It is impossible to separate politics and religion.

Think about it.  From a Christian perspective, if you are a believer, and you place your trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and follow his teachings in building a relationship with God, then that becomes the central focus of your life, and it affects everything you do.  A sincere faith can’t be separated from the other parts of your life, or it isn’t a sincere faith.  At least, that’s my take on it.

If that’s the case, then the principles of your faith will have an effect on your political perspective.  It’s simply a matter of priorities.  As you grow in your faith, and you spend time studying and applying its principles from the scripture, the way you see the world becomes influenced by the convictions that develop in your life.  The more you understand truth, and make what you understand the foundation of your life, the more your convictions will reflect the sincerity and intensity of your faith.  That’s the way it should be.  Don’t let anyone try to convince you that they can be separated.  They can’t be.  That’s what I call a “Christian Worldview.”

That doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone.  Christians should arrive at the same general conclusions, but that doesn’t mean there will be complete consensus.  And what has happened is that powerful influences and forces have attempted to establish a very specific political position, baptize it, and call it the Christian view.  But the view that gets that label is not always consistent with the Biblical principles it claims as its measuring stick.

Generally, Christian political influence centers on a few single issues.  Opposition to legalized abortion is probably the single most influential issue related to what has become known as the Christian right.  In recent years, other social issues, such as support for school choice vouchers, prayer in the public schools, and more recently, opposition to same-sex marriage have also defined the politics of the Christian right.  They are issues that, for most of the rest of the population outside of the conservative Christian circle, seem trivial, and not important enough to determine everything else.  But for most Christians on the political right, it is these issues that determine everything else.  For the most part, politicians that support these issues get a pass on everything else.  In fact, many, if not most of those who are within the Christian right will support political perspectives and principles in areas that are contrary to, or incompatible with a Biblical view, as long as the support for these few litmus tests is in place.  

Support for political positions which work toward the relief of poverty, or which advance educational opportunities or improve access to health care is virtually missing from the politics of the Christian right.  In some cases, the perspective that would be consistent with the teachings of Jesus, and the Biblical view is actually opposed by that of the Christian right.  There is a lot that gets left out. 

The issue of health care is a good example.  Most of the politically active leadership of the Christian right is opposed to any kind of change, either in health care finance or in the reform of the medical system itself.  They take the attitude that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  That ignores the fact that access to health care in this country has become a class privilege, with those who can afford insurance coverage getting better health care than those who can’t.  The fact that no real alternative plan to Obamacare has come from the Republican party, supported by the majority of the Christian right, and their response has simply been to stonewall and attempt to obstruct it from being effective, is a clear indication they are satisfied with the status quo. 

I think that health care has a Biblical foundation.  Years ago, apparently, most Christians in this country did as well, because for a long time, the major providers in the health care field were church-owned and operated hospitals.  That legacy is preserved in that many hospitals have retained their names, associated with the churches and denominations that owned them.  I believe that the medical knowledge we possess, and that which we continue to learn, is a gift that is being revealed by God, who is the source of all of that knowledge as the creator of the human body.  The strongest Biblical example we have regarding how we should regard health care is the example of Jesus himself.  The New Testament is full of descriptions of the lives of people who were suffering from debilitating, painful, terrible diseases.  Jesus didn’t set any specific qualifications for healing those who presented themselves to him in faith, and in some cases, didn’t even wait for that.  Nor did his disciples when they discovered the healing power of the Holy Spirit after his resurrection.  I think the example Jesus set makes medical knowledge applied as health care an integral part of the very core of human existence, and the sanctity of life.  To see it as a business that earns profit through a supply and demand system where the demand is heightened by fear of losing one’s life, or by the pain and suffering they are experiencing is, therefore, immoral.  And that makes our current system of accessing medical care immoral.  But most of the Christian right is either silent on the issue, or supports those who want the current system to remain untouched.

The issue of food stamps provides another excellent illustration.  The very existence of a government program to balance the difference between the cost of food and the ability of a relatively large segment of the American people to buy enough to keep from starving to death is an indictment on the church.  If Christians, collectively, were paying attention to the scripture, and honoring God’s word by doing what it says, there would be no need for a food stamp program.  Those who lack an inadequate food supply would be taken care of by the church.  And I’m going to give credit where credit is due, there are many churches, of all kinds, which are deeply committed to feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and in some cases, providing basic health care.  But there are many more who are not, and there are many Christians who are fighting against the use of government funds to provide for those who are unable to provide for themselves, through no fault of their own. 

There are some issues which the Christian right supports, and which I do as well.  I’m all for a system of tax vouchers to provide the parents of students with the ability to choose the school and the kind of education their child will receive, even if, and especially if this takes place in a Christian operated institution.  The public education system is a tax supported monopoly, and as such, does not deliver a quality product, if you can use a business analogy for an educational institution.  Why should parents be forced to send their children to a school that doesn’t provide for their child’s educational needs, and why should they be forced to support it?  This isn’t a matter of religious liberty, it is a matter of a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars.  There’s no coercion involved, the families of students would make a choice regarding where they wanted to send their children. 

Personally, I try to submit each political position I consider to the test of scripture.  Without taking the Bible out of context, it is not that difficult to discern the principles that are found in the teachings of Jesus, as well as the way they were interpreted by the Bible’s writers.  When I do that, I often discover that the party line is not consistent with what I am reading or studying in the scripture.  And I also discover that what I may have accepted and concluded as being right is really pretty wrong. 

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

One response

  1. K Gray says:

    Except that Jesus didn’t talk about how governments should use their taxing power but how individuals and churches should use money. And the truth is, Jesus obeyed His father in whom to physically heal, which was not everyone. That’s a pretty deep mystery, maybe having to do with the greater good — the spread of the good news, salvation is here.If we all obeyed as Jesus did, I agree that we collectively could serve and heal so many more.

    But if we believe government is a God -established institution to promote good and punish/restrain evil (Romans 13), yes Christians certainly will want to advocate and vote for our understanding of “good.”

    Example one: the business of parents paying to killing off 1/3 of each new generation is “not good,” perhaps even evil – resulting in more deaths than war. That is a plausible Christian view. The sheer numbers, and life-or-death aspect, propel this issue to the top for many.

    Example two: healthcare/relief of suffering is good. Whether the ACA results in more healthcare or less healthcare remains to be seen. Is that a ludicrous statement? Consider that the ACA doesn’t primarily provide healthcare. It spends government money on an administrative bureaucracy of insurance and taxes (some of which have already been cancelled). Our taxes will pay for navigators, exchanges, information, PR, enrollment drives, bureaucratic jobs, tax agents, paperwork, websites, networks, information processing and databanks, etc., NOT healthcare, not doctors and nurses and medicine. Meanwhile, unions claim it is “breaking” the sacred 40 hour workweek that is the “backbone of the middle class,” leaving people with fewer hours, less pay, fewer choices. Small-ish employers say they can’t afford it, or eventually, the fines. Insurers are backing out exchanges or raising premiums. Doctors are retiring early. Many people do not understand that Obamacare is not free care; they (especially the young) have lived uninsured by choice, but now they can’t, they have to buy or pay fines. How many will run to sign up? Will they then get “more” healthcare? In my experience, they’d rather have the $50 co-pay to spend on food or gas. Maybe all of this is just birthing pains and the end result will be more healthcare, or more accessible healthcare, especially for those with preexisting conditions, and will not drain resources that could be used more effectively to provide healthcare. That remains to be proven.

    It is not unChristian to look at many ways to provide healthcare. (For example, Urgent Doc is a market innovation, not a governmental initiative. It is not a comprehensive solution but is one example of filling a need, – directly providing healthcare and relieving local hospital ER’s of minor cases — without taking away resources from other citizens or breaking any government bank). Despite its best intentions and even with perfect support the ACA might be good or it might not; time will tell. Neither is it unChristian to say “As a citizen, I don’t have the complete answer, but I don’t think this is right.” It is also not unChristian to want to reform aid programs, as President Clinton did, rather than always expanding them with more funding and lowered requirements (eg., look for work). It is not unChristian to ask goverment programs to slow their growth (that’s essentially what “cut” means) by being more effecient and providing some evidence that it works.

    I work in a very fruitful, effective anti-poverty ministry whose motto is “a hand up, not a handout” and is based on Christian principles. We work in harmony with other ministries who DO provide handouts (good for them!) and with other helping groups which are quite selective and have many requirements (Americorps, VISTA, ExperienceWorks, programs for single mothers, etc.).

    If we all had the same approach to “doing good,” it wouldn’t work.

    The Christian community is creative and innovative and we approach community issues with a variety of God-given gifts, experiences and ideas. If we are going to promote good we should listen respectfully to one another about what government can do, or should not do, and how to spend our fellow citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars. If we each follow God’s leading we will not end up in exactly the same point, but will do His will in His purpose and time.