Jun 12, 2012

Christians and Politics. Taboo?

This is the first time I have ever responded to a commenter (especially an anonymous one) with a whole post. I feel it is warranted based on the fact that my motives and character are called into question (the Bible calls this judging). I regularly get into civil debates with atheists through my blog who are less attacking.

The original post and the full comment I am referring to are HERE.

Dear Anonymous (if that is your real name),

You have called my post political as if that is somehow sneaky and underhanded. I will draw your attention to the tabs at the top of my blog. I have a political tab and the post Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer is on it. 

It is also on the 20/20 Hindsight tab where I say upfront: The purpose of this series is to show God's hand of providence in the lives of people throughout history. Sometimes God works His good through a person, sometimes He does it in spite of that person, and sometimes their lives merely teach us a lesson.

None of this is underhanded. I am completely transparent and as this is called Randumblog I am not pigeonholed into one area. The reason all of the posts have Christian undertones is because Christ is the center of my life (see About page).

I digress. There seems to be an overwhelming lack of understanding about what Christians/pastors are "allowed" or "should say" when it come to politics. This mainly stems from the separation of church and state which is not in the constitution. 

The constitution actually bars the federal government from establishing religion or prohibiting it. But you sir/mam (this is why it helps to use your name) have brought up the fact that I admire the constitution or am proud of my country as a negative thing for a Christian to have.

I couldn't disagree more. And since you said there is NOTHING in the bible to support anything I have written I will draw your attention to a few verses. 

Romans 13:1  Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Paul is talking to believers in Rome. You know, the place where Christians were routinely thrown to lions. Now lets examine our "powers that be". We are a contitutionally limited republic. That means that the constitution is the power that be.

Our constitution allows us to participate in the process, and bars the elected officials from operating outside of its jurisdiction. To realize this is to recognize that Abraham Lincoln was operating outside of the power given to him by the constitution.

Despite his violation of Romans 13, God worked through him to free the slaves (which could have been done through legal means as I pointed out in my post). Here is the direct quote from my post: But in hindsight God worked through a bloody mess of our own making to set people free.

Now as to your assertion that -- 
"This logic applied to the rest of the world says that we should in no way come to the aid of those suffering in other countries, because in doing so we would be imposing on that countries sovereignty. Therefore genocide is acceptable."

You seem to be saying that our government should stop bad things from happening while at the same time saying-- "
"...Instead it speaks loudly to a god of a political system - a human construct that is flawed and is NOT God. It is worship of nation, of constitution, of political idealism. This is not God, and throughout the bible and history, those who worshiped their nation over God have never fared well."

My friend, God has placed the church here as His change agent. This is what I am trying to say. Slavery would have ended anyway. But you have given God attributes that the Bible does not--
"This post in no way speaks to a God who is love, a God who would work to end suffering, to hear the cry of those oppressed and free us from the bondage of sin."

You have made a God who is only loving if He steps in to end suffering. Suffering exists because of sin. He sent Jesus to cure the root problem, but this side of heaven there will ALWAYS be suffering. Would a God who's goal is to end world hunger say, "the poor you will always have with you." No because He heals spiritual hunger.

As to the slavery issue. You cited Moses as a reason that God always opposes slavery and genocide. Are you aware that Abraham had slaves when God called him and was never commanded to let them go? Are you aware that Saul was punished for not destroying every last man, woman, child and baby of the Amalakites?

In the New testament Paul speaks specifically to slaves and their masters: 

Ephesians 6:5-9 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Slavery is used as a picture of our relationship with Christ as well as marriage is. "We are not our own, we are bought with a price." These are recurring scriptural themes.

American slave owners reached all new lows in their violation of Ephesians 6. Historically we know of many brutalities that were done against the slaves. These issues were not the only cause the Civil War, but God used it anyway to end this oppressive system.

Remember you can't have your cake and eat it too. On one hand you want Christians to stay in church and out of conversations about government and in another breath you want us to advocate to play global cop around the world. 

Whatever the case, God has blessed us and we have a big responsibility. We can wield it in the wrong way and cease to exist like other nations, or work within the rule of law. 

One last thing. You said about my post--
"Applied to history, this logic says Hitler's holocaust was a sad necessity because as chancellor of his country, he had the sovereign right to do whatever he wanted to his own citizens."

I would say that according to you the Christians in Rome should have revolted. Hitler was taken down legally by countries he and the axis powers attacked. I believe God used the allies to do this and that He even unwittingly used Hitler himself (see my 1st post in this series on Hitler).

Thank you for your comment. Let's not let opinion divide His church as I believe it is both of our goals to see people come to Him.


J.R. Buckley said...


Regarding your application of Paul's epistles to American history: do you believe Romans 13 is universally prescriptive, or was it more geared toward the Roman church? Your post made it seem like the former.

With the severe persecution under which the church operated in the Roman Empire, do you think it's possible Paul was employing hyperbole and sarcasm in this portion of his letter? After all, Paul and the early church blatantly defied the Roman authorities by continuing to spread the gospel. Paul's own actions contradicted the warning he issues in verse 2: "Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." Maybe the Greco-Roman winky emoticon didn't make it into our English translations, but the only sensible conclusion I can draw from Romans 13 within context is that Paul isn't being completely serious.

The clear impression I get from the whole of scripture is that although we are to submit to authority, and live peacably with all people as much as possible, Christians ultimately answer to a higher authority and live for a higher kingdom, one not of this world.

If Paul meant the passage from Romans 13 literally, and if his followers had taken it this way, the church would likely have petered out (pun intended) in the first or second century A.D. It would have been a much easier and less deadly road for those early believers, but they chose the opposite way.

Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

I'll respond clearer this time so that I'm not taken out of context (and to correct things in my previous comment that where admittedly unclear or poorly worded).

We as Christians are very much allowed to be political. What we should not be is so clearly biased in a way that eisegetes the text to align with our politics.

You can proof text your way through the initial response to make yourself be right and cite things out of context to dismiss my concerns, but that doesn't disprove my above point.

Slavery is always wrong. While men of God clearly had slaves, God never endorses it. Even Philemon is not a book of saying that this system of slavery is part of God's plan for the world.

And to say that God is love (as pretty much the whole book of John is about), and that we are called to hear the cry of the oppressed and help them (which is throughout the bible, and is pretty much the definition of loving thy neighbor) is about as scriptural as one can get. If you do not see that, I fear for your understanding of scripture.

This is not to say that God is not a God of Justice, Wrath, and Judgement, as the bible clearly attests to, but God's defining characteristic is love. This is the cross. This is creation. This is grace.

My concern with your initial post was how easily you dismissed a person in power who would carry out an action that would seek to end suffering (even if only in part) simply because you did not see it as adhering to the law of the land.

It is this stance, justified through a single passage in Romans taken out of context - as the above comment notes (and also discounting nearly all of the rest of Paul's writing in the process).

My comment was and is out of legitimate concern. We are allowed as Christians to be political (even necessarily so), but our allegiance should always be to the scripture first over any other ideology or governing principle. As a minister, particularly of youth, I would urge you to either be more aware of your own biases in how you read scripture (and also more clear about them on this blog) or even more to come to terms with the tension between God's command on us to love Him completely & to love our neighbors (and enemies) completely and the American system of government which calls for individual liberties even at the cost of others.

No one can serve two masters.

Feel free to refute and proof text this comment, but I say this not of malice, but out of accountability and concern for the Church. You have a clear passion and love for Christ. I am in no way trying to attack you (despite how it may sound), but instead am trying to encourage you to see the inconsistencies between a post like the earlier one, and God's call for us.

I say this as someone who has been and continues to be humbled by my own mistakes, biases, and failings to follow God completely. Please do not focus on any mistakes I have made, but instead think of how an offhanded simple post can convey a very skewed and incorrect message of God's role for us (especially to young people).

Nate Garrett said...

Mr. Buckley,

I do see the passage in Romans as literal. Paul is not in the habit of employing a lot of sarcasm especially in a disrespectful way. You will be hard pressed to find a reputable scholar or commentator with this view (it is a good question though).

It makes since because Paul and the other apostles employed the truth of obeying God rather than man. This balances out the whole equation. Obey government in so much as you are not being required to sin, i.e. not being allowed to share your faith (1st century Rome), forced to abort a second child (China), or to turn over your Jewish friends (Nazi Germany).

Just because a government becomes corrupt doesn't mean that we throw out all rule of law. For instance traffic and tax laws do not cause us to sin. Thanks for adding to the conversation :)

Nate Garrett said...

Mr./Miss Anonymous,
One important thing about leading youth is teaching them discernment. in other words do not conform to the pattern of this world, and as Thessalonians 5:21 says, "Test ALL things and hold tight to that which is good." I do not tell them that they can only listen to Christian music or watch, PG movies because they need to have actual discernment over what they hear and see.

I want them to know that ALL truth is true because it was always true. God determines truth and the truth sets us free. In the same way to be a productive member of society who lifts high the name of Jesus then they need to understand the culture including the political culture that we live in.

I am an Independent and do not follow a party based voting pattern as I have voted Democrat, Republican, and Independent. Why? Discernment, I teach it and I model it. Voting is important. Germany was a Democracy before Hitler rose to power. The people were not discerning.

I also lead our youth to understand the size of God's kingdom. Most of our activities are done interdenominationally even though my denomination (Church of the Nazarene) has scheduled youth activities.

I get flack sometimes for not fitting the mold. But that is ok because there are no political parties in heaven, but their will be government and there are no denominations, but there will be a church.

By the way I only have about two of my students who regularly read my blog (both of which are going into the ministry). The rest of my readers are mainly adults. This is an outlet for me and it does not resemble my sermons.

Either way we can discern things in the present and even easier in the past. The North won the war so much of what you and I have learned was written by the winning side.

I was pointing out that God used it to free the slaves as Lincoln did not have freeing the slaves as an agenda until he saw that it could turn the tide of the war.

Even Robert E. Lee was only in the War to defend Virginia (as we was first asked to lead the Union army), and he was opposed to slavery. In fact many of the immigrant workers in the Northern industrial areas lived in worse conditions than the southern slaves.

Either way we both agree that slavery is bad, but more so from us knowing right from wrong (see Genesis 3) than from a slavery prohibition in scripture. The entire point of the post was to give God rather than Lincoln the credit for His providential hand in freeing the slaves.

I do not harbor hard feelings over the matter, I just found that your concerns echoed many Christians concerns about our role in the world which I find unfortunate. Yes, help the hurting, but as the church. Christians seem at times so influenced by one party that they either want to use the government to attack dictators or use taxes to send foreign aid to ease suffering around the world. If we spread the Gospel and do our part we will change hearts and minds for Him, thus changing our world from the inside out.

Some of our disagreement is semantics as well as personal interest. For instance I like politics and Star Wars. I do not think any president can save us or use the force to do the dishes. they are just interests. I take it politics is not one of yours and that is ok. We are all different.

I am in this order: A follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a pastor, a friend, a Star Wars fan, an American(yes after Star Wars because I would move if God asked me too), and a fan of all things historical and political.

Thanks for the good dialogue. May I suggest a blogger who may be right up your alley although polar opposite of mine: Tony Campolo and/or Jim Wallis.

Catholic said...

can you establish the authority of the Scriptures using the Scriptures alone. If you are going to quote any chapter and verse you should first establish that that chapter and verse belong in the Scriptures by showing the authoritative list of what is Scripture, again using the Bible alone. If you can't do this then any appeal to the scriptures is on par with an appeal to the book of mormon because you have no authority to claim this or that is scripture.

"but our allegiance should always be to the scripture first over any other ideology or governing principle"

Please show me that in the Bible oh man, in fact I believe the Bible says the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, not the scriptures. The Bible is a product of the Church, the Church is not a product of the Bible, The Church can first. The fact that both of you disagree and use the scriptures to do so, proves that Bible alone Christianity fails everytime and has since Luther founded the man made religion. The solas are the reason why the world is like it is now, and you can blame protestantism for moral relativism 38k differing denominations all claiming the holy spirit told them so and all differing on major doctrines all caving into the world. There is only ONE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST... THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH!

Nate Garrett said...


You said we do not have the authority to determine which passages are scripture, but the Catholic church does. Then tell me the passages I quoted that are not considered inspired by the Catholic church. Wait I'll save you the time--the answer is zero.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church determined what is and isn't scripture because she is the Authority established by Christ to do so. The scriptures are a product of the Church, the Church isn't a product of the scriptures. What Authority do you or anyone outside the Church established by Christ have to determine scripture? You trust the authority of the Church in what makes up scripture yet reject her on other matters, it doesn't make sense.

Nate Garrett said...

Again refer to my last comment. The scripture I used is supported as scripture by the Catholic Church and no one was discussing the Catholic Church.

This post is on whether followers of Christ no matter what church they go to should be involved in politics.

Aimlessly wandering from post to post to create a platform for issues not discussed in that post is generally known to bloggers as trolling. Most do not even respond.

But I will and this is the last I will say on the issue during this post.

The church was not corrupt when God used it to canonized writings that were ALREADY God-breathed. Afterwards we had the Spanish Inquisition, indulgences, the Crusades and plenty of popes willing to come up with NEW truths not in scripture.

Now I know Catholics believe that the Pope is allowed to do that so I yield that point. BUT if the Catholic Church wants to say that the word of God is infallible and so is the Pope than the measure of whether these claims are true will be whether or not they contradict.

That is why the reformation happened, because a Catholic priest trained in the church noticed 99 contradictions between church doctrine and God's word. And since God is unchanging and the already canonized scriptures were not still evolving and since the church claimed these scriptures were true there was only one explanation.

Someone lied. Either
1. Pope was infallible scriptures were not infallible (but the church said they were) = the church lied.
2. The Pope can Override scripture = all truth is subjective and God is not infallible.
3. Scripture is constant and so is the ONE who inspired it. The church he used to gather it together became corrupt land owners feeding off the poor like parasites holding out heaven like a carrot on a stick, purgatory as a money maker, and eternal damnation as a scare tactic that the church could yield through excommunication (which itself is not scriptural).

I know plenty of born again (which Jesus said you must be) Catholics just like I know lost Protestants, but to call it the one true church is a bit of a stretch.

You are welcom to respond and I will let my readers respond further to this topic as I am preparing to go to India on Monday.

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