Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Towards a Truly Christian Nation?

13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:13-21

For some Republicans, people like me are part of America's problem.

Being independent and politically moderate wins few kudos from right-wingers who insist raw fiscal discipline is the only way to save our country.

I don't deny that we need to overhaul welfare programs, close our borders, raise Social Security's retirement age, and overturn Obamacare. But neither, for example, am I convinced higher taxes on the wealthy reduces employment. Or that our government should be whittled down to basically just the Defense Department, as some far-right-wingers would like.

Read the Declaration of Independence and Constitution carefully, and you'll note that our Founding Fathers assumed both federal and state governments would play a significant role in the identity of the United States of America.  Yes, there have always been and always will be people who don't want anybody to tell them to do or not do anything - especially somebody in authority.  Yet the marginal baseline for governance held by such pseudo-anarchists doesn't necessarily benefit society as a whole.

Just as a crushing bureaucracy advocated by most liberals doesn't.

Hence my defense of political moderation.

While I tend to be politically moderate, however, I'm not a religious moderate. I cling dearly to a belief and confidence in the sovereignty of God; His forgiveness of my sins through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son; the indwelling of His Holy Spirit for comfort and guidance; and His promise of eternal life in Heaven with Him.

Although my nationality is American, my identity is fixed in God through Jesus Christ. And my salvation has not been won for me because I'm an American, or even vote Republican more often than not. But because before the creation of time, God called me to be His own.

I have to remind myself of these profound truths daily - sometimes, multiple times throughout the day. Because if I don't, I can easily become consumed with consternation over more trivial things... like American politics.

After all, on a scale of triviality, even though politics ranks low, it's higher than many of us think.  Our misperception comes from it being in-your-face real, whereas the facts of our faith aren't necessarily tangible, although they're no less real. And even more essential than politics, which is built more on perception and posturing than eternal truth.

If you stop and think about it, all of the problems facing the United States - or any country, for that matter - are based in some sort of sin. Mostly, the opposites of the Fruits of the Spirit. Instead of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and self-control, many Americans display ethnocentrism, angst, petulance, harshness, oppression, corruption, haughtiness, and greed.

Add to these problems the optimistic delusion that human faults can be mitigated through political and economic means, and you end up mired in the same obstinate morass we Americans find ourselves today.

Basically, Republicans tend to think that if left to their own devices, individual citizens can solve problems well. Democrats already know that individuals left to their own devices tend to cause chaos, which they think can be ameliorated by government intervention.

And then there are people like me, who think it takes a little bit of both individual autonomy and government rule-minding for our country to survive. Not that I'm any model of the Christian described in Romans 12, of course, but I'm struck by the noticeable dearth of other believers who are.

I'd like to think the solution is as easy as taking Democrats out of the urban areas, where they're surrounded by people who've grown accustomed to relying on the government, and dispersing them into relatively thriving suburbs, where entrepreneurialism is constrained by bureaucracy. And I'd like to take Republicans out of the suburbs and put them into our inner cities, where they'll see that reforming governmental cradle-to-grave policies won't be as easy as simply cutting services by arbitrary percentages.

As the saying goes, you can learn a lot about somebody by walking a mile in their shoes.  And since God expects His children to live as peaceably as they can with their neighbors, that includes those who don't vote the way you'd like.

Here in the United States, we're each blessed with the opportunity to educate ourselves on issues, evaluate candidates, and make an informed vote.  And we have an obligation as contributing citizens to do so. Still, I sometimes wonder if the author of Romans 12, who of course, is God, agrees with the issues we consider to be top political priorities.

And if He deigned to run for office on a platform as outlined in this passage from Romans, we'd want to vote for Him.

Granted, this passage from Romans is intended to be a template for Christian community, as clarified in verses 4 and 5 of Chapter 12. But I'm not brave enough to suggest that the way God expects us to act amongst ourselves shouldn't at least be a model for how we interact with the world around us as well.

Then again, considering how we sometimes are guilty of treating fellow believers uncharitably, maybe the way some of us carry on in national politics is par for the course.

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