Monday, February 09, 2009

Fighting Rome

Like most Christians in American, my political leanings are conservative. I was a conservative before being a Christian. At that time it had nothing to do with abortion, religious freedom, lax restrictions on the porn industry, or any of the other reasons normally associated with the so called religious right. It began with my military upbringing and then my understanding of economics.

It's extremely tempting to launch into an argument against big government and for a more conservative platform. Trust me, it's taking everything in me to stay off my soap box. That is not the intent of this blog and I must remain true to that or start another blog.

I say all that so that you'll understand the depth of my passion for the conservative movement. If I were an extreme liberal, explaining that would serve the same purpose. Because what I ponder, what every student of the New Testament must ponder, is the Christian's place in a very secular, political world.

Jesus made it clear that neither the Jews nor his followers (who were, of course, also Jews) were to defend themselves against Rome. He never spoke out against Caesar or even Herod. Every minute of his time on Earth was directed at focusing on our spiritual well-being. Prayer, giving to the poor, humility, self-denial. And loving our enemies.

Paul reinforces these aspects of the Christian life later in his many letters. Never does he rally the faithful to speak out against the oppressive rulers of the day. Though Jesus and Paul both speak out against injustice. Which seems to be the gray area here. Are they speaking about injustice on a national scale? Or the daily injustices doled out among individuals? It's tough to say.

While Jesus and Paul certainly saw the futility of taking a stand against Rome, would we have advised William Wilberforce to keep silent his views about the slave trade in England? I'll hazard a guess that no one reading this thinks so. If, in certain cases of extreme human suffering, we are to take a stand against the powers that be, where is the boundary line between real suffering and simple disagreements on policy?

I write this because I have no answer to that question. I write this because, like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I wonder where the Lord would prefer I spend my energies. I could make the case that big government could eventually lead to outright socialism, which leads toward government abuse of power, lower standards of living for all, and poverty on a mass scale.

My liberal friends would say I'm overreacting. Our system of government would never allow things to go that far and our Constitution allows for the reversal of such extremes. It's happened in Europe, after all, and several countries have reversed a trend toward socialism. This I can grant you. Unless the Constitution is completely overthrown, we can undo any harm done by a wildly socialistic government. I'm not sure I believe that, but for the sake of the argument, I'll concede to it.

Which brings me back to my quandary: is it the Christian's place to expend his or her time, talent, and energies fighting for a political stance, be it conservatism, liberalism, or any other ism? Are we better serving our Lord by helping the poor, visiting prisoners, and reaching out to a lost generation, one person at a time?

There is no easy answer to this. The Church is expected to continue its mission despite the economic and political circumstances in which it finds itself. After all, China now has a larger population of Christians than the U.S. The Chinese church doesn't seem to be waiting for a more agreeable human rights arrangement with its government before they enter into service to the Lord. While they get imprisoned for holding unauthorized church services, we protest the removal of a nativity scene from the courthouse lawn. Has the U.S. church gotten a little soft or are we realistically heading off a plunge into a socialist, anti-church America?

To some that seems preposterous, something only found in the minds of the most fanatical conspiracy theorists. But let me leave you this: there is a bill floating around in Washington called the Fairness Doctrine. While the title says fairness, it is obviously an Orwellian attempt to silence the conservative majority in talk radio. If something like that is possible in America, how far will we go? And I still haven't answered my question. Do I speak out and spend hours writing congressmen or do I keep my attention focused on things I have more power to control, like giving a homeless man a coat or volunteering in a soup kitchen?

If anyone has an answer, I'm listening. I believe God has an answer, so I'll spend more time listening to Him and less time screaming at the headlines.

2 comments:

Aaron Grayhek said...

I think the Bible doesn't have a problem with political activism. I think Jesus was just trying to tell people that salvation lies in seeking the Kingdom of God. Many people of that day wanted to overthrow Rome and set up a Jewish government. He was telling them don't look to a poltical system for salvation but look to me instead.

Jason said...

I like to think that Jesus was trying to keep people looking inward instead of being distracted by the physical world. How can one find the “Kingdom of Heaven” if you’re organizing a coupe? There is a popular documentary circulating around the Internet called Zeitgeist. It spends hours describing the “secret” atrocities of governments, but in the end asks the viewers not to fight these powers. Instead, it asks people to look inward and focus on becoming a righteous person. Because, when you are at peace with the universe inside, it won’t matter what government rules you. It won’t matter if you’re sitting in a 5x5 cell. This topic reminds me of Buddhism’s history. Oppressed by communism and dictatorships, the most dedicated Buddhist only focused on reaching the “Inner Budda”, or for Christians, “The Kingdom of God”.