Thursday, September 17, 2009

a worldly kingdom

Mike Clawson thinks we need healthcare reform. I agree with him. However, we disagree partly on why we need reform and we disagree almost completely on the solution. Clawson thinks Obama's plan does not go "nearly far enough". In addition, Clawson is among many Christians on that side of the issue who use Christian buzz phrases to support why the government should do more, e.g., "do unto the least of these" (Mt 25.31ff).

I like Hannah Taylor's response:

Completely can't agree with you on this point. Sorry.

1) People dying is *not* a moral issue. Everybody, save Enoch and Elijah, that has lived has died or will die until Christ's return. People being *killed* is a moral issue; people allowing others to die out of a lack of love for their neighbors (like the rich man with Lazarus) is a moral issue.
2) The government is not meant to police all moral issues. The government obviously cannot make me love the Lord with all my heart, for instance. Romans 13 indicates that the Lord uses government to "praise the good" and as "an avenger" to "bring wrath upon the one who practices evil." Trying to use the government to fix all the wrongs in the world is not only futile but idolatry, attempting to replace the One we should truly have our hope in with His creation.
3) Finally, Christians should want to "do something"; the poor will always be with us, and we should care for them. You'd rather pay taxes than contribute directly?

I fail to see the support for Christians trying to implement the Kingdom through worldly governments.

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Geoff said...

"I fail to see the support for Christians trying to implement the Kingdom through worldly governments." What about "challenging government to do what is right". I don't think that Jesus spent a lot of time depending on the government of the day to do what is right, but I do see in the example of Christ (and likewise the example of Paul after him) a deliberate choice to call the authorities to a different way.

I find it difficult to read that "the government should not police all moral issues" from someone who is (I'm pretty sure at least) fervently against allowing gay marriage.

When we see inequality and injustice in the world, we should attack that everywhere we can: whether that's using governments, atheists, Christians or ourselves.

Geoff said...

OK - I thought I was finished, but it turns out I'm not.
"You'd rather pay taxes than contribute directly.

That's a genuinely stupid argument. The assumption that because you encourage someone else (in this case a significantly bigger "someone else") you're not willing to do anything yourself is ignorant in the extreme. I can contribute directly to the people I know and hear about, but at some point there are bounds to what I can do directly. Now, if I recognise that government has the power to have a positive influence on the situations of many more people than I ever can and advocate for government to do more to help people who lack healthcare coverage - then does that mean that I'm not willing to do anything? No, it means that I've got the humility to be wanting to have people helped, regardless of whether I get to be a direct part of that process or not.

rick said...

Geoff - as always, good thoughts. I'll try to take them in order.

1) I didn't say we should not "challenging government to do what is right". Sorry I implied that, it was not my intent. What I was attempting to address was Jesus' confrontation of people for expecting the Kingdom of God to come through worldly means. That combined with my eschatology leaves no expectation of government solving our brokenness/sin. That was not intended to mean that as Christians we shouldn't affect all around us.

2) Excellent point on gay marriage. At the same time, remember, I'm saying providing care is righteous and homosexuality is sin. We need to align on that first before we can begin a dialog regarding how to live that out consistent with other aspects of our faith. I am not finding that alignment with many people in the discussion.

- they think caring is government responsibility
- they think homosexuality is not sin

Hard to discuss "how" when we are not aligned on "what".

3) "we should attack that everywhere" ...yes and no. As Christians, this is not our calling. At the same time, it is a fruit of who we are. To not do so is wrong. The issue (see point 1) is that this Christians are applying Scripture intended for them as if it applies the same for governments, organizations, atheists, etc... Since these are not redeemed, one should expect ultimate failure. Not stop influencing ... but proper expectations need to be in place.

4) I cannot contribute as much because my government takes money. That's not stupid, that's a fact.

5) Perhaps the statement ""You'd rather pay taxes than contribute directly." is unnecessarily inflammatory. I see that. It applies to some ... we even see it within the Church ... people thinking that because they gave some money they don't need to serve. But that aside, you are correct, this is not true for all.

6) Now we are talking the how. Sure can government collecting funds to do good work be more effective than individuals trying to do the same? Yes. But I don't believe it will be in the manner proposed and what folks like me are saying is stop tossing out Christian sounding slogans to approve solutions that we don't think will accomplish the intended goal, i.e., relieve injustice.

Let's have a discussion on the specific points is the message I thought I was sending but obviously (1) I did a poor job based on your comment and (2) as I stated in the beginning of the post, there remains a large gap our reason to do something and how it should be done. Reinforcing that this is not get resolved.