Friday, March 10, 2006

Christianity and the Religious Right. Wrong

Why is it that evangelicals have so readily embraced the social conservative agenda, an agenda which includes marginalization of the poor and exaltation of the rich, privileged and powerful, thinly veiled racism, intolerance, an erosion of civil rights and an ultra-nationalist aggressive foreign policy? From an evangelical’s theology is God a conservative? What does the bible teach about a range of issues that have come to be known as conservative Christian values? I would like to tackle the foreign policy issue first. I will try to tackle Christian social responsibility in future instalments.

The bible contains no teaching on public or foreign policy. God is more concerned with souls than “pols”. If you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible however, there are many events where God spoke to or issued judgements upon nations. In ancient times God used pagan states as tools to implement his judgements against Israel and through his prophets delivered judgements against some of these same nations. Based on this pattern it appears that there are many who believe the United States is a tool of God; exercising His judgement against the Islamic world for their treatment of modern Israel. I don’t believe this position is theologically supportable.

At the time of Christ, the contemporary Jewish theological thought was that the Roman Empire was a vile pagan judgement upon God’s people from which God would eventually deliver them. If that line of thought held true, one could only conclude 2000 years later that God had abandoned His people. What we now see is that without the rise of Rome, Christianity would not likely have spread from Palestine to Europe. The pagan empire was a necessary tool that God used to spread His gospel or grace. From this we see that it is dangerous to think that as a state God is on your side and that God’s will is not easily determined on a geopolitical scale.

The prophets are dead. The Apostle John was the last prophet of the biblical age and his writings were directed first century believers not at nations, states or peoples. The prophet John the Baptist proclaimed that “The Kingdom of God is at hand, prepare ye the way for the Kingdom”. But Jesus taught that “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but my kingdom not from hence." Those who had hoped the Messiah would deliver Israel from the Romans were disappointed forming the mob that yelled “give us Barrabus”. One of Jesus’ 12 Apostles, Simon the Zealot was an anti-Roman terrorist prior to his calling. There is no evidence that he returned to his activist ways. He is known to have preached the gospel in Egypt and Persia and possibly even in Britain.

From the teaching of Jesus it would easy to make a case for individual pacifism. Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers”, “Render not evil for evil”, “Love your neighbour” and “Turn the other cheek”. These teachings concern individuals with eternal souls, not nations or states however a theology of pacifism is easily supported. Making war in God’s name, passing judgement on nations and peoples on His behalf is simply not a Christian value. It is not supported by scripture and is inconsistent with orthodox Christian teaching. The duty of a Christian then to a state of war is a personal decision and should consider the gravity and humanity of the cause.


s.b. said...

Because religion is a tool. It is used by those in power to control/direct the behaviour of the masses. Sometimes this is used to good effect i.e. don't eat pork (when and where pork carried a trichonoma parasite)

However, every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. This is not surprising.

CoteGauche said...

My point is (sort of lost in my long diatribe) that many conservative christians don't really understand their own faith. They are easily led by people with political agendas to believe that these political agendas are religious dogma.

For people of faith, the God is on our side message should set off all sorts of alarm bell. Unfortunately, the most insideous lie is the one you most want to hear.

-- a bayonette is a tool with a worker on each end.

s.b. said...

You are quite right about god not really being on the side of bombs, and bayonnette's having a worker on both ends.

The United States was founded on a combination of Liberalism, Capitalism and Protestantism. These are historically convergent and intertwined theories.

The rights of individuals to own property, claim lands that were not being fully utilized for economic gain and practice radical, not church of England, protestant views enabled America to exist and break the social contract with England through a revolution.

Using radical Protestant views for political means is one of the foundations of the U.S.' existence. So is the right to bear arms, manifest destiny (claiming 'under utilized' lands) and capitalist ownership of private property.

The seperation of church and state was about preventing the Vatican or the Church of England a.k.a. the King from controling the political assembly in America, not radical protestants who are for the most part indivduals.

This also coincides historically with the rise of the individual and individual rights rather than simply being a subject or property of nobility or the church.

So my point is. The long standing tradition of 'born again' christianity intertwining in the political processes of the U.S. goes back to its very inception.

There are many good things about this relationship. It created democracy as we know it today. It did effectively seperate church power structures from controlling state assemblies. It allowed non-nobles to own property. It brought about the notion of human rights, eventually for all people.

So what has gone wrong recently? As I have discussed recently on MR. Cherniaks blog, when he proposed the NDP should not exist, a two party state is esentially a tug of war. A muti-party system of government is a political landscape. Much more dynamic and open to civil discourse and change.

The two party tug of war in the U.S. is stagnant. It has run out of ideas. The most vibrant idea on the non-political landscape in the U.S. is religious fundamentalism. It works. It gets people excited. It creates political furvour.

The Democrats have little to counter this with. Reducing the deficit in time of war??? Better school meal programs. Also the big money lobbies in the U.S. are massive. There is no party line in voting or opinion. Corporations call the shots and the politicians use religion to get re-elected.

Sorry for this epistle on your comments.

CoteGauche said...

Thanks for the comments s.b.

I should clarify my position. I would describe myself as a politically liberal, christian evangelical, and I personally don't see any realy congnitive dissonance there.

The problem as I see it is that many Christian are politically conservative. No problem there. But many have a hard time seperating their political outlook from their spiritual beliefs. They see the two as one and the same. Therefore anyone with different political views is not just different or politically wrong, but morally wrong.

This leads to a religious and moral rationalization of the entire political platform of the conservative movement, a platform not founded upon moral or religious positions, but upon protecting and sustaining the advantage of the privaleged oligarchs and modern robber barrons.