Sunday, April 27, 2008

Faith and Government

Bear with me as I think out loud...

I have been politically involved from a young age - not going door to door, but I follow those up for election, read the propositions, vote, stay involved, etc. I am not apathetic towards government. I am finding myself more and more perplexed by the "state of the state" and am not sure what there is to be done about it.

I am a Christian and know that my faith infuses all that I think and do, but I guess what I am trying to figure out is at what point (in a free society like ours) does one's personal faith affect the faith/lack of faith of others? This is a great puzzler for me as I am not sure what my responsibility as a Christian is with regards to moral issues in the public square. There are certain things I hold to be biblically immoral, but I am honestly asking how this plays out in a country that has freedom of religion? What is my responsibility and where do I have to draw the line? Does my moral compass determine what is right for others because I know the Bible to be God's inspired word? At what point does "freedom of religion" turn to "forced into my religion?"

I have no desire to return to the times of a state-run church or to the Spanish Inquisition where those who did not "tow the line" were eliminated. I have read enough history to know that I don't want to live faith by force. How does that play out in our world? How do we maintain a moral world when everyone's morality is different?

When it comes to answering questions like:

"Government should not censor any speech, press, media, or internet." and I have to answer "Yes, Maybe, No" which do I choose? As a freedom-loving American, I don't want my own thoughts and freedoms of faith in jeopardy, but there *are* inappropriate pictures on the internet, there are other horrifying things there too--and not just on the internet. Of course I don't want them available - so I do embrace censorship to some degree. There *are* appropriate things to censor. So who gets to decide what is censorable and where does our faith fit into it?

I was very interested to see the groundswell of support for Huckabee when he first came on the election scene. It seemed like he was embraced with fervor because he had all the right buzz words. His record didn't vouch so highly for him. (At least in my opinion.) I am not a person who believes that this country will be saved by politics or even by the actions of God's people. My Savior is not of this world. This does not remove our responsibility to be involved though--we have to be in a free nation or we have no say at all. Just how far though, do we go as Christians? What is our God-given, biblical calling, in the political arena? I am not talking about leaving our faith at the door of the election box--no way! I am trying to process the phrase, "You cannot legislate your morality." Do we draw lines? If so, what lines and when?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I am obviously mulling this around in my mind. I want to honor God in all that I do--to obey all His commands for me, and to glorify Him in all that I do. How do we do that politically?


Anonymous said...

I think supporting and voting for Christian candidates is a logical step.

You know I don't mean anyone who simply calls themselves a Christian, but by their fruits you will know them.

They will not be perfect, but I am assuming they will, like you, be trying to glorify God with their votes and legislation. Also, I'd assume they'd be men of prayer. Also, I'd presume God would normally bless them in their work.

"Government should not censor any speech, press, media, or internet." - I don't agree with that, and actually, some speech is actually and already banned. We can't incite to riot or plot a murder. Libel and slander and punishable offenses. There are truth in advertising laws.

I like to promote and push for laws that reflect Biblical morals. I don't see this as legislating conversion. Just because shoplifting is illegal, or abortion is illegal, or polygamy is illegal, this does not save anyone. It does, however, protect the innocent. I think Biblical law is much superior to anything mankind could make up. So I support propositions, referendums, etc., that I believe are Biblical in nature. I'm voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, for example.

If we are to love one another, we should have laws that protect the innocent and law-abiding and provide for justice. That's how I see it; as a way of loving my neighbor. Shall I quietly allow partial birth abortions without doing anything about it? Shall I sit still when parents are at risk of being banned from spanking their children? Shall I ignore the promotion of homosexuality with the whole homo marriage issue? I think it would be hateful of me to do so. So that is my motivation to stay politically involved.

Sorry to take up all this comment space! These are issues I think about a lot.

Monika said...

Whoops, didn't put my name up there. Happy to own my comments! Monika

andijeane said...

I have gone over these same questions so many times, and still do. I don't know if there is any direct answer to them. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that people won't be saved by politics or by people. We have a part to play in obedience to the Great Commission, but only God saves, by grace through faith in Jesus. "Legislating morality" will not change hearts.

All I know to do is to love my God and my neighbor, search His Word, and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit in all of my decisions, including the political ones. I know that I don't always hear or understand correctly, but I too want to honor God in all I do.

I don't have any answers, of course, but I can relate to what you posted and I appreciate your honesty.


JenIG said...

oh Kate, this post made me miss you and those times when we could just lounge on the couch (or on the beds at the hotel in FL!!) and discuss these types of things!

i am SO with you on not wanting America to 'force religion'. I don't want to turn the clock back and live in a Puritanical society where a group of 'godly' men set the standards and then jail, drown, or burn people at the stake who have fallen short.

What a great topic. I wish I could come over and sit on your front porch and discuss it for three hours. and then we could go inside and disco with the kids.


prettylittledresses said...

Come and see All the Pretty Little Dresses!

hugabunchmom said...

Education. That is a huge part of this in my humble opinion. I agree with your thoughts on Christian issues that are often at the heart of the political arena, and I do believe God expects us to be involved, educated, and active in our political process. I do believe He, alone, built this great nation.

But I also believe that we must keep education important at a legislative level, so that we may freely educate in our homes. Quite a large part of our (as in my own homeschool) education is about the different religions and available choices in this nation and the world. You are right that people do not save, only God does. So, I would think, that it is of utmost importance that we educate our children, with limited censorship of religion. As it is interesting that it is much of the reason why this nation began.

Our forefathers had no clue that this nation would one day be the vast melting pot it is today, or that their Christian beliefs would often be placed behind so many other religions, all on the basis of freedom of religion--but somehow with a freedom FROM Christianity. Odd, how that plays out.

So, with all of my ramblings, I really want to say that we need to teach our children ABOUT as many different types of religion as we can, so that they are fully educated and able to CHOOSE. When taught the truth, Christ is the choice they will find, and HE will do the saving. It is when our children don't have a clue about these other, often hot-button, religions, that we lose them because of their curiousity, and their lack of knowledge.

The Truth, the Light, we need to enlighten our children. That is where they will find Christ, and His light, shines immeasurably into the darkness.

K, I'll shut up now. :-)

Fantastic thoughts, thanks for sharing them! Hugs!

Monika said...

In re: the fear of "godly" Puritanical men setting standards and drowning, or burning people, etc., who don't meet the standards. . .

I think we must realize that SOMEONE is going to be setting the standards. It's just a question of, who?

At present, we aren't overrun with "godly" Puritanical men. I guess from JeniG's post that would be a good thing. However, we know what happens to 1/3 of the unborn. Some of their deaths are mercifully quick; some are quite comparable to burning at the stake. Tomorrow a state legislative committee will be voting on whether the majority of California parents are child abusers if we use an implement of any kind to spank a child. Should they prevail, you and I could lose custody of our children and be jailed. Our public schools, with our taxes, are subsidizing a day of silence to promote a homosexual agenda - meanwhile, kids wearing Bible verses on their t shirts are suspended.

So the "godly" Puritanical men don't necessarily sound all that bad to me. I certainly don't advocate witch dunking (I believe I read that about 14 poor women were drowned in one community, it wasn't a run of the mill occurrence), or burning at the stake for heresy (which the Puritans did not do, anyway). It's not biblical. That's where I like to find my standards - in Scripture.

If, out of fear of abuse, we let the ungodly rule, we should not be surprised if much suffering occurs. Non-Christians, historically, have been the biggest abusers of mankind. So I support candidates who I find to be believably Christians, and I support legislation that reflects God's moral standards.

Polidentius said...

This topic could generate a 1000 page book. But key Scripture for the relationship of the Christian to the State is 1 Timothy 2:1-4:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

Notice that the purpose of these prayers is not to have our rulers create a "Christian nation" under Biblically-based laws, but that our rulers become disciples of Christ and/or make decisions that give the church freedom to spread the gospel.

The power of God dwarfs what humans can do at the ballot box or through lobbying. Considering the sinful nature of man and the reality that few people are chosen to be the elect, we should be thankful that God has blessed the United States with relative peace, order, and prosperity.

Should we as Christians be involved in politics? Yes. When King Xerxes issued a decree to kill the Jews, Esther used her political influence as the queen to lobby for justice. We Christians can have influence as voters and activists to do God's work in restraining the power of Satan in this world.

Laws will only stop sin to the extent that they are an agent of God's common grace, but in our efforts to pass or repeal laws, we will have the opportunity to spread the gospel. In 2004, voters in numerous states approved initiatives restricting marriage to between a man and a woman. Perhaps the public debate about this issue created an opportunity for some people to consider the source of morality and turn to Christ.

We just need to keep in mind the world is not our kingdom and politics is not our ministry: our ministry is the Great Commission. And we have to be cautious about yoking with unbelievers in our political activities.

cahanbury said...

What a great post. Isn't it hard? Here's what I've done...I have done away with any party loyalties because what difference does it make really? The last election (local and state) I voted for a libertarian, dem., republican, constitution, and green party candidate, depending on the job and what they planned to do/their record. I think the best thing to do as a Christian, and a citizen, is to educate yourself and vote. I just think we need to look at the big picture. The more "legislation of faith" that there is, the more "Christian" is an offensive, bad word. We are getting pushed down and told to be quiet. I think if we handle our vote with prayer, it is all we can do. Sorry for the length. Passionate topic.

Edited by cahanbury on Apr. 30, 2008 at 8:20 AM

cahanbury said...

Your link "other great creation resources" is a dead link.

UndertheSky said...

What wonderful comments. I am mulling many of them. :+)

I fixed the creation resources link. Thanks for letting me know!



JenIG said...

i just wanted to put in a request for your next topic... can you do something on birthcontrol and / or spanking? ha ha ha snort

Monika said...

If you practice effective birth control, you won't have to do any spanking. ; )

curlygirl said...

I've been wrestling with the same issues this year....

Monika said...

Has the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual marriage brought up any convictions/thoughts?

Marie B. said...

Thanks for visiting my site & thanks for trying to help me out.

Hmmm...Luther was big on the "Two Kingdoms" (secular & the Christian church) & reminding everyone that they are not the same thing. However, he lived in a day where everyone in a principality had to pretty much take on the faith of the prince (Jews were given some degree of exception, although frequently mistreated.) In my time, I see most Lutherans as being "Republicans." I am a moderate Independent, however, because I think both the Right & the Left have great oversights at times and because I think they frequently support (and then justify) different TYPES of immorality. We live in a very pluralistic culture and will only make the true message of Christianity despised and weighted down with baggage so that the true gospel isn't heard by non-Christians who see only a political face if we're not careful. I'd LOVE to see us in a country that was abortion-free if we could do it without so much mutual hostility, but other than that, I'm skeptical of a lot of what Republicans promote. And I won't vote on that as a single issue because most "pro-life" candidtates never follow through. I think we'll get further along the right track when we are "salt & light" in the little circle of people we know: help a woman choose birth over abortion; pray with our children at home & invite their friends over & pray at dinner when the friends are there; publicly pray over restaurant meals; when appropriate, tell co-workers of the hope we have that is different from those who don't know Christ; etc. That's my take on it.