The application of Christian morality to any area of life is complicated. We’d like to think that it’s not, and that it is simply a matter of reading the black and white print of the Bible, and doing what it says. But reading the Bible, and interpreting the Bible in the context in which it was written, with the discernment to understand what that means in the culture in which we are trying to apply it, requires getting out and away from our tendency to rely on our own wisdom and reason, and depend on the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, we are able to interpret the written word, and that leads us to application. It is a matter of spiritual maturity and life experience, and even when that is present, we’re not always going to get it right.
The absolutes are easy. It’s not difficult to discern the value that Jesus places on human life, and it isn’t hard to find Biblical evidence that points to conception as the beginning of it. Taking another human life is wrong, and that’s one of the principles which can easily be interpreted by reading the black and white. The whole principle of relationships that lead to family development is pretty clear as well. It involves one man and one woman, and the commitment of a lifetime.
Jesus emphasized the fact that, after years of “religious thinking,” changes in the way people interpreted scripture, and lived their lives to please God, were necessary. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount, including the beatitudes, is characterized in Jesus’ words, “You have heard that it was said…but…I say unto you…..” And that turned most religious philosophy, which had been watered down by years of human reason, intellect and wisdom, on its ear.
Obviously, most of what Jesus said and did was intended to directly impact the culture and time in which he lived. It laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Christian church, which was that part of the Kingdom of God that was intended to move forward from that point, underlined by the tearing of the veil in the Holy of Holies, and eventually the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. That was something that Jesus predicted, and interpreted, for his disciples, who recorded his words in scripture. But most of what Jesus said and did was also intended to directly impact the culture and time from that point forward. And while there are a lot of specific subjects that Jesus did not directly address, there are others on which he was crystal clear.
Jesus had a lot to say about personal wealth, its acquisition, its use, and its abuse, and about money and the philosophy around it by which Christians are instructed to live. He had a lot to say about ministry, not only to the poor, but to the lost. He revealed God in a way that he had never been revealed or understood before. He undermined the religious structure of his day that had established a hierarchy of privilege and power, pointed out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and rectified injustice, sometimes miraculously, and at least once with a whip in his hand.
If we “get it right” on issues like abortion, and same sex marriage, we need to be consistent on issues like health care, wealth management, business dealings, and human relations. A lot of attention is given to the debate on same sex marriage, but very little attention seems to be devoted to the divorce crisis in the US, which is far greater in scope, and which the church seems powerless to address because within its membership, the divorce rate is as high as it is in the population at large. Likewise, we are focused on the sanctity of human life when it comes to pre-born babies, but we are not concerned that 40 million Americans, most of them children less than ten years away from the womb, do not have health care coverage, which is also a sanctity of life issue. The racial inequities in the application of the death penalty are an indication that there is moral inconsistency in there somewhere.
And we still can’t seem to get away from war as a means to resolving problems.
That’s probably enough for now. Let it sink in. Christian faith and secular politics really don’t mix well, if you are genuinely serious about bringing in your Christian values, because you will have to be consistent in their application and there are going to be some things that won’t fall in line with your political agenda. You’ll be forced to either change your view, or ignore the moral side of the argument.