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Politics is theological

A friend asked me on Facebook how the Republican Party came to be associated with Christianity. My brief answer, subject to FB's character limit, was not about history but about the gravitational forces that will always tend to pull people who hold a biblical worldview toward what is called conservatism. Here's my Politics 101 answer, slightly expanded.


General rule: Liberals (more often Dem) tend to see people as naturally good, so they are big on personal rights, favor centralized power (calling it unity), and are therefore skeptical of property rights.

Conservatives (more often Repub) distrust human nature so they favor decentralized power, promote property rights, and see wisdom in putting some limits on personal rights.

The lines often get blurred. As if in support of the conservative view, sad and even tragic caricatures of both perspectives are not uncommon. But whether you trend right or left comes down to your response to: "What is Man?"

Politics is theological.

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  • Response
    Response: The Pirate Bay
    Kevin Meath - Blog - Politics is theological

Reader Comments (6)

As far as i can see, i agree with the general idea that a person's politics will be determined by their theology.
I think we've got to throw around some labels here to make this discussion intelligible, although we both agree that labels lack precision. Am i correct that when you say 'property rights' you are juxtaposing the concept of a person's right to keep what they've got with 'welfare'? Focus on that for a minute.
Two disconnects in your answer I think:
First, i can believe that all men are sinners and evil, but that doesn't lead me to think that we shouldn't use tax money to feed, house, and clothe the poor. In fact, if my Rom.3:10 theology requires me to not feed evil-hearted people, then it necessarily follows that no people ever get helped at all - obviously, that cannot be right. So the only remaining object is using the gov't. I may object to using the government as the instrumentality to help the poor, but that seems technical to me - and even the apostles set up a little 'bureaucracy' to achieve this end (to feed the greek widows). Interesting also that God's law required farms to leave behind bits and scraps so that poor people could glean the fields.
Second, without slogging through 2000 years of history, it seems pretty obvious that the private sector hasn't done a very good job of helping the poor - nor has the government. In the US, social security and our modern welfare system was enacted because of the disaster of the Depression. May not be a great answer, certainly doesn't work perfectly at all, but is it a system that christians should actually oppose??? What i don't see is a tenet of christianity which would support a valuation of a person's 'property rights' which overwhelms the much more obvious tenet of christianity which supports helping the poor and down-trodden.

Other republican issues that trouble me: willingness to use war and military, caring for the environment, and Carter v. Reagan.

ps- i know nothing about 'twitter'. am i doing this correctly?

November 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Romans 310 tells us that none of us are righteous and are unable to earn our own salvation. It is God's grace that saves undeserving sinners like you and me.

When you put a gun to my head and force me to take my wallet out of and give money to my neighbor, that is a violation of Exodus 20:15. That is not compassion. It doesn't matter whether it's perpatrated by an individual or a government. It is called theft.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill Clarke

I would never suggest the Rs represent what a perfect application of Scripture to politics would look like. In fact I doubt that is possible, in the same way that we never perfectly obey God. And yes, capitalism can get really greedy and stinky. After all, it's run by sinners for sinners. And yes, there is a huge role in Christianity for acts of compassion, but as Bill says it is not the government's job to make that happen. I'm very encouraged to see conservative Christians getting more involved with private-sector charitable efforts, and I hope that those Christians whose compassion pushes them to demand greater government involvement will recognize there are better ways.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

I think the reason capitalism works as well as it does (mind you - this is not an endorsement, it is just a recognition that part of it works) is that men are self-centered. Same reason that balance of powers was genius. Perhaps it was in recognition of this that God established laws to help the poor. What about the gleaning law?

November 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

Kevin, Interesting analysis that I agree with in the big picture way (and that's all you were trying to accomplish in a brief post based upon an even shorter Tweet. On my Facebook site next to politics I put "Compassionate Conservative."

While I hear what one commenter says to this post about the government's role is not helping the poor and that's like forced charity and stealing, etc.... I'm not sure I agree. If we want to base our view of government upon biblical theology, then a huge part of our thinking should be about social justice (and I'm not talking about "liberation theology" or "liberal theology'). Clearly, the Bible exhorts individuals, congregations, and governments to care for the poor. I think we have to delete a batch of Scripture to deny that (I know you didn't say that...I'm responding to a comment to your post).

As far as liberals seeing people as naturally good and conservatives seeing people as natural bad, I think that also can then be interpreted as the government having a role in bridling corporations since corporations are made up of and led by people who are naturally evil and self-centered. I know the argument by conservatives has been that these selfish motives trickle down to economic benefits, but that hardly seems a solid Christian ethic.

If we're not going to be libertarian and say the government should stay out of everything other than protecting life and basic necessities, then I do think we conservatives need to think a bit more deeply about the role of government...based not upon one verse, but upon a comprehensive biblical theology and ethic.


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