Non-Sacralists have historically been Anti-Nationalistic, and thus Anti-Imperial. Since they have been opposed to the Establishment order, their political affiliations (if any) have historically been to the Left on the Socialist, Anarchic, or Libertarian pole, although few have embraced Libertarianism in the realm of economics. They would argue sin and fallen man's quest for Babel would prohibit this and would also argue the unrestrained Free Market system always leads to monopoly and the wedding of corporate interests with power. Free Markets are fine but only a local level. And in the end that's what Anarchism and many forms of Communism are all about... a lack of government because society is ordered voluntarily at the local level.
As Gorbachev famously said, the kibbutz was what Communism was supposed to be about[i]. The USSR utterly failed. In fact I would argue (and I'm hardly alone) the USSR was never really Communist at all. Lenin's doctrine of the Revolution was never completed. He died a revolutionary success but a Communist failure. Stalin took over and couched his Totalitarianism in Marxist-Leninist terminology. That's what Stalinism was, Dictatorship hiding behind idealistic lingo. Trotsky completely opposed what Stalin was doing, and yet because he was on the losing side of the struggle, ending with his assassination by ice axe in Mexico, he was labeled the deviationist.
By the time Khrushchev took over there was so much blood and destruction, so many collateral issues, they were never able in any way to recapture the original vision of Communism.
I am not a Communist but I will admit my frustration with regard to these issues. I find very little honest conversation when it comes to these matters, and this is especially true within Christian circles. The American Church operates in a Romanticised dream world and is completely divorced from history.[ii]
In many circles Sacralism has manifested itself and/or wedded itself to Confessional traditions. This can also be said to be true when it comes to political testaments or confessions.
I consider the Declaration of Independence to be an interesting document but not something a Christian can support. I would not take up arms (like my ancestors did) against the government due to taxation and bad courts. Christians have tried desperately to read many other values and arguments in to the text but they're not there. The Colonists (at least on paper) were not fighting for religious freedom or to establish a Christian Commonwealth. As with all wars people fight for different reasons and undoubtedly some like Patrick Henry fought for these reasons and thus felt betrayed when the Constitution was introduced.
The Constitution is a fine political document, though it is not inspired, has many flaws and I think is grossly antiquated. It left many tensions unresolved that have now clearly become manifest. It was a brilliant attempt but ultimately failed. Personally I don't think the original idea, the original structure lasted a century.[iii] The document has been retained but there are significant shifts which have taken place in the Amendments and in terms of pragmatics. Since that time it has shifted again. In fact in some ways it was meant to do this, the authors granted it a certain level of flexibility, knowing that situations would arise and internal contradictions and tensions would have to be resolved. In some cases the solution required a significant shift in the role of government. The 14th Amendment would be an example of this. Constitutional Originalists (in my opinion) do not have a leg to stand on. The Amendment system itself demonstrates the Founders were not creating a document meant to be treated as absolute or static canon.
Confessionalism in the realm of theology, and Originalism or the Canonizing of Constitutionalism are both concepts incompatible with non-Sacralist thought. Confessionalism is anti-Biblicist and anti-Restorationist. Both attempt to establish stability, the one at the expense of the Bible, the other at the expense of social forces and realities.
These concepts wedded to the state promote a Conservative (preservationist) political agenda. A state enforced moral order and whether by design or by default generates Nationalism which to the non-Sacralist is incompatible with Christianity.[iv]
Not only does it promote pride and unbiblical concepts like American Exceptionalism, it is inherently racist and thus opposed to the New Testament order regarding the Kingdom. The confused Church equates state and civilizational values with the Kingdom of God and other societies (and often races) which do not conform aren’t different…they’re immoral, perhaps even savage.
In the end, as a non-Sacralist I find that practically speaking there can be next to no fellowship with other Christians when it comes to discussing these matters. We completely disagree. While we may lament sin and its effects on society, our understanding of causes and solutions, as well as our understanding of society in general, the state, power and the Kingdom of God are virtually in diametric opposition.
What follows is not fellowship but debate and strife and often an attempt to break through the massive intellectual wall Sacralism erects in order to protect itself. What should be fellowship between Christians begins to look something more like Evangelism.
So what do I propose? In some ways it doesn't really matter. I'm essentially arguing all political platforms and systems will be flawed and fail. What's critical is to not fall into the trap of thinking some of these systems are God's Will, Biblical, or somehow reflect or help bring about the Kingdom.
For myself I tend toward Localism both in terms of social and economic theory. You can't build so-called 'Great' nations with this type of thinking. You won't be able to accomplish 'Great' things and you won't build a 'Great' civilization, but that's not my concern. Most of the time what history labels ‘Great’ I think can be labeled as evil.
Is Localism the Biblical model? No. But it doesn't have to be. This is why differences are valid, as long as you're not trying to suggest your theories are a reflection of a Biblical view. I tend toward this position but ultimately I am a pragmatist. Free Markets will work fine in some contexts. Socialism will work better in others. Monarchy might work in some places, and absolute democracy in others.
How does this reconcile with the mandate to bring every thought captive? Isn't this man thinking autonomously?
Some have used Paul's phrase as a mandate for constructing systems which are not in the text. Thus the method employed is induction and speculative theology, which I would argue always produces a result that is explicitly non-Biblical and autonomous. In other words the way they go about to bring every thought captive, is actually to operate outside the sphere of God’s Realm… they end up doing the very thing they accuse me of, thinking in an autonomous way and generating philosophical systems outside the realm of revelation.
Nevertheless, I am very much applying the text to my thinking. My understanding of sin, life in a fallen world, the Kingdom of God, what the Bible says about power, the law etc... all lead me to conclude there is no Biblical model and in fact most Christians are asking the wrong questions to begin with. Their questions regarding society and the state are wrong to begin with because they've wrongly answered these foundational questions concerning the Kingdom. They have not understood what the Bible teaches about the Kingdom and in many cases have misunderstood what the Bible itself is. Rather than view it as a Redemptive-History, a revelation of Jesus Christ, a canon, a Covenant document for the people in Covenant with God...they view it as a document for comprehensive Idealism, a sort of Neo-nomian document of Transformation. It's a new-law, a blueprint God has given to his people to conquer the world.
Bringing my thoughts captive, I understand there is no such thing as a Christian State. The State is violence and incompatible with the Kingdom of God. We coexist with the unbelieving masses. The State serves a purpose in This Age but being Common (as opposed to Holy) will cease to be at the Eschaton. It has nothing to do with the Redemptive Kingdom which survives the Divine Fires of Judgment.
As a Christian I look at history and society, I think about the theological issues involved and I determine what will work best in this fallen world? What will allow for social peace and for the Church to work? Isn't that what we're supposed to pray for in the New Testament? We pay our taxes to Caesar but our worship, our devotion, our energies, our hopes, our comforts, and our security belong to God. Christian Sacralism places many of these commitments into the arms of the state, the very thing they accuse the Secularists of doing.
Sacralism is syncretism, it is the highest and most comprehensive expression of autonomous thought. It is man rejecting the Bible alone to shape his thoughts. Instead he posts the Ten Commandments on the Tower of Babel and thinks he's now building the Kingdom of God. This is the great poison that entered the Church when Constantine laid the foundation of Sacralism....by this sign, conquer. It is a repudiation of Christianity as revealed and rightly explained in the New Testament. It is an embrace of Paganism wedded to Judaizing impulses. It is the amalgamation of the greatest threats to the Kingdom of God in This Age. The Sword of the Spirit is transformed into bloodshed and violence, a lust for power and an embrace of whatever lies and deceit are required in order to attain and maintain the power. Its adherents are deceived and duped, its leaders the agents of Antichrist.
Sadly the discussion within Christian circles usually ends up focusing on the need for either Transformation or Retreat. That is that either we must get busy working to change society and make it more reflective of God’s Kingdom or that the world is a polluted and evil place and we must flee from it in order to maintain our spiritual existence.
First, I would argue that not only does the Bible have nothing to say, nor give any example of Transformation, the theology of the Scripture itself is incompatible with this notion. The state and its tools cannot contribute in the building of the Kingdom of God. The state cannot change the heart. At best it can force (by threat) an outward conformity and create a hypocritical moral veneer, a spiritual sham.
Those that would flee the world through asceticism are often not really fleeing the world but fleeing the world as it now is and embracing an idealized earlier time which they seek to emulate through clothing and other practices. There are those driven by purely ascetic motives, but they would do well to read Paul’s admonitions in Colossians and 1 Timothy where he denounces, ridicules and condemns such attempts.
Another option and the one I believe to be Biblical seeks neither to retreat nor Transform, but maintain our status as a Witness Community, a community of humble martyrs.
Like the saints of the antediluvian era we don’t seek to ‘build cities’ but we’re happy to live in the midst of them. We don’t share the vision, but we don’t flee. We build our altars (so to speak) among the descendants of Cain and speaking truth we warn them of the wrath to come. They will hate us but often leave us alone because those in power will realize we’re not here to topple their thrones, though our message is that in the end….they will be toppled by the Coming King.
Sometimes the city will rise up and kill us, but we don’t fight back. We flee when we can, we die if we must. But their kingdoms come and go, their empires rise and fall, and we remain.
We understand that the Kingdom is about prayer, and knowing God, rejoicing in fellowship both with Him and with our brethren. We know that the Kingdom is one of love and kindness, visiting the orphan and the widow. And by living our quiet lives we do indeed transform lives. People like me are radically transformed but we also know that the gate is narrow and there are few that enter into it, and when the Lord comes, there will be little faith on the earth. And yet spanning the annals of time and history the numbers are vast.
This isn’t very exciting. It’s going to mean hours and years of unacknowledged labour often with seemingly little to show for it. We probably won’t shine forth from the pages of history, nor leave great legacies in stone. We won’t build kingdoms with brightly coloured flags nor will we have great memorials enshrining the violent deeds of those who bore those banners in battle.
It’s a Spiritual Kingdom, something few have grasped and many have forgotten. God in His Wisdom chooses to exercise power in ways the world does not understand and He loves to use those the world despises to speak and bring forth His Word of Life to a dead and dying world. His strength is best demonstrated by using the weak. The Kingdom of God is about fellowship in the work of the Holy Spirit. Politically or militarily vanquishing your foes is alien to this Kingdom.
[i] The Molokans and other Russian dissenters were initially quite excited about Bolshevism. They didn’t embrace the atheism but beyond that they were quite in agreement with the whole notion of Communism. The Hutterites are of course communistic and certainly the Amish are Communal though not Communist.
[ii] A point drive home in recent years as I’ve heard Al Mohler and others discuss the Cold War. To me, they have not learned the lessons from that contrived pseudo-conflict. Their understanding of motives, their analysis of the past and their understanding of its conclusion are rooted in Americanist mythology. And as I’ve said before it is startling to be old enough to watch mythmaking at work, to see people not long dead (such as Reagan) who are already being transformed into something they manifestly were not. Nationalist myth serves the interests and aspirations of the Sacralist and they of all people are the most susceptible to historical manipulation.
Anti-Sacralism is sceptical and tends toward deconstruction. The Kingdom-attuned Christian is a light bearer that exposes the lies of mythmakers and court historians. It leaves very few heroes on the pages of history but once the dross is removed a precious commodity remains…the truth.
[iii] I think in many ways the misnamed Civil War was really a referendum on the Constitution of 1789. The nation that emerged from 1865 with its modified Constitution was really a new entity. The sweep of time between that of McKinley through Hoover represents a pretty stunning shift and transition and yet again with FDR and 1945. And it may be that 2001 may also be looked upon as another milestone and colossal shift in the very fabric and nature of the society and the way it political organizes itself.
The idea that these folks seem to have running around in 2010 dressed up in 18th century garb that America today is the same as the late colonial era is just that….worthy of a costume party. The country is not the same at all. You can cling to symbols, colours on a flag, words on a page, or point to some old buildings, but it’s not the same. There have been several versions and re-boots of the United States. The Founding Fathers would have rejected several versions ago.
And I’m sorry, the words in political documents do not carry the same eternal weight of revelation. They do not stand the test of time. They do not rest on eternal foundations. The American ones certainly do not and those that argue they do, or would revise them so they were somehow wedded to Scripture now taint both with the supreme heresy of Sacralism. There’s no escaping this. The problem is not fallen man and fallen government, the problem is fallen man seeking to build Utopia and Christians are just as guilty of this.
The way many Christians view and think of the Founding documents is nothing less than heretical and in some cases blasphemous.
[iv] In the Confessional realm it also generates a form of Nationalism... Denominational pride and preference.