“If the fatal principle should come to be introduced, that, under pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law may take from one party in order to give to another, help itself to the wealth acquired by all the classes that it may increase that of one class, whether that of agriculturists, the manufacturers, the ship owners, or artists and comedians; then certainly, in this case, there is no class which may not try, and with reason, to place its hand upon the law, that would not demand with fury its right of election and eligibility, and that would overturn society rather than not obtain it.” – Frederic Bastait, The Law
Religion and politics – these are the topics I focus on most in this blog. Particularly how Christians ought to operate in the realm of popular-governance. Our general preference is for, as we noted last time in Kindred Spirit, a government and legal systems solely focused on the defense of rights – individual rights – rather than enforcement of some notional morality.
There is a mildly humorous turn to all of this. If government organization and function followed what I deem to be an appropriate path, I probably wouldn’t have much left to write about – at least not in the way of politics and religion. That is, my whole goal, with regards to Christians and politics, is to convince my brethren that the rightful role of government is collective defense of individual rights and not morality. (Remember, we define morality in rather broad terms. Laws imposing sexual or narcotic morality are just as offensive to my mind as laws that enforce charitable morality – such as entitlements and universal health care. To plunder one person, whether in freedom or property, for the benefit of another is beyond the pale.)
Indeed, if government followed its rightful – and constitutional – call, politics would become the most boring and unimportant of affairs. When you don’t have the power to force your will on your fellow citizens at the ballot box, then fervor will quickly fade from your political motives if they are not based in freedom for all.
I should say this is a better fit for the Christian ideal. While I think the direct case can be made, that governments and laws based on freedom for all is consistent with and motivated by the Christian worldview; there is a very clean indirect case to be made as well. Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:1, implores us to pray for kings and those in authority – “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” A government limited in its scope and powers does not call for Christian activism in that sphere. When the government is out of the business of running men’s lives, not only is there not advantage in pushing moral legislation, there is no need for political activism as a defensive measure against losing freedoms (namely religious freedoms). We could simply live our lives in peace.
I certainly desire that my brothers would be free from this constant struggle in the political sphere, free from constant wrangling over the moral benefits of this or that policy and insinuations like “what would Jesus do?”. The most brilliant religious minds of His day could never predictably determine what Jesus would do.
Now, certainly, with regards to so much of our lives we ought to ask “what would Jesus do?” or, “what would Jesus have me do?”. But we already have a directive from the Lord that can guide our forays into politics and policy: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). Do you wish not to have your money stolen? Do not steal. Do you wish to not be deceived? Do not lie. Do you wish that money and aide be given to the poor and needy? Then give them what money and aide you are able. Do you wish your neighbors to leave you free to live your life in self-determination? Then governments that move beyond simple defense of rights and freedom are not for you.