God, Government, and Liberty

BreakPoint | by Stephen Reed | Nov. 23, 2009

A coherent political worldview should be consistent with one’s spiritual outlook, but I’m referring to the temptation all of us have to cherry pick those parts of Scripture or doctrine that agree with our own conclusions, rather than picking up those passages that challenge our preconceived notions.

All this is to say that my purpose here is not to use theology to justify a political belief. Rather, it’s the opposite. We—and our elected leaders—can learn a lot from the reality of free will with which God has saturated our lives here on earth.

Both major parties have been guilty of a kind of paternalism with the American people over the years. Beyond merely challenging us to go higher and contribute to the commonweal, we have had an endless parade of civic preachers on the left and the right, telling us not only what they want us to consider—but sometimes telling us what they expect us to do. One political leader a few years ago even was caught saying, “We’re going to give the American people health care reform whether they want it or not.”

This reveals a dreadful opinion of the American people by those leaders who want to play parent with us. True enough, we may not always be informed enough to know exactly what to do or say regarding a given issue, but again, whose fault is that? Shouldn’t our elected representatives help to inform us, as best they can, about the major issues before us?
An Unfortunate Disconnect

Too often, the American people begin to get the drift that our elected representatives simply don’t want to empower us with knowledge of what goes on in Washington or our state capitals because that would take away some of the politicos’ power. And so the great disconnect between people and their government grows.

Where does this desire come from, to tell other people what to do—not just in a spiritual or educational context, but coercively, through the power of the law? Why must some people, unsatisfied to live their lives, insist on running others, too?

I’m not talking about overturning the criminal code or the principles of tort law. If someone, in their freedom, genuinely harms another person, restitution under the law is just. But why must some political leaders and others want to control so many facets of another person’s life? Where does this impulse come from, and where will it lead?

The God Who Gave Us Life Gave Us Liberty
While the God found in the Judeo-Christian story certainly intervenes and sometimes punishes, what one is amazed at is the degree of freedom He allows us. Sometimes that freedom can seem a bit overwhelming, frankly, and we wonder why God gave us so much individual freedom. For let’s face it: we each make our share of mistakes, abusing that freedom.

Still God seems to have given us free will as the necessary launch pad for any real love, virtue, and character development. As C.S. Lewis said so poignantly, “Experience is a hard teacher, but, by God, you learn.”

Indeed, by God we learn to become human beings through our freedom, which as Christians we then offer back to our Creator, knowing that He knows best how to guide our free will.

If God, who alone knows how best to guide our free will, still gives us so much freedom back for us to be responsible for in our lives, who in politics or government dares to think themselves more omniscient than the One who made us?

When the laws of man start to show the same respect for human beings that the laws of God have shown—suffusing us with personal responsibility—then perhaps the disconnect between government and our people will begin to recede.

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