I am fond of saying that God is perfect, but He is not a perfectionist. There are many ways in which we might pursue this, but I want to talk about our political process for a moment.
I agree with and accept one of the criticisms that is made of the Ron Paul movement — i.e. that it tends toward a particular kind of “all or nothing” political perfectionism. I get that; I have seen it in action. I think it a fair criticism. But mainstream critics of Paul need to beware of their own forms of respectability perfectionism.
As a conservative, my entire adult life I have been urged by the establishment to go with a pragmatic vote, and if I have to, I should just hold my nose and vote. But it is amazing what you can adjust to after you learn to start holding your nose. If I can play realpolitik by holding my nose and voting for RINOs, then why can’t I play realpolitik in another direction by holding my nose and voting for Ron Paul in Iowa? Well, apart from the fact that I don’t live in Iowa?
Seriously, if I did live in Iowa I would probably vote for Santorum. But I would not do so as a perfectionist — there are reasons to object to all the candidates. But if I were to state my win, place and show preferences, it would be Santorum, Paul, Perry, in a tight cluster, with Romney a distant fourth, and Gingrich seventeenth out of a field of seven.
But why would I want someone as ideological as Paul to come anywhere close? Well, remember that I am holding my nose. Remember that we get to play realpolitik chess, right, just like you all taught us? But here is my reasoning. I want him to come close enough for the so-called mainstream candidates to have to pick up on the areas where Ron Paul is right. I want some of his message to be co-opted. Audit the Fed so that when we blow it up we can all know why. Stop treating the Constitution like it had a court-ordered ankle bracelet. And stop spending money like you were Charlie Sheen on a cocaine jag. You know, all that extremist stuff.
I am convinced that ordinary political measures are insufficient. Ordinary pressure won’t cut it. Look at the congressional elections of 2010. If ever a clear message was sent in the ordinary way, it was sent then. Stop what you are doing. But did the Republican establishment stop it with the budgeting gimmicks? Are we still calling slow-downs in the rates of the increases “cuts”? Why, son of a gun. Well, yes, we are.
Now when I say that God is not a perfectionist, this should not be taken in any way as an argument for ignoring His law. If we are lax and lazy, we miss the point. We are not to turn aside, to the right or to the left (Dt. 5:32). We are to do precisely as we are told. Uzzah touched the ark and was struck down for it (2 Sam. 6:6-7). The sons of Aaron offered strange fire and were consumed for their impudence (Lev. 10:1-2). A man was executed for gathering sticks on the sabbath (Num. 15:32-36).
On the other hand, the law of God is not made out of two by fours. If we are hyper-scruplous in the wrong way, we also miss the point. David ate the shewbread he was not permitted to eat (1 Sam. 21:6), and Jesus approved of it (Mark 2:26). Hezekiah offered a prayer of pardon for those who celebrated the Passover without an appropriate cleansing (2 Chron. 30:17-18). Paul was all right with the fact that some were preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry (Phil. 1:18).
God is perfect, and we are called to imitate that perfection (Matt. 5:48). This means, in politics, that we should know when to hold our noses and vote, and when to stop and smell the cattle barns.