Thoughts of John

What is on my mind.

A Biblical Perspective on How to Approach Politcs

Sin’s Effects, Part. 3

The biblical story shows that sin has devastated the created order. No part remains uncorrupted. In the fall, we refused to accept God as Lord, choosing instead to place ourselves at the center of reality and make our own moral rules. The result has been devastation in all our relationships—with God, neighbor, earth, and self.
Our relationship with God is radically broken. Disobedience means that rebellious sinners no longer rightly reflect who God is. However God continues to love even defiant children, providing a plan of salvation and continuing to call us to repent and return to Him.
In our self-centered, individualistic actions we violate communal obligations and trample upon the common good of our neighbors. But we cannot abolish our communal nature, no matter how selfish we become. Since we are irrevocably social beings, our accumulating set of selfish personal choices eventually shapes whole social systems that are radically flawed. Vast numbers of personal sinful choices that are racist or sexist or economically unjust eventually produce complex social and legal systems that are racist, sexist, and unjust.
Earlier we saw that central to the meaning of God’s image in us is His call to act as stewards of the rest of creation. That truth helps us understand how our sin has devastated even the nonhuman world.
Finally, the fall has devastated not just our relationships with God, neighbor, and earth but also our very being. Every part of our being is affected. Not just our bodies, but also our reason and will are corrupted. Our rational minds no longer see truth clearly. The more brilliant we are, the more sophisticated are the subtle rationalizations we develop to defend selfish interests and wrong ideas. One only needs to read some of the subtle justifications written to defend slavery, racism, unjust treatment of women, or unfair economic arrangements to see how deeply our minds are corrupted.
The biblical teaching on sin has vast implications for our understanding of politics. First, every politician is a frail, finite, sinful person who will certainly make a mixture of good and bad decisions, and every political platform is a smorgasbord of good and evil, wise summons to justice and subtle rationalizations of self-interest. Therefore Christians should never trust any politician completely and dare never embrace any party or platform uncritically.
Second, a central task of faithful political action is to design political systems built on this understanding of persons as being a complex mix of good and bad moral insight and self-centered distortion. As Lord Acton said long ago, “In a fallen world, power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Therefore we need checks and balances on all power so that even though everyone acts selfishly, the competing acts of self-interest tend to balance each other and prevent great evil. Government must be limited. At the same time, precisely because sin has not destroyed all good
in persons, we can also create social systems that appeal to and encourage the best in human beings.
Third, since sin became embedded in self-perpetuating social systems, it is essential that we seek to change not just individual persons through personal spiritual transformation but also societal structures via political change. In the face of laws and legal structures that prevented African-Americans from voting, we needed more than evangelism and a call to individual white Americans to treat African-Americans fairly. We needed better laws and judicial systems that enforced the rights of everyone to vote.
It would, however, be fundamentally naive to suppose that we can create new, basically good persons if we only correct unjust social systems. We can make things
better through wise structural change. We have been able to end slavery, promote democracy, and encourage economic justice through wise political changes. But the human problem lies far deeper than merely unjust social systems, however evil. At root, the human problem is grounded in fallen, selfish persons who continue to seek and find ways to manipulate even the best social systems. For that reason, Christians reject every Utopian illusion that imagines, as did Marxists and some kinds of humanist educators, that we can eradicate evil in society if we will only make the right structural or educational changes.

Discipleship Journal, Issue 165, Ron Sider

May 11, 2008 - Posted by | Christian, Christianity, conservative, culture, Democrat, Discipleship Journal, Republican, Uncategorized, vote | , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: