Saturday, October 27, 2007

WWJD? -- A Handy Political Prop

Katherine Coble:

I get that it’s a really popular game right now to say things like “Yah! What would JESUS say about you murdering Iraqi babies in cold blood?!?” or “Would Jeeeesus deny federally funded health care?”

More often than not these questions come from people who eschew a relationship with said Jesus. They are Spiritual without being Christian (an increasingly popular faith system) or Atheist or Gnostic. Now, I have no qualms with anyone practicing any of these faiths or abjuring all faiths. Whatever floats your boat.

But I think these “gotcha” games, these abuses of Jesus’ name, are about ridiculous and tired. Not to mention insulting. There are many of us who are Christian Libertarians precisely because we believe that Jesus has asked us to separate matters of religion from matters of state. In case you’ve missed it the first hundred times I’ve said it….Jesus is EXACTLY why I’m a libertarian.

Government is a necessary stricture of my time here on earth. It is not my faith and is not to be confused with my faith.

Amen, Sister! The statist notion of Jesus as Cosmic Sugar Daddy has no basis in Scripture. In fact, Jesus has nothing to say on public policy throughout the Gospels, hence we cannot simply attach the most fashionable political causes of the day to him. That is why, as I have argued in the past, one can be of a wide variety of political persuasions without violating one's authentic Christian faith. Those who would prefer to use Jesus as a tool for political power are better off with the Judean People's Front (or the People's Front of Judea).

Hat tip: Gavin Richardson


Dan Trabue said...

The statist notion of Jesus as Cosmic Sugar Daddy has no basis in Scripture.

Well, not that I'm disagreeing with that particular statement, but I'd suggest that neither is the statement, "We ought not let our faith influence our vote," a truism found within Scripture.

We all should let our values influence our vote. Not that we should use the state to enforce our values necessarily, but we should certainly take them into consideration.

And for those of us who look at the gov't of Israel and her laws to ensure safeguards at the state level for the poor and otherwise marginalized, there is no biblical reason for us not wanting something similar at the state level here.

Now, we may disagree with the efficacy of state solutions/safeguards, but there is no biblical injunction against such, which seems to be what you're hinting at here, John.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, though.

Also, I'd question Ms Coble's suggestion that those who reference Jesus "more often than not" are not Christian. I'd have to see some more support than just her assertion that this is the case.

Besides, I think it is an EXCELLENT question to ask ourselves - Christian or not - if we value Jesus' teachings.

Would Jesus drop bombs that he knows will destroy children, for instance? It's a valid question, IF we value Jesus' teachings.

John said...

And for those of us who look at the gov't of Israel and her laws to ensure safeguards at the state level for the poor and otherwise marginalized, there is no biblical reason for us not wanting something similar at the state level here.

As long as you're also looking to the laws of ancient Israel for how to address homosexuality and worship of gods other than Yahweh, then you're being consistent in this ethic. But if you're only looking to the Bible for support of the political ideology that you already espoused, then you're not deriving public policy from Scripture.

Dan Trabue said...

Not necessarily true, at all, John. My faith system is informed by biblical teachings. But I don't hold that each biblical teaching is as valid today as every other biblical teaching.

I think it a sound biblical truth that children should be respectful. I am opposed to killing them if they're disrespectful (usually).

I think it a sound biblical truth that we need to provide for the poor and marginalized. The OT offers some approaches to doing so, but I don't know that their agricultural solutions would necessarily carry over to our system.

But the truth of tending to "the least of these" on the corporate (group, "all of us" - not corporation) level remains sound, I think.

On the other hand, I think it NOT a sound biblical teaching that when we wage war and wipe out an enemy, that we can take the orphaned girl/women as our wives, if they please us.

Not every biblical teaching is a sound one to apply to our lives.

And saying that I like this biblical teaching and think we'd be wise to emulate it on a policy level, but think not so for other biblical teachings is not being inconsistent.

IF I were the type to say that each and every biblical teaching is a valid and desirable one, THEN I might be inconsistent, but I don't make that suggestion.

John said...

So then when a Biblical teaching lines up with your political ideology, it is more of a coincidence than intention, right?

Dan Trabue said...

You'll have to remember, John, that I grew up conservative and only became the way I am today after reading the Bible and changing my views to better match my understanding of what the Bible has to say.

So, there is no coincidence if my political views match what my understanding of the Bible is - it is quite deliberate. It's just that I arrived there in the opposite way of that which you suggest.

John said...

So then how to you distinguish between Biblical values that make for good public policy and those that don't?

Dan Trabue said...

The same way I think most people do: Our logic, plus our traditions and beliefs. Understanding that not every belief makes for good law.

I am a pacifist/peacemaker. But I recognize that most people aren't. And at least part of my reason for being thus is my faith system. Therefore, I don't think that makes for good Law.

Just Peacemaking practices makes for great policy though, so I DO advocate that, but draw the line at suggesting others should adopt the minority position of pacifism.

The Sabbath and Jubilee laws of the OT make a great deal of sense to me in their context. But we're not in their context, so I don't advocate those exact laws. But I certainly support laws that are in that spirit (ie, laws that create safety nets for the poor and marginalized).

But my reasoning for this is not only my faith system, but because it makes logical sense to me. Not educating our populace would ultimately cost taxpayers more, not less. Not trying to rehabilitate/educate prisoners would ultimately cost taxpayers more, not less. Etc.

I think if the ONLY reason one can give for supporting a law is, "The Bible says so!" it's probably not a good law. There has to be some logical practical reason for it to make good policy, seems to me.

"Gay marriage is wrong cuz the Bible says so," is not enough in my mind to enact laws to discriminate against one sector of our society, for instance.

How 'bout you?

John said...

Well then you are saying that logic is the driving force behind your public policy formulation, not Biblical teaching. You are using the Bible as evidence for your public policy positions, not a source thereof.

Which is okay. I don't look at the Bible as a public policy document, either. How do I form my political views? If you asked me to explain my political philosophy while standing on one foot, I would say "Personal freedom and personal responsibility."

Dan Trabue said...

Logic does drive my personal policy decisions, but my logic is informed by my ethics and that is informed by the Bible.

And I like your short personal philosophy towards politics ("Personal freedom and personal responsibility"), but think we need to keep in mind corporate (as in "all of us" not "corporations") responsibility, as well. There is all manner of ugliness happening as an unintended side effect of corporate freedom.

One person driving a car places at a responsible speed doesn't hurt anything. One Billion people doing so is devastating to our economy and environment.