So What's This All About?

In case you didn't know, I'm in the multi-year-long process of posting a Christian devotional at the TAWG Blog. The TAWG Blog is, and always will be, mostly apolitical. For the most part, Bible-believing Christians will find little to disagree with there. But I also firmly believe that God's word can--and should--inform everything in life, and this should include politics and popular culture. How should we vote? How should we respond to hot topics such as abortion, capital punishment, taxes, and other issues? Which party, if either, is closer to the Biblical ideal? Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, Evangelicals whose political leanings are on the Left, have made the case in several of their writings that God wants his followers to vote politically on the Left more than on the Right. At times, some of them have gone so far as to equate voting on the Left with obedience to Christ, either subtly or not-so-subtly contending that the converse is true as well: If you vote Republican, you're sinning against the Savior.
I don't agree. I think that to the degree they actually resort to the Bible, they're misinterpreting it. With a whole bunch of caveats, I think politically conservative positions are a lot more compatible with the Scriptures than the Leftist positions.
Just to clarify, I would never accuse people who disagree with me--especially siblings in Christ--of what they accuse me of. I don't judge my own heart, much less anyone else's, and I don't equate political disagreement with theological fidelity to God. I have no reason to doubt their love for the Lord and "for the least of these," but I believe that they're sincerely wrong.
So there are two main purposes for this blog. One is to make a case for my political beliefs based on Scripture. The other is a bit more vague, basically to work out my political beliefs and figure out what's based on Scripture and what's based on my own biases. I certainly don't have all the answers. Some of this stuff I'm still figuring out. And I'm certainly open to correction. As long as you make your case civilly and based on Scripture, feel free to make a comment, and I promise I'll post it and consider your arguments thoughtfully and prayerfully. Who knows? Maybe we'll learn a little something from each other.
May God bless our common striving together towards both the "little t" truth and "Big T" Truth. Our watchword here is a line from C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle: "Further up and further in!"

P.S. -- Below on the left is "Topics I've Covered" which lists everything I've posted topically. It's come to my attention that some people would like to see everything just listed for them. If that's you, you can get it here. Thanks to my friend Stephen Young for the tip!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Fork In The Road, Part Three: Some more distinctions

            I’m making the case that a huge difference between Liberals/ Progressives/Leftists (hereafter called “libs”) and Conservatives (“cons”)* is that we cons tend to recognize distinctions to be made in life, while libs tend to downplay or ignore them. I’m not sure of the exact cause-and-effect relationship, but this seems to be linked somehow with the fact that most lib arguments tend to be emotion-based, not based on examining evidence of what works. Quite frankly, when I listen to most liberal arguments, it boils down to “Why do you hate poor people?” or “Why do you hate minorities?” or “Why don’t you think women should be treated equally?”
            Before we move on, I’d like to submit a bit more evidence for my thesis. Let’s take a look at other issues marked by a lib/con divide:

·         The liberal mindset tends to blur differences between the sexes. In fact, on the forefront of liberal philosophy on this score is the belief that there are little to no innate differences between the sexes at all. If little boys like to play with trucks and toy guns and little girls like to play with dolls, that’s because society has programmed them to do so. Cons, on the other hand, reject this as nonsense, saying that of course there are innate distinctions between male and female, that’s it not all just “plumbing.” If you have the eyes to see it, you’ll see a definite push in our society on this front, from same-sex bathrooms to forcing the military to put females on the front lines, to acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

·         How’s about violence? For cons like me, there’s a distinction between good violence and bad violence. A mugger plying his trade: bad. A police office shooting down a school-yard mass murderer: good. A Nazi soldier guarding a death camp: bad. A U.S. soldier liberating that camp and shooting the Nazis defending it: good. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I regret it whenever a human life is taken. I don’t rejoice when a murderer is put to death. I regret that it had to happen, that it came to that point. I regret all the loss of life in World War Two or in any other war. I regret that it came to the point of mass slaughter in order to stop Hitler’s evil. I’m trying to imitate my Lord, who takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn from his ways and live.” But I don’t fail to make a distinction between the two soldiers noted above, one running a death camp and the other liberating it. As Winston Churchill put it, “I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire.” For libs, however, there’s no such thing as “good” violence. It’s all bad. The U.S. soldier and the Nazi soldier are both contributing to the “cycle of violence.”  

·         I think that part of this is a liberal rejection of what I call the “Three God-Ordained Institutions” paradigm. It’s a trichotomy of family, church, and state. There are three institutions which God created. The first was the family, which has the responsibilities of raising the next generation in the fear and teaching of the Lord and being the first resort when someone is in need, among others. The church is there to spread the Good News of Christ, disciple believers, and be the second line of resort when someone is in need (and family can’t or won’t help). The state was created by God to keep basic order and rule of law, to keep the peace by punishing those who’d hurt others. Now, the reason this is important is because each of these institutions has a certain job to do. None of these do the others’ jobs very well. When the state tries to raise children, it’s a bad thing. When the church tries to impose civil order by force, that’s bad. When Christians expect the state to spread the word of God for them, that’s ineffective at best.
      But libs have a hard time making this distinction. They want to use the state as the first resort to help people in need, not the last resort like cons do. They want the state more and more and more to have more say in how children are raised, and as a corollary this naturally leads to parents having less say in how their own children are raised.
            And Christians on the left in particular reject this when it comes to violence. In about a  month, I’m going to review Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence by Preston Sprinkle. I’m not going to get into the review right now, but one of the things I noticed about his work is that he doesn’t seem to accept the above trichotomy paradigm I describe above. For him, there’s no important difference between me taking personal vengeance and me as a police officer shooting an assailant. I make a huge distinction between the two. I believe that Jesus’ commands in the Sermon on the Mount (such as “do not resist an evil person”) apply to me as an individual. When I put on a uniform, either as a soldier or as police officer, or if I became a judge, or if I became an intelligence officer for the CIA, then they don’t apply to me when I’m fulfilling my duties. Romans 13 does. To think that we can have police officers who don’t resist evil people is a little hard to imagine. A judge in his personal life (as a believer) is supposed to turn the other cheek and not take personal vengeance against people who harm him; however, in his role as a judge, he’s appointed by God to punish those who do wrong and maintain the rule of law (using the sword the Lord has placed in his hand).

·         Just think about the following examples of issues: legal vs. illegal immigration, responsible gun-owners vs. criminals, criticism of someone’s lifestyle vs. physical violence towards them. On these and on a host of others, cons recognize a distinction that libs don’t.

            Are there any counter-examples to my thesis?
            Well, first off, are all distinctions that people might make valid? Of course not. For centuries this country (and others) bought into the idea that there are distinctions and innate differences between people based on the pigmentation of their skin. This was ridiculous. As a society we’ve largely rejected this notion. We’re still working on it, but at least it’s not socially acceptable any more. Treating women as second-class citizens (denying them the right to vote, for example), was wrong, and we corrected it. To any degree (and that degree is debatable) that anybody calling themselves conservatives ever bought into this, they were wrong.
            Liberals, by and large, like to make a sharp distinction between groups and individuals when it comes to political expression. They believe that individuals have a right to free speech, but they don’t like the idea of large groups expressing political ideas, by either supporting candidates or buying advertisement, saying in effect that people lose their right to free speech when they join with other like-minded folks. Cons tend to reject this distinction. You have the right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom to redress grievances of your government, both as an individual, and as part of a group.
            And of course there's the one big exception: Abortion. Libs love to use every euphemism out there to obscure the fact that there's a preborn baby in the mother's womb. They try to set up a huge distinction between a newborn and a "fetus" that's a few months old. We cons hold that this distinction is completely artificial and illegitimate. We contend strongly that a "fetus" is a human being with as much right to life as a newborn baby. We'll get more into abortion as a separate topic at a later time, but for now I have to recognize that this is a distinction that cons make that libs don't. 
            Other than these examples, I can’t think of any issues on which the lib side is more focused on distinctions than the con side is. On issue after issue after issue, conservatives see and acknowledge a difference in kind which the liberal side doesn’t see or acknowledge. If you’re reading this and can think of other counterexamples, I’d love to hear it.
            I’m running a bit long, so I’m going to try to look at this paradigm through the lens of Scripture tomorrow.

*You might be wondering why I call conservatives “cons,” which usually has a bad connotation (in the context of being short for “confidence men” or “convicts”). Using the term “conservatives” over and over and over in these postings seems a bit clunky, but I honestly couldn’t come up with a better abbreviation for us. Please notice that I’m careful to say “We cons” or “cons like us,” so obviously I’m not using it in a bad way, just as a short hand. Naturally, I’m very open to suggestions for an alternative. 

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