12 August 2010

Saul's Politics

For those unfamiliar, a quick discussion on law, what the Evangelicals do with it, and the most important part...why?

As brilliant as the founders were in constructing a government with balanced powers, there are certain issues regarding the law in relation to this balance that remain unresolved.

There is a 3-fold tension between:

Legislative power

Judicial Review

and the

Popular Sentiment

Legislative power simply refers to the ability and duty of Congress to draft legislation which then is either signed by the Executive (President) or rejected by veto. Ideally Congress can't pass a law without the approval of the President, and the President is not a potentate, he must reach a consensus with Congress... who gets to draft the legislation. The Executive wields great power when it comes to use of the military and diplomacy and can place the nation into situations demanding further legislation, such as funding, as a result often effectively checking the power of Congress. Or of course, if the Congress is of the same party as the Executive, the powers of the President increase significantly.

Judicial Review refers to the ability of the courts to restrain the other powers by checking the validity of the legislation in light of the Constitution, precedent, and interpretation in context. The courts do not make laws, they interpret the ever-changing law by an authoritative static standard, the Constitution. However, contextualized precedent has to interact with the unchanging document from the 18th century. Context changes, affecting precedent, leading to potential conflict with Constitutional interpretation. On one level employing a static standard becomes problematic with a dynamic context.

Popular Sentiment is the voice of the people usually expressed in the vote. In a Democratic Republic the people are supposed to vote for the Legislators who then deal with legislation. Occasionally, through proposition or referendum the people vote on specific policy, legislation, or financial issues. However, the will of the people can at times contradict the Constitution or even precedent and thus be subject to Judicial Review.

Each of the three has certain problems but as they interact with each other, the problems are compounded.

The Christian Right has shown itself to be strikingly inconsistent in how it seeks to answers these questions. Or perhaps we could say very consistent in employing a pragmatist if unprincipled worldview.

When the Legislature passes laws they don't like, they're all over the radio appealing to the will of the people. Right now in California this is their argument. The state passed a law, Conservatives garnered support for a referendum, it passed by vote, and has now been struck down by the court. What's the issue they're upset about? Their mad because popular sentiment has been overturned.

Yet, they will freely admit when the popular sentiment would support immorality then it is the duty of government (the legislature) to force what is morally right...even if contrary to popular sentiment.

With Abortion, they've turned pragmatists and most realize they will likely never fully outlaw abortion in all fifty states, but they use a states-rights argument to counter the federal Supreme Court. They want the court to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow the issue to return to the states as it was pre-1973, hoping then to outlaw it in most. So in this case, they want to combat Judicial Review (which at a Federal level applies to all states) and return to the state level.

But with the Defense of Marriage Act and the issue of gay marriage they want to Federalize the issue. They don't want individual states to decide, they want a Congressional law upheld by Judicial Review.

So sometimes they want Congress to pass laws against the will of the people, but other times they want the will of the people to trump legislation and the judiciary.

Sometimes they want states rights, other times they want federal laws.

What is the role of the courts in their thinking? I argue they're confused because they don't seem to understand how law works. Or perhaps they actually care very little about the concept of law....

They seem to act like the law should only apply as it conforms to their agenda. With a republic (rule by law) you acknowledge society is bigger than any one person and any one agenda. The law acts as a power-restraint for those who are assertive but as security for those who stand to lose in the face of another faction or individual's assertion. The restraint and security is the law. It's supposed to keep everyone equal, blind justice.

But what Evangelicals are interested in is power and it's clear from how they play fast and loose with the law and government they'll use any means to get it. They will deny this, but a tree is known by its fruit.

Now I'm all for pragmatism, but it's based on restraint and security in a Common Grace society. I'm willing to be restrained (up to the threshold of sin) if it also keeps the other guy restrained and promotes stability and peace. I'm willing to let the other guy do what he wants, so I can do what I want....promote God's Kingdom.

Evangelicals are employing pragmatism as well. But I have to ask, when their goal, their telos is a Holy Kingdom, would it be appropriate to attain or build this Kingdom by duplicitous action, scheming, or amoral means? Shouldn't the Kingdom be built (assuming their model) by Holy means? Once in power, they would quickly abandon the pragmatism. It's very much an end justifies the means type ethic. If the goal is power, then once attained, the tool (pragmatism/politicking) can be laid aside.

Aren't they effectively wearing Saul's armour to fight the Lord's battles?

We often rightly speak of politicians having forked-tongues. How is this Evangelical practice any different?

This is where on the Sacral side of things, Theonomy's critique of non-Theonomic Sacralism is quite devastating. The whole paradigm is wrong, but you can see how the non-Theonomist has a problem in trying to validate a pluralistic democracy and at the same time demand a Christian nation. It doesn't work.

Theonomy will come right out and tell you democracy has to go. Because democracy as even the non-Theonomic Sacralist (NTS) sometimes acknowledges can be a problem. The people might vote for sin. The only safeguard is to subject all popular votes and all legislation to Judicial Review. Therefore, in a Theonomic system, whoever holds that power rules the land. In fact the legislative role is seriously curtailed, because you cannot add to or subtract from the Mosaic Law, you can only supplement it.

So, those holding to NTS have a dilemma and it is very apparent in their inconsistent tactics.

Perhaps the tactics stem from an inconsistent vision? If your view on the Kingdom is wrong, how will you know how to build it?

I recently listened to Grudem's Five Errors series and I knew we were in trouble right from the start. First, he laid out the 'Compel' religion view and cited the Middle Ages and the Reformers but then went on to say he knew of no one actually advocating such a view in our day and age.

Obviously he has not bothered to read or understand the Theonomic movement. They wish not only to impose the Mosaic Law on all nations but specifically want the magistrate to enforce what has been traditionally called the First Table of the Law, or the first four of the Ten Commandments. Idolatry and false worship would be punished by the civil government and of course those in power would decide what is false worship.

Nevertheless he went on to advocate a position which is very common but makes little sense. Essentially it is... America is a Christian Nation, we want religion and politics together, but we believe in religious freedom, don't want a state church, and don't want to compel anyone.

The Theonomists themselves have critiqued this but I will add my comments.

This view argues the label Christian Nation indicates a common Christian culture which is meant to dominate the landscape and particularly the politics of the land.

However, the Bible nowhere speaks in those terms, nowhere gives us such a mission or expectation, and this is in the end a lighter version of compulsion, but compulsion nonetheless.

Theonomists would compel by force and punitive action.

These non-Theonomic Sacralists (NTS) compel by demanding silence and acquiesence to their agenda. They believe in religious freedom for them, but a lesser private version for others.

To think the disenfranchised minorities (non-Christians in their view) would sit back in their fallen-ness and tolerate such an arrangement....shows a very high view of fallen man indeed!

They want their version of Christianity to influence civil government but won't allow for others to do the same. They preach democracy not because its Biblical but because it's part of the American heritage...which they tend to confuse with the Biblical Christianity. They think they've escaped Sacralism, but it's still very much the default setting.

And yet, the democracy so dear to them becomes a stumbling block when the population is not going along with their designs.

Here's where it all breaks down. Grudem specifically sites allowing prayer at school graduations, town council meeting, things like that. He insists on religious liberty but we've seen time and time again these are the same people who get quite upset if someone from another religion were to stand up and pray. They don't believe in that. In the not too distant past a Hindu chaplain opened a Congressional session with prayer and was literally shouted down from Evangelicals in the gallery. This is a soft form of compulsion. This is an established religion, though they deny it. Minorities won't be destroyed as in the Theonomic model, but they have to be silent.

One must ask, is the language concerning religious freedom and democracy genuine or once again....tactical rhetoric?

Another example Grudem gives of egregious government restriction pertained to a death penalty case in the 1990's. During the appeal process it was discovered that while deliberating as to whether or not the man should be executed certain jurors were appealing to the Bible as a standard by which to make the decision. The court overturned the death penalty but did not rule the guilty verdict invalid or declare a mistrial. Instead they reduced the death penalty to a life sentence.

Grudem bemoans this because it is state-imposed secularism not respecting the rights of citizens to hold to moral convictions. Rather this shows Grudem, Colson, and just about every other Christian Commentator I've heard don't seem to have the faintest idea of what law is or how it works.

Grudem and most other Evangelicals seem to think their moral convictions can trump the law when it comes to holding political office or sitting on a jury. In one sense, yes, God's law supersedes the laws of men. However, that means if necessary, you break man's laws and then suffer then consequences which is sometimes what has to be done. They seem to think they can trump the civil law and IMPOSE their understanding on everyone else, because it's God's law.

That's fine, but then you cannot say you believe in religious freedom or democracy.

Personally, I care little for democracy. It can be a fine system to live under or it can be a bad one. I'm not the one arguing it has to be that way...they are. I'm only making the point that I'm not trying to critique it...or advocate it.

A jury is supposed to rule according to the law of the land. If they judge the case by any other criteria, you no longer have rule of law. What you have is arbitrariness and in fact...injustice. The defendant believes he will be tried according to a specific code. When a juror abandons that code, they are betraying the trust of the social contract and denying the standards of justice to a defendant.

Some might say...what I have a problem with someone appealing to the Bible? Not at all. But if you're sitting on a jury you've agreed to follow the laws of the state or nation you live in. If you then proceed to not do that...you've lied and deceived the court. It's not your job to legislate. You weren't selected to do that. It astonishes me when I hear Christian-Right people get upset about activist judges. That is the very thing they want judges to do! That's what they want jurors to do. That's what they want President's to do...when it serves their purposes.

I can hear an Evangelical protesting, "But I can't follow law A,B, or B, because it contradicts the Bible. To follow the law while sitting on a jury might mean I have to lat aside my Christian convictions."

Then the answer is very simple....

In that particular case, you cannot serve on the jury. Integrity demands that you ask to be removed. This is inconceivable to those trying to 'transform' a society, but there are many cases when that is what has to be done. Retreatism? Hardly. It's called obedience and integrity. I've found a lot more respect when I've spoken up and said no, then when I've said yes, but wasn't being honest.

There are some jobs a Christian can't do. Should we lie, take the job, and then do it our way as opposed to the dictates of an employer?

Grudem says he believes in religious freedom which extends even to the juror employing the sacred texts of his religion to determine a verdict. Suppose Grudem stood trial and was found guilty and then later discovered his jurors were discussing his guilt and punishment in light of the Analects of Confucius or even, the Quran?

He would cry injustice and would be right to do so. That wasn't the standard by which he was to be judged. This type of thinking concerning law makes no sense, and shows again what they're really all about is getting what they want, raw power.

I think on this point Theonomic Reconstructionism deserves commendation. They at least are honest with themselves about what they're doing and what they want.

The problem is the vision of the Kingdom and thus the means of attaining it.

I am reminded of someone in the Old Testament, a man who lacked faith to see the nature of the Kingdom, that is was Holy and Spiritual. Rather than see Israel as unique, the apple of God's eye...he saw Israel as being just like all the other nations...but with a special weapon...Yahweh. By this sign he could conquer.

It was a blessed nation to be sure, but rather than trust in God and employ His means, this man sought his own way and found ways to play little games with the commandments of God, explaining things away here, adding things there.

Since he didn't understand the Sacred nature and goals of the Kingdom, he sought fleshly weapons and tools to build it. In the end, he cared more about power, because even when the true King was set before him, he rejected this messiah (little 'm') and worried more about his own power. He viewed himself as above the law, and like Esau (his spiritual cousin) he despised God's anointing.

In the end, maybe without realizing it he placed his own words above God's. He was jealous when other's won the Lord's victories in weakness....because he cared more for himself. He became so blinded by what he was doing when God didn't give him what we wanted, he turned to another source of Spiritual authority to get the answer he wanted. This rebellion of the heart, showing up over and over again in his actions, was simply put, witchcraft.

When he made a foolish decree and his son unknowingly disobeyed it, his pride (reaching to the heavens) would not relent and he in his wrath sought to destroy him.

His heart was so rotten, he began to persecute the remnant (the true anointed) driving them with their anointed messiah-type into the wilderness, forcing them to hide in caves and dwell in exile, even in the lands of the enemy.

This king in every way had a false view of the Kingdom, seeing it as earthly power, pride and glory... what in the end would have become a pseudo-kingdom of God.

In fact this war between a false covenant-king trying to construct a false-covenant kingdom concept.......against the true King and His Holy Spiritual Kingdom is the story of the ages. This is church history going back to the days of Cain and Abel.

Cain, Ishmael, Esau, and yes, Saul....all in one sense in covenant, in one sense the first-born or the anointed...

These were all pseudo-kings....antichrists preaching a different kingdom with a different messiah. Their kingdom-vision was one of power and self-interest. Their kingdom ethic was the end justifies the means.

Their hearts are revealed in their actions. The vision they offer is so enticing that even many good folk are swept away by it. They are led to say foolish things and are distracted by the promises the false-kingdom offers.

Let us warn and proclaim the truth and never be distracted or tricked into fighting and being wounded in battles for territory that we can never call home.

Like David, let us take to the wilderness. Remember when Saul is in power, he will not allow a competing vision of the Kingdom to dwell in his presence.


eliyahu said...

Well said Proto. In fact, you've nailed this on a much deeper level than I realized was going on. One would certainly see the religious judgment as unjust if they were the target of it. Just last night I read one "Christian America" page, which at least was honest about curtailing the freedoms of non-Christians to practice their religions publicly in such a nation he imagined to have been the intent of the founders. You're right-they claim religious liberty, but really only in full for orthodox (approved sacrilist) Christiandom; woe to those who fall outside this category-including Christians. It does seem that mainstream Christians, following an extra-Biblical set of interpretations of how Christianity is to be acted out (a kind of Protestant Christian talmud/catechism/hadith) that it has made Christianity much more similar to the Taliban. Maybe it would be a longer process to reach such a stage, but Christiandom has been there before. In fact, it's only recently that it hasn't been there, and it was because of the very enemies the church fight against now (secularists, humanists) but claims the benefits to be from it's own invention; though it still operates on the princilples it originally did, which still result in the direction of repressing others for political power and authority.It's amazing. I wish this could be exposed openly and let so many Christians know that "the matrix is all around us-wake up" so to speak.

Protoprotestant said...

A link to the follow up: