11/25/2009 (7:46 pm)
There’s a discussion going on in a Christian-oriented Yahoo group to which I belong, over whether American Christians have an obligation in Christ to resist tyranny, as described in the Declaration of Independence. For those who are not immediately familiar, the Declaration identifies the core rights of free citizens as established by God, and declares that government draws all its right to rule from the consent of the governed. It then makes it a duty of free citizens to identify whether a government has “a design to reduce them under absolute despotism,” and when that occurs, a duty “to throw off such government, and to devise new guards for their future security.”
The title of the thread makes reference to Romans 13, a passage that begins “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities…” Many American Christians regard that as the key passage defining their role as citizens of any nation. I argued briefly in the discussion that in America, we, the people, are the governing authority, and that entity which we call “the government” is actually our slave. It is the government, I said, that owes American citizens obedience per Romans 13, not the other way ’round. We may feel guilty about “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” but in America, we, the people, are Caesar, and the government is not.
In response to that, some who are of a different mind posited a few passages that they claim define what Christ wants us as Christians to do with respect to the government. These were:
(1) “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” I Timothy 2:2.
(2) “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” II Timothy 2:4, by which this fellow meant that in serving Christ, he feels it is a distraction to entangle himself in temporal matters, which truly do not matter in the Kingdom of God.
(3) “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” 2 Corinthians 10:4, by which he means that our battle is not with things of the earth, but rather with spiritual forces.
My response to this was long, but a pretty comprehensive argument explaining why I believe Christians in America have a deep-seated obligation in Christ to resist tyrants, and to resist the current, incipient tyrant in particular. The rest of this post is what I argued.
First a definition: I spend most of the discussion talking about the “Kingdom of God.” To understand what I mean, you have to think of God as ruler of all universes, and then think of Earth as territory in rebellion against God, and being held against Him by spiritual forces with human complicity. God invaded this hostile territory from the outside in the person of Jesus, and established a beachhead for Himself through all those who obey Jesus. When I say that our purpose as Christians is to manifest the Kingdom of God, what I mean is that we are to widen the beachhead, extending the territory in which God’s will is done consistently. Since God’s intention for humanity is health, peace, prosperity, righteousness, and joy, those things should be plentiful wherever God’s Kingdom manifests. This is why, for example, Jesus spent so much time healing people when He walked the earth — He was extending the influence of the Kingdom of God. I frequently abbreviate the phrase “Kingdom of God” down to “KoG.”
This will be my Thanksgiving post, since what the Leydenites (they called themselves Pilgrims) were attempting to establish here on this continent was a manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. This is my tribute to them. Read on…
As Christians, what is our purpose here on earth? To get to heaven? Nonsense. Heaven is an effect, not a goal. We’re already in heaven, in part, and the completion of that transition is inevitable.
Is our goal to be perfected? Yes, but surely firm obedience in the tasks to which He has put us in this life is part of the process by which we are perfected, right?
Is it to convert a lot of people to Christianity? Partly, yes, but Jesus did a great deal more than merely convert people, he taught them, healed them, delivered them, encouraged them, fed them, clothed them…
I see our task here on earth reflected in the following:
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
The purpose of Christianity here on earth is to bring God’s kingdom into manifestation among men. We’re not here just to learn, nor just to be examples, but to produce the fruit of the kingdom of God wherever we are. That’s why the message is, and always was, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Now, that creates an interesting conflict, because so much of what goes on down here is truly inconsequential. Christianity is not a political system, nor is it an economic system. Likewise, Christianity is not a self-help program, a mental health tonic, a get-rich-quick or get-rich-slow scheme… although there are truths available in the Kingdom of God that will affect your prosperity, your mental health, your self-esteem, your economics, and your politics. Different tangible matters here on earth have different relevance to the kingdom of God, and it becomes our task as His servants to discern correctly which are central, and which peripheral, and to behave accordingly.
For example, when Peter visited the Centurion at Caesarea and converted his whole household, the Centurion was not commanded to resign his military post. Why? Because military service, a secular and temporal task, is not incompatible with serving the Kingdom of God (KoG.) Most orders a Centurion would carry out would have been of little importance to the KoG, except insofar as the Centurion performs them with moral excellence (something God definitely requires of us whatever our station.) Some — say, the matters in which this Centurion was friendly to the local synagogue — may have been positively beneficial to the KoG.
However, it was certainly possible for that military commander to have received instructions that were flat-out contrary to the Kingdom of God — say, the murder of all male children in the region under the age of 2, or the murder of all Christians — and in that case, the Centurion would have had to refuse the order and accept the consequences, which would probably have been death.
We all have the same balance to strike. We all serve the Kingdom of God while performing temporal tasks that matter very little in eternity. I used to install system software at large corporations. Nothing I did impacted the KoG directly that I could see, but insofar as I was providing for my family, supporting the Church, representing Christ accurately among my co-workers, and performing my duties with honesty and excellence, I considered that I was doing what God wanted me to do.
But occasionally there are secular things with eternal importance, and as Christians, when we encounter them we have to stand firm and do what is right. If your employer is stealing, you have a responsibility within the secular system, but that responsibility also matters eternally, both with regard to your eternal soul and your employer’s. There’s no specific scripture that says “You must report your dishonest employer to the FBI,” but you most certainly have a Christian obligation to do something like that. If you just say “Sinners will be sinners” and turn a blind eye, do you really think God will be indifferent to that? I say not; I say, God demands that we be part of the solution. That’s what we’re here for — to undo the destructive works of satan among men on this lost planet. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth…”
So, what does that say about Christians and American politics?
All of us who live in America accept, as an obligation of enjoying the benefits of a free society, the responsibility to participate in its leadership. This is no different from “If a man will not work, neither let him eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10. If you enjoy the benefits of citizenship, you should pay the price of citizenship. That means participation in the body politic in whatever ways are required to ensure the continued peace and safety of the nation. No, you don’t have to volunteer for Ward Chairman if that’s not your thing, but you do need to stay abreast of current events and vote intelligently regarding them. Far too few of us take this responsibility seriously, and yes, I do think God notices.
It’s given that different people will see their responsibility differently; that’s part of what “free society” means. So what if you’re a Democrat and I’m a Republican? So long as we both participate honestly, civilly, with excellence, and in good conscience, we should be able to work out our differences, and even if we can’t, each of our conscientious activisms fulfills our Christian duties. In most political things, where the requirements of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth are either irrelevant or disputable, Christians may participate on either side, and God’s purpose is served by either.
But what if a political party in the US adopts as its core philosophy something that is utterly contrary to the Kingdom of God? not just a specific plank or bad policy, but a central philosophy? What if, for example, a party adopted the central goals of satanism, and used as the central theme of its platform “Be as satan, and Do As You Will?” spreading that theme through law, education, government, and civil society? What if a party stood primarily for the evangelistic spread of Islam throughout the US, intending to establish Sharia in place of the US Constitution and reducing all non-Muslims to “dhimmi” status? What if one adopted a theme of “Grasp for whatever you can, and to hell with the needs of others?” Does the combination of your devotion to the Kingdom of Christ and your citizenship in a citizen-governed system, confer on you a Christian duty to resist that which is explicitly ungodly in that party’s platform? I say that it does — and not only does this not constitute “serving the wrong kingdom,” the failure to judge this rightly and take appropriate action constitutes a failure to serve Christ properly. For our job here is to bring the KoG to earth, and resisting the spread of demoniacal systems is certainly part of that job.
What I perceive in modern America is that one party has been overtaken by a demonic philosophy that perfectly expresses the will of the serpent in Eden: “You will be as God.” It perfectly expresses the spirit of man at Babel: “Let us make a name for ourselves.” It perfectly expresses the vain notions of kings mentioned in Psalm 2: “Let us break [the LORD's] chains, and throw off [His Anointed's] fetters.” That philosophy is the philosophy of Utopian control — total control to produce a perfect society. I can imagine no better expression of satanic will for humanity, nor a better vehicle for him to destroy humanity. We saw this philosophy in motion throughout the 20th century, in Italy, in Germany, in Russia, in China, in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Cuba… and watched it murder hundreds of millions of its own citizens. And everywhere it went, it systematically and specifically murdered the Church, because the spirit of this system is anti-Christ.
And even though we Christians, as American citizens, are the government, and have a civic responsibility to maintain the peace and safety of the nation, some here are telling me that they think the Christian has no obligation, as a Christian, to stand against this horror and say “It will not come here.”
I say “Crap.” No obligation could possibly be clearer. And no, I’m not serving the wrong kingdom. I’m serving the only kingdom that matters, the Kingdom of God. Because satan has moved through deceived men and women to increase his hold on the minds and hearts of men, to demolish their prosperity and safety, to increase their misery, to take their liberty and their lives. He’s doing it in a recognizable form, one whose effects we already know all too well. It behooves me as a servant of the living Christ to stand firm against it.
Notice what I have not said, because some here will mistakenly accuse me of saying them. I have not said that the Republican party represents the perfect reflection of Christ, or even that it reflects Him in any way. I have not said that every Democrat is a demoniac. I have not said that Christians cannot be Democrats, nor that Democrats cannot be Christians. I have not said that the US Constitution is the Perfect Christian Document. I have not said that we have leave to treat human beings in the deceived party as though they were less than human beings. I have not said that warfare in the spirit is an inconsequential part of this activism. I have not said that there are no other Christian imperatives in politics to which a Christian might, in good conscience, apply him or herself.
But what I have said is, there’s a distinctly ungodly philosophy afoot, centered in a political movement, and as citizens of the Kingdom of God who happen also to be citizens in a citizen-governed republic, we have a Christian obligation to stand up to it and defeat it decisively.
That’s my argument.
2 Comments »
Comment by Dale
I would neither add anything to what you have said nor would I take anything away. May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family and friends in joyful remembrance of all of God’s blessings.
Comment by Cal
Thanks for your efforts in this Phil…
Now if we can just get Christians to see their duty extends beyond witnessing and “tithing.”