Oct 30, 2008

Limited Government, Part 1: Some Initial Thoughts concerning the Incarnation

A recent SURVEY taken by the Faith in Public Life and Mercer University found that only 28 percent of American Christians relied on Christian doctrine to determine their views on torture. In general, it seems to be the case the North American Christians prefer to rely on their life experiences, logic and “common sense” in order to determine their positions on political issues. Lately, the campaign trail has heated up again with political rhetoric from the Cold War Era as well as the Civil Rights movement. Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin are insisting that Senator Barack Obama is a socialist (circa 1950s Joseph McCarthy) while Georgia Representative John Lewis uses the racist scarecrow of the now deceased George Wallace (of Alabama fame) in order to compare McCain and some of his angriest supporters.
This brand of fear mongering is ideological in nature and tries to make the accuser seems more “mainstream” than the accused; fear-mongering is more a pitch to independent, undecided voters who want to vote for the most credible candidate, i.e., the most objective-looking. The myth of unbiased politicians who work for the common good died long ago, and this year, Election of 2008 marked the death of a false myth in journalism that a reporter can be objective in the coverage of political candidates. Just ask Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Lately, as I have been reflecting on how a Christian should approach politics and a republican-democratic system, it dawned on me that maybe Christians ought to prioritize Christian teaching as they participate in public affairs. For many Christians, Jesus Christ is the king of the universe, as the King of Kings and LORD of Lords. The Body of Christ has to look no further than the reign of God that was disclosed in God’s Son Jesus Christ. God did not reveal God’s sovereignty over the nations in Christ through over powering them with military force or by leading a revolution. As Jesus was being arrested, he asked his opponents, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you come against me with swords and clubs?” (Matt 26:55; Mark 14:48; Luke 22:52). Jesus was not leading a political revolution in the sense that he was fully participating in the Roman Empire’s way of life. His revolution was one where he declared the Empire of God over and against all human governments; it was a revolution based on prayer and knowledge of Israel’s story about the creator God.
If Jesus is God Incarnate (John 1), who dwells among his own people, and we know from the story of Israel that the same creator God of Genesis is the very same Warrior God of the Exodus, then Jesus Christ’s example is one where the LORD of the world freely chooses to limit himself (having mercy on sinners and being in solidarity with the outcast). In the same manner then, followers of Christ should advocate limited government intervention in ALL aspects of life. The single most important event in God’s disclosure of God’s reign here on earth in the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ according to the Christian narrative (Revelation 12). God does not rule with the powerful and the authorities of this world, but God choose to reign through with those who are powerless.
Therefore, Christ followers (I believe), should reject the bloodthirsty and imperialist foreign policy of someone like Senator McCain who uses atonement language (‘American blood sacrificed around the world saving western civilization”) to justify warmongering and empire building abroad. While defense spending is a necessity, the expansion of American territory overseas as well as the loss of human life is not necessary. Christ followers (in my opinion) should also avoid irresponsible domestic policies promoted by Barack Obama and the Christian Left who seem to think that Jesus and the church at Pentecost serve as models for a primitive form of Christian socialism. .Fiscal responsibility and balanced government need to be achieved. There was a day when frugality was looked upon as a virtue; however, it has been forgotten in this consumer society. Massive government intervention has never been the solution to our problems; to highlight the shining example of President FDR’s Good Deal policies only to forget that wars (for better or for worse), drive the economy or to ignore the fact that legal racial segregation still existed (and we have certain people still benefitting from it) is a pipe dream.
The problem I have with supporting either candidate in this election, if I give primacy to the doctrine of the Incarnation, is that both candidates promote activist government policies; for
Senator John McCain, the area of foreign policy; and for Senator Barack Obama, domestic policies. I look to King Jesus and His Government first, and then measure politicians accordingly. While I know that no politician or senator or prime minister can ever equal or serve as an imitation of Christ, rulers and representatives can share some of the same principles and virtues of God’s reign (such as self-discipline and truthfulness). Since the Incarnation for me, points to Christ’s Crucifixion, which then implies his resurrection, I must also say a word on two issues of life. God chose to first become incarnate in a vulnerable, Jewish baby during the time of Pax Romana (a very dangerous situation for infants at that time). God, therefore, identifies with the humiliated of the world, including the unborn; thus, I respectfully disagree with Senator Obama’s relative silence when it comes to confronting the pro-abortion movement.
The crucifixion and resurrection, as a doctrine taken literally, and if we believe the Gospel texts, we recognize that God is condemning the Roman form of political execution; that is why Christ is justified and glorified over Caesar in the Christian Testament (or NT), particularly in the Revelation of John. Perhaps the political implications are the creator God, God the Father of all of Creation, rebukes the use of political torture on any human being and maybe even the use of the death penalty. It is just something to think about.
Those are some initial ideas about the Incarnation and political preferences for the moment. Sometime, I may be able to go through all of the political implication of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ; then again, maybe not!

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the Seven-fold Spirit before his throne, and from Jesus the Messiah, who is the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:4-8