Posts Tagged ‘The Secret Socialist’

The Secret Socialist (Part 3)

July 3rd, 2010

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)

June 29th, 2010

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)

June 26th, 2010

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.)

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