Ye of Little Faith

Although I generally avoid discussing topics involving religion on this blog there are times that I come across an article that I feel warrants discussion here. I came across this article that argues for Christians to continue participating in the political process:

When Jesus walked the Earth and performed miracles, He required humans to trust Him and do the part they were told to do. Then the miracle came. For instance, at the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus required men to fill pots with water before He would provide more wine for the wedding party. If those men had not done their duty, it is unlikely Jesus would have added His part, the miracle.

What about the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes? If the little boy had refused to share his lunch with Jesus, there would have been no miracle. There is no doubt that the Son of God could have created the loaves and fishes out of nothing if He wanted. But what He wanted was a person who would make the sacrifice that invites the miracle.

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He told some men to roll away the huge stone closing the grave. No doubt if He could raise to life someone who had been dead four days, He could move a stone, no matter how large. But Jesus required human agents to be involved. No matter how mi­nute a part a human being plays in God’s miracles, God chooses to make us an essential part of His greater plan.

Did you note that in each of these examples, Jesus did not expect people to work miracles? America needs a miracle! God is in the miracle-working business. The first ingredient of miracles is for man to invite the miracle and assist in the receiving of the miracle by hopefully and dutifully doing his part. If America’s enemies succeed in discouraging America’s patriots, if they can trick us into giving up hope and walking off the battlefield, how can we expect a miracle from God?

James A. Garfield as a young minister had an aversion to politics. But being a truth-seeker, he eventually saw in his Bible God’s instructions for civil government. He became convinced that a Christian’s duty was to participate in public affairs. Before becoming president in 1881, he wrote on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence the following insightful and prophetic message: “Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerated ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. If the next centennial [1976] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation did not aid in controlling the political forces.”

What I find interesting is that the author cites works of Jesus mentioned in the Bible to argue in favor of Christians involving themselves in the political process. The reason I find this interesting is because there is one thing never attributed to Jesus in the Bible, politics. Nowhere is it mentioned that Jesus ran for office in the Roman empire or campaigned for certain Roman politicians. I’m sure you’ve seen the bracelets inscribed with the phrase “What would Jesus do?” In fact the phrase has become so popular that it now has its own widely known acronym, WWJD. Answering that question generally relies on analyzing what Jesus was credited with doing in the Bible. Notice the miracles mentioned in the linked article. One miracle involved Jesus working to ensure a wedding celebration continued by turning water into wine. The second mentioned miracle involved Jesus feeding people by regenerating the remains of fish and bread. Miracle three involved Jesus raising a man from the dead. What all three of these stories have in common is that Jesus took direct action to fix a bad situation.

When the wedding party consumed all of the wine Jesus didn’t demand the state redistribute wine from those who had it to the wedding party. Sure, the wedding party could be argued to need wine more than other individuals in the area but no such argument was even brought up. Jesus never demanded the state provide more food for the hungry, he worked with what he had to feed who he could. In the story of Lazarus Jesus was urged to address the ailing Lazarus. When Jesus arrived Lazarus was already dead. Instead of demanding the Roman state invest money into researching a cure for Lazarus’s ailment Jesus took matters into his own hands. What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t use the political process to get the state to correct a bad situation, he would take direct action to help fix a bad situation.

In fact much of Jesus’s time was spent discussing charity in the form of helping those in need. Politics is the most ineffective method to help those in need. If you want to help feed the hungry you can run for office, demand your fellow politicians support a piece of legislation you wrote addressing the issue of the hungry, wait for the bill to be debated and passed, wait for a new bureau to be established that purports to help the hungry or an exiting bureau to be expanded to deal with the additional workload involved with feeding the hungry, and watch as a majority tax money collected under the guise of feeding the hungry is redirected to fund the new or expanded bureau and other state programs. In the end a great deal of time and money will be invested in creating a state organ to address the hungry and a majority of collected funds will be used to keep that organ alive instead of feeding the hungry.

The other option is to directly work to feed the hungry, which is the path chosen by organizations such as the Catholic Worker Movement. For those who haven’t heard of the Catholic Worker Movement it is an organization founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. The Catholic Worker Movement establishes, what it refers to as, Houses of Hospitality for the poor. Their Houses of Hospitality are aimed at offering immediate relief for those in need. What I find most interesting about the organization is that one of its founders, Dorothy Day, happened to be an anarchist (of the communist persuasion). Because of this it’s not surprising that she worked to establish an organization to directly help those in need instead of running for office or campaigning for a politician that claimed to support her desires. Anarchists, after all, focus on offering direct aid to those in need instead of relying on a nebulous bureaucracy to do it. Furthermore it’s not surprising to see that the Catholic Worker Movement is a radical organization that has tasked itself with creating a new society within the shell of the current society that focuses on ensuring everybody gets what they need to survive. While communism isn’t my thing I have no issue with those who wish to established voluntary communism and, in fact, support them (as I support any movement that aims to directly help those in need using voluntary methods).

How effective has the Catholic Worker Movement been? Considering the number of established Houses of Hospitality I’d say they’ve been pretty successful. And their success wasn’t due to the state, it was due to directly helping those in need just as Jesus was said to have.

On the other hand supposed Christians working within the state appear to be focused on forcing “Christian” (quotes used because the definition of Christian usually differs from politician to politicians) morality on the entire population. Instead of working to house the homeless, feed the hungry, and cure the sick most self-proclaimed Christians in the state have spent a majority of their time trying to pass laws that tie the state to their religion. This brings up another characteristic missing from the description of Jesus found in the Bible, a reliance on force. While the self-proclaimed Christians in the state have spent a great deal of time trying to legislate morality Jesus is never mentioned using the state’s gun to force his teaching onto people. Once again if we ask “What would Jesus do?” we cannot urge Christians to participate in the state. If one wants to instill Christian morality into a population in a manner consistent with the methods of Jesus he or she should work to help those in need while advocating Christian morality to those who are willing to listen.

The article closes with a discussion about the “winning” strategy:

The aforementioned counseling principle also suggests the obvious first step to winning the battle to restore Americanism: Before we can expect consistent wins at the ballot box, we must win the battle in the minds of our friends and neighbors. Before we can win elections, we must win the electorate. We win the electorate by educating them about both what built up America and what is tearing down America, not by giving up or ignoring the problem.

The essential foundational victory will not be won in Washington or in our state capitals. It must be won first among our friends and neighbors in our houses, schools, churches, and towns. And remember, what we are “for” always has to be more important than what we are “against.” Our approach must always include the hillside view.

What’s interesting about the closing part of the article is that it is correct in stating that the key to victory for Christians is to work directly with other people. Where it falls flat is then claiming that working directly with other people will lead to the end goal of political victories. What need is there for political victories if one succeeds in the job of education? If people are working together to house the homeless, feed the hungry, and cure the sick why does one need the state to get involved in those matters? If people are following Christian morality why does one need the state to force it onto people? The only thing involving the state manages to do is redistribute a great deal of resources from the general population to agents of the state. On top of being a waste of resources the state is also subject to violent mood swings. For a time it may be working on forcing Christian morality only to change and begin persecuting Christians. The state, being violent by nature, knows no moral philosophy other than redistributing wealth from a populace to the politically connected.