drug use, laziness, or lack of discipline.

Justice demands that we work to ameliorate the suffering of those who suffer unjustly–those in the first category. But justice does not argue that we make any effort to improve the conditions of those in the second and third categories.

Does this mean that we should not interest ourselves in the social concerns of the undeserving?

Absolutely not!

As Christians, we are called to live lives not of justice but of mercy.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Luke 6:27-36

Every Christian has received a great gift that he is completely unworthy of. While we were squandering our lives, abusing every gift that God had given us, God chose to give us grace upon grace–salvation of our souls, right standing before God. God poured out the judgment His justice demands on His own Son, while pouring out His mercy and grace on us.

We have been called to live in the same manner–absorbing the costs, pouring out the benefits. We have been called to live lives marked not by social justice, but by mercy.

Read my thoughts on justice and the purpose of government and continue checking back to hear me wrestle with how the issues of justice and mercy should inform a Christian’s political and non-political life.

The Secret Socialist (Part 1)

Last night, my siblings were discussing the apparently dead-in-production film version of The Hobbit and Peter Jackson’s lawsuit against New Line.

Several siblings remarked that Peter Jackson didn’t really NEED more money.

Their remarks struck me wrong for whatever reason and I added my comment: “The question isn’t whether Peter Jackson needs more money, but whether he deserves more money.”

It’s not an issue of who needs what or of “fairness”. It’s a matter of justice.

(Please realize that I know VERY little about this particular court case–I cannot even begin to answer the question I posed. That’s not the point.)

The point is that even in some of the most conservative of us (my family is pretty conservative as a whole), there lurks a secret socialist.

Now, it may well be that I am completely blowing this out of proportion. My siblings weren’t necessarily saying that Peter Jackson shouldn’t win this lawsuit because he didn’t need the money. Rather, I am almost certain that they were asking why he was pursuing the lawsuit, as though he needed more money.

But the conversation (along with my reading of Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation) got me to thinking about the purpose of government.

The governments of this earth have a God-ordained role to administer justice:

” Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Romans 13:1-7

The God-instated role of government is to reward the one who does good and punish the one who does evil. In other words, governments are intended to administer justice.

The problem is that justice…well, justice isn’t always very NICE. Justice is often pretty “unfair”. Justice means that the poor man who steals from a rich man–even if he’s stealing just so that he and his family can eat–is punished and required to repay what he has stolen–even though the rich man has no need for the stolen money.

“People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house. ”
Proverbs 6:30-31

The mercy of the onlooker means he does not despise a thief who steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. The justice of the law demands that he restore sevenfold, regardless of the personal cost to himself.

Sometimes, even we conservatives look at the law and desire for it to be merciful–but that is not the purpose of government. The purpose of government is not the administration of mercy but the administration of justice.

Please don’t write me off as a hard-hearted conservative yet! I’ll be exploring this issue further in the upcoming week. Stay tuned to hear my thoughts on social justice and the role of the church in society (which is quite different from the role of the government in society.)