Monday, February 11, 2008

Politics, Religion, and Brotherly Love

How should Christians respond to political differences with other believers?

It’s all too common for Christians on one side of the political aisle to accuse Christians on the other side of ignoring the Bible (or Christ) over political disagreements.*

When we try to live out our faith, two problems give rise to this unfortunate tendency.

Problem 1: How to apply many scriptures
The Bible clearly says, “Thou shalt not steal.” And, frankly, I don’t know any Christians who think stealing is ok.

The Bible also clearly says to love your neighbor, render unto Caesar, obey the law, be generous to the poor, and be kind to the alien. No one actually questions whether we should do all of those things. What we disagree about is how to apply all of those commands to particular political situations (e.g., illegal immigration).

Problem 2: Many avenues to address one problem
Even when the biblical issue seems straight forward, there are still many ways to approach a problem politically.

Example issue: poverty

Liberal approach: transfer payments (e.g., welfare), government programs (e.g., midnight basketball), government make-work jobs (e.g., FDR’s public works jobs)
Conservative approach: expand economy to create real jobs** (largely through tax policy), private charity

Both groups are trying to do something about poverty. For various reasons, the two groups have very different approaches to the problem. That is not, in and of itself, wrong.

A particular approach may be inappropriate from a biblical point of view. This is an issue to discuss; this is not something about which we should fling accusations.

Disagree lovingly
I’m not saying that no one’s right. What I want to emphasize is that if your brother in Christ is trying to apply the scriptures to an issue, he might come up with a different answer to the question than you. That does not give you grounds to question his sincerity, his commitment to the Bible or Christ, or his salvation.

We can disagree in a loving way and still maintain the unity our Master desires for us.

* If one side is more prone to this than another, that is a topic for another time.

** Not all Republicans or conservatives think of this as a way to deal with poverty. Those people probably do not believe in supply-side economics. They’re likely to focus on private charity – and in the case of liberal Republicans, transfer payments, etc. Most conservatives today do believe in supply-side economics; those who’ve thought it through enough will apply that to poverty.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Very well stated, brother. I saw your posting on RedBlue. I had tried to respond to the posting to which you referred, but the comment thingie does not seem to work very well. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciated what you said. I get just as perturbed when conservatives level the same charges against liberals. It just never ends, does it?