Sunday, July 30, 2006

Developing a Political Philosophy

I have, at least for today, decided to consider for the first time in my Christian life that maybe, just maybe, it might be necessary to develop a political philosophy. I come to this task with the fear that I could become something that I despise and that something is becoming a partisan. From my perspective there is nothing that has harmed the witness of the church more than political partisanship.

It is possible that the word partisan is not the right word. What I so loath is the emotion-ridden belief that those who hold a different views of policy are either stupid and irrational or immoral. So often a person’s policy views are translated by the opposition into a judgment of a person’s moral character that does not necessarily follow. Can a person hold a view that supports advocacy for the illegal immigrant and still be pro-American? Can a person hold a view that supports homosexual rights to marry and still see homosexuality as morally wrong? Can a person believe in the separation of church and state and be against government funding of faith based institutions and still believe that Jesus is Lord of All? In each of these examples, if one holds a view contrary to the mainstream of the church, one could be seen as fighting for the wrong team. This is partisanship. Might one, like myself, hold a political philosophy that defends the civil liberties of all Americans and still be fighting for God’s will in all of life? Might I hold a political philosophy that articulates that people are free to pursue happiness any way they please so long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of others? Dare I, as a Christian, develop a political philosophy that sees all legislation of morality as an establishment of religion by means of law and, therefore, contrary to the establishment of the kingdom by grace alone?

Another possibility is that I develop a particular view of human flourishing and come to believe that all the institutions of life ought to promote this understanding, a biblical understanding, of human flourishing. From this standpoint, one not of civil liberties but of a biblical understanding of human nature, could I develop what really is not a liberal democratic view of government at all? Is it possible that the human story shows that as cultures sanction the normalcy of certain behaviors that these cultures self-destruct? What if I develop a learned view of history which convinces me of the need to use government to regulate human insanity in the realms of racism, nationalism, sexual behaviors, and anti-Semitic and anti-Christian bigotry?

What about the role of government indoctrination with respect to religious relativism and sexual norms? What does a citizen do when the government considers it necessary to indoctrinate a philosophy regarding self-esteem, sexuality, gender, and many other issues which constitutes a worldview contrary to mine and even contrary to common sense? How can a political philosophy answer such questions as what is the proper bounds of the curriculum of the public school?

How does my religious understanding of the kingdom inform this philosophy? I believe in a morally beautiful church, but is Jesus only working to build His church or is He using government to build His kingdom as well? Where do we look for such answers? Is political philosophy an issue to be discovered through the study of special revelation or general revelation? Do the classics inform my political philosophy or the bible or both?

Lastly, is such wisdom even relevant to the kingdom? Is politics a huge diversion to kingdom advancement? Or is politics an important realm of Christian activism? Is the fact that Christians are becoming politically active a reason to develop a political philosophy for the sole purpose of arguing for Christian disengagement from political activism in the name of Christ?

Or is the fact that politics is so central to the life of the non-Christian and because Christians have become engaged, has this development requires the missionary in the America to be able to discuss these topics with some nuance and understanding of the various camps within the culture and within the church? Does the Christian need to know where he or she stands politically?

Personally, as a poor beggar who is just trying to show another beggar where to find bread, I have avoided politics as simply off topic, but, of late, I have been in relationship with people of many stripes and feel obligated to contemplate these questions. Thus, a journey into the development of a political philosophy has come to me and asked for answers.

Do you know where you stand and why? Are you partisan in your attitude to those, especially other Christians, who differ in their views of proper policy? Do you study the classics or the bible or both? Are you more libertarian or do you see the realm of politics as a possible realm for developing a righteous society? As we continue to ask these questions, I hope the Christian community can be gracious towards myself and others as we dialogue, reflect, and eventually arrive at conclusions. And in so doing, I hope we discover the way of Jesus in these times of change.

God Bless, brad

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