Bad theology has produced a severe idolatry of the state within the church in both conservative and liberal circles. The state has become a false religion for many Christians.
In liberal theological circles, no one questions or criticizes the state, unless the state is allegedly not doing enough to help others. But no liberal Christian questions that the state is an inherently moral good. They’ve fallen prey to the modern democratic passion for equality that is completely non-existent in Scripture. They see the state as reducing inequality and making sure that the rich do their part to take care of the poor. Misinterpretations of the Beatitudes and Christ’s ministry abound.
But all of this is to be expected. Liberal theological misinterpretations of Scripture lead to perilous realities in almost all aspects of life, not just politics. There’s not much more I can say on this point.
My biggest concern is with Christians who are theologically conservative–who accept the Bible as God’s supreme and inerrant word, and who truly understand the gospel and what it means for our salvation and sanctification. However, many of these conservatives won’t bring themselves to become wholehearted critics of the state because they’re too blinded by a misguided interpretation of Romans 13. They falsely equate any manifestation of human civil government with government that is established by rightful and just authority, assuming that we consequently have a moral obligation from God to more respect a wicked government than we do to stand for those who are poor and downtrodden by said government. Conservative Christians often forgot that human government is not only marred by sin, as is the rest of human existence, but is also the centralization of sin given the power of the sword. If one accepts the biblical doctrine of human depravity, how can one not be frightened and vigilant against the accumulation of power by these depraved humans whose hearts we know are “deceitful above all else?”
I don’t read in Scripture that humans are excused from the reality of their depraved nature if they are a conservative Republican who talks about economic freedom and a constitutional marriage amendment. Yet, ignoring this truth is why many conservative Christians can be easily duped by Republican politicians. Because we ignore the incentive structure and reality of the state as a coercive centralization of human sin, we forget that Republicans can just as easily fall prey to their human nature as Democrats.
Bottom line: if we can morally decry homosexuals for deviance in the privacy of their own bedroom (an accusation that Scripture tells us is true), we can also morally decry the state for stealing from its citizens, repressing our freedom of speech, and encouraging a dangerous idolatry of democracy, government, and the political process.
So this is my challenge to conservative Christians: be more willing to speak truth to power and decry the state for its wickedness much more than we currently do (for fear of being “too political”). Moses confronted Pharaoh, David confronted Saul, and Nathan confronted David. When do we ever confront and challenge political leaders and call them out for their wickedness?
Many conservative Christians are today lamenting the state of our country and wondering how we got here, presumably because they are upset about the results of the election. Unfortunately, many Christians were going to be overjoyed if Mitt Romney won. I was going to be disappointed either way.
Unless the Christian church moves out of its comfort zone and takes a definitive stand against the evils of the state, regardless of who is in power, we will potentially be frustrated and disappointed again in 2016. In the meantime, the state will continue to fund abortions, provide free birth control, redistribute wealth, remove political and religious freedom, drone strike innocent civilians overseas, and oppress the poor in the inner cities with its corrupt and evil war on drugs (I realize this last point may be controversial for conservative Christians, but I have completely turned around on this issue because of my conservative Christian leanings, not in spite of it. I trust that more Christians would do the same if they understood how the drug war hurts the poor.).
If the church doesn’t act as the conscience to the state, the state will continue to take advantage of all liberties, and actively promote evils with public funds. In the past, standing on the sideline under the false protection of a misguided interpretation of Romans 13 has led the church to ineffectiveness when government has grown to be a lethal enemy of its citizens.
The church does not need more apologists for the state. It needs men like Nathan who will confront the king and demand from him, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?”
“And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him,
“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’
Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
Then Nathan went to his house.
– 2 Samual 12:1-15