Thursday, November 3, 2011

When Christians Trust in an Arm of Flesh

As the American election season draws closer and closer to voting day, I find that I seem to have a problem bonding with brothers and sisters who are more politically motivated that I am. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Person: "Oh wow! You have to look more into this candidate! They're so amazing! They're going to save our country! Go to their website! Read their book!"
Me: "No thanks."
Person: "Why not? Don't you care?"
Me: "I do care, I just trust God more."

This is usually followed by me being accused of being something equal to a fatalist, but I wouldn't say I'm a fatalist. It's just when it comes to politics, I'm simply a cynic. The original Cynics, of course, were ancient Greek philosophers who were known for being doubtful of government, religious, and social bodies doing any good for humanity. Once upon a time I was very big into politics and political thought, but over time - as I observed what could only be described as stupidity exercising equal opportunity - I began to doubt the capabilities of the political machine. As I became more and more mature in my understanding of a Christian worldview, I likewise began to become cynical towards the idea that a man-made structure completely inhabited by fallible men could, on its own, do any great amount of good. It's not that I don't vote, and it's not that I don't have opinions on certain topics - it's simply that I don't see any reason to give passionate devotion to what appears to be an inherently flawed system made of individuals who themselves are inherently flawed.

I said, all this isolates me from my more political brothers and sisters. Republican Christians become upset with me because I don't trust the government enough. Libertarian Christians get upset with me because I trust the government too much. Democrat Christians get upset with me because I question their salvation. The Communists, Socialists and Anarchists...well, they're a special breed altogether. In any case which might come up, I tend to isolate myself when the political cynicism appears.

In all these conversations, I can't help but notice that the greatest hostility seems to come in regards to God's sovereignty in the midst of elections and political actions. When I bring up that I trust God will still be in control regardless of who wins the election or what our government does, people seem to lash out at such a notion. It will either be interpreted as putting too much emphasis on God's control or too little emphasis on man's involvement in the affairs of the world.

On this point, it is simply astounding that, for many people, God seems to permit complete and utter freedom among political bodies. He controls hurricanes, He aids individuals in their individual life problems, and even offers salvation for all mankind...but assistance in a political election? Whoa! Wait a minute now, that's going too far! It is no wonder then that so many of the hyper-political Christians I talk to, when they switch topics from politics to theology, seem to espouse what can only be described as deism. Many don't like this label being applied to them, but this is what one comes to when following their theology through to its logical conclusion. They believe God's there, yes...but He's far away. He won't meddle in the affairs of the mortal children and their elections.

Some responses are even more peculiar. I covered in another post an interesting argument where the person essentially said that yes, in olden times God controlled the fate of kingdoms...but democracy was that one form of government He could not touch, since there were no kings. Logically speaking, of course, that meant man had discovered and instituted a form of government that completely eludes God's sovereign will. Man in essence one-upped God, and God is up in heaven waving his fists and crying out, "Curse you and your democracy!"

The root of all this may be that many who call themselves Christian today are placing their trust in an arm of flesh. The term "arm of flesh" is from 2 Chronicles 32:8, where King Hezekiah says regarding Sennacherib of Assyria: "With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles." To many self-proclaimed Christians today, the good that comes down to society must come down from Washington, not from heaven. This goes for both liberals and conservatives: liberals believe religion has no place in government and that the people must look to the government for the needs of the people; conservatives believe that all those who believe in deity must band together to get the government back on track, and whether this fellowship involves solely Christians or Christians along with Jews, Muslims, Mormons or otherwise is irrelevant.

Both of these beliefs have two things in common: 1) they throw emphasis on human institutions over God; 2) they are an entirely horizontal view of society and God. That is, they are both views of theology that deal solely with human interaction within government. Liberals demand that humans bring about change through the government, whereas conservatives demand believers band together to bring about change in the government. God has no real place in these two systems, for He is unwanted in the one and minimalized in the other. Our trust either way is not truly on God, but on ourselves first and foremost and secondarily on our government. Our trust, therefore, is in an arm of flesh.

So in 2012 Americans will go out and vote, and we will have either the same president as before or a new president altogether. Some good might come from it, some bad, maybe both. In either case, I'm not terribly concerned about what will occur. God will still be in control, despite how high our voting participation is or how qualified the candidate is who wins. There will still be one God reigning in heaven and on earth, and the church will still be made up of His people, regardless of borders, nationalities or political parties. God bless.