Consider a typical election season in the United States: Candidates run for office and publicly embrace religion. They visit Sunday church services, singing hymns and shaking hands with ministers and parishioners—the perfect “photo op.”
They solemnly invoke the name of God and Jesus, and give political testimony of how the Bible’s teachings and principles relate to the social issues of the day—as if to say, “God is on my side—a vote for me is a vote for God!”
Despite the increasing secular outcry for total separation of Church and State, religion has been an influential force in the U.S. political scene since the nation’s birth.
The 1970s saw the disgraceful exit of an American President and the fall of Saigon; the rise of oil shortages, runaway inflation and job layoffs nationwide. It also saw a pro-Washington ally, the Shah of Iran, replaced by an anti-American theocracy that held U.S. citizens hostage 444 days. The American people wanted a change, a return to the national resolve and optimism of the 1940s and 50s.
Enter the Reagan Revolution, largely made possible by the voting power of the Christian Right. The 1980s saw optimism return to the nation, as well as a robust economy, the growth of small businesses and the corporate sector, the expansion of the middle class, and undaunted U.S. military strength in the final years of the Cold War.
But all this waned by the end of the decade and into the 1990s, as the secularist movement gained momentum, strength—and a national voice.
In reaction to the rising tide of secularist agendas and the gains these achieved, political-minded Evangelical Christians called for other changes: “no” to abortion; “yes” to prayer in public schools; display the Ten Commandments at government facilities; limit the legal definition of marriage to “one man, one woman”; teach public school children to abstain from premarital sex. Standing on the platform of family values, the Christian Right was influential in helping the Republican Party capture the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and the White House in 2000 and 2004.
U.S. President George W. Bush chats with Bishop Sedgwick Daniels after speaking at the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, Wisc., in July 2002.Source: MCT
Moderate and liberal Democrats took note. Today, politicians on the left and center-to-left are just as willing to campaign for votes from the churches and denominations of professing Christianity as are their conservative counterparts.
Yet rather than wave the political banner of “traditional family values,” the Liberal Left campaigns under a much different set of values—one that trumpets, “A family can be defined as anything.” Here, abortion is called “being responsible.” Teaching young minds “safe sex” over abstinence is considered more practical. Any display of religion or religious beliefs in public schools or government buildings must be suppressed. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry and/or adopt is viewed as intolerant and judgmental.
Speaking about the U.S. presidential campaign, author Paul Kengor expressed the following in an interview with Frontpage Magazine: “Hillary Clinton realizes that if she is to win in 2008, she needs more than the atheist vote. She needs to win a sizable enough sliver of those 2000 and 2004 moral-religious ‘values voters’ who twice elected George W. Bush. Those who attend church weekly or more went overwhelming for Bush, by two-to-one ratios, and each time provided him with an absolutely decisive vote margin of about five million ballots.
“It became clear in the immediate days after the November 2004 vote…that [presidential candidate Hillary Clinton] was going to go after that values voter. She angrily complained that it was a sign of ‘such disrespect’ to think that liberal Democrats who believe in God cannot be attractive to these religious voters. Ever since, she has pursued a strategy to win them over in 2008.”
“[Senator Clinton] is also part of a long tradition of ‘social justice’ Christians. These are the folks who have concluded that when Jesus calls on them to help the poor—which He did quite clearly, of course—that He favored a system of collectivism and forced wealth redistribution, including 50-plus percent upper-income tax rates, an estate tax, a capital gains tax, sales taxes, taxes on fuel, taxes on cigarettes, property taxes, government-subsidized healthcare, daycare, $5,000-bonds for newborns, and so on; and that’s just a starter. They rightly understand that God wants all of us to be good stewards of the environment, but can be downright dogmatic in insisting that if the Almighty were here today He would cast into a lake of fire all those who don’t support the Kyoto Treaty.”
Since both the Conservative Right and now the Liberal Left, in effect, claim that the God of the Bible is on their side, this naturally begs the question, “Is God liberal or conservative?” In other words, what “social issues” and positions does He support?
As recorded in the Old Testament, God revealed His Law to ancient Israel. Comprised of commandments, statutes, judgments and precepts, God’s Law evidences His viewpoints on a wide range of civic, social, environmental and other issues.
In revealing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (Ex. 20:1-17), God established that there is right and wrong behavior. He also explained there are penalties—swift punishment!—when one breaks His laws (Lev. 26:14-39). All this would seem to align God’s views with traditional conservative ideas.
On the other hand, God also explains that He is merciful and gracious (Psa. 116:5). He promises to bless and care for those who heed Him (Deut. 28:1-14). He also says that He watches over the poor, widows, orphans and foreigners among His people. This would seem to place Him strongly in the camp for the “social justice” Christians.
In addition, God proclaims His love for all human beings and countries (John 3:16), going so far as to promise that one day all nations will be blessed (Gen. 26:4). His love and compassion extends so far that He promises to do away with all pain, sorrow and death (Rev. 21:4).
However, this same God who explains that He is love (I John 4:8) also announces that He will bring His furious wrath upon those who disobey Him (Nah. 1:2). He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7) and will bring destruction on the wicked (Psa. 37:20).
God’s unique and perfectly-balanced combination of compassion and swift justice is unseen in the political philosophies of men.
To those reared in traditional Christianity, many of these verses might seem to contradict the concept of God they have been taught all their lives—a deity who has never matured beyond the point of a moody teenager. The world’s ministers, pastors and religionists teach either an out-of-control, fire-and-brimstone “God” who devours those who upset Him—or a pacifist, weak, “come as you are,” permissive “God” who allows everyone to do whatever they please, as long as they “just have love.”
Both extremes completely contradict the true God of the Bible, who exercises perfect moderation, judgment and discernment in all His decisions. In every aspect of life—whether personal, social or educational—God demonstrates both liberal and conservative thinking. If this sounds strange, recognize this: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
God does not limit His ability to make correct and just decisions by locking Himself into any of man’s political ideologies.
Citing III John 1:2, many churches correctly teach that God wants Christians to be blessed and prosperous. Yet these same religious organizations often neglect to teach that He requires people to do their part—to work hard, save their income and be wise stewards (or managers) of their personal finances.
Few today understand God has a detailed financial system that, when obeyed, yields blessings. The core component of this system is tithing. God wants men to demonstrate their ability to save money and “stretch a dollar” by giving Him the first 10% of their income. In return, He promises those who trust Him wonderful blessings and a significant gain on investment (Mal. 3:8-10).
God’s financial system also includes mercy upon the poor and those who struggle with economic difficulties. He commands men not to oppress the impoverished by exacting interest from them (Ex. 22:25), and to mete out debt relief by a fair and forgiving standard (Deut. 15:1-2). In addition, all citizens are to do their part in taking care of the poor by making sure their needs are met (vs. 7-11).
For instance, God required farmers to leave enough crops during the harvest season “for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” for their food (Deut. 24:19-22). However, these same disadvantaged people had to labor—they had to work in the fields and glean the crops for themselves.
Clearly, both sides of the political and social spectrum—conservative investment and fiscal responsibility on the one hand, relieving the poor on the other—are simultaneously reflected within God’s view on money.
Modern criminal justice systems struggle with how to effectively uphold the laws of the land. Some governments follow a permissive course, such as tolerating illegal drug use and other social ills. Other governments exact terrible punishment for the simplest infractions—and even punish victims of the crimes along with the criminals who committed them.
Take note of the following report from the Associated Press regarding “justice” in Saudi Arabia: “The Saudi judiciary…defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked.”
“Judges have wide discretion in punishing criminals, rules of evidence are vague and sometimes no defense lawyer is present. The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light sentence to death.”
“Canada’s minister for women’s issues, Jose Verger, has called the sentence ‘barbaric.’”
“The New York-based Human Rights Watch said the verdict ‘not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators.’”
Many legal systems find themselves powerless in punishing criminals, with the most horrific offenders sometimes released without punishment.
Even those who are imprisoned live comfortable lives often better than the ghettos and other dying communities that inspired them to a life of crime in the first place.
As well, the slow process of court systems, legal battles and appeals often takes years—allowing criminals to gloss over the whole purpose of reform. As a result, Ecclesiastes 8:11 becomes reality: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
In contrast to these extremes, God designed a balanced system of justice and equity. He explains that the penalty for any crime should be as serious as the original infraction (Ex. 21:23-25), and that some crimes require the perpetrator to restore more than the initial damages (Ex. 22:1).
The world’s religions and philosophies often profess extreme and opposing opinions regarding the environment and wildlife. Some believe the entire earth is sacred and therefore man should not harm it—even going so far as to not eat animals or tap natural resources. At the other extreme are those who believe animals can be slaughtered without cause, and that all the earth’s resources are man’s to squander without repercussion.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God says that He gave man dominion over the earth and over all the animals (vs. 26-30). This includes the earth’s natural resources. God also gave certain animals for man’s diet, and explicitly outlined which animals should and should not be eaten (Lev. 11).
Concerning natural resources, God also set a clear example for using these resources by commanding that Noah’s Ark, as well as articles in the Holy Tabernacle, be constructed of fine wood, precious metals and the best materials available (Gen. 6:14; Ex. 25-27).
Along with using natural resources, mankind is charged with taking care of the earth (Gen. 2:15). Part of this responsibility includes giving the land a rest from farming every seventh year (Lev. 25:1-4).
Clearly, God’s view is to conserve the land. He created the earth to be properly used, not abused.
Religionists of traditional and modern “Christianity” selectively choose which of God’s views and laws to preach, and which ones to ignore. So do those of the Conservative Right and Liberal Left who turn to this world’s churches and religious leaders for political support.
Thankfully, the God who hates evil (Prov. 8:13), and yet is reasonable—who says to all who are willing, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18)—will soon establish His government upon the earth. It will administer true justice and equity for all nations.
And there will never again be any doubt as to whether God is liberal or conservative in His ways.