Friday, October 23, 2009

A few questions about Christianity and politics (Multiple choice)

Choose the best answer:

Those who promote marriage amendments to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal are:

A. Upholding a biblical view of family and society
B. Fostering hatred and intolerance
C. Denying the rights of individuals in a free nation
D. Saving their nation by fighting the decline of morals

Governments and humanitarian groups who distribute condoms in areas with high AIDS infection rates are:

A. Saving lives by reducing infection rates
B. Promoting immorality by encouraging sex outside of marriage
C. Acknowledging sinfulness while attempting to protect the innocent (like AIDS orphans and faithful spouses married to unfaithful spouses)
D. Undermining God’s pattern for society by protecting people from the consequences of their actions.

Christians who advocate implementing Christian morals in legislation are:

A. Completely missing the point, because Christianity is just about loving God and people, not about politics.
B. Preparing the way for the proclamation of the gospel by helping society to view sin as something that is wrong, not just a personal preference.
C. Hindering the proclamation of the gospel by trying to force right behavior on people who have not been regenerated and made capable of holiness.
D. Expressing love for the world by doing what is best for society, because the world functions best when people follow God’s principles for life.

I'm growing weary of what seem to me overly simplistic statements about Christianity and politics. One unsatisfying statement is that we must make our nation a Christian nation. This seems to me like it would undo all the progress Western culture has made to get to the separation of church and state and freedom of conscience in religious matters, thus restoring the problem of any corrupt, unjust or murderous action by the government being viewed as the action of Christianity.

Another unsatisfying conclusion is that we just have to love God and love people, and not worry about politics, because Christianity isn't about politics. But this places us in the position of having the right to vote (something that wasn't a part of the New Testament church's political situation), but having to believe that our Christianity has nothing to say about which boxes we will check on the ballot. This buys into the idea that religion is only something that gives meaning, significance and identity, but not something that can be applied to reality. But can something really be true if it isn't workable in life and applicable to the real world?

I will have more thoughts coming on my blog, but I have to start with the questions before I can, well, raise more questions and make them more complicated. (What, did you think I have the answers? Heck, no!)


Sabrina said...

I too have been growing weary; for a while now, actually, because everyone with whom I discuss this issue gives me a simplistic answer -either we must fight to get back America's Christian identity, or, we forget about involving ourselves in politics altogether.

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts concerning this.

faithbornfromdoubt said...

q1: the closest to my answer is B, but I wouldn't phrase it that way.

q2: a/c depending upon the group. I find D offensive and heretical

q3: c, although d sounds intriguing

I'll comment later, maybe

Stephen Proctor said...

This got really long, so it's going to make me break it into multiple responses... so, without further ado:

To question 1 (the gay marriage one)...

All of the above... you know, depending on one’s perspective.

I saw an ad on television this morning urging people to vote no on some proposition that would define marriage as one man, one woman. It was a gay woman who had been in New Orleans during Katrina. She and her partner lived together. During the hurricane, her partner was seriously injured and rushed into an emergency room where she later died. The woman speaking said she was at no time allowed to see her partner because she had no blood or legal familial relationship. Had they been granted the legal standing of a married couple, she could have said goodbye.

A very outspoken atheist guy I was working with the other day was showing someone else his new unitarian minister card that he’d gotten online. He said it took some easy, open-book test and now he’s legally recognized as clergy in America. Someone said to him, ‘so you can marry people and perform religious services even though you don’t believe in what you’re doing?’

He responded, ‘That just shows you the hypocrisy of the American government getting involved in religion.’

And I think that’s where the line gets muddied. Marriage is both a religious term (with a myriad of definitions depending on the faith in questions) and a legal term (which varies from state to state and country to country). But where does one end and the other begin?

Here are a couple of scenarios... A church can set certain requirements for allowing a couple to be married in that church. However, should that couple decide that they don’t want to go through all of the prep work involved to be married there, they can get married at another church, or at the courthouse, and the church will, more likely than not, still recognize them as a married couple. Or how about this, an atheist couple can be legally married, wear left-hand rings, call each other husband and wife, have a couple kids, visit each other in the hospital and then convert to Christianity. When they show up to a church, they’ll be considered married. In both of those instances, where does the religious side of the marriage end and the legal side begin?

Additionally, what is the end goal of people who are vehemently against gay marriage? What do people against gay marriage want to happen as the end result? They want homosexuality to cease to exist. They want for no one to be gay. I can’t say that I disagree with that desire, but banning gay marriage doesn’t stop people from being gay, and creating laws that prohibit someone from being gay would be both unenforceable and a step down a very bleak road of thought legislation. It only disallows consenting adults the right to enter into a specific kind of contract that legally binds them together for certain purposes like hospital visitation and property rights.

My opinion is that there should be a very defined separation between civil unions and marriage. Civil unions are a contractual agreement that two adults enter into for recognition in the eyes of the state, and marriage is a covenant relationship two people enter into under the eyes of God. I would propose that all couples, gay or straight, who want the rights under the law would fill out the requisite forms and get a certificate of civil union. No muss, not fuss, no ceremony and no cake. Just file the paperwork and call it a day. If the people want to get married, they go to their place of worship, fulfill any criteria and get married. People could do one or the other or both.

Stephen Proctor said...

Question 2 (the condom one)...

I don’t think that supplying people who are going to have sex, whether protected or unprotected, with condoms is encouraging sex. I don’t think Christian organizations should give out condoms because it would send very mixed signals, but I don’t really see the point in Christians trying to stop other people from using condoms when they’re going to do what they’re going to do with or without it.

I spent about a month in Thailand a few years ago. It’s pretty socially acceptable there for men to get prostitutes after a night of drinking. I crave a cheeseburger when I’m a little tipsy, they crave sex with women who aren’t their wife. I don’t get it, but it’s a problem. Their wives obviously don’t like this, but they just live with it. As a result of so much sex with so many different partners, they have a huge population living with AIDS who are too ashamed to tell anyone. So they just keep spreading it and giving it to the next generation.

We certainly need to send missionaries there to teach the Gospel and bring these people to repentance, and that’s obviously the most effective path to stopping this epidemic, but in the mean time, stopping governmental and non-governmental humanitarian groups from distributing condoms isn’t helping those prostitutes (many of whom are sex slaves doing what they’re doing against their will) or the wives of the scumbags who use them.

Stephen Proctor said...

And question three (the Christian morals in politics one)...

What if we mainly used our political might to ensure that the state is keeping its nose out of the Church and to expand the freedoms of the church, without creating laws and regulations that restrict the rights of people who have not been filled with the Holy Spirit and are thus incapable of making the right decision. You put a quote on your wall the other day that said, “The right answer to the wrong questions is always the wrong answer.” I think that applies here too, right behavior for the wrong reason is always sinful.

I often hear about laws and regulations that would limit a private citizen’s rights to practice his or her faith in public places. Things like not allowing children to pray in school, or kicking faith-based organizations off of school campuses, or trying to prohibit sports teams from praying before a game, or disallowing church groups from reserving public park space for gatherings, the list could go on for pages... These are the areas I think Christians should be fighting for expanding our right to be Christian in public, not just in church. These are political battles I think we should dig in our heels for and keep swinging until the last man has fallen.

But things like gay marriage and condom distribution are tough because we don’t want to look like we’re caving to the desires of the world, or giving up on humanity or condoning actions that are so clearly against our belief structure.

I remember though, right around the time Hillary Clinton had thrown her hat into the ring for presidency, there was some capitol hill hullabaloo about giving President Bush some new unprecedented powers to do something crazy. And I remember arguing with a guy who thinks the words Christian and Republican were synonymous. He thought that George Bush was a great leader and that he should be trusted with those powers. And I said, you may think that, but you have to remember, you’re not giving that power to George Bush, you’re giving it to the office of the Presidency. That’s means if Hillary gets elected, that’ll be her power.

He isn’t a very logical person, so he just balked and said that was absurd and trailed off before walking away... but doesn’t a version of that argument perhaps apply here?

Stephen Proctor said...

How about this... imagine you’re chilling in a park in Saudi Arabia eating a plate of bacon. Someone walks up, knocks the bacon on the ground and stomps it into the dirt.

You ask him, “why did you do that?”

“Because allah says it is not good to eat a swine’s flesh.”

“Ahh,” you say, “but I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in the koran. Jesus says it’s good to eat bacon, so your rules do not apply to me.”

“Well too bad, because I do believe in the Koran,” the man says, “so we have made it the law of the land.”

My point is, that it seems absurd to me to disallow particular freedoms to people who don’t believe in the basis of the law. However, I certainly think churches have (and should use) the authority to disallow membership, or even participation to anyone who is unwilling to repent and live a lifestyle that conforms to Biblical teachings. And if a law came down the pike saying that churches had to accept homosexuals as members and couldn’t turn away unrepentant folks who are potentially poisonous to the congregation, or had to distribute condoms to maintain legal protection overseas... I would be against those laws 101%.

I’ve heard the argument that, ‘of course we should base laws on Christianity because we already do: don’t steal, don’t kill, etc...’ but the problem is, that’s only two of the 10 commandments. The rest aren’t against the law. And those two aren’t unique to Christianity. They’re pretty universal across religions and cultures. As Christians we, of course, believe that that innate understanding of the immorality is proof that they are image bearers of God, but without regeneration, they are incapable of comprehending that and believe that through a long series of coincidences they developed a conscience.

I know that’s all pretty anecdotal by and large doesn’t really answer the questions either, but it’s a few ramblings that can hopefully stir up further discussion... because this stuff is fascinating to me!

faithbornfromdoubt said...

By the way, for question 1, I meant C not B

Erica &/or Zac said...

For 1 I'd have to go with "C" except nuanced differently. 2 would be attempting A. 3, I lean towards A, but I don't really want to. Ha, there's my two cents.

Kevin said...

I thought this was multiple choice?

Kevin said...

1. C

2. A

3. A