As an orthodox Bible-believing Christian, I find that much of what is said by the so-called “religious right” and “religious left”—to put it charitably—leaves a lot to be desired and is, ironically, un-Christian. This summer, on NBC’s Today program, the head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, said: “What we’re trying to do is not legislate our religious beliefs—which are personal and private. We’re trying to legislate our public policy views: tougher laws against crime and drugs, school choice, a balanced budget amendment, the right of kids to pray, protection of unborn life. These are public policy views.”
This is not true. Christians ought to denounce this glib private/public dichotomy. Every “public policy view” of a Christian ought to be based on his or her religion, and Christians must honestly and openly admit this. After all, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ commands us, in Matthew 5:37: “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nav, nay: for whatsoever is more than these Cometh of evil.” The last thing we need in our political process is more people speaking double-talk, fluent gibberish, about their real goals. I mean, if you can’t trust a Christian to tell the truth, whom can you trust?
Indeed, Christians should welcome the charge that they are seeking to “impose” their views, and they should use this accusation to educate our people to certain forgotten facts, such as the fact that our country was founded by Bible-believing Christian “fanatics.” One of the best books documenting how our laws are based on the Bible and Christianity—Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (1983)—was written by a Jew, former Harvard L.aw Professor Harold Berman. So instead of running from the accusation that we are trying to write our religious views into law, we should joyfully plead guilty to this and explain how, historically, this is not at all “radical” or “extremist.” If it’s true, as is charged ad nauseam, that we are trying to Christianize America democratically through the ballot box and through our laws, so what? We’re merely trying to restore legally what once was.
Last summer in the Washington Post, a self-described member of the “Christian left,” Peter M. Storm, wondered how the Christian right, which says it’s for “nonintrusive government,” can favor the government deciding which books can be in a library, the government limiting its citizens’ overseas travel, the government requiring schools to set aside time for religious exercises, the government regulating sexual activities. But Christians aren’t anarchists. And Mr. Storm, who says that, like Christian conservatives, he also “reads and loves the Word of God,” seems not to have read the Word of God at all.
Saint Paul tells us that our civil government, “the higher powers,” “the powers that be,” are “ordained of God,” and whoever resists them resists Cod and “shall receive to themselves damnation.” Indeed, Saint Paul says of our “rulers” that they “beareth not the sword in vain” (capital punishment) and are “ministers of Cod, a revenger to execute wrath upon him who doeth evil.” Thus, we must be subject to these rulers and “render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” As Christians, we may debate whether any Christian Coalition “public policy” may in fact be based on God’s Word, but what is not debatable is that the purpose of civil government, and our laws, is to do God’s will on earth as it is done in Heaven.
Mr. Storm says that “our religion should inform and prescribe our personal lives, but not our politics.” But does he really believe this? Is he really for politics that are Godless? Saint Augustine observed centuries ago that government apart from God is nothing more than an organized band of robbers. Is this what Mr. Storm wants? I doubt it. And if he does want this, how would it work in real life? How could an individual be “privately” a Christian but cast his faith aside in his “public” life? This is impossible. And for a Christian, this would be un-Christian. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord over everything— including the civil government.
Mr. Storm snidely says that he suspects God “does not care very much” about things like the tax code and the size of the United States budget deficit. But how can a man who says he “reads and loves the Word of God” say this? Of course God cares about these things. The Lord Jesus Christ indicates precisely such a concern when He speaks of things to be rendered to Caesar and things to be rendered to God (Matthew 22:21). And even the most cursory glance at a biblical concordance reveals that God has a lot to say about taxes, debt, and economics.
Interestingly, where Mr. Storm does think it is appropriate for “religious teachings” to lead to “support for government action,” I find no Scripture. For example, he thinks it is “clearly in keeping with Christian beliefs” for the state to provide access to health care “for all mankind, including illegal aliens.” Really? And where in the Bible does he see this? I ask because he cites no such “Christian beliefs,” not one.
Mr. Storm says that mere mortals are not permitted “to prescribe for Him what His preferences must be.” Well, amen! But God’s “preferences” are revealed to us in that Word of His which Mr. Storm claims he “reads and loves,” And we are commanded to obey them as “private” citizens and as “public” officeholders.
Finally, Mr. Storm caricatures the religious right’s creed as: “What we are for, God must be for,” when no member of this group I know or have ever heard quoted has said anything even remotely like this—and Mr. Storm quotes no such statement. He criticizes the religious right for “boxing up God and presenting Him in its own image,” but this is exactly what he does when he says “our religion” should inform our “private” lives but not our “polities.”
All Christians of the “right” or “left” must never forget that God is not a “religion.” God is God. His Word is Truth. And It must govern every area of life, including politics. There is no such thing as partial sovereignty when it comes to God and His unchanging Word.