Today I was thinking about the law and the great importance placed upon it by those in the Evangelical sphere. They place such an emphasis on the constructs of the law, precedent and technical language in order to prove their argument that America is a Christian country, and to employ the law in shaping the culture.
It also reminded me of the present fascination with the Middle Ages and the unified supposedly Christian society it created.
Almost every day I read and hear Christian commentators wax eloquent regarding the usefulness of the law and their desire to wield it in the cause of issues like marriage and gambling. If we just passed laws that restricted divorce and made people stay together, then our society would be moral, more Christian.
I'm not sure how lost people staying married improves their standing before God or helps them in any way to be nearer to God's Kingdom. I'll admit on one level it might make for a more stable society, but we've seen the fruit of multiple generations of enforced Christian morality. It's no surprise that the enmity we are told of Romans 8 has brought forth the present fruit and created a very difficult cultural venue in which to share the gospel.
Nevertheless, these Dominion and Culturally minded Christians believe very strongly that law and positive cultural labours will help to shape the society into something that is pleasing to God.
This corporate works salvation is nothing more than a revision and recasting of the old Social Gospel. The Kingdom of God will be manifested through man's labours and will be tangible, visible, and composed of the lost and the regenerate. In order to do this, the definition of the Kingdom must be changed. Yea, even the whole concept of what a Christian is must be modified to include those who are cultural participants in what Dominionists perceive as a Spiritual Project.
Thus as we've recently seen, Leonardo Da Vinci was something of a Christian, even though he didn't know it. We need to 'Save' him as one Dominionist recently put it, because even though he wasn't a regenerate Christian, he was somehow "christian" in his artistic and cultural influence because he stands in the Western Tradition. This Sacralist definition allows even a homosexual like Da Vinci to participate in building a spiritual kingdom.
It is spiritual, but it's not the Kingdom of God.
Today, the news was talking about the latest in the Health Care Reform litigation. Regardless of what you think of the issue, I found it interesting that it was openly acknowledged that the various groups bringing about these lawsuits seek venues in which they are well aware that the presiding judge is politically and ideologically sympathetic to their views. In other words they shop for a judge that will render the verdict they want.
That's nothing new, in fact it's routine. Now there are many Christians involved in these lawsuits and they believe they are under a moral imperative to oppose this Health Legislation. They believe it to be socialistic and anti-Christian.
Now if you really and truly believe that your cause is the cause of Truth and Righteousness why would you then turn to manipulative tactics? How does legal slight of hand aid you in seeking the verdict you believe to be morally right? Employing these means can hardly be viewed as in accordance with a forthright, open and honest integrity.
This is where I at least have a problem with Christian lawyers and legal organizations. While some no doubt are rightly motivated and often seek good causes and ends, I cannot abide this fast and loose way of dealing with arguments and the law itself. They would charge me with naiveté. Hardly. I know very well how it all works. I know the rules of the game and how it is played. What I'm saying is, as Christians, we don't play that way. We're not worried about winning, we're worried about playing right.
Continuing the analogy, we know the other side cheats, but we're not going to compromise just to get the score. Because in the end, even if we lose every game by a wide margin, we win. And if we play the way the world does, though we may win, someday we'll find out we've won nothing and dishonoured our Lord.
If the law, the civil law, is to be so revered as that it can help build the Kingdom of God, then how can this potentially holy means be treated with such blatant disrespect and subjected to open manipulation?
Rather than exhibit respect for the rule of law, it would seem these Christians, who of all people ought to know better, treat it as a cheap tool, a throwaway in their quest for power. If the concept of law is to be elevated, then to subject the legal procedures of the nation to what amounts to tricks, and playing games with technicalities leads me to believe rather than respect the law...they act like they despise it. Or at the very least understand nothing of its purpose in a society. Like selfish beasts they seek their own end and are willing to trample everyone along the way.
I expect this from unbelievers. Those living by the law of dog eat dog care little for principles. They're after the meat.
If we revere law....just as a general concept, then it means we ought to exhibit respect. Like it or no, we recognize it's purpose, and function and unless we desire anarchy we in some sense ought to be thankful for it.
When we believe the laws of man to be wrong or compelling us to act contrary to God's commands, the Holy Law, then our calling is to bear witness.
We don't sue employers or neighbours who don't let us have our way. We suffer and bear witness. And if we do engage the law or appeal to it in the case of a wrong, we don't play by their rules. We're not dogs after meat. We don't resort to trickery. We don't try to win on silly technicalities. We don't file endless briefs which may exhibit great ingenuity and cleverness on the part of lawyers but make a mockery of the law itself.
Most of the time when you hear about Christians suing people it's for something childish or sometimes even sacrilegious. They couldn't wear the t-shirt or the piece of jewelry they wanted. Most of the time I too would oppose them but on theological grounds!
I don't know when this started, but if an employer terminates you because you're standing for Christ, you don't retaliate. You don't call on the state to bring judgment. That's a shameful thing.
Instead, we ought to praise God that we are counted worthy to suffer for His Name. Yes, we might fall behind on our bills, lose our house. Of course if the churches were using their money rightly that would not need to happen. But, because we've confused building the Kingdom with the quest for power, we now misunderstand law and culture, and we've sure lost sight of what might be called Kingdom Conduct.
If you're defrauded in business, we can go to the law against a pagan, but of all people our conduct had better be different. Mercy should be the banner we bear walking into a courtroom. Never should we seek vengeance. If someone steals from you, and effectively takes food out of your children's mouths, then fine, you have an obligation as a father to protect your family. But in seeking right, we should never adopt the world's values or means in seeking it. We don't look for vengeance and we don't play fast and loose with truth. Those seeking vengeance in the guise of justice have forgotten they too are sinners saved by grace. It is better to forgive if you can. It is better to be defrauded. Count it all joy. American Evangelicalism says I'll get what's mine and no one is going to stop me.
We walk in faith, submit to Providence, pray for the end we desire. And whether we win or lose, we conduct ourselves as people who do not consider this world our home. We are sojourners living by a Pilgrim Ethic.
For all their talk of law, I think most Evangelicals are happy to spit on it when it suits their purposes. One wonders if they will not willingly do the same with God's Laws if the need arises? For all their talk of tools for building culture, the new Christendom, in the end it's about raw power.
They're trying to build the Kingdom wearing Saul's armour.