Politics in the Name of Jesus

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One of the advantages of things like Google Alerts is that you can hear people discussing, amongst themselves of course, how the present writer, as the Victorians would put it, got to be so silly. There is a lot of crowd noise on the interwebs, but nobody’s exactly whispering, and isolated conversations in a far corner can just pop right up.

For one example in passing, where do I get off telling people what Jesus thinks about state-run health care? When Jesus said to feed the poor, no cooking lessons, C.S. Lewis!

But here’s the deal. Following Jesus means keeping it simple. The early Christians served God in gladness and simplicity of heart (Acts 2:46), and the serpent had three graduate degrees (Gen. 3:1). This doesn’t mean that following Christ is simplistic, but it does mean that you always must carry around with you a willingness to be accused of being simplistic. It is like antinomianism, which is a deadly evil. But if you haven’t been accused of being antinomian, then you just aren’t preaching grace (Rom. 6:1).

Keeping it simple means starting with the big E on the eye chart, and working your way down. We could solve a good 80% of our political problems by this time tomorrow with a rudimentary application of “Thou shalt not steal.”

There are complicated problems in the world, and we ought not try to solve them with platitudes. Stewardship of migratory birds will be at least as legally complicated as water rights have been, and water rights is an area of law that receives a minimum amount of guidance from biblical law. We have to apply biblical principles, and there are a number of competing and legitimate claims, and those difficulties will not be helped if some blunderbuss of a preacher rolls in to tell us that Jesus wants what he, the preacher, has thought all along, which turns out to be the same thing as the preacher’s rancher cousin. So if that rancher wants to throw his dead cows in the river because they are his cows, and his waterfront, he not thinking through the ramifications. So there are a handful of situations that are really complicated that sinners want to keep simple — because they want to suit themselves. That is being simplistic.

But in our current political life, that is not our standard temptation. We want to complicate things that are simple, and we do so because we want to suit ourselves. We want our laws — and our economics, and our high level theo-political imaginations — to be complicated, so that our rationalizations can be complicated. This is because when our rationalizations are complicated, it is harder for righteousness to catch us. We hide among the trees of the garden from the presence of the Lord (Gen. 3:8).

So in these situations, Christian preachers need to just cut to the chase. Obamacare is not just theft, and not just grand larceny, it is mega larceny. Life is simple. Taking money from one group of people in order to give it to another group of people is larceny.

The fact that there is such a thing as lawful taxation (Rom. 13:6) does not mean that the government owns everything in principle (1 Kings 21:15; Matt. 17:26). Put another way, this means that one of the foundational principle in biblical civics is that there a line between lawful taxation and unlawful theft, and it is the responsibility of the government and of the people to know exactly where that line is, and why it is there. Would the problem of theft have been dealt with if Jezebel had pushed an “Eminent Domain Act” through Congress, or had false witnesses declare Naboth’s land to be wetlands? Governments can steal, and they do so all the time. Governments can also levy legitimate and honorable taxes. This means that if you start in the latter, and head east toward Washington, you will at some point cross a line. It is not an invisible line, because it is the line between righteousness and unrighteousness, obedience and rebellion, between a poll-tax and pillage. The difference between sin and goodness is not shrouded in obscurity.

If you deny the existance of that line, then you are just an apologist for tyrants, and discussion is likely to be fruitless. If you profess yourself ignorant of where that line might be, then the only thing this does is disqualify you from contributing anything significant to the discussion. There must be such a line, and it is clear the distinction between liberty and tyranny depends upon there being such a line. You confess that you know nothing about it. So pipe down then. It reminds me of that children’s joke — “What’s the difference between a mailbox and a hippopotamus?” “I don’t know.” “Well, I sure won’t send you to mail any letters!”  

This is why I would have no problem condemning our modern banking and finance system, from the Fed on down, and I would have no problem issuing this condemnation from the pulpit in the name of Jesus. Why? Thou shalt not steal, as someone once said.

“But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Dt. 25:15-16)

“Divers weights, and divers measures, Both of them are alike abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 20:10).

“Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water” (Is. 1:22).

This is why we can say that Jesus Christ hates the Fed. He hates it because it is an abomination to Him, and we can say this for the same reason that we can say He hates it when a butcher has his thumb on the scales.

Pumping unbacked currency into the economy is the same sin in principle as having different sets of weights and measures. It is the same sin as mixing low-grade wheat into the silo, and pretending you didn’t. It is the same sin as cutting the wine with water, and selling it as though you hadn’t.

It is the sin of putting copper into your quarters. That’s not a little thing — the Bible calls it an abomination.

So people object violently to politics in the name of Jesus when His name is used to attack sin. When His name is used in defense of our sins, that is a different matter, and will be the subject of my next post on this.



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