by David Beilstein
Conservative radio personality, Hugh Hewitt guest-appeared on Michael Medved’s radio show yesterday, Tuesday, p.m. The conversation turned to religion and politics, with Mr Hewitt and Mr Medved seeming to transpose things Sacred with things secular, respectfully.
Mr Hewitt turned the conversation between God fearers and non-believers—enumerating the differences, politically. Whilst such differences could be interesting—and leftist ideas about the state replacing religion are quite unfortunate—it would seem the conflation of religion and politics is problematic for several reasons.
The problem being, to my mind, is that politics concerns those secular things non-believers have just as much vested interest in as believing Christian saints. War and peace, taxes, income stagnation, property rights, free markets, and national debt, etc. Needless to say, what is enumerated in the U.S. Constitution (Freedom of Speech, Property Rights, Freedom of Religion, et cetera) applies to non-believing citizens of America—apart of the secular kingdom—as much as Christian saints.
The antithesis between believers and non-believers—as articulated by St Augustine of Hippo and the Protestant Reformers—was in the main, not based upon penultimate concerns, but ultimate things.
A conflation of Christianity and politics, nonetheless, creates more political problems for conservatives (i.e., classical liberals) than it solves. With such an emphasis, such ideological throughway is not theological in character—of Sacred things—and also, does not enumerate, or distinguish, Christianity’s distinctive religious character—it’s “otherworldly” character; of Christ’s Holy Gospel, from other religions; deemed false, by Sacred Scripture.
Ultimately, Christianity is not tolerant of other religions. Thus, the Christian religion is a religious mixture of esoterica when thinking about paradigms in which to argue for polity direction and specific polices affecting differing religions and non-believers alike within the public square. In the eyes of the state, however, under fealty to the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment must be tolerant of the true religion (Christianity) and all false religion, if a free society is to be pursued.
There is no liberty of the individuality if there is no freedom of consciousness. And freedom of consciousness does include the right to believe [or think] wrong, and/or, inaccurate things. Likewise, the Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant tendency in sundry “conservative” political environs to conflate the Sacred into the secular kingdom appears to be strongly eschatologically inconsistent with the New Testament Sacred Scriptures—glimpsed from a pilgrim perspective for New Testament saints. Such a mischaracterisation of the Christian religion for political gain, sentences Christianity to another worldly special interest group—desirous to lord over citizens of a secular kingdom—one that, likewise, requires convictions and presuppositions non-believers do not have.
The Kingdom of God is spiritually discerned, a truth wonderfully articulated by St Paul numerous times in the blessed Apostle’s epistles, (Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians ). What is spiritually discerned is a gracious gift from the triune God, Biblically comprehended. Thus, to use Christianity to create Biblical norms of morality and public legality, within a secular society, seems to not only be bad politics—a misconstrued Christian faith also, but a needlessly illiberal perspective, within the confines of a liberal republic in the classical sense.
Such views, it seems, resonate with those evangelical-minded believers whose ecumenical concerns arise from fear—fear needing a bucket to fill to further a [the culture war] that has been contradictory to the peaceful and quiet life Christianity demands of saints. Needless to say, the culture war has been unable to roll back cultural decline, and instead has led to more statist control of greater private sector acreage—completely at odds with any good classical liberal ideas about the individual and parameters of secular state duties.
Radio callers did not point out these things. An unfortunate, grim, turn of events. But Mr Hewitt did try to make the argument that religion was not an issue in the GOP because there is not a technical “litmus test” concerning the particular religion of Republican candidates.
Technically, sure. But Mr Hewitt seemed to ignore the notion there need not be a technical litmus test for GOP candidates and religion, for the criticism of the culture of the Grand Old Party to stick. Only a political party that has confused the role (and distinction) between the state and Scripture’s understanding of God’s heavenly purposes, does the back and forth between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Republican Mitt Romney about Jesus Christ—over the course of the Republican primaries—make any sense.
It would seem, honestly, Republicans have sought to acquire acreage that is not theirs to occupy. Better for the GOP, politically and classically liberal speaking, to be a stark defender of the Constitution’s First Amendment, than an evangelical social club. God has no political party. And God’s nation of choosing is not America, but penitent and sinful saints within Christ’s New Testament Church. Politics and politicians using Christian faith for secular points has indeed winnowed and watered down Christianity in the last few generations. It has not made it stronger, as public polls indicate every election cycle. God, through the risen Christ, has freely decided to mediate His Covenant of Grace through the work and ministerial nature of the Church. Until conservatives who support the Republican Party understand the Church is where God mediates His reconciliation with Justified sinners in a special relationship, will they begin to see politics correctly.
Moreover, the pursuit of Christians, Protestant and Roman Catholic, to erect a publicly relevant Christian faith requires that Christianity become more and more what mortal men require of it. In effect, what mortal men and women perceive Christianity to be, torn further and further away from Christianity’s Holy character. Thus, Christianity’s Holy character—it’s law/gospel divine mesa—is misconstrued in order to mount mere human consensus, for public good.
The Twentieth century character of Christianity is a good lesson. It is the century where earthly Christianity blossomed—quite removed from the law/gospel—and the social gospel [theology of glory] dominated. The effect: social crusades of earthly kingdom ethics dominated; ruling over the church, attenuating Churchly, Holy Gospel-centric Christianity. Once the reason for the church was removed—the need of the people for the church was removed as well.
People could get secular ethics from secular sources.
Such social gospel rooted Christianity—either of the left or right—buttress various reasons why more and more evangelicals, and Roman Catholics cheerfully endorse behaviour Sacred Scripture teaches to be sinful, i.e., homosexual marriage, in order to build a bridge—a relevant Christian religion that does not offend men and women—in order to inspire some secular social agenda. It would seem by realising the inherent dualistic nature of Christianity, a two-fold avenue appears, allowing for the state to handle its duties, and the Church of Jesus Christ to be faithful to her Holy character and Sacred mission, within a secular age.
Further, this dualism —between the Sacred and secular—is one of the most individual and “otherworldly” traits of Christian faith, apart from all other religions.
None of this is to say sincere piety does not need to inform temporal existence for believing saints in Christ. It does, as St James makes clear in the blessed Apostle’s epistle. It is to say, however, the need in GOP/conservative circles to marry politics and evangelical faith—Bible believing Christianity—to politics reduces Christianity to nothing but a gimmick in an earthly turf war; more or less a game, in order to achieve temporal power to lord over citizens not of the faith. This is at odds, violently so, with Christ’s own life and ministry; a life which was at odds with both pharisaic vainglory—a marriage of state and Temple—and Roman pagan authority; Caesar as god.
Conversely, the last thing the non-believer ought to think of when confronted with the Word of God, Christ’s Church; the proclamation of the Holy Gospel; is earthly concerns, of politics, and of the authority of the state.
In conclusion, the very essence and nature of the Church is to be an embassy of the Heavenly Kingdom—an ethic of the world-to-come, and its Creator, the triune God—an institution that should, as Christ mediates her, be starkly different and governed by wholly different ethics [The Great Commission ] than any worldly institution the world over.