Taking Sides: The Christian’s Responsibility in Civic Affairs

This is the last in a series of essays on the duty of Christians in civic affairs, adapted from Kevin Kookogey’s weekly radio address and podcasts at www.advancingchurch.com

  1. Which responsibilities of providing help to our citizens are the government’s and which belong to the Church?

The duty of government is plainly described in our founding documents. The Declaration of Independence establishes the philosophical and moral basis for our system of government, famously asserting that governments are instituted among men to secure their rights, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The Constitution then enumerates those powers, namely: to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.

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Taken together, the Declaration and Constitution affirm the lessons of history and human nature that our founders studied concerning the proper duties and limits of government, and these principles are rooted in Scripture.

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No one more beautifully synthesized the duties and limits of government than Thomas Jefferson in his 1801 Inaugural Address, where he said:  “With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens:  A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another; shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement; and which shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.  This is the sum of good government.

Government fails when it gets off this mission. The collapse of States throughout the history of the world, in fact, can be traced to their habit of inserting themselves into affairs where they do not belong, while retreating from their obligations.

In many cases, Christians contribute to the problem by conflating the kingdom of heaven with the kingdom of this world, advocating that the government solve problems for which it possesses neither the right nor the capacity.  In so doing, we have surrendered to the State an undeserved moral authority to speak into issues where it has no business intruding and to act in areas that are exclusively reserved to God.

One need only look at the issue of poverty to illustrate how this destroys society.  In the past 50 years alone, we have wasted over $1 trillion in the so-called “war on poverty,” and to what end?  Broken families, greater dependency on government, and no decrease in the overall level of poverty.

The Bible commands that we are to care for the poor, secure justice for the poor, and that judgment will come against those who pervert justice by showing favoritism either for or against the poor.  But this duty belongs to the Church, not the government.

Moreover, Scripture does not suggest that we eliminate poverty or produce a society without the poor.  The aim to eliminate poverty, especially under sanction of law, results in all sorts of injustice, including taking from one group of people in order to give to another, without the consent of either.  That is not charity.  It is compulsion.

Indeed, compulsory aims to eliminate poverty or grand emotional appeals to produce a society without the poor presuppose that we can be what God called us to be without giving to those in need or without being in the company of the poor.

But can we?  The Bible does not even use the term poverty.  Perhaps this is because the term poor refers to people we are to love, whereas poverty is merely a cold, inanimate object to be conquered.

  1. What is the importance of voting and participating in politics?

Voting is very important, although uninformed or ill-informed voting can do more damage than not voting at all. Political candidates and policy will impact the Church in America. The worldview and character of the next Commander in Chief will mean the difference between keeping or losing our religious liberties, keeping or losing our right to bear arms (which are indispensable to securing those liberties), and keeping or losing our sovereignty as a free and independent nation. It is naïve and dangerous to pretend that these matters will leave the Church – or anyone – unaffected.

But political action is not limited to voting. Political movement occurs when citizens are willing to hazard their lives to defend eternal truths, including the understanding that Rights come from God and that governments are instituted to secure them.

  1. How do we seek what is best for America as well as seeking the Kingdom of God?

Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Since Christ did not qualify the Great Commission, duty demands that we invade the entire world and preach the Gospel to all of creation, especially those areas deemed “political” where the Church has been chased away in fear.

Individual liberty and a free and civil society are best preserved when the Church faithfully carries out its obligation to check the power of the State.  If the State demands loyalty for that which is God’s alone, we cannot retire from the contest.  The Church must not hide from the conflict.

In our time, the Church has become largely ineffective in the cause of liberty, passively abiding or dangerously collaborating in the expansion of the State beyond its authority. In the face of an increasingly totalitarian State, the present custodians of the Church are in retreat, allowing the State to violate, limit, or condition our fundamental rights to life, liberty, property, conscience, speech, and association.

Has not the Church, then, allowed what is God’s to be rendered unto Caesar, and in so doing, has it not denied God, corrupted itself, and relinquished its authority, to the detriment of our liberties and the entire social civil order?

The Church is losing its saltiness as a preserving agent in the culture. Yet the Church will only diminish for so long as its members fear losing their lives, their fortunes, and their 501(c)(3) status more than their souls.  Evil is powerless when the Church is unafraid.

And though she has recently wavered, allowing herself to be pushed to the margins of life, the Church will once again rise to reclaim her duty to speak Truth to power and to defend the authority of Scripture.

For the Church – the Body of Christ – is eternal and shall not retreat.  In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, she “stands not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village,” advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unapologetically and unconditionally, proclaiming liberty throughout the land, and liberty to all people.

The only question is whether the Church will stand here idle, believing that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery, or will she embrace her sacred duty?

*Article by Kevin Kookogey

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