Political Theology Part 2
By Jesse Pingenot in Student
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Php 3:20-21).
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thess 4:7).
A few weeks ago, I gave you a bunch of questions that you have to work out for yourself about your political theology. But I felt that it wasn’t quite enough because, honestly, this is a big topic.
And again, I’m not going to tell you what or how to think. I’m just pointing out questions that you have to resolve for yourself. Because if you don’t know what you believe, you will behave foolishly in the political sphere, which does not reflect Christ very well. So you need to know what you believe!
With that in mind, let’s get to it.
We’ve already talked about legislating morality and the foundation of laws. And one question that’s at the core of this conflict is this:
What responsibilities does the individual Christian have towards the government and society as a whole? Let me explain.
The crux of this problem is that, in a democratic system, the populace is allowed to participate in government. This is not something that the people of the Bible had, so you’re not going to find an easy, clear answer to the question there. You’ll find a lot about submitting to authorities and such, but what happens when you get to help choose those authorities?
Where do your conscience and personal beliefs intersect with elections and voting? Under this question, you’ll find you’ll have to resolve the question of law vs. morality and such. That all goes into resolving that question.
Another question: Does the government have the right to compel individuals to violate their religious principles outside of church doors?
We already talked about this somewhat a few weeks ago, specifically with the example of the bakery refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. But there’s more to it.
The first amendment of the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What exactly is the free exercise of religion?
Many things are sold to the religious public as “not inhibiting religion within church doors.” But religion doesn’t happen merely within church doors: religion is something lived, not done at one place. A person’s religion goes with them wherever they are. As I’ve said time and time again in these articles, Christianity is a way of life (and Christ is the Way and the Life). So the excuse that a law doesn’t inhibit the free exercise of religion within church doors is, to me, in adequate because religion is not contained within church doors, nor should it be.
You may disagree with my interpretation. Again, I’m not trying to tell you what to believe. You need to work this out yourself.
So how does the individual’s right to the free practice of their religion interact with the government’s ability to legislate and rule?
And lastly, a big question in regards to freedom—one that is at the core of many of these questions—is simply this: when does one person’s or group’s right to say no have to submit to another person or group’s right to say yes?
Let’s take an example. Read this article.
Vanderbilt set up a policy that forced all student groups, including religious ones—excepting only fraternities and sororities—to accept membership and leadership from anyone, including those who disagree with their core beliefs. So a Muslim group cannot refuse membership, or even leadership, from an atheist, for example.
That immediately set up a problem: religious groups were no longer allowed to hold their students to a standard of belief and conduct. Their ability to say no was taken away.
And InterVarsity at Vanderbilt refused to change their constitution and bylaws to accept the new policy.
And why should they?
Such a policy seems to deny self-governance and self-determination to all groups on campus. It seems to me (and again, you don’t have to agree), that it means that there is no longer such a thing as a religious group at Vanderbilt. Because if they must accept members and leadership from those who do not agree with their beliefs or standards of conduct whatsoever, then their purpose and cohesion is lost. There is nothing that keeps a Vanderbilt Christian group from being entirely led by atheists and thus teaching atheism. Which means it’s no longer a Christian group.
So the ability to say no is hugely important. People call it discrimination to make it seem bad, but saying no—being discriminate—is important to preserving identity and purpose.
Let us take, for example, a university. Universities discriminate constantly. You must have a certain academic performance—have graduated high school or have your GED, have scored at least so high on the ACT or SAT—in order to be accepted. Once accepted, you must achieve and maintain a further academic performance, reflected in your GPA. And not every student is equal, because funds are awarded to students who perform better than others in their system. In fact, some funds are available only to people of specific ethnic groups. All of that is discrimination.
But it is necessary for universities to discriminate academically in order to maintain their purpose. Their purpose is to educate, to produce students with certain qualifications. If a student cannot do that, the university is right to say no to them.
So where does one person’s or group’s ability to say no meet another’s ability to say yes? This is a huge question, but it’s one you must work out.
So I pray God may guide you as you think and pray and read and meditate on these questions. May God bless you!
All views expressed on this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.