I write Christian books. It’s what I do. Sometimes my research takes me to one of my favorite works: a massive 11-volume set titled, The Story of Civilization by historian Will Durant.
Durant’s historical accounts are marked by periodic and profound insights such as:
It is in governments to degenerate; for power, as Shelly said, poisons every hand it touches.
Throughout Durant’s account, one thing is evident: kingdoms have continually risen and fallen throughout the course of human history. Most often, a nation-state will be born or advanced to glory under the competent hand of a valiant warrior leader—King David, Alexander, and George Washington as examples.
Kingdoms Require Vigilance
Historically speaking, almost as soon as a nation is birthed, decay sets in. Power poisons, wealth corrupts, privilege begets selfishness, and comfort makes soft. Rare indeed is the nation that endures for multiple millennia.
Again, according to Durant:
For a kingdom to survive for any length of time, it must always be ready to bear the sword, man the gun, fly the plane, etc. Violent and aggressive “neighbors” are never far off.
For the sake of my family, I want a government that bears the sword. I.e., I want police officers cruising our streets and soldiers protecting our borders so that our children and grandchildren can grow and thrive in safety, free from the fear of molestation or the ravages of war. It is for this reason that I don’t want a “Christian” government.
A Revolutionary Like No Other
Jesus was a revolutionary unlike any other who has established a kingdom unlike any other. Christ’s kingdom, which will fill the Earth and never come to an end (Daniel 2:44), is advanced not by swords and guns and bombs, but by faith and love of all things.
Jesus was so extreme that He taught His followers to love their enemies—to bless and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:43-45). Love, according to Christ’s plan, will eventually conquer all.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 (PHILLIPS)
As both a follower of Christ and a citizen of the United States of America, I am conflicted. I want the freedom, security, and prosperity that come with being a citizen of this great nation. But on a deeper level, I long for the glory, peace, and vitality that only the kingdom of God offers. Life is relatively comfortable when I don’t need to choose between the two, but those days seem to be coming to an end.
Biblical Values ≠ Conservative Politics
Conservative Christianity and conservative politics should be two very different creatures. Sure, we can expect some overlap with various freedoms such as religion and speech. We can also expect a government to promote healthy families and protect its most vulnerable citizens.
At the same time, we cannot demand any earthly nation to fully embrace either the agenda of God’s kingdom or the methods for its advance. That’s not the way human governments function.
Many right-leaning Christians, I believe, have made a huge mistake by trying to equate biblical beliefs with conservative politics. In the process, we have developed a condescending, fear-mongering, and violence-promoting rhetoric that bears no resemblance to the person of Jesus Christ. An honest reading of the New Testament cannot help but show otherwise.
I can understand that a conservative Christian, who loves both nation and family, might champion a politically conservative candidate, carry a handgun, or serve in the military. Even so, I can’t accept labeling all conservative values Christian because they aren’t.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us—not bomb the snot out of them. So if we want a government that is truly in the image of Christ, we’ll ask our leaders to slash the “defense” budget and give themselves to meeting the needs of all who are broken, homeless, and distressed. In all honesty, I can’t see that happening.
Our First Loyalty
One beauty of our nation is that we have the freedom to support and vote for political candidates according to our personal values. It is a privilege I hope to see preserved. At the same time, Christians are called to love and honor God by advancing His kingdom above all else.
The point that I’m having a difficult time communicating to my fellow believers (and to myself) is this: we currently have the freedom to champion and promote political ideologies all we want. Sooner or later, however, we will be compelled to firmly establish where our primary loyalty lies—with an earthly nation or with the kingdom of God. I think most US Christians grapple with this growing tension.
In the meantime, I have but one request: please don’t rattle the saber or wave the gun in the name of Jesus. From what I read in the Bible, it doesn’t become a true disciple of Christ, nor does it advance His kingdom in the hearts of those yet to believe in glorious His name.