But you seem to fear lest all men become righteous, and you no longer have any to punish. ( Justin Martyr’ The First Apology of Justin The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1; T&T Clark/Eerdmans, 1989 pg 166)
For the first time since we began MCOI we have been in a position to comment on what is happening in politics. For years many running for office stayed from religion and created a sort of Grand Canyon separation. This past election brought them back together as liberals asserted they too are religious and Barack Obama appeals to the WWJD or “What would Jesus Do?” question. There is very little in Obama’s life, worldview or political positions which would indicate that he is a Christian in any biblical or historical Christian sense. In fact, there is an increase in at least a verbal persecution of those who hold to a historical/grammatical understanding of Scripture. This is not a new situation and in fact Christians in the first three centuries suffered not only misrepresentation and verbal persecution but martyrdom at the hands of the government.
Over the last few weeks several have contacted me asking if Christians should be involved with politics and if so to what degree. Jonathan Miles and I have been involved in a similar discussion ourselves and are thinking about writing a book on the question. In the process of all of this came the revelation that ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has received 53 millions dollars in Federal Funding (yours and my dollars) and is scheduled to received billions from the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 advises some “clients” how to cover up and even gain federal funding for prostitution and operating an under age prostitution ring. The third ACORN office in two weeks, this one in New York City, has been exposed on BIGGOVERNMENT.COM
Christians and Politics
There is some sharp division within the Body of Christ over the issue of being a Christian and political involvement. On the one hand there is a sort of a “Christian Politics” and the urging to be involved to take back the nation for Christ at the political level. On the other hand there is the “Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. It isn’t in the Bible and the early church wasn’t involved. We need to focus on evangelism.” I think both resort to an either/or proposal which is all or nothing that comes down to “Real Christians would/would not (pick one to fill in the blank) be politically involved. In reality, when we go to Scripture the Bible doesn’t explicitly mandate either position. We find in the Old Testament God’s people working for the government (Joseph and Daniel are examples) and others working against the government (Moses and Elijah are examples.) In each case they were politically active and serving God. Others were more or less neutral and were trying to unite God’s people for service, worship and growth (Ezra and Nehemiah). In the gospels Christ did not press His followers to be politically involved nor did He suggest to those who came to Him who were politically involved (the Roman Centurion for example) to get out of the political and/or military arena. There really is no such thing as “Christian Politics” anymore than there is “Christian mechanics” or “Christian doctors,” etc. As there are doctors who are Christians and mechanics who are Christians so there are politicians and others who are politically involved who are Christians. Their biblical worldview should guide their positions, servant hood and accountability. Certainly some should not be involved for they do not have the biblical training, practice in discernment and defense (apologetics) nor the spiritual growth to avoid the many temptations which go with positions of power. There isn’t anything in Scripture which seems to argue for or against political involvement but a great deal which calls us to holy living, practicing discernment, exposing evil and influencing those around us as credible witnesses of Christ. As my friend Dani Chaffin would say, to be “Someone who wears Jesus well.”
What About the Early Church?
It is often argued that the early church was not politically active therefore we have historical precedence that we should not be politically active. There are at least two problems with this position. First, Christians were being persecuted by the government as atheists since they asserted that there is only one true God and rejected all other gods as false. One had to confess that Caesar is Lord and that all other deities were secondary to him and they could then worship any and all deities they wished. The Apostle Paul used this allegiance and changed it to Christ in Romans 10:9 and then went on to teach that Jesus is the only true God. The exclusion of Christians from being involved in the government does not mean they were not politically involved though. Justin Martyr’ was a philosopher who came to the faith in the early second century. His “First Apology” (meaning First Defense) was written to the Caesar, his sons and the Roman Senate.
To the Emperor Titus AElius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar, and to his son Verissimus the Philosopher, and to Lucius the Philosopher, the natural son of Pius, a lover of learning, and to the sacred Senate, with the hole People of the Romans.
It is a political document written to the government to correct false claims about Christianity and challenging them to correct moral behavior and legislation. He addresses and refutes the claim that Christians are atheists. He points out that because some Christians have been convicted of doing evil does not necessarily mean that all Christians are evil doers but that they should individually be judged by their life. He defends the physical resurrection and, with tongue-in-cheek suggested:
But you seem to fear lest all men become righteous, and you no longer have any to punish.
This document includes some of the very problems which have been raised in the recent revelations about ACORN and the Federal Government. The Roman Culture had a practice called “exposing.” When an infant was born it was taken and laid at the feet of the father who would leave it covered and thus accept it as his own or uncover or “expose” it at which time the infant was rejected and taken to the woods and abandoned. Often the babies were then claimed (males and females) and raised for child prostitution. Martyr addresses this from two perspectives. The first is from the perspective of infanticide. This is something which Obama favored in the case of botched abortions and his newly appointed director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein agree with. In fact, Sunsteen takes his positions from Peter Singer who advocates for infanticide and not recognizing the infant as a person for at least 30 days after birth in order for parents to decide if they want to keep it or not. This is little more than a modern day version of “exposing.” Justin Martyr writes in his First Apology:
And again, [we fear to expose children], lest some of them not be picked up, but die, and we become murders.
Abortion and infanticide were moral and political issues in the 1st and 2nd century just as much as they are in the 21st century. The church taught on this among its ranks and Justin brought it to bear in his political treatise. How does this bear on ACORN and the Federal Government? Earlier Martyr wrote:
But as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men; and this we have been taught lest we should do any one an injury, and lest we should sin against God, first, we see that almost all so exposed (not only the girls, but also the males) are brought up to prostitution. And as the ancients are said to have reared herds of oxen, or goats, or sheep, or grazing horses, so now we see you rear children only for this shameful use…
Should an organization such as ACORN continue to receive Federal funds (tax dollars from your and my paychecks) and use those funds to promote and direct in ways to get funding as well as hide from the IRS prostitution and child sex ring? The answer should be an unequivocal no. Without political involvement Christians have no voice in this issue. As it is, the Senate barred ACORN from receiving any more Federal funds by an 83-7 margin (one of those who stood with ACORN was Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Apparently he is not opposed to an under age sex slave ring). Should fetuscide (killing of the pre-born) and infanticide (killing of the new-born) go unchallenged or should Christians speak to the issue? That would seem to indicate political involvement. However, this should be undertaken with the utmost caution. Political power can be euphoric and we can forget the real reason for what we are doing. A recurring phrase in Justin’s First Apology is “we have been taught.” He was ever mindful that our worldview comes from Christ and we form our ideas based on what we have been taught not on what is politically expedient. The second bears on political expedience. Justin would often complete a defense of a topic with an ending statement something like:
But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since also death is a debt which must at all events be paid.
He would say that their rejection of the truths he laid out caused him no harm (he didn’t take it personally) because one day every person would stand before God in judgment. Justin continued to wear the robe of a philosopher and taught that Christianity was the one true philosophy or worldview by which to live and have eternal life. Justin really didn’t pull his punches in his political treatise:
It were possible to pause here and add no more, reckoning that we demand what is just and true; but because we are well aware that it is not easy to change a mind possessed by ignorance. We intend to add a few things, for the sake of persuading those who love the truth, knowing that it is not impossible to put ignorance to flight by presenting the truth.
By wearing his philosopher’s robe Justin was able to meet pagan unbelievers in their natural environment and evangelize them by challenging their worldview. He was able to challenge the government of the republic through political interaction, challenges while building his case from a biblical worldview which he continually reminded the Emperor, his sons and the Senate he had “been taught.” While doing so he seemed relatively unconcerned about hurting their feelings. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the Galatians and MCOI’s theme verse:
Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Gal. 4:16
Living the Christian life is whole souled and should permeate and influence everything we do in life for we are to be always mindful of Whom we serve.