“Before leaving the subject of Reason, I must point out that authority not only combines with experience to produce the raw material, the ‘facts,’ but also has to be frequently used instead of reasoning itself as a method of getting conclusions. For example, few of us have followed the reasoning on which even ten percent of the truths we believe are based. We accept them on authority from the experts and are wise to do so, for though we are thereby sometimes deceived, yet we should have to live like savages if we did not.” – C. S. Lewis, from “Why I’m not a Pacifist” in The Weight of Glory
C. S. Lewis’ ability to put together his arguments in exacting logical progression while expressing them with nearly majestic turn of phrase may well be unmatched. I think the above quote captures a great deal of the basis of my outlook on religion and politics. This blog, of course, tends to focus on that narrower realm of religion and politics, while Lewis was touching on concepts of reason and morality at large. Still, I hold that few people have followed the reasoning on which even 10 percent of of their stated government policy preferences are based. Instead, they rely on some other authority figure to tell them what to think or support, which is OK for a time, but eventually we must do the hard work on our own.
We further narrow the basis of argument to discuss how the Bible effects our public policy preferences as Christians. For instance, readers will often find me railing against collectivism (also known by terms with rather negative connotations such as socialism, communism, and fascism). While I view a world without fascism as a good thing, the fact that some people ascribe to these philosophies should not surprise anyone. Man, in his fallen state, will cast about to any number of wayward life philosophies that are ultimately detrimental. What concerns me far more is the number of Christians who support ideas of fascism, socialism, communism, or even theocracy for that matter.
The world is indeed a corrupting influence. In the age of progressivism, the general citizenry has come to view government as a means to enforcing a better, more moral, society. This is true even of Christians. Those on the right see government as a means of enforcing sexual morality (particularly with respect to homosexuality). Those on the left see government as a means of mandating that the rich give to the poor, care for the elderly and orphan, and that people not discriminate for any reason. These may all be moral behaviors, but to enforce them via the government is a step to far for the Christian.
In a democracy, we have the unique ability to vote on public policy preferences. To vote, as a majority, that this or that person should behave in this or that way is to place ourselves as moral judge. The fellow next to me in the pew may well be able to inform me on how I should spend my time, energy, or money to help this group or that. Further, I support his efforts to contribute to the moral discourse regarding such issues. A number of counter points are in order though. First, God has entrusted those resources to me, and will hold me responsible for how I use them (not him). Second, to take resources by force, through the government, and apply them to preferred moral causes goes well beyond moral discourse into theocracy. I think the Christian ought to eschew such a policy.
This is not to say the Christian shouldn’t be politically involved or active, quite the contrary. We are to be salt and light. But our political involvement should be more than using the government to enforce morality. The Church has the call to evangelize the world, and the Holy Spirit convicts of sin. The citizenry, through the government, ought to focus on the much narrower role of defending the basic rights of humans created in God’s image, rather than usurping the other roles. This is particularly so for the Christians, who ought to be quite confident in the Church’s functional role in the lives of men.