The more I keep my eyes on God, the more I realize how integrated faith and politics here. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say they're just different facets of the same thing: our beliefs. Faith shapes our beliefs. Politics is the real world application of those beliefs. So while it's not surprising both subjects and considered so taboo for discussion, it's also sadly amusing at times that people try to keep them separate. I believe this ultimately comes from a misguided understanding of the "separation of church and state" phrase. While initially it meant that a government could not have an "official religion" and could not force anyone to practice one religion, it has grown in the past 60 years to mean that one's faith should not be a part in the shaping of government policy. Keep your faith out of your politics.
Frankly, I find this notion absurd. Your faith, no matter what it is in, shapes your world view. That world view is what guides policy preference. Politics are a result of one's faith and belief. The two are inseparable and shouldn't be attempted to separate because the result is ultimately a fake person that believes one way, but then supports laws and policy that may go a different way. Another name for this dichotomy is political correctness, where shoves aside their personal beliefs to craft policy for the sake of not offending others. From my perspective, that's policy that's soulless and hollow with no real meaning.
I talk about this as a lead in as a means to explain that ever refining political views mirror my growth in God. As I strive to walk with Him, He in turn opens my eyes to areas where I was perhaps wrong in thought or not quite looking at it through the correct lense. Pay close attention to the word refining. My political views aren't necessarily evolving. They're instead being refined to more closely reflect Him.
And lately, the big word that's been on my mind is Choice. I'm not much of a philosopher, nor do I intend to be. So when I talk about choice, this really only comes from revelations I've stumbled upon on my own (with His assistance, of course). Anyway, the one powerful and unique thing God gave us was free will. Choice. He does not force us to do anything. Instead, we have a choice in everything we'd like to do. The choices we make are not free of consequence, so choosing carefully is important. The point is, God gave us free will to choose our own path, even if it isn't the one He'd like us to take.
A vast majority of our hardships in life are results of the choices we make. Some times the consequences of those choices do not surface until years or decades later, but ultimately the consequences of our choices shape our life. God is sad when we make poor choices that end up hurting ourselves. He rejoices when we make the good choices He wants us to make. God doesn't punish us for our poor choices. Instead, He lets us deal with the consequences. Part of having this freedom is dealing with the consequences.
Why does He do it this way? Because he understands this one simple truth: Someone has to do the right thing because they want to, not because they're forced to or because they're afraid they'll get punished if they don't. If that's the case, the choice is false. They're doing it to escape punishment rather than do it because it's the right thing to do. The choices we make are supposed to help us grow spiritually. Yet, if we make them out of fear of punishment, we don't grow spiritually. Instead we end up focusing on pushing limits and/or doing as little as possible to escape punishment. And while ultimately, a good choice can be made understanding the other choice(s) may naturally lead to a miserable experience, that miserable experience cannot be immediately forced upon someone when they make the poor choice (there's a slightly different perspective when raising children, something I plan on writing about later).
On a basic level, one can see how to apply this politically, though it's full of nuances as always. I'm not advocating policy where anyone can do whatever they want without fear of law enforcement intervention. Like anything, a "pure" solution cannot work. Instead, when I talk about a choice based policy, I specifically lay it at the feet of laws concerning personal morality.
The biggest one, and one libertarians champion quite often, is laws punishing drug abusers or simply using them. Now let's get one thing straight: I don't use drugs nor do I advocate their use. Their habitual use is self destructive even without being tossed into jail for using/possessing them. And they shouldn't since someone should have the choice whether or not they decide to mess up their own life. Yes, people should still warn others of the dangers of using drugs, but the fear of getting thrown into jail for having/using them should not be a motivator to stay drug free. Instead, our culture should give a convincing argument as to why using them is a bad choice.
Now of course, if using those drugs in a setting that can hurt other people directly (such as operating heavy machinery while high), then that should be against the law. A person should have a choice whether or not they ruin their own lives, but that choice shouldn't involuntarily ruin the lives of those around them.
In this country, there are basic rights which act as a framework: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If someone's self destructive choice immediately infringes upon these rights of another person, then that's where the law should step in. So in other words, if someone wants to get high and waste away their life, that's there choice...the just need to make sure they do it in a setting that isn't going to immediate hurt someone else.
This is why abortion would still be illegal in my eyes. The woman has a choice, but that choice deprives an unborn baby the right to life. The while the woman does a have choice in following a sexual pattern that can be emotionally destructive, the choice to end a life to avoid the consequences of those previous choices should not be allowed.
The bottom line is, as conservatives and Christians, lobbying for laws that "enforce" morality is not the right way to go. You can't "force" someone to actual with morals and values. In fact, having such laws has the opposite effect. We strip away their God given choice in these matters. So instead of making the moral choice because it's the right thing to do, they instead build resentment and run to those activities as an act of defiance.
Like God has given us all a choice in how we live, we need to give people the choice to make the right moral decisions. Yes, that means that drug use and immoral activity might increase. But the way I see it is if that happens, it means we, as Christians and the church, have failed those around us by not convincing them effectively that these activities are wrong. Laws that force morality simply provide the illusion of our country "being good". If people are free to make bad choices and they do, that means that we need to step up our efforts.
It's time to stop relying on law to force people to be upright and moral citizens. Instead, it's time to start working on Extending His Kingdom so that people make the right choices for the right reasons. A country with a strong moral foundation built voluntarily is exactly the type of Kingdom God wants us to have.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
This meme is riddled with liberal tropes. There's the matter of fact, orwellian "let's be honest" to set the stage that their conclusion is purely honest and rational. There's the implication that Republicans dislike anyone who wants to help the poor. And for added bonus, they threw in the tried and true liberal bogeyman, Fox News.
But, for today, let's overlook those despite how aggravating they can be in that self edifying way that just gets under your skin. Instead, let's focus on the implication that Jesus would support today's modern socialist agenda.
Now sure, if you defined the socialist agenda as simply "Helping the poor" (another deceptive tactic used in the meme), then yes, Jesus would have been all for that.
However, as is the case with many liberal agendas, there's always more to it. While one of the goals of socialism is indeed helping the poor, it's how they go about accomplishing that goal that actually defines socialism. Because keep in mind that liberal agenda is not the only ideology that stresses helping the poor. In fact, the conservative agenda also wants to help the poor and unfortunate.
Yes, it's true. Both the liberal and conservative agenda wish to help the poor. The difference between the two is how they go about accomplishing this.
The liberal (socialist) agenda uses the vehicle of government to forcefully take wealth from others to give to the poor. The conservative agenda encourages helping the poor through voluntary giving to charitable organizations and the like.
To most liberals, they don't see a problem with the how as most tend to believe that the ends justify the means. Yet, this means is exactly why Jesus would not only not support a socialist agenda, but would no doubt oppose it. There's a couple reasons for this. Let's examine the first...
People must have a choice
In every interaction with people in the Bible, Jesus gave them a choice. He did not condemn or coerce or force. Each person, including the rich people he admonishes, had a choice in what to do. For the rich people, they chose to give up their possessions to help others. Jesus did not make them even though he very well could have. Also, Jesus did not advocate for the governments of man to force people into giving (as socialism does via taxes). Instead he appealed to someone with more on a personal level to make the choice to give.
Furthermore, the act of giving was not merely meant to transfer material wealth from one person to another as is the case with socialism. Part of being generous means having a loving and willing heart, which on top of transferring some material wealth, also enriches the spirit for both people, something that extends His Kingdom.
You could say that Jesus was actually more interested in the how when giving to the poor than he was about the poor being less poor.
Being wealthy is not a sin
Yes, Jesus does have some negative things to say about rich people. Yet, it's not because being rich is wrong. There were many rich people in the Bible whom Jesus and God did not admonish. It's not being wealthy that's a sin, it's loving wealth that's the sin. He also knew that a wealthy person who can provide every material need and want for themselves will have a far tougher time seeing how they need to follow His ways. Being wealthy has more pitfalls to falling from grace. Just like the parable of the three servants, the more you have, the more is expected of you. So the more wealth you have, the more you're expected to care for those around you. However, it's easier to live in the excess than to give to someone in need.
What WOULD Jesus do?
If we follow how Jesus acted in the Bible, this is what I believe Jesus would do if He were walking the Earth today:
He would reach out to people. And love them, regardless of their sin. He would have sharp lessons for the haughty and the proud. He would appeal to people to be generous and help their neighbors. He would encourage wealthy business owners to not succumb to the allure of greed and instead keep love in their hearts for those they employ and serve. He'd emphasize the power that comes from serving out of love.
Would he have harsh words for rich people or businesses? Most likely, but not as a blanket condemnation, but to point out that loving the wealth they cultivate isn't good. But, what I think would surprise many liberals and conservatives, is some other things he would also speak out against. He wouldn't condemn or judge those that follow these agendas, but he would definitely indicate which actions he considered wrong.
This meme seems to only focus on Jesus from an economic lense. And while him helping others on the surface seems to be economical, it's actual far more spiritual, hence him appealing to people, and not to governments.
What would Republicans do?
Ok, so now we're down to actually responding to the meme itself. The problem with the meme comes from a very common, and false assumption, about Republicans, conservatives in particular. There's this idea the difference between liberals and conservatives and that liberals want to help people and that conservatives do not. I cannot stress how false this is.
The difference between liberals and conservatives is not who is willing to help, because in fact conservatives want to help others as well. The difference is how that help is achieved. Liberals believe a government forcing people to help the poor through taxation is the way to help. The idea assumes that all wealthy people are greedy and exploit the poor people underneath them, thus should be forced into giving their excess to the government who help the people as they see best. On the other side, conservatives believe people should help other people willingly. Conservatives believe in the good nature of neighbors reaching out to help those that needed. Not only do they believe this helps someone materially, but spiritually as well.
Both sides have their potential pitfalls. The liberal way, government assistance is fraught with problems. By looking at decades of history, is so inefficient and bloated that in the end it doesn't really the help the people it claims to be helping. There's a myriad of ways the money from taxes goes not to those who need, but just to others who line their own pockets. Ironically, the people that admonish the wealthy people for exploiting the poor people do the same thing by forcefully taking money from others to line their own pockets.
On the flip side, conservatism relies on the kindness of people to reach out. And in a country that has become far more cynical, shallow, and self serving (which are not qualities exclusive to wealthy people), it's difficult for people to believe in others helping someone out.
Anyway, here's the bottom line: Republicans stand for people generously helping others through tough times. Jesus appealed to people to generously help their neighbor. Call me crazy, but not only does that not sound like Republicans would oppose him, they have, in fact, championed Jesus' cause themselves and would no doubt support him should he be walking the Earth today.
Remember, liberals want people to believe that conservatives and Republicans are cold hearted folk that don't care about the poor. That's why simple memes like this exist. So, to counter this meme, I made up my own: