GUEST BLOG BY DAVE BROWN
I am a little unnerved in reading some responses as to how Christians should respond to an “evil government.” I am attaching an article I wrote just after President Obama was chosen by the American people the first time. Let me throw some cautions into the discussion, for whatever they’re worth.
EVIL LEADERS IN BIBLE TIMES: Firstly, I believe that the New Testament passages about how God’s people should treat government were written under the evil administrations of several Caesars, all but one of whom were bisexual, threw lavish orgies, had a military that allowed open homosexuality, taxed their citizens heavily, used tax monies for horrible immoralities and idolatries, were heavily and increasingly in debt, were increasingly anti-Christian, and had an over-expanded military, fighting rebels in foreign lands who were attacking the Roman army because they were in their territories. Sound familiar?
Virtually all governments and their leaders have been evil over time; fallen and broken people create fallen and broken systems and use them for their own advancement. Romans 13:3 says that the government’s role is to punish evil – that has to mean the punishment of universally recognized criminal evil through the enforcement of the crimes code (the sword). The passage doesn’t address philosophically-based evil on which societies differ, such as homosexuality, slavery, and abortion, which were all practiced by the Roman government. Francis Schaeffer failed to address this sufficiently in his A Christian Manifesto. Paul knew those evils existed, and were supported by tax monies, but didn’t exhort Christians to rise up against it because the Roman government was endorsing evil. So, according to Romans 13, our God has worked through the American people to give them a President they deserve. Obama is the servant of the Lord; perhaps unwitting as were Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, by nonetheless His servant.
AMERICA IS NOT ISRAEL: Secondly, America is not Israel. America is not God’s country. America is not “my people called by my name.” American pastors are not Old Testament prophets who receive messages and ultimatums from God (other than the written Word) and have a divine right to command kings. Further, the US government is not leaving Christians without options or forcing us to do evil; we don’t have to worship idols, we are not forbidden to pray, or to meet, or to share our faith, or to have a float in the parade, or to have concerts. Pastors don’t have to officiate gay marriages. Our churches still enjoy all kinds of tax benefits from local, state, and national governments. That may all change in decades to come, but we are not there yet.
WHO WILL HELP THE POOR?: Side point: Sodom’s sin wasn’t just sexual. Although it isn’t popular to say so, one could argue that even the American Church has committed one of the sins of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49). Our affluent white suburban churches have often neglected the poor and yet don’t want a government that does either. When compassion dies in the Church (or the Church itself dies), socialism will rise in culture. We are in an era where caring for your fellow man is a core value in Western culture. America is being increasingly influenced by the collectivist values of its third-world immigrants, and by the “Progressive” ideas of intellectuals and youth who believe, pursuant to evolution, that social collectivism is the highest evolved form of economic-political philosophy (and no, Obama is very far from being anything like a communist).
WE HAVE THE VOTE AND REPRESENTATIONAL Thirdly, today’s Americans are not in a similar situation to our colonial forefathers. In the mid-1700s, they had a demented king and a timid Parliament in which they had no representation. Americans have chosen their current President; Americans have chosen their current Senators, Representatives, and Governors. We have full representation and the American political process is still a stunning model for the world to see – it works so well (take it from one who lives in Africa!). I was privileged to be in America as the process took place November 6.
The colonials were in a position where King George had abdicated government by declaring the colonies out from his protection in 1775. They were moving swiftly to create governments and militias to avoid being overthrown by a foreign British power. The term “revolution” was given to us by the French when they pursued their mindless debacle decades later. American Christians don’t rise up and throw off a leader they disagree with – they vote (how many of you know what percentage of true believers voted this time?). And if your man is never elected because his views and yours are in the minority, what can you do? That leads to the last point …
THE ROOT TROUBLE & SOLUTION: We mustn’t be angry with Barak Obama. He is a reflection of what the American people want … times two. We might be angry with the way American society is heading, but ultimately that falls right back into the laps of Christians, doesn’t it? The salt has lost its savor; our light is barely shining. Ask Barna. America used to have a strong Judeo-Christian consensus, even though you could argue that they were simply God-fearing people rather than actually Christian. With the rise of Liberalism in the 1800s, America moved to a moralist model based on notions of love and the Golden Rule. In the 1950s we began to lose even the moralist model. Now the great moralist-capitalist middle has all but disappeared, and America is sharply polarized.
I think perhaps we have failed to do the hard thing, the right thing, and one of the first things. We have failed to live in a contagiously refreshing way in our communities (but have isolated ourselves from it in our churches and schools, and are known for political anger more than being socially helpful), and we have failed to share our faith one by one. The gospel alone changes people and society; as many individuals change from the inside out, the whole is made right.
I am glad for this wakeup call for the church … although we heard it four years ago and I am not sure much has changed. I think a Republican President would make the Church even more comfortable and more apathetic. This wakeup call is not a call to political action – to oppose the President and those aligned with him. It is a call to mobilize God’s people to relational evangelism – from the common man up to elected officials. You simply can’t elect good Christians to office when the public despises Christians and their ideas; or if they make it into office, they won’t stay there long if they have good principles. I think that this is why some politicians resist conversion; it would cost them everything. Until the Church repents and begins to function, American politics will reflect our impotence.
David J. Brown
BMW – South Africa
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