Monday, January 30, 2017

Non-Christian Nation Acts Non-Christianly? Inconceivable!

Wow, what a week! I would honestly love to write a detailed exposé on all of the major tomfoolery of the past several days, but, alas, I cannot. Rather, I would like to borrow a few a minutes of your time to talk about the amazing uptick in biblical quotes that's I've seen in my news feed. It would seem quite a few people are suddenly keen on applying Scripture to the laws and actions of our secular nation...

You religious zealots, you ;)



The grand irony in all of this is that many of the same people who have made a big deal of the United States not being a Christian nation are now appealing to Scripture for national conduct. The same people who were just citing separation of church and state as an argument for abortion rights barely a week ago are now citing Jesus and Leviticus (yeah, LEVITICUS) as an argument against temporary entry bans.

At the risk of understatement, let me simply say that you can't have it both ways.

That said, there is a legitimate question here. Yes, many of the folks quoting the Bible have neither an understanding of nor commitment to it. However, for those of us who do, we must take it seriously. We cannot dismiss Scripture simply because its bearers have their own agenda. The messengers may be laughable, but the message is not.

So, all of that said, there's two things I really want to try to address here:

1)  Freedom of Religion
2)  Christian Responsibility

We are not a Christian nation. We are, however, a nation established primarily by Christians, and our founding documents bear the watermarks of Christianity throughout. This is, believe it or not, exactly why we have freedom of religion. 

The idea that the government should have no established religious affiliation is something we take for granted. It was somewhat revolutionary at the time and is certainly far from universal today. It makes for a healthy, growing, diverse country. But the founding father's didn't just pull the idea out of their butts. Things come from places, and the place this thing came from was the Bible.

Christianity cannot be enforced at gunpoint. While most religions are behavior-based, Christianity is relation-based. The fundamental teaching of Islam, for example, is that you are saved by following the Five Pillars. This is why folks like ISIS and ISIL can logically justify AK-47 conversion therapy - you just need people to do the right things. The fundamental teaching of Christianity, on the other hand, is that you are saved through a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Behaviors can be forced, but love cannot - it requires choice.

Religious liberty doesn't just make for a healthy, growing, diverse country. It makes for a healthy, growing, diverse church as well. We don't just want freedom of religion because the First Amendment requires it, but, more importantly, because a Christian worldview requires it.

So, freedom of religion is a good thing. As Christians, we want a country in which people can openly, willingly, happily choose not to be Christians. Our duty, both in a civil and religious capacity, is to help create such a nation.

This necessarily means that national responsibility won't always align with our personal responsibility.

As Christians, we have a God-given responsibility to be honorable, respectful, and charitable. Scripture doesn't just suggest, it commands we conduct ourselves as the good Samaritan did towards the man left for dead on the road to Jericho (Luke 10). We are to love our neighbors, even the ones who don't like us, as ourselves (Galatians 5:14). As Christians, we are to treat someone with a green card just as well as anyone else (Leviticus 19:33). Yes and amen.

But a country is not a person. Nor is it a church. A non-Christian nation is under no obligation to do what Jesus commanded his disciples to do. We are. His church is. A secular government is not. The role of government, as understood by our founding fathers, is to create a country in which people are able to live out their God-given responsibility to be honorable, respectful, and charitable if they so choose, not to make them do so. 

For example, taking in refugees is a great thing. It's a very charitable act. But what if someone doesn't want to be charitable? In taking their tax dollars and using them for charity, we're coming awfully close to infringing on someone's religious liberty. Now, there is a point in which that's unavoidable (civilized society requires laws, and all laws are an imposition of morality), but you'd be hard pressed to draw the line at compulsory charity.

 Are you still with me?

Quick recap:  We are a non-Christian nation that believes in freedom of religion, which is pretty Christian. This is fundamentally good for the country and for the church. That very freedom means that our non-Christian nation will do non-Christian things, and that's ok. We have specific responsibilities as Christians, which we must do, and which others must be free to not do.

In application to the political sphere, I would argue that this means we need a massive overhaul in how we go about doing good deeds. Since it's a hot topic right now, and I already brought it up earlier, let's talk about refugees. 

President Trump just put a ban on taking in refugees from Syria. There's a lot of banter as to whether this is good, bad, helpful, or necessary. I would argue (and this is a completely debatable hill that I would not die on) that the government should stop taking in refugees at all. Put a full stop on it. Instead, develop a good vetting process and then work with churches and other privately funded charitable organizations to sponsor screening and placing refugees. Less infringement, probably more refugees, smaller government. Win, win, win.

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.

Or maybe I am.

I probably am.

I am, aren't I?

Bleh.

2 comments:

  1. Good thoughts in general. My only question would be how can the church, as Christians, welcome refugees on their own without the government when it is the government that controls who can and cannot enter the country? It is one thing to desire the government to welcome refugees, but it is something else entirely to ask the government to allow the church to practice it's faith to welcome refugees. This is a religious liberty issue.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I was actually hoping someone would ask that question.

      It would require a level of partnership between the government and local churches (and other charities). The government would handle the vetting and the church would function as a sponsor, funding the process. Ultimately, it's no more a religious liberty issue than using tax dollars to do the same thing (arguably less so).

      I was just talking with someone today who said that some non-profits are already involved in helping to fund refugee placement. Part of the agreement is not to proselytize, which helps ensure there's no infringement on religious liberty.

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