When Americans go to the voting booth on November 8, 2016, we are facing a choice like we have never seen before in our history. As people of faith in our country, it is the responsibility of Christians to be a light reflecting the value system Christ brought to earth into our nation.
In order to be that light, we need to know what the Bible teaches about the issues we will be deciding in that voting booth. We also need to know how the American government and political system works. If we do not learn these things for ourselves, then we will never be more than pawns being manipulated by the people who we let tell us what to think.
As Jesus famously taught,
“If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Which Side Should Christians Take?
Day-7 of this series showed that there are two and only two basic approaches to governing in the United States. That is the source of our two-party system. At the birth of our nation those two parties were Federalist vs. Democratic Republicans. Today our two parties are Democratic vs. Republican. The two basic approached to governing have gone through different names over the years. Today, we call them: Conservative (held mainly by the Republican Party) vs. Progressive (held mainly by the Democratic Party). As a Christian, it is good to ask the question, “Does the Bible have any clear guidance on which side to take in American politics?” To the surprise of many, the answer is, “No.”
Both of these American approaches to politics come essentially from a biblical view of humanity. The Bible teaches that human beings are basically sinful. To put that in everyday language, it basically means that human beings are self-centered and will promote their own self-interest above that of others. The Bible also teaches that we are made in the image of God and have tremendous potential to do great things. Both Conservatives and Liberals start with a belief that the inherent sinful nature of humanity is a threat to all. They both also believe that together as a united people, we can do great things and be a shining example to the rest of the world. The goal of both is for government to facilitate the greatest good while restraining the sinful impulses of the citizenry to do harm.
- Conservatives focus mainly on the threat posed by sinful humans who amass too much power for themselves in government and use that power to grant benefits to themselves at the expense of the private citizens. Their solution is to decentralize government as much as possible and to leave as much decision making authority as possible in the hands of the private citizens.
- Progressives focus mainly on the threat posed by sinful humans who amass too much power for themselves in the private sector and use that power to grant benefits to themselves at the expense of workers and the vulnerable. Their solution is to use the federal government as the umpire of the people to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves so that all can get a fair deal.
From a biblical perspective, both of these views are true.
Both approaches to government are based on what is called the Social Contract Theory of Government. The basic idea is that we form a contract between the people and our government. There are two basic purposes of the government formed by that contract. First, to protect the people from each other and from foreign aggression. Second, to help the people work together for the benefit of all. The Preamble to the Constitution describes it this way: “To provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.”
Both Progressives and Conservatives see government as a tool to be used by the people and controlled by the people. They differ in how much the people should actually put that tool to use. Conservatives say, “As little as possible.” Progressives say, ‘As much as needed.”
The ten key issues of government policy from Day-7 are not moral issues. They are issues of how best to achieve our common goals as a people. On any given issue, Conservatives and Progressives will have differing approaches to addressing that issue. Both sides have some valid arguments and the best solution will often involve bringing together ideas from both approaches. American government works best when we elect representatives who work together and compromise to find answers that all can work with.
The answer to the question, “Which side should Christians take?” is obvious really. We should take the American side.
- Progressives today are following in the footsteps of the original Federalists, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. They have taken up the baton of promoting a strong federal government that takes a strong stand as an umpire for the people against powerful interests.
- Conservatives today are following in the footsteps of the original Democratic Republicans, Jefferson and Madison. They have taken up the baton of limiting federal power and decentralizing governmental authority.
It is not an either-or choice. It is both-and! That is what has always made America great.
As Jesus famously said, and as Abraham Lincoln famously quoted,
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Day 10: America is Great Because America is Good
Day 9: Nine Biblical Principles in Public Policy
Day 8: Two Things Americans Should Never Do
Day 7: Ten Key Issues in American Politics
Day 6: Which Side Should Christians Take?
Day 5: Of the People, By the People, For the People
Day 4: Which Policies are Most Biblical?
Day 3: Clinton vs. Trump in 2016
Day 2: A Vision for America
Day 1: My American Story
Election Day: VOTE!