Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Christianity and Political Liberalism

With the presidential races heating up, I want to put up a couple posts to remind us of one crucial point - as Christians, we will never line up with either the liberals or the conservatives. This is not to say that we cannot work with and within the society of which we are a part. But we make a major error in judgment when we suppose that we are just like everyone else. We aren't. We serve Jesus Christ as Lord. We have our citizenship in heaven. This will invariably affect the way we participate in politics, and if it doesn't, we are not being faithful.

I would like to quote some timely advice from J. Budziszewski's book The Revenge of Conscience. He wisely points out the problems with both liberalism and conservatism. In this post, I will share what he says about the moral problems with political liberalism.

1. Propitiationism. "According to this notion I should do to others as they want; according to Christianity I should do unto others as they need."
2. Expropriationism. This is the "Robin Hood fallacy." "According to this notion I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own; according to Christianity I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one.... Expropriation [i.e. theft] is wrong not because its causes are wrong, but because it is a violation of the Eighth Commandment."
3. Solipsism. "According to this notion human beings make themselves, belong to themselves, and have value in and of themselves; according to Christianity they are made by God, belong to Him, and have value because they are loved by Him and made in His image."
4. Absolutionism. "According to this notion we cannot be blamed when we violate the moral law, either because we cannot help it, because we have no choice, or even because it is our choice; according to Christianity, however, we must be blamed, because we are morally responsible beings."
5. Perfectionism. "According to this notion, human effort is adequate to cure human evil; according to Christianity our sin, like our guilt, can be erased only the grace of God through faith in Christ. Perfectionists also think the cure can be completed in human time. Some even believe it can be arranged for whole societies at once. By contrast, the faith teaches that God must start over with each person, and that although guilt is erased immediately, the cure of sin is not complete until we are at peace with Him in heaven."
6. Universalism. "According to this notion the human race forms a harmony whose divisions are ultimately either unreal or unimportant; according to Christianity human harmony has been shattered by sin and cannot be fully healed by any means short of conversion."
7. Neutralism. "According to this notion the virtue of tolerance requires suspending judgments about good and evil; according to Christianity it requires making judgments about good and evil.
8. Collectivism. "According to this notion the state is more important to the child than the family; according to Christianity the family is more important to the child than the state."
9. Desperate Gestures. "People do wrong, and I have to do something. People are unhappy, and I have to do something. People are foolish, and I have to do something. I will absolve them. I will give them things. I will take their children. At last we come to the ... most mysterious moral error of political liberalism: the fallacy of desperate gestures.... The desperationist acts to relieve his own [pain]: the pain of pity, the pain of impotence, the pain of indignation. He is like a man who beats on a foggy television screen with a pipe wrench, not because the wrench will fix the picture but because it is handy and feels good to use."

Budziszewski closes the chapter with this: "All we can do is keep up the critique which is in the gospel, and in the meantime go on being Christians: our eyes lifted up not to the spectacular idol of political salvation, but to the Cross. Let those who will, call this doing nothing; we know better."

Pay attention to what you hear coming from the candidates on the campaign trail. If you have some good examples of these errors, I'd appreciate your comments here.

Next time: The Problems with Conservatism

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