Which Comes First, the Religio-Ethical Chicken, or the Geo-Political Egg: An Inner Dialogue

 james

What follows is a sort of dialogue with myself.  In italics you will find the words of James the citizen of the United States, and in bold (because it’s more important) you’ll find the words of James the citizen of the Kingdom of God.  This is not an attempt, of course, to speak definitively the words of the Kingdom, or even the proper opinions of a US citizen, rather this is a first attempt to disambiguate for myself where my opinions are coming from, and what foundation they ultimately have. 

One of the things I am trying to work out here is whether  my citizenship in the Kingdom of God actually determines my behavior as a citizen of the US, or whether it is the other way around.    I am working off the premise that my committment to the Christian tradition and Christian ethics SHOULD determine my behavior always and in every way, and that any allegiance to a place, or that places’ history, culture and politics is ONLY important as much as it lines up with my commitment to Christ (A more controversial corollary is that  all the things that make up the citizenship of any earthly kingdom SHOULD be held with a certain amount of detachment, if not suspicion by citizens of God’s Kingdom).    

Again,

Italics= James, Citizen of the United States

Bold= James, Citizen of the Kingdom of God

— — — — —

I can think of two reasons why I am interested in politics and engaged in political discourse.  1. Self-interest.  2. I honestly believe that following Jesus demands I speak out and act for and against certain social issues that inevitably have a political element.

If anyone wants to be a member of the Kingdom of God, they must die to self.

President Bush was one of the worst presidents of all time.  Far from breaking with  Bush’s flawed and misguided (if not evil and totally corrupt) administration, the Obama administration seems to be a continuation of it.  The warmongering continues.  The torturing continues.  The wholesale disregard of the common good for the sake of profit and power continues.  In fact, the essence of the American presidency hasn’t fundamentally changed since…well, maybe it never has: democrat, republican, or whig, Catholic, or Protestant, the President of the United States has presided over atrocity after atrocity: the Trail of Tears, the Japanese Internment, the Atomic Bomb, wars or covert actions in the following places: Mexico, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico again (I’m talking about NAFTA), many other Central and South American countries, Iraq, Iraq again, Afghanistan, now Yemen, maybe Iran…and those are just the ones off the top of my head.  

Christians are not to put their trust in earthly rulers, but in God alone.  Christians do not believe in revenge.  Christians do not believe that overcoming evil with evil is even possible, much less pleasing to God. 

I almost sympathize with the Tea Party crowd.  I say almost, because, if they are successful, they are going to put into place leaders whose moral compass will not be fundamentally different than either Obama, or Bush, or Clinton, or Bush I, or Reagan, or Carter, or…Nixon… or Roosevelt (take your pick)…or Jackson…or Jefferson…or…

I do not believe that any of these men had the best of interest of EVERY member of their country in mind when they made the most important and far-reaching decisions of the terms.  I believe every one of them put power and money before the common good when making many history altering decisions. 

There are ultimately several other reasons why I don’t quite line up with the Tea Party crowd.

In I Samuel 8, God warns the Israelites that if they get a king he will not have the common good of the people in mind.  Even the best Israelite kings commit atrocities. 

I, like the conservative faction of the US, am not a big fan of the healthcare bill as a matter of principle.  However, to call it socialism is ridiculous and confusing (I am suspicious and at some level, somewhere, someone desires this confusion).  The bill that creates billions of dollars in debt so that the government can subsidize millions of private insurance policies, thus enriching the very companies the politicians claim they want to change, is the essence of FREE-MARKET CAPITALISM, par excellence (to borrow Zizek’s favorite way of saying things). 

Our government is not seeking and has never sought to bring capital and the means of production under its control.  On the contrary, Capital has been in the process of bringing our government under control since the Industrial Revolution.

Jesus came and in direct defiance of Caesar Augustus claimed to be the Son of God.  His early followers defied the empire by refusing to worship the emperor, and instead giving Jesus titles that by decree were only to be used by the Roman ruler: Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords.

You cannot serve both God and Money.

I, like the majority of the conservative faction of the US, claim to take a PRO-LIFE ethical stance.  However, pro-life means more to me than anti-abortion.  I feel like you have to be pro-ALL-LIFE in order to use the term without becoming a hypocrite.

The Tea Party loses credibility when they a) complain about the national debt, then b) claim to be pro-life, then c) support war efforts that are costing our country 3 TRILLION dollars.

Jesus says, “Love your enemy.”

I recognize that under secular political philosophy dating back to the Greeks, a government by definition has the right and the power to violently punish crime, and violently protect its own interest. 

Paul recognizes the “power of the sword” in Romans 13.  But, how can a Christian honestly adhere to the injunctions of Romans 12–do not take revenge, overcome evil by doing good, live at peace with all people, etc.–and still participate in earthly governments as described in Romans 13?

 I’m not a Republican, or Democrat, or Independent, or a Libertarian.  I am a Distributivistic, Anarcho-Liber-Agrarian Localist.

My association with Christ and His Church is really the only one that matters.  I desire to follow Jesus in the world, awaiting His return to reconcile all Creation to Himself.  I suck at it.

— — — — —

Discussion questions:

1. Do my religious views, including my hermeneutic(s), determine my political philosophy or is it the other way around?

2. How would one go about determining which comes first political views or religious ones?

3. How are my political views in my self-interest? 

4. How are my religious views in my self-interest?

5. Whatever else anyone wants to ask or comment on.

Advertisements