This author has been teaching an adult Sunday school class on God and Government (using Gary DeMar’s book of the same name as a guide) at his church. Class members (who are currently viewing David Barton’s The Keys to Good Government) are being convicted of the necessity to examine not just the public lives of those who want to be stewards in high office but to also examine their private lives, as well. They are seeing, some for the first time, that private character matters in the behavior of public officials.And some are awakening to the necessity of electing men who are not just Christian but actually apply their faith to all of their life, including their exercise of duty while in office.
You may think this means a position advocating hiring private detectives to look in bedroom windows and such. You would be wrong. What is being advocated is the examination of the fruit of the faith of candidates and office holders. Many are shocked to learn that the word that is translated as “minister” in some versions (“servant” in some others) is a title used for both civil authority and ecclesiastical authority strongly implying that the admonitions for office holders of Exodus 18 and 1Timothy 3 apply to both offices. The Timothy passages tell us to look to the way a man conducts his family business as an indicator for whether he is capable of handling higher office. That is because how a man manages his family is an indicator of how well a man disciplines himself and maintains his relationship to God. This follows from the idea that a man faithful to God is a man who applies his faith to the management of his family and will also do in the management of his duties that come with higher office, whether civil or ecclesiastical.
Sadly, a man’s faith in God is no longer a guarantee that his family, business or duties of higher office will be handled in a godly manner. Modern pietistic Christianity has bought into the secular humanist argument (made popular by Col. Robert Ingersoll a militantly anti-Christian crusader of the 19th century) that a man’s life can be compartmentalized into separate spiritual and worldly spheres of influence. Thus, a man can be a pillar of his church and completely corrupt in the conduct of his personal and business affairs and his duties of higher office.
If you have paid any attention to recent Supreme court justice confirmation hearings, you will have heard nominees questioned about their faith. To a man, these nominees have declared that they were men of faith and, astonishingly, that their faith would have absolutely no bearing on any decision they would make from the bench. Frankly, a man who can compartmentalize his faith to this degree is far more frightening than a man who applies his faith to all aspects of his life as the foundational operating philosophy. That man’s decisions will be predictable based on a knowledge of the law that emanates from his faith. A man who does not apply his faith as a governing philosophy will be like a philosophical nomad traveling from place to place in search of a temporarily green place to nurture his philosophical flock. This seems fine until one day everyone discovers that all of the ground the nomad traveled has been made barren through his abuse of it. Think in terms of modern Supreme court decisions where justices turn every which way, examining European law for example, searching for legal philosophy on which to base decisions when all they need do is apply biblical case law as courts have done since their inception here in the early 17th century.
As part of the Sunday school class, this author made the observation that not only was the average Christian compartmentalizing his faith when choosing candidates for higher office, but that so-called Christian leadership, who should, theoretically, know better, actively participate in making it more difficult to discern which candidates for civil office are worthy of the Christian vote. One of the things I had in mind (though not by a long-shot the only thing) were the things I saw and heard at the recent WRFD town hall meeting.
Several members of the Institute for Principled Policy’s governing board were audience participants at the town hall meeting and we were there from about 2:30 pm for the pre-show until about 5:00 pm. At the outset it should be made clear that the host of the program, Pastor Bob Burney, did his best to make the town hall meeting what he promised it would be; open and informative. How do I know this? The format of the meeting was that the participants would write questions out on a pre-printed form and submit them to one of the programs producers or one of the floor volunteers. They were reviewed for things like language and coherence (I presume) and then handed to Pastor Burney.
It is this writer’s opinion that Pastor Burney is a Christian who is not afraid to ask tough questions of political candidates to ferret out their positions on issues. This is because he read a question that this writer had submitted to find where John Kasich, candidate for Governor, stood on the second amendment. He didn’t change the wording, or soften the question in any way. Why so sure? This writer wrote the question. It read approximately like this-
Keeping the phrase from the 2nd amendment…”shall not be infringed…” in mind- how can a law that prohibits the ownership of a gun on the basis of caliber, firing rate, magazine size or stock configuration not be an infringement? If you agree that it is an infringement then please explain your vote to restrict my ownership of guns on this basis as a congressman
Sad to say, this question was read during a news break and so the radio audience never heard it. But the studio audience did. And they also heard the 2-3 minute long answer which completely failed to address the specifics of the question. The audience present heard Kasich declaim using phrases taken directly from the politician’s rhetorical cliche handbook. Things like “I agree with the NRA (National Rifle Assoc.) more than I do my wife” and “I own a gun.” They also heard Kasich imply that he the had NRA’s endorsement. He doesn’t.
Why does all of this matter? Why should a Christian care one way or another about a candidate’s votes in Congress? After all, Kasich has a “conservative” reputation and his wife and children were there with him, he has his kids in Christian school, doesn’t he? That’s a great question because it aims right at the heart of the issue of how Christians are supposed to evaluate candidates for office. And the sad fact is that Christians have been misled by those in leadership to think about candidate evaluation in completely the wrong context.
Look again at the rationalizations listed above. In every instance they are based on outward appearances. Yes, Kasich is nominally “conservative.” But that word can be defined in many ways by many different people and groups who award that title. One group’s conservative vote might be another’s progressive vote in Congress. The standards are variable. In fact, by a constitutionalist’s (defined as someone who subscribes to a strict literal interpretation of the meaning of the US Constitution) standard Kasich is conservative to moderate on economics (OK on taxes, flawed on spending) with a moderate progressive streak on social issues. In short he is a so-called “big government” conservative. That’s why the second amendment question quoted above is of vital importance.
How so? In order to understand we must look at what it means to be a representative. All government structures of God have certain characteristics. They are both representative and covenantal. Governments of all jurisdictions self, family, civil, church) are representative in two directions. The chosen representative represents the authority of God to those within his jurisdiction and those people in his jurisdiction back to God. With that in mind, it is easy to see that a people who despise God will seek poor representation who also despises God. In return as a judgment God will give them the poor representation of and to Himself that they ask for and deserve.
So what is the covenant aspect and why does it matter to civil government? A covenant is a contract. According to a biblical view of government, it is a contract in which God is a party to the contract as both the initiator and arbiter of the contract. God gives the parties to the covenant a choice. Obey the stipulations of the covenant and see earthly and eternal rewards or disobey them and receive earthly and eternal punishment. There is no negotiating the terms of such a contract and neither is there an opt-out. Believers or not, human beings are subject to the terms of the covenant. The covenant applies to all aspects of life including the political.
You might be thinking “I thought there was a separation of church and state, so how can God be involved in government?” Yes, indeed there is a separation of church and state in terms of jurisdictions (spheres of authority). The state is forbidden by God from engaging in or interfering with the jurisdiction reserved to His church. Likewise the church’s jurisdiction is to act in an advisory capacity to government secondarily. Primarily, the church’s responsibility is to teach the tenets of the Christian faith and how to apply those principles to every facet of their lives to believers . That includes the choosing of and acting as good godly representatives as described above. Hence, the secondary responsibility to act as an advisor to godly representatives in a teaching capacity.
Now to why the second amendment question is so important. When John Kasich and Ted Strickland were elected to Congress, and this goes for all Federal representatives, they swore an oath before God to “…uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America…” Kasich violated that oath when he voted to give the federal government an authority that the highest law of the land denied to it. The authority to ban the sale of guns for any reason or in other words infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. That makes him a willful covenant breaker.
Now, Kasich could have made an effort to repair his reputation as a covenant breaker by explaining that his bad votes had been mistakes and that he now regretted them on the basis of principles that he did not understand at the time. He made no effort to do so and instead chose to attempt to defend his votes and when it became clear that none of his attempts to side step the question were satisfactory he said simply “It is what it is.” That spoke volumes. He broke his covenant without remorse. To a Christian who has a consistent worldview, this made him someone who could not be eligible to be a representative in civil authority.
While Pastor Burney was as faithful to his promise as possible there were other participants that were not so faithful. The questioning noted above took place before the late arrival of Chris Long of Ohio Christian Alliance. This author had submitted several questions of a similar nature to the one above. All of them designed to determine where the candidate answering the question stood as regards the keeping of his or her oaths before God to “…uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America…” All of them were very specific questions about parts of the Constitution very relevant to issues of the day.
After Mr. Long’s arrival the facilitation of the meeting was immediately transferred to his control and its nature instantly changed. Instead of allowing tough questions which were designed to get at the core principles of the candidates it became obvious that questions were being screened to protect candidates from hard ball questions. In fact, this writer watched from the front row just in front of the podium where the hosts and guests were seated as Mr. Long sorted audience questions, removing those presumably deemed inappropriate and handing the remaining soft ball questions to Pastor Burney to use.
You might be asking why this would be in light of what has been explained above. But if you think about this for just a minute you might see what’s happening here. It has already been discussed earlier in this posting. It is the habit Christians have allowed themselves to fall into of considering only the outward appearances of faith in looking for a candidate. And many Christian leaders have allowed themselves to be co-opted by a political party. This is nothing new. The Democratic Party co-opted liberal churches and leaders very early in the twentieth century. Conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, tended to avoid politics altogether during the period from about 1925 until the presidential election of 1976 when many of the were persuaded by Christian leaders to vote for a self-proclaimed “born-again Christian-” Jimmy Carter. Most conservative evangelicals found the policies of the Carter administration completely unpalatable, not to mention decidedly un-Christian and this disaffected new voting bloc was easily convinced to join the Reagan coalition inside the Republican Party. Christian leaders became aware that they had been the deciding factor in the Republican party in both keeping George Bush from getting the Republican nomination (something they had obviously forgotten by 1988 and a fact that was a harbinger of future events with unpleasant consequences) and in delivering the White House to Reagan in 1980. They then began to try to leverage their power inside the Republican party to get some of the social and economic legislation that they believed the nation needed. In the process, many Christian leaders became Republicans first and Christians second. This culminated in the disastrous first and second Bush administrations.
With this short history in mind we have to ask ourselves why Christians continue to allow themselves to be used and, yes, seduced into supporting nominal and pseudo-Christian candidates by a political party which ignores, insults and does their level best to make sure that Christians stay home for primaries but insists they show their loyalty to the party and vote for candidates whose policies are repugnant to them in general elections. We also have to wonder how Christian leaders have come to the conclusion that they must either support and even work to protect exclusively Republican candidates who are openly covenant breakers.
The answer lies in simply denying that they are indeed covenant breakers. The best way to do that is by maintaining a state of plausible deniability. If you never ask the tough questions you can easily deny knowledge that the candidate in question’s policies are in conflict with his oath of office. Sadly, this doesn’t often stop Christians from defending these candidates when their shortcomings are made public. Many will stop at almost nothing to protect their chosen candidates because they are nominally Christian (outwardly) and have the added ability to win elections. Winning with a nominal Christian candidate who may be an oath breaker has become more important than providing a candidate with a consistent Christian worldview who could be a true oath honoring representative. Earthly power beats godly covenant. Not hardly.