Thursday, February 19, 2004


Through an e-mail from my dad, I found an article in Christianity Today magazine that addresses the question of whether it is possible to construct a purely secular government that champions democracy and individual rights. Turns out, it's probably not possible. Yale political science professor Jim Sleeper gave the following assesment:

The dilemma is that an all-consuming 'logic' of individual rights, free markets and corporate contracts … can't sustain freedom in a liberal republic. It becomes such a cold tangle of contracts and rights that its freedoms rely ultimately on beliefs and virtues—religious, philosophical, ethno-cultural—that the liberal state itself cannot nurture, much less enforce.

Which speaks to the question of whether Christians should lobby/use the government to legislate Christian values, leading me to conclude that it's OK to do so. This happens to run against my intuition, so I'll do some more thinking about this. It's especially important in this election year in which two major issues are the Marriage Amendment ("a man and a woman") and the war on terrorism, issues which directly invoke ethical/religious principles. It's too bad that many of the articles in CT are based on what people "feel" about an issue, not on the moral principles behind them. Take for example, the article about pastors who reexamine[d] their beliefs about pacifism after 9/11. If you're a pacifist, it means staring death in the face and being unafraid. It's hard to believe that anybody who "reexamines their pacifism" was never there in the first place. Thankfully, for the most part the article focuses on examples of committed pacifists who are actively involved in non-participation. There used to be a magazine my dad subscribed to called Regeneration Magazine that grappled with tough theological issues in innovative ways of thinking. I don't know where to find that kind of intelligent discussion in a Christian context nowadays. Maybe it's an opportune time to start something at Church. After all, this year's freshman are the most politically informed in a decade. But I digress. Again. Please, read on.

ACCESS bible study this Friday night is continuing the "school of ministry" series. I dropped the Bible study class for the Current Events class, which dealt with the Christian response to homosexuality last week. This week, I'm looking forward to hearing pastor Dave talking about terrorism. Basically, I'm a pacifist right now, but I'm still making up my mind. Force, or at least the threat of force, seems necessary sometimes. Then again, in the movie tonight (The Fog of War) Robert MacNamara talked about morality, and it made me really angry. I felt like he has no right to talk about morality: can you kill if you are in a morally superior position? Absolutely not. Dying with moral impunity is better than any sort of killing in 100% of all cases, absolutely no exceptions. So, does it sound like I haven't made up my mind yet? I guess not.

In conclusion, my position amounts to: a Christian government that refuses to use force to defend itself. A practical impossibility? Yes. In fact, a seminal book in political economy, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance by Douglass North, talks about the problem of finding a third party to enforce contracts that is not working for its own interests, and yet not necessarily governed by some moral imperative either (I'm still in the process of reading this).

But then again, nobody ever promised Christianity would be practical. After all, our God was around long before logic and reason were invented. And He invented forgiveness, the zenith of irrational acts.


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