Jesus and Democracy

I think a big reason that Christians struggle with how to interact with our culture is that our culture is very different from that of Bible times. Duh, right? But seriously, what would Jesus have done in a democratic system? That is the question that we struggle to answer. Some think that Jesus would have been an activist for change. He would have fought to stop the murder of unborn babies, the spread of the homosexual agenda and the destruction of marriage and family. Jesus did indeed oppose oppression. Just read his words to the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23. He didn’t have much to say about Roman oppression of the Jews, but he, in the role of an everyday citizen didn’t really have the opportunity/responsibility. As God he could have thrown down the Romans, but he didn’t because he was interested in a spiritual kingdom not a physical one, much to the displeasure of some of his “followers.”

But would he have been active had he been given that responsibility/opportunity as a citizen of the empire? Who knows.

Some people believe that we should work outside of the government. Speak the truth: that marriage is sacred and should last a lifetime, that babies should not be murdered, that homosexuality is wrong. Maybe offer help and counseling to those struggling with these things, but don’t involve the government. Don’t ask the government to legislate based on these moral standards. Don’t expect the government to defend the causes of Christianity, and sort of in an overarching theme don’t use the government as a tool to protect Christian morality and defend the oppressed.

This view would seem to reflect the model in Scripture at first glance, but the culture was different, the government was different. There was no voting, the people did not have that venue to defend their beliefs, so how can we know if Jesus would have advocated that or not.

Jesus says “render unto Caesar what Caesar is due.” but what if we ARE Caesar? What does he say to Caesar? When we step into the voting booth we are in a small way at least part of “Caesar.” So what do we do? We have a few options:

  • Work to implement Christian morality into government laws
  • At least vote to support those causes
  • Vote against those causes
  • Don’t vote on those issues
  • Don’t vote at all

So what do we do as representatives of Christ living in a democracy? What is our responsibility? What would Jesus have done? The answers to these questions are difficult, but pretty important. Any thoughts?

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About Dan Allen

Just some guy trying to figure stuff out... View all posts by Dan Allen

25 responses to “Jesus and Democracy

  • Dave

    Dan, there ya go again stirring up the dust…..:O). Sometimes I think you think too much. However, I love ya bro and I like what you do on your blog….motivating folks to think about “Why we do what we do” is a good thing. So what do we do as representatives of Christ living in a democracy?…..J
    My response to this first question is: VOTE! Voting has nothing to do with being a believer (christian). VOTING is a privilege that comes with being an American citizen. Like working for a company that offers a free lunch to it’s employees. God has just provided lunch. So enjoy! Personally, most of those I have voted for in my lifetime as an American have not been elected. When I vote, I look at what the candidate says they will do for the country to make it a better place (its a privilege). What is our responsibility? OUR RESPONSIBILITY is to be informed and VOTE responsibly. It might make a difference or it might not (God is in control of the difference and will accomplish his purposes). What would Jesus have done? There was no voting so this is conjecture and has no biblical context therefore it’s not a relative question. On the other hand, I have struggled with your questions every time there is an election. Voting seems (most of the time) to be an exercise if futility. So I hang my hat on Phil 3:17-21 this is an encouragement to me as I live in this world that is not my home. So voting (in a church or an election for government office) has zero eternal value. Live for what has eternal value…now there is a goal! Keep on stirring up the dust bro. and VOTE! Dave

  • Dan Allen

    Dave

    Thanks for the comment!

    I would simply ask, if the Bible is silent on this then why should we vote? What should we vote for? Do we push to make this a “Christian” nation? If so, what does that even mean? A nation that follows the Judeo/Christian moral standards? A nation that forces people to believe in Jesus? I am more convinced regarding the defense of innocent victims (aborted babies,children of broken homes) but that is a very different mentality then pushing the Christian agenda in government. So why vote? Because we are Americans or because we are Christians? Or because we are American Christians? And if the answer has anything to do with being a Christian I would struggle to understand the Biblical precedent for this.

    Looking forward to your thoughts!

    Dan

  • Marshall

    Does democratic practice make a citizen-Caesar?
    Rome also provided a “vote” for its male citizens. Paul held a Roman citizenship, while Jesus did not. Neither seemed inclined to engage the political process; lobby their senatus populusque Romanus, show/vote preference among candidates to be consuls, praetors, censors.

    If we’re going to work government into the cause of Christ, democracy will not be a truly compatible option. Democratic rule depends in simple majority, while Christ and His clan (walking inside an earthly kingdom) have never counted as a majority group/party.

    The USA founded as a republic, today functions much as an argentocracy or idiocracy. Potentially, merocracy or synarchy could be administered as a conduit to impose beliefs. Yet with the effort, after all is said and done, what have we gained for our neighbor? Certainly not Christ.

  • Dan Allen

    Marshall

    Do you feel we have any responsibility as Christians who can vote? I see three mindsets:
    1. Vote and use your voice to push the Christian agenda
    2. Vote and use your voice to defend the oppressed
    3. Don’t vote and don’t get involved in government

    I would say I lean more toward the second view. As a Christian I know loving and caring for those in need is important. To me loving the oppressed means defending their cause. I would find it hard not to stand for things like pro-life or laws against child/spousal abuse. I don’t care to legislate Christian morality or theology (like in option 1) but I would struggle to ignore the opportunity to stand for the oppressed (like in option 3).

    By the way I strongly agree with your last paragraph which is why I don’t really agree with option 1.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    Dan

  • Marshall

    Dan, to participate in political process requires time and effort yet better spent acting & intervening directly for justice and/or peace. contemporary government curiously lacks the means to furnish justice, or even to maintain the peace — beyond a marginal, outward appearance of calm for some locales but not others.

    Not the way I feel, but rather in taking up the faith that Jesus and the apostles lived: a more excellent way by applying love directly to the need rather than attempting to champion cause via a third party (i.e., government, agency, parachurch, social groups, etc.)

    to note: the Cristian agenda remains weak & suspect, as its traveling wagon of morality or ethic has for so long attempted to borrow in the philosophic marketplace of semi-Christian and quasi-Christian ideals.

    • Dan Allen

      I agree with you on (nearly) all of this. I would just wonder, from an actual practical standpoint, how would we, outside of the government, work to stop abortions?

  • Ben

    This is a good blog man. For some reason I have a hard time picturing Jesus in a voting booth submitting to the majority rules premise of democracy? That being said, if you’re leaning against the third mindset I don’t see how the second view differs substantially from the first. Isn’t defending innocent victims “pushing the Christian agenda” if you’re supporting that cause because it lines up with Christ’s teaching and example? If you want the government to be ethical at all, then doesn’t it need a standard by which to determine what’s evil and what’s not? If legislating Christian morality is off the table, who’s morality is going to fill the vacuum?

    I know you know this, but someone could be of the first mindset, and not want America to be a nation that “forces people to believe in Jesus” or that uses the sword to “gain people to Christ” Actually I’m not sure if anyone professing Christianity has ever promoted that view in the history of the planet. Establishmentarians believe that laws are given to restrain sin not produce piety. The government can forbid me to murder my neighbor but it can’t force me to love him. Along the same lines establishmentarians believe that governments can be used to restrain sin (blasphemy, heresy, etc.), not produce Christianity. I understand that that’s a hard view to sell, but honestly what other legislative option is there for the voting Christian who’s commanded to bring every thought captive to Christ? Is legislating in a more humanistic manner more in line with the spirit of the New Testament? I guess I’m nuts, but I don’t think so.

    • Dan Allen

      Ben, good thoughts! And the reality is that if we have any moral code at all then we have to ask where it comes from and under who’s authority do we proclaim it to be the correct moral code. So the question we have to ask is how far do we use the law “to restrain sin?” What is our standard for what kinds of sin we restrain? Defending the oppressed might be a good standard maker (stopping people from sinning in ways that directly harm others), but at that point it would be difficult to define the line for what it means to “harm others.” Physically? Intentionally? emotionally? significantly? These are very muddy waters indeed, and I think that you make a good point in recognizing the similarity in options 1 and 2. This is why it is very difficult to know my responsibility as a Christian voter.

  • Marshall

    I would just wonder, from an actual practical standpoint, how would we, outside of the government, work to stop abortions?

    seeing I Corinthians 11:3 brought to our lives and relationships. concurrently, abandoning “individualism” & “Christian morality” for Christ alive will set in motion Richter-scale change, first moving in & around us. Men with women will no longer learn to disregard the gift/grace of the Lord.

  • Dan Allen

    A question I would pose to anyone who has commented on this post, particularly those who oppose involvement in government altogether would be: how do you deal with the Nazis? Convert them? Fight them? granted there was no democracy so opposing the Nazis would mean fighting the government, but if you oppose fighting abortion within the government, it would seem to me that to maintain consistency you would also have to disagree with actively opposing the Nazis. Any thoughts?

  • Marshall

    to be sure, Christ is contrary (opposed) to all the systems & foolishness of men.
    Dan, It is not the question of whether we fight, but to how we wage war: not with the weapons/tactics of this world…

    For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

    systems of false faith, labeled “Christianity”, have often fell to support national movements — from Germany’s Third Reich to America’s expanding imperial Capitalism.
    Governments lack sufficient means to constrain themselves or to truly reform their citizenry. such to example as abortion, drunkenness, narcotics… human government is limited in its administrations by the capacity of its own governed populous. [i.e., America cannot expect the rest of the world to stop her citizens from consuming cocaine; to adopt her unwanted children; to maintain her young men sober; while she also lacks the means to achieve these things for herself.]
    all to contrast: In Christ, there is no limit to the power available or applied.

  • Marshall

    So what do you say about those who physically opposed the Nazis? They were out of line?

    to metaphor: a large ship has struck a titanic iceberg and is now surely going down. one man is soon to the radio with mayday; another calls passengers together with reason to calm their distress; another is calling for the life rafts; another hunts the boat’s captain in his outrage; other men set to signaling and sending up flares; while someone else is looting in the cabin area…

    what are you called to do in this journey?
    you can spend in fighting Nazis or voting-down democrats, but in the end; even if you win, you will have lost.

    Most generally, those who are part with the Harlot or with the Beast she rides upon [Revelation 17-19] will be doing the things associated or relevant to them and their passage.
    Those with Christ will be overcoming in His victory with the weapons of His/our warfare.

  • Ben

    I not advocating complete segregation from all governments per se. I think people should fight abortion and the Nazis, so I think governments should do so as well. My concern is that our entire American system of government is built upon the wrong foundation. Gary North says that whoever makes the laws of a nation is the god of that nation.. I think he’s right. In America we make the laws ourselves, so the voice of the people is the voice of god in America. That’s screwed up. I think if we submit to that system by voting we may just be capitulating to national idolatry (I’m nuts–I know). Even if I’m wrong about that, the way I see it we only have two options as Christians: 1. We can try to Christianize the system, by voting “Christianly,” but at the end of the day we’ll have Christianized humanism, or 2. We can try to work outside of the system, all the while seeking to lovingly call people and governments to repentance.

    • Dan Allen

      Ben

      You state “whoever makes the laws of a nation is the god of that nation.” Who else could make the laws except people? I think that you are onto something when you say “at the end of the day we’ll have Christianized humanism.” Thanks!

      Dan

  • Ben

    That’s a great point! Let me back up a little bit here. I believe that that civil government is a God ordained institution. I’m not sure about this, but I think government would have existed on this world even if Adam hadn’t fallen. I think that because even in heaven there’s some sort of government amongst the angels (The arch angel Michael is “one of the chief princes”–Dan 10:13) So I don’t think God established governments to make war with him and his kingdom, but to submit to Him and seek to outwardly promote His kingdom. As such I think it’s their duty to submit to His standards and laws. You make a good point about the human factor inherent in government. If we submit to God’s laws because our human leaders tell us to, we’re putting the authority of man over that of God, which is entirely backwards. I believe all authority is derivative. So I think governments get their power from God. When they get out from under His authority and seek to legislate independently from Him I believe they become tyrants and lose their authority. In saying that I’m not saying that all unbelievers in government are tyrants. If an unbeliever defends God’s standards (by defending innocent victims for example) unknowingly, I think he retains his authority, because he’s doing what God ordained him to do, albeit for the wrong reasons. At the end of the day, Jesus is Lord, and the right to legislate is His.

  • Marshall

    no matter for how we understand the presence of human governments on earth, their lives & actions are well described from prophecy & history; Almighty God puts a hook in the nose to bring destruction to their purpose; their end is to be crushed, as the Stone strikes their iron-clay feet.

    “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
    [Daniel 2:35]

  • Casey

    Wow. No wonder so many suicides have occurred in the past month huh? Quick question, what do any of you plan to do if one of your children is gay? Kick them out of the house and stop loving them? If the baby who is not aborted grows up to be gay, will you give them rights? Or will they kill themselves in bible school when they realize they’ll be hated for who they are? I understand if you are eager to find a community that you fit into, but exiling those who love different is absolutely inexcusable and it’s pushing kids to the brink of death. Please think about this before pushing your christian agenda to a point where innocent people are dying. How can you tell me that jesus opposed oppression then turn around and oppress an entire group of people simply because they LOVE someone who is not of the opposite sex? What do any of you do when a loved one comes out of the closet?

    I dont mean to sound attacking but please help me understand why this is such an issue in this community? Whatever happen to love thy neighbor?

    • Dan Allen

      Casey

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your thoughts. I agree that it is important to demonstrate the love of Christ to everyone, including homosexuals. This post had more to do with the interaction between Christians and the government. I used homosexuality as an example simply because it is a very hot topic in politics right now, with many Christians using the government as a tool to oppose homosexuality. This post questions whether or not that is a good approach. I’m not sure it is, and it appears that many who have commented agree. Please read my post Close to Home to see a more thorough explanation of my views on how to deal with these “hot issues.” I think you will find that I advocate sharing the love of Christ, as opposed to oppression or government endorsed opposition to these topics. Thanks again, hope you will come back often and share your thoughts!

      Dan

  • Marshall

    In the name of “love” many things are done. One can kill or bring life, and believe/announce that it is done by love. But what is love, truly? Why did the father of the prodigal son let him go? Why is the ekklesia at Corinth sending a man into “exile” who has his father’s wife?

    There is a theory that we, and/or all of society, is to fault for the thousands who have chosen to end their own life. However, we are not taught of God to assume blame when there is a suicide. Much of western civilization is built upon the tenant that men & women are capable of making their own choices — a societal double-think?

    Atop this, following Christ does push all of us into death; loss of our lives for His. Yes, we all have been pushed hard, very hard, even past the edge of death that we might gain life. What has become our liberation may also be called “oppression” by those still not truly free.

  • Casey

    Thank you for taking the time to answer me and doing so in a very rational and respectful way, I apologize if I lashed out but after seeing and hearing the phrase “God hates fags” so many times, well, Im sure you can understand my quickness to anger due to my overwhelming frustration. I very much enjoyed your “Close to home” post for many reasons. To start with, I firmly believe that filing for divorce does not make somebody an immoral person, nor would I ever place a stigma on somebody who has been through such an experience. One does not enter a marriage with the intent to later become divorced and if one does, then there is obviously an issue in the realm of morals. However, what happens when a significant change in your relationship takes a drastic toll? What happens when your husband or wife goes through a tragic incident and suddenly becomes an abusive alcoholic? What happens when ones happiness is suddenly deteriorating or their safety for that matter? And how can one judge or label somebody if they themselves have never been through that?

    Your last line is especially powerful when considering all of this negativity towards a group of people (any people) who have not set out to directly harm or cause pain to others (this may be debatable in the abortion issue, I understand). I am not saying that all Christians part-take in this hypocritical judging of others but I fear that they are perpetating a type of hatred because they are frightened that the stigmas of homosexuality, divorcees, or those who have committed abortion, will at some point be projected on to them (Waterboro Baptist). If you fervently speak out against these groups, you can feel as though your separation/ emphasis of difference from them makes you more powerful or more righteous of a human being. I feel that the politics of difference is very forceful through the wrongful use of social tools such as religion and is causing such a hinderance of unity in not only our nation, but the world. How are you going to bring anyone closer to the God by saying that he hates you for how you love or the mistakes youve made? It just seems like a flailing contradiction. Im eager to understand your view point on this and I hope you dont take me as just left wing liberal who wants to hate and argue, I genuinely want to understand these perceptions. If a loved one comes out of the closet how do you personally react? Whether its your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, or best friend, how do you respond and have you ever been out in this type of situation?

    And why on earth does there seem to be more anger towards abortion and homosexuals as oppose to the billions of dollars in tax money going to wars? The United States has been at war with a little over 20 countries since WWII. Over 300 billion dollars a year is going to the military a year and the trillions we have spent over seas is astonishing. I dont understand how someone can be so upset over the way somebody loves and not how corrupt and immoral our own government is. Corporations (ahem, Monsato anybody?, Enron? If you havent seen the documentary “Future of Food” please do) are taking over the senate with nothing to offer but greed and evil. THAT is something to viciously fight and attack. Not someone who loves different.

    Also, a good documentary which shows two highly intellectual people, one atheist and one Christian who are good friends with much enlightenment on this very subject is posted below. Definitely check it out if you have time.

    http://thoughtmaybe.com/video/collision

    And to Marshall, your societal-double take comment is very interesting. If a young Christian boy decided to commit suicide after being subjected to bullying and teasing for many years simply because of what he believes in, how would you react? If it was your son or daughter who could not be who they were for fear of being beat up after school or harassed and humiliated, would you in no way say that those people were not in any way at fault or responsible for that taking of a life? I understand they made the choice to do so, but its sad to think they after such torment, they found death to be a better option than living. Have you ever been bullied to that extent? Again, I just want to understand your thoughts on this. Thank you for your time.

    • Dan Allen

      Casey

      I appreciate your thoughtful response and your willingness to discuss these sensitive issues without being attacking or antagonistic. While I am not willing to say that homosexuality or divorce is “ok,” I am also not willing to ignore the repeated commands of Scripture to demonstrate the love of Christ to the hurt and lost people of this world. It would also be very inconsistent to single out these particular sinful actions, to level some sort of moralistic attack against them, when in reality all people are sinful and in need of redemption from their sinful hearts. It seems odd to me to take such aggressive action against homosexuality, yet ignore pride, hate, gluttony, lust, selfishness, and so on. I hope to see your thoughtful contributions across this blog more often! Thanks!

      Dan

    • millstone

      Casey,

      I wonder if I might ask for your thoughts on this subject so I can better understand your perspective. If “your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, or best friend” decided to become say a hunter or a soldier would you seek to instruct that person on the morality of taking innocent life or would you be happy that your loved one was following his/her passion? If a loved one took a job with Monsanto, would you feel compelled to explain to him/her how Monsanto is destroying the family farm and corrupting the world’s food supply, or would your love for that person compel you to stand by and say nothing?

  • Marshall

    Casey, knowing the possibility that a child will (most likely) face teasing, bullying, and more worse still, I am inclined to do best to warn a child very early of the contests upcoming; to look out for them through their years. (western culture would so easily isolate people in various ways.) Bullies are too widespread, covert/camouflaged, diverse & prolific to simply sweep them from our neighborhoods.

    Our most significant reaction to suicide is the admission that no real solution is achieved thereby, while suicide is not a notch-victory for oppressors. If my son or daughter cannot be in life, I would not expect the people around them to change (a most unlikely goal to reach). There’s a time to choose your friends, prepare for possible trouble, and in what surroundings may provide the best. Humanity is beyond the theoretical, while in theory I should be able to live anywhere — downtown Compton, or The Bronx, and find every grace & opportunity in any neighbor-hood, school, society, culture…

    Again, death is integral to faith in Christ: not a physical suicide, but a killing of our craving, egocentric self so that Christ will then live in us to truly love and to overcome. Death is “a better option” than life without God’s purpose lived. The bullies hit me pretty hard in childhood. By the power of God, I survived. When my wife left, I went & stood on the highway overpass, but did not jump. I had given God control, and so was no longer able to destroy myself. Then & there was my aide for what would have otherwise been another suicide. I must blame God for saving me.

  • casey

    Thank you very much for your thoughts and your anecdote. Im very happy for you and your strength. Thanks again for your time. It is very helpful for me.

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