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Thursday, February 12, 2015

What's wrong with the political left/with the political right in the US

Before getting into the problems of the left and right, heres the biggest problem, for all of us:
We forget that the Good News of the Gospel is far more important than any current news that we can hear, see, or read about.

Who won the game, which celebrity or politician got caught doing what, who got shot, who got elected, what laws were passed, what natural and man-made disasters occurred, what acts of terrorism happened, are insignificant beside that Good News!

But there are other problems with the two most widely held political viewpoints in our country:

Problems with the Left
The Left:
seems to ignore Biblical teachings on sex and marriage;

tends to treat any lack of acceptance of homosexual activity, or of people who practice such, as hatred (See here for more on homosexuality); 

seems to believe that no one who is receiving welfare is in that position because they have made bad choices; 

tends to want to weaken property rights;

believes government action is the solution for almost any problem, although government is often inefficient, costs lots of money, and may not respond as it is supposed to.

The Left also: 

Often acts as if it believes that businesses and manufacturers are intrinsically evil;
Often acts as if it believes that labor unions are right, and have always been right;

often dismisses concerns about jobs and living space, in order to protect endangered species that are probably doomed to extinction, no matter what we might do;

favors government-run healthcare, even though there are problems with it, in other countries;

usually believes that it is wrong to interfere with a woman’s right (under Roe v. Wade) to have an abortion, and that abortions should be publicly funded, even though abortion may be murder, and some abortions are for frivolous reasons – the fetus is the wrong sex, or the woman wants to go on a ski vacation. (For more on abortion, see here.);

tends to be suspicious of police and other law enforcement bodies;

sometimes acts as if Christianity wasn't a special religion, the only one offering an effective cure for sin, and a relationship with the King of the Universe.

sometimes seems to ignore the rights of Christians, and favor other groups. 

Problems with the Right
The Right:
often ignores the problems of the less privileged, and wants to cut or eliminate government help for them (See Psalm 72 and Jeremiah 22 for evidence that government has an obligation to help the poor. A post here gives statistics on how much Christians are giving to the poor, and argues that being for government help makes sense, since the church is doing so little.) Often acts as if being less privileged is the fault of the poor, even though many poor people are children, or disabled;

often acts as if all resident non-citizens are here illegally, and are a grave economic, or social, threat to our way of life, or are out to murder us, seemingly forgetting that most of us are the offspring of immigrants, that many illegal immigrants are doing work that citizens wont do, and that many of them live lives that are consistent with family values. (Note Leviticus 19:33 “‘If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.... Heres the result of a search for stranger in the ESV Bible. Some of those verses also seem to be relevant.);

forgets that Jesus didn’t say “stand your ground!,” (with a gun) but did say “turn the other cheek.” (See here for more scripture, in a post by John Piper, who responded to a speech by the President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell, jr., who had advocated the threat of use of privately held guns by Christians.);

believes that armed might is the solution for many problems, of all sorts, even though wars always kill or ruin the lives of innocent people, destroy property, harm the environment, and separate the families of those in the military (Some wars may have been, or be, just and, therefore worth the cost. The Second World War, and perhaps other recent conflicts seem to have qualified. For more on just war theory, see here.);

tends to believe that the police should not be questioned, even when it is likely that they have acted illegally, or that they have violated police procedures;

may confuse not getting special treatment with persecution -- as in the so-called "War on Christmas." When some person, or some store, uses "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," that's not persecution;

may want to advance Christian beliefs by force of legal action, rather than by gentle persuasion and example. Example -- wanting official Christian prayer in public schools, when there may be non-Christians affected, when doing so might open the door for Muslims, Wiccans, and others to demand that their prayers be offered, and when some of the teachers who would be expected to lead prayer might not be Christians. (Currently, according to US law, student groups can pray, adults can teach Christian doctrine to students whose guardians want them to receive such teaching, in the schools, and individuals can pray privately, or bring a Bible to school, at any time.)
The Right also:
claims to get its ideas from scripture, when some of them come from Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, etc., and some of those ideas ignore, or contradict, the Bible;

acts as if it believes that labor unions are, and always have been, detrimental to the public good;

doesn't seem to understand that there are millions of people who work every day, but don't earn enough money from their jobs to pay for housing, clothes, food, transportation and healthcare for themselves, let alone for their families;

often dismisses the plight of millions of people, including many who work, who have no health insurance, and claims that our health system is the best in the world, in spite of the evidence;

believes that free enterprise can solve all problems, in spite of the evidence (the BP Gulf Oil spill, the economic collapse of 2008, the widening gap between the well off and those who are not, etc.);

often does not protect the environment, when we have a Biblical duty to do so;

tends to treat homosexual tendency as if it were homosexual activity (which, according to the Bible, is sinful) and to view homosexual sin as especially evil more so than adultery (which is condemned in the Ten Commandments, while homosexual behavior is not), and to deny the possibility that homosexual tendency is influenced by heredity and home environment;

dismisses accepted scientific claims, including global climate change, (see also here), and that the earth is very old;

wants to cut taxes, preferably to zero, and wants to eliminate government drastically, or entirely, in spite of Biblical support for taxes, and for governments; (For a cautionary tale on the dangers of cutting taxes too much, see here.)

sometimes acts as if Muslims not only have a different faith than Christians, but as if all Muslims are terrorists who want to destroy those who don't agree with them. (Michael Gerson discusses such claims, and defends Presidents Obama and G. W. Bush, although he thinks President Obama's response to terrorism has not been serious enough. An article in Christianity Today is similar.)

Problems of both the Left and the Right:
using the Bible to find excuses for their beliefs, rather than following Biblical principles because they are right;

confusing their political and cultural beliefs with Christianity;

not seeking guidance, on issues that are controversial, from the Bible; (An article on immigration says that only about 10% of evangelical Christians say that the Bible has been the main influence on their position on immigration, for example.)

refusing to consider that their position might be wrong, or to believe that another side may have some valid reasons for disagreeing (This is often because they pay attention to only one
side in getting their news and opinions about the world. See here for the effect of this on Congress.);

forgetting that those in power, even those you fully supported during an election, are going to make mistakes, or perhaps even deliberately do wrong things. (They, like the rest of us, are sinful, fallible, humans.);

not praying for those in power, especially if they dont agree with their positions. (The Bible says that we should, and this was written when pagan emperors, and Roman invaders, were in power.);

distorting the truth, or just plain ignoring it, or passing on distorted truth, lies, or slander about politicians and political positions not agreed with. (For instance, most political ads, if you can stand them, and a great deal that is passed on through Facebook.);

not respecting leaders, and those seeking high office, even mocking and ridiculing those in authority:
Exodus 22:28 You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
Ecclesiastes 10:20a Don’t curse the king, no, not in your thoughts
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2a Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God
2 Peter 2:13 Therefore subject yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14a or to governors 17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (Quotations from the World English Bible, public domain. In Peter
s time, the king, or emperor, was a pagan, who probably encouraged worship of himself by his subjects. But Peter said that he was still to be honored.)
President Obama has been the butt of all sorts of disrespectful mockery and ridicule on the Internet, on Facebook and elsewhere. President Bush was, when he was President, and, to some extent, he still is.
Does the Bible say that we have to agree with our elected leaders on all points? No. See here, and here. But disagreement should be honest, and respectful.

Most of us, whether strongly left- or right-oriented, or somewhere in the middle, agree on at least a few goals, such as:

Our troops should be cared for promptly and effectively, when they return;

Something must be done to make the Social Security program more financially stable, or to replace it;

The tax code should be simplified.

But our elected leaders, Congress and Presidents, don’t seem to be willing to really talk about these issues with each other, and with us, or to make serious proposals, constructively criticize, compromise, and fix these problems. (There are, of course, many other issues make your own list where disagreement between Left and Right means that it is difficult to even decide on worthwhile goals. Thats another problem.);

Most elected officials seem to be more concerned with getting re-elected than they are with acting on principle;
Reminder: the biggest problem of all, for all of us:

We forget that the Good News of the Gospel is far more important than any current news that we can hear, see, or read about.

Thanks for reading! Pray for our leaders:
1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence.

Cal Thomas, a Bible-believing Christian, and politically right-oriented columnist, warns against supposing that a Bible-believing politician will do much to change public morals. He cites scripture (Psalm 146:3 Don’t put your trust in princes, each a son of man in whom there is no help.) to back this up. He also proposes a Christian platform, namely James 1:27 (Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world), but doubts that anyone would run on it, or win if they did.

Thanks for reading! This is a post revised from the original, which appeared in January 2015. Slightly revised on August 25, 2015, December 7, 2015, December 24, 2015, and February 8, 2016.

December 30, 2015: Ken Schenck, Bible scholar, has posted on how the different portrayals of Jesus in the Gospels seem to support various political agendas. 

In this post, I have tried to quote all of the Bible passages that relate to politics in general.

December 12, 2017: Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, has written an essay, which criticizes both the left and the right, and says that Christianity is going to get a black eye, no matter what happens. This essay was prompted by the election to fill the Senate seat of Jeff Sessions, in Alabama. It was written, and published, before the result of the election was known.


Bob said...

A great analysis of our culture and its politics and a refocus on the most important issue for all of us. Thanks Martin for your blog.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, Bob.

Anonymous said...

Doc, thanks for this post. I like Friedman's quote on solving our problems, goes something like this:"...the issue is not a partisan issue. We will not solve our problems by electing the right people. We will only solve our problems by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing." So it must be that we are to promote the gospel individually and protect the right to do that activity in a political manner and not the other way around ... Regards, Alex

Martin LaBar said...

I think that's right. Thanks, Alex.

chuck said...

Alot of this seems true in how political sides view things. There is a teaching in Catholicism called the "seamless garment of christ" which pulls together being anti-war, anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, anti-divorce, pro-union, pro-environment.

Some of the leading priests of this view helped draft the new deal legislation that created social security and pushed for early versions of Medicare (I know you point out that government health care is a problem, but many millions of people in america have government health care between medicare, medicaid and the VA.) I can't imagine a world were people with medicare want to give it up.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Chuck. I didn't know about the priests and the New Deal, or the "seamless garment of Christ." Would that we lived in such a society, or that most of us even wanted it.

I should have been clearer about government healthcare. There are problems with it, of course, but, for people who have it, including retirees like me, it's mostly a good thing. But too many people have no health insurance at all, and even financing just those already on government healthcare does not seem to be sustainable for the future without some changes, which don't seem to be forthcoming.

chuck said...

Msgr. John Ryan was a Priest at Catholic University and was the author of the Bishops' Program of Social Reconstruction in 1919. This was used as a framework for parts of the New Deal and Msgr. Ryan was directly related in much of the drafting, he is sometimes known as "The Right Reverend New Dealer."

Even being placed on the National Recovery Administration. There was a large number of priest and nuns involved in these types of efforts (I actually wrote my senior college paper on these religious leaders dubbed "Labor Priests). There have actually been two priest elected to Congress, both of which were essentially New Deal style democrats. One from Wisconsin and one from Massachusetts.

For the the Seamless Garment (technically called "Consistent Ethic of Life") the real proponent was Cardinal Bernardin out of Chicago. Someone who did a lot that I really respect.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the information on Msgr. Ryan and Cardinal Bernardin, and others, Chuck.

Here's an article on the "labor priests." The first one seems to have been from Baltimore: