Moral Questions Are the Great Political Questions
Seeking resolution of moral questions is highest calling of a just society. This reflection recalls many reactions to election 2012 values voting that I’ve observed from both ends of the discussion.
Prior to the Lord quickening my spirit to the need for values voting, I dismissed the idea and marginalized those who maintained it. I readily argued that one cannot legislate morality. That the our Constitution calls for a separation between church and state. And that the job of Christianity is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and leave matters of state to the state.
Rarely are arguments so widely propagated than these. At first glance, they seemeth right. And yet, any serious consideration that I once avoided reveals their very slippery foundations.
First, not only can we legislate morality, but this is the most basic aim of policy. God established government from the very beginning of mankind. Adam was our world’s first ruler. And the Lord gave Adam statutes by which to govern. Government is God’s system by which to reflect divine will in the affairs of human beings. For instance, our nation’s prohibitions on acts such as murder, rape, and stealing embody the moral code by which God established in humankind through our conscience, the Word, the Holy Spirit, and our observation of his wrath against our sins.[Romans 1;18] From our nation’s early beginnings, we have indeed legislated morality. Otherwise, the very notion of civilized society is unattainable.
Further, we inherently attribute these moral codes to an ultimate authority. The juxtaposition would be to leave such matters to the majority, the powerful, and/or the wealth elites. Moral absolutes would not exist and every transaction would be subject to varying concepts of morality. We do not argue the merits of laws against murder, for instance, because of the moral code working in each of us. While the evil inclinations of man attempts to deny these moral absolutes, we recognize the good for charity and the evil of murder. God constructed us to instinctively know certain moral codes, and where we needed direction, God gave us laws to clarify. [Romans 3:19-20, Romans 7:7]
Second, the assertion that our Constitution does not make provision for the introduction of moral code as a matter of separation between church and state is categorically inaccurate. The phrase, separation between church and state, is not found in the Constitution. The First Amendment stipulates the state is not vested with the right of establishing an official church. However, the First Amendment, extends our Constitutional right to petition government for grievances. People of faith are encouraged to petition government to the same extent that the faithless assert their right to petition. As such, values voters are welcomed in the marketplace of ideas that makes for our democratic system. Therefore, pro-life concerns have legitimacy in the electoral process. And for that matter, such is true for environmental issues that speak to stewardship of God’s planet; preservation of traditional marriage; peaceful resolution of conflicts versus militarism; etc.
A third narrative that Christians are to preach to Gospel and avoid matters of state is tantamount to saying, “Stay inside the four walls of your church.” It contradicts our calling as the Salt of the Earth. The Apostle Paul revealed of himself:
19 For though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all,
that I might gain the more.
20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews;
to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God,
but under the law of Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak:
I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
[1 Corinthians 9: 19-23]
Paul did not limit himself to the church setting, but found his harvest in all mankind. Indeed, he modeled himself after the ministry of Jesus who came to the sick because the well needed not a doctor. [Luke 5:31] The work of promoting a just world from outside the confines of the religious setting is found throughout Scriptures. From God delivering people from bondage in Egypt. To Nehemiah rebuilding the broken wall of Jerusalem. To Jason and the first century church found “turning the world upside down”. [Acts 17:6]
The role of faith in our society has never been in-question. We can turn to Christians who fought for the end of unjust jim crow segregation. Quakers who tirelessly fought for more human penal practices. Faith-based philanthropy that is on display during natural disasters, man-made catastrophe, and economic crises. The ongoing presence of religious institutions in the lives of the dispossessed. The faith community has a footprint on our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, financial intermediaries (e.g., credit unions), healthcare organizations, and other segments of our society. For these things, the faith community is welcomed with open arms. Even a secularized culture opens its doors to the blessings of faith. In a rather hypocritical sense, however, secular proponents shut the doors of society to the burden of faith. That burden is the burden of hearing what Thus Saith the Lord.
Christianity, particularly, has been instrumental in the great moral questions of our times. While a nation that increasingly chooses not to hear God’s voice in its matters, we cannot revise history to turn figures such as David Walker and William Penn into economics and fiscal policy experts. Their voices and their actions, and those of countless others like them, form a chain of faith that moved our nation from one moral crisis to another. Indeed, their voices ring loudest when no other bases exist to fight against injustice.
Reflecting on election 2012, one of my greatest disappointments came in hearing professed Christians, who lacked Scriptural grounding and historical perspective, so easily accepting of a “keep faith out of government” narrative. The most compelling argument abolitionists could mount against the institution of chattel slavery was its inherently immoral nature. John Wesley’s last letter to his fellow Christian and abolitionist protege, William Wilberforce, encouraged:
‘”Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as Athanasius contra mundum [Athanasius
against the world], I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that
execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God
has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils.
But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God?
O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might,
ill even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.’”
Little do secularized Christians realize that God desires just the opposite. Little do they realize, for instance, that without a Bishop Desmond Tutu, the world would not have found a solid foundation to call for dismantling South African Apartheid. And this idea would have lacked legitimacy in America amid calls to show moral leadership in divesting from that evil construct.
Connected to these demonstrations is another even more tragic revelation. Namely, one reason the faithful are so easily misled on these matters is that faith leaders themselves are being led astray. I recently came across a Youtube video that featured a pastor I know well who rationalized “other issues” are more essential than issues such as abortion to the African American community. It sounds reasonable. It sounds responsible. However, this individual is not an economist. Not a policy policy analyst. Not professional immersed in criminal justice or urban planning or international affairs. This individual is called by God to apply the Word to questions of good and evil. Neither Keynesian or Classical economics can lay unique claim to God’s Will. But what we can know with certainty is moral questions are the primary concern of a moral God. While our nation producesgreat minds to deliberate fiscal and monetary policy, national security, social programs, and other issues, who speaks for the Lord when his mouthpieces reduces national sin to a level of questions ideology or political philosophy?
We can find other concerns concomitantly before the American people during time of moral crisis. However, we know great faith leaders of those times who elevated moral questions that these questions not be lost in the plethora of societal concerns. And despite efforts to diminish the efficacy of values voting, who among us would have relegated the moral question of slavery to the background of other issues before the nation?
What has been shown so clear during this election is, the enemy has designs to quiet people of faith. National evils can only endure when the Word of God is quieted. This campaign to promote a secular arrangement, void of God, sets society on a collision course with its own great capacity for evil. Despite our assertion of American exceptualism, there is no such thing as the “inherent good of the American people”. The notion of some geographically-based moral superiority is not only mythical, but also violates Christian teaching. [Matthew 19:17, Roman 3:23] What good we see, we can attribute to the Goodness of God. Left to our own devices, Americans are as corrupt and prone to sin as is any other people. The mere existence of abortion demonstrates this point. Satan did not stop at our borders when spreading wrong in the world. History has shown us this. Thus, the even larger stakes of faith-based politics and policies is the soul of the nation.
It should also be noted that a secular call for the faithful to preach ironically mandates that people of faith be active in matters or the state. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:24:
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.”
According to the Apostle, the law is our schoolmaster that points us to the need for a Savior. The very idea of preaching Christ requires that we bring God’s Law to the world at-large. We promote the infusion of these laws into the fabric of American statutes. Prohibitions on bearing false witness is embodied in perjury, civil slander, tort or contract law, and myriad other matters. Stealing — whether in community, corporate, or other environments — comes with severe civil and criminal liability. Murder is perhaps he most severe judicial penalty. These and other provisions in God’s Law have long formed the basis of our society, and indeed, our advancements forward in society have extended equal protection under the law to all America’s citizens. Given the requisite need for God’s Law to present Jesus Christ, a call to “stick with preaching” does not discourage faith in public policy, but invites it that men will more clearly perceive the central figure of our preaching.
This set of reflections solidifies the Pro-Life struggle. While discouraged, we press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling we have in Jesus Christ. The fight for ending this evil practice is not unlike other great moral fights waged in American society. With each passing day, the forces align and fortify themselves. Indeed, the recent election strengthens the hand of the enemy to prolong the killing of unborn babies. But we can move forward assured, as was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that the arc of the moral universe is long, and it continues to bend towards justice.
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