Anthrocide is the official website for D.L. Hamilton, author of several Christian novels and essays.

Politics. Ugh!

Shortly I will have lived 60 years, and in that amount of time I have encountered literally thousands of people’s political views. I can honestly say that not once in all that time have I ever witnessed anyone reversing someone else’s political slant by outwitting, out-arguing, or out-insulting them. Yet, baiting and demeaning those of a differing political viewpoint goes on relentlessly and has now become a favorite pastime in the social media venues, notably Facebook.

Due to its futility, I generally, with rare exceptions, steer clear of political debates or venting my political views. However, although I have yet to see anyone’s views change dramatically from political discussions, I have seen honest, open-minded people moderate their views a bit. So, with that goal in mind, I now present some of my take on things.

Throughout my life I have been pretty conservative. Most of that stems from the basic conservative philosophy that there is absolute truth and, hence, absolute right and wrong. These things are absolute because they are established by God. The liberal philosophy that right and wrong are relative and situational is, to me, nonsensical. Taken to its logical extreme, it says that anything anyone wants to regard as right is right and the only absolute wrong is not tolerating another person’s philosophy. In a broader sense, it claims that right and wrong are set by (the local) society and are permitted to change from place to place and time to time. Hence, if a particular culture’s mores change to, say, no longer restrict public nudity, the liberal deems that as the new accepted norm—as his/her philosophy would dictate. If right and wrong are set by society and this particular society says this is right, then, for them at least, it is right. No one has grounds to condemn them. This attitude has been exemplified in recent years when the Left condemned missionaries from spreading the gospel in primitive, cannibalistic societies since that would impose Western mores on another society. Though we are appalled by cannibalism, who are we to condemn another society’s behavior?

However, this view is a house of cards. If we apply this philosophy—which, if it is to be the correct and enlightened philosophy we must—to, say, NAZI Germany, we are left unable to condemn their slaughter of 6 million Jews. In their eyes it was more than justifiable; they believed this “ethnic cleansing” served the greater good. Indeed, during postwar trials those who participated in these atrocities claimed they were just following orders. But God’s orders establish a moral absolute against such behavior that countermands any others that corrupt men or governments could give. I’m sorry, but this notion that societies—or even individuals—each get to decide for themselves what is right and wrong and no one else is allowed to judge them is ludicrous and ultimately unworkable.

No, the tenets set by the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), by Jesus’ commands to love God and love one another (Mark 12:29-31), and by New Testament principles including “consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) condemn such things as the holocaust and are the bedrock for a healthy society. Other Biblically-based mandates such as marital commitment and fidelity, respect for law and order, and an unwavering regard for truth are the glue that holds civilization together. (Sidebar: Try to make the case that, in the absence of absolutes and the Authority who establishes them, truth is more virtuous than habitual and flagrant falsehood. If there is no God championing truth, then to lie as often as one wishes is every bit as virtuous as telling the truth, is it not?)

Insofar as the conservative political view supports the belief in moral absolutes, it is the only philosophy that, to me, is worthwhile or that makes sense.

Another fundamental principle that draws me to conservatism is its concept of humanity itself. Two basic liberal concepts are (1) that humans are not special creations (in God’s image) but are merely animals with overly-evolved brains and (2) that humans are fundamentally good—it is only negative environmental (read “parental”) and societal influences that cause evil behavior. And, even evil behavior can be prevented and/or remedied by sufficient and proper education.

Unfortunately there are two serious flaws to point #2, the first of which relates to point #1. To claim that humans are basically “good” implies that there exists an immutable and universal definition of goodness. However, if point #1 is true and we are no different than a pack of hyenas on the African plains, there can be no such thing as good and evil. If the hyenas savage an infant wildebeest there is no tribunal determining whether that was good or bad; might makes right. So, in a godless liberal society, the amoral kidnapper who nabs and murders an infant has every right to ask this of those who condemn his actions as wrong: “Says who?” In that scenario, it is an unanswerable question. Why would the mores of those who condemn the murderer be superior to his? Again, who says kindness is superior to cruelty? (More on that shortly.) To the Christian, goodness equals God-ness. A major purpose of God sending His Son to be “God with us” was to help us grasp not only what is good and evil but why.

The second flaw is that it is demonstrably false that humans left to their own devices are fundamentally good (assuming one can settle on a definition of good). The idea is that it is innate in humans to consider, for example, kindness to be superior to cruelty and that it is one’s culture that ruins that innate benevolence. Yet, there has never been a society on earth—no matter how isolated—whose members have been totally and perpetually kind to each other. And there never will be. Why? Because, while humans do have enough of “the image of God” in them for the majority to recognize that kindness is a virtue and cruelty a vice, we are a fallen race and are unable to consistently behave in accordance with our better natures. Just as some members of society have addictions that drag them into behaviors they themselves at other times deplore, all members of the human race are addicted to—and fall prey to—evil behavior (a.k.a. sin) despite knowing they should not. One only has to observe what occurs whenever a situation creates anarchy. The depths to which humanity sinks at such times is chilling. Christianity acknowledges this human failing and seeks the redemptive power of Christ and the Holy Spirit to help mankind rise above its baser nature.

And as to whether sufficient education can overcome this sin-nature, consider this: I am certain that there cannot be more than a dozen adults and high-schoolers in the entire United States of America who have not heard that promiscuous unprotected sexual activity is catastrophically dangerous. Virtually none are “uneducated” to that fact. Yet 6.2 million new cases of HPV occur each year. Some states are so desperate they are requiring high school girls to get a vaccination against it despite the fact that the vaccine has caused severe side effects and even death in some cases. So much for the omnipotent power of education to control human behavior.

So, I take issue on several levels with Liberal beliefs.

HOWEVER… All that having been said, I am infuriated by Christians who (a) spew venom at liberals and demean their viewpoint, (b) behave as if conservatism is a co-requisite of belonging to Christ, and (c) accept all tenets of conservative dogma as if it were equal to Scripture in validity.

How can I, a conservative, hold such an attitude? Because of the following (which I am sure will not set well with other conservatives).

  • Liberal philosophy does have some merit. Yes, you read that right. I have long ago lost all respect for the inanity of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk who blame everything from the national debt to a rainy day on liberals and, if necessary, will invent flaws in even an excellent idea if its source is a liberal. One basic, admirable—even godly—tenet of liberalism is to help the less fortunate. This was a common theme of our Lord Jesus—go back and read his parables if you don’t believe me. Is the Protestant Work Ethic based on Scriptural philosophy? Yes, and in a perfect world everyone would earn his or her own way. But as the Bible itself teaches, ours is a far-from-perfect world in which there will always be poor people. Are there lazy freeloaders in society who just work the system for a handout? Without question. But let me tell you what I have seen. A young woman married right out of high school and in no time was pregnant with her first child. Three more children later, and with the youngest in diapers, her husband ran off with another woman leaving this stay-at-home mom, who had never worked and had no skills, without an income. What was she to do? Her ex-husband found a way to conveniently be out of work whenever the authorities questioned him regarding child support. She wanted to take classes to learn a skill but how would she support her kids in the meantime? And who would tend them while she trained or worked? The church she attended was too small and too broke to support her. I’m certainly no Marxist, but like it or not, there are times when the government has to provide a safety net for the needy. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Irritate a conservative. Share.” Sadly, too many conservative Christians missed the part of the Book that would have us give to those in need and expect nothing in return. The cause of Christ would be greatly advanced, and the need for government involvement reduced, if His people were more generous to, and less suspicious of those in need. While no one wants to support scam artists, when the need appears legitimate it is a risk worth taking. Scripture says, “Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7.)
  • Conservatism is not always right. I think it would be fair to say, for example, that racism—something that no Christian should have any part in—is primarily a bastion of conservative extremists. And then there’s this whole thing about guns. I have to admit that I simply don’t get it. I have no idea if registration of firearms will provide any kind of deterrent to violent crime or not, but I don’t understand the rabid opposition to it, especially among Christian conservatives. Debates about the particulars of the Second Amendment aside, the underlying fear seems to be that if weapons are registered this will enable the government to confiscate them. Okay, that would be unfortunate I guess, but our cars are registered and no one worries about the government confiscating them. The next part of the argument is that sportsmen should be able to keep their hunting rifles. Okay, no one is saying you can’t. But there is still more to it; if the government wanted to register fishing poles there would be complaint about the nuisance but not the kind of furor as exists in the gun lobby. I doubt there would even be a fishing pole lobby. As near as I can tell, the conservative position on guns is that we want them unregistered in case the government ever decides to create some kind of police state and burst into our homes to do God-knows-what. My issues with that are: (1) If something like that should ever happen where troops and tanks come rolling into our neighborhoods, they’re going to do whatever they have in mind regardless of whether or not you own a 30-30 or a 12-gauge, and (2) What exactly does the Christian gun-owner have in mind? Sniping soldiers from his rooftop in cold blood? Somehow that doesn’t gel with the term “Christlike.”
  • Jesus was not a conservative. Don’t misunderstand; He wasn’t a liberal either. Truthfully, if Jesus’ earthly ministry were in modern-day America I feel pretty sure He would be disgusted with all of our political parties. Hence, I have considerable doubt as to which party he would be most identified with. But I know for absolute certainty which party His enemies, the Pharisees, would belong to. And, as a conservative, that brings me up short. Jesus drove the Pharisees nuts because he associated with and befriended the rabble and dregs of society. While He did not applaud or even “tolerate” their sin—instead he forgave it (Luke 7:36-50) and encouraged them to turn from it (John 8:1-11)—He loved these lost souls and gave them hope. Which side of the political spectrum does that sound most like?
  • One of conservatism’s principal complaints is liberalism’s apparent belief that government should and can solve all of society’s problems. Yet, hypocritically, I hear conservative Christians all the time who seem fixated that if only we had conservatives in control of the government life would be grand. That is seriously flawed thinking from at least two standpoints: (1) For Christians to put their faith in government—no matter who is running it—rather than in God is tantamount to denying Christ, and (2) The notion that having all of government under the control of one party solves everything is demonstrably false—it’s happened in the past and the world did not suddenly become the Garden of Eden. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that, as American citizens, Christians have every right to participate in government, vote, campaign for candidates, and even run for office if desired. I also hope that the party and candidates that best help families thrive and people to live peaceful, God-fearing lives wins. But all of this must always be tempered with the knowledge that the Christian’s primary reliance is upon—and allegiance is to—the Lord Jesus, not candidates or parties.
  • The notion that unless one is a conservative he/she cannot be a Christian (or, at least, one’s Christianity is suspect) is beyond idiotic. I realize that conservative Christians consider support for the unborn as a litmus test of one’s faith. I personally am appalled at the wanton slaughter of unborn babies and contribute to pro-life charities. However, conservative Christians have the notion that one either opposes all abortion or else he/she is demonically in favor of flagrant and pitiless murder AND cannot be sincere about serving Christ. Although it would difficult to explain any Christian supporting partial-birth and viable-baby abortions, it is not a given that being a Christian automatically means one considers life as beginning at conception. The proof-text of the Christian pro-life position is Psalm 139:13-16 in which David talks about how God “…knit me together in my mother’s womb” and that God’s “…eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written…before one of them came to be.” Hence the conclusion that one’s life exists even while the body is yet unformed and that God is directly engaged in the creation of each human from conception. However, it could be argued that this text is largely poetic rather than literal—that it is making the point that God had plans for David from before he was born. This could be similar to Psalm 18:16 where David says that God “…reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.” Unless there is some unrecorded miraculous incident in David’s life, nothing like this ever literally happened. This was David’s poetic way of saying God rescued him. It could be argued that the Psalm 139 passage is similarly poetic language, or even that it pertained specifically to David but not to everyone. That is, that because David was to play a major role in God’s redemptive plan, God was involved in his pre-birth existence in an extraordinary way. If one declines to accept Psalm 139 as equating conception with life, one can argue from a legal standpoint that, since life terminates when heart and brain activity cease, life begins when both these activities commence—somewhere around 20 weeks or so, I think. Mind you, I’m not saying this is what I believe; only that I can see how a sincere Christian could in all good conscience conclude that early-term abortion is not murder or otherwise sinful. Personally, I disapprove of any abortion except when necessary to save the mother’s life, but I refuse to require this belief as a prerequisite to one’s salvation. For the most part, I think that a flaming liberal who surrendered his/her heart to Christ would eventually moderate some views just from exposure to God’s call for holiness. But I would by no means expect that person to switch to conservatism. Indeed, for any church body to become too politically conservative is probably a dangerous thing leading to it becoming ingrown, exclusive, and legalistic.
  • Which brings me to my final point. Christianity is a balancing act between obedience on the one (conservative) hand and grace on the other (liberal) hand. To the far extreme of the first awaits the curse of legalism. Legalism says that we all must act and think alike in adherence to some detailed list of rules. Where Scripture does not seem to provide a rule, we will manipulate it to do so. Where we cannot sufficiently manipulate it to do so, we will create our own rules and requirements that we’re “sure” will meet with God’s approval. In the end, as Jesus condemned, our “teachings are but rules taught by men.” At the other extreme is “cheap grace” wherein anything goes because everything is forgiven. The parts of Scripture that demand something of us—particularly a change in our personal conduct—are simply ignored. No one speaks against sin—why bother, it’s all forgiven anyhow, right? And no one admonishes anyone to live godly—that’s being judgmental, isn’t it? The net effect is that there are no moral absolutes, no right and wrong, there are only things that don’t need to be forgiven and things that are forgiven. In the end we simply play God for a patsy, a rich Daddy who day after day sends His high-priced Lawyer to bail His spoiled, unappreciative child out of another mess. We ignore Scripture’s warning that “God is not mocked” and its plea “shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? God forbid!”
  • To sum up, while I am a conservative I find it unthinkable that any Christian should ever make any church visitor feel that he or she is unwelcome based on political views or affiliation. And I’m not just referring to overt statements to that effect, but also derogatory side comments about specific politicians, parties, or positions. Should a preacher be able to preach against outrageous societal behaviors—including those that are politically-charged? Yes. Some things have to be said, even if they run counter to someone’s political slant. But never, never, never should the implication be that God will not accept a person unless he or she adheres to a particular political viewpoint.

    1 comment

    1 Comment so far

    1. doctormac June 9th, 2011 11:34 pm

      Well said. Obviously abortion is, to understate it about as much as one can, a thorny issue. But I feel that for too long the right has held captive Christians by making them into single issue voters. In this area I think the Catholic church sets an interesting example. Hard to get much more pro-life, but they manage to have a political voice on many issues, and are not shoehorned into one party’s base.

      As to what Christ would do with modern day politics? I don’t think he’d have anything to do with it at all. “Render unto Caesar…” Our political system is wrapped up in claims of helping the middle class, doing what’s best for the country, etc, etc, but in reality it’s about the pursuit and maintenance of power and little else. I actually have Christian friends that refuse to vote out of moral objection, that this are not matters that they should be caught up in or concerned about. I’m not there yet, but the uglier things get in politics the less crazy that idea sounds.


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