Thursday, September 29, 2005

Opinion Piece: The government is not the kingdom of God

Here is my opinion piece for those who may not have read it in the Beacon.

The goverment is not the kingdom of God

Think about the following situation: Suppose I tell my wealthy neighbor that I’ve been reading Hosea, and I think he should give more money to the poor. Then, I get together a bunch of neighbors, and we go over to the rich man’s house with rifles and shotguns. We demand that he give us a third of his income to give to a poor family down the street—and he does.

Should either the posse of neighbors or the rich man be credited with Christian charity? Hardly. The group of neighbors took the money using the threat of violence, and the rich man gave his money only because he was threatened . The neighbors may have fed and clothed the poor, but they have done so by using violence—a means contrary to the Gospel.

This situation is no different from the liberal tax policy alluded to by last Friday’s chapel speaker Dr. George DeVries. He thinks Christians should be outraged that “our government cuts taxes on the very rich and pays for it with smaller appropriations for the very needy,” implying that Christians should expect the goverment to take money from the rich to give to the poor.

He fails to realize, however, that such a “progressive” tax system relies on physical violence. If you have any doubts about this, try not paying taxes for a year. Within weeks, the government will arrest you, confiscate your house and sell enough of your possessions to pay the tax. This despite the fact that you may object to the government using your money to fund an unjust war or stem cell research.

While Jesus severely criticized the rich, he never used violent coercion to care for the needy. He called the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. But when the man refused, Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to use weapons to take the man’s belongings.

Think about another example: Suppose I find out that my neighbor is not only rich, but also a glutton. Appalled that he is committing such a blatant sin, I go over to his house with my posse of neighbors and we confiscate his Snickers bars, ice cream and Little Debbies, and tell him that we’ll regularly check in to make sure he eats right.

Like the neighbors in this second story, many conservative Christians want to use coercion to serve the Gospel by discouraging people from doing bad things, even if those “sins” aren’t directly hurting anyone else. Conservatives are intent, for example, on using the federal government to stop gay marriage, even though gay couples aren’t directly harming anyone else by living together. Such actions are supposedly justified because they make society more moral.
Jesus, however, never using the coercion of laws to stop sin. When Jesus met the women caught in adultery, he didn’t try to pass a law against unfaithfulness (in fact, he stopped her from legally being stoned). Instead, he told her sins were forgiven and asked her to voluntarily leave her life of sin.

Jesus refused to become a political leader or use force to advance his Kingdom. Almost everyone expected Him to use His power to fix the political problems in Israel, to remove the oppression and injustice of the Romans or to clean up the corruption of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Instead, Jesus cared for individual people, told parables and died a humiliating, powerless death. Jesus showed that the Kingdom of God isn’t about forcing other people to do the right thing, it’s about repenting of your own sin, believing in the grace of God, and convincing others to do so as well—but not through the use of political force.


Blogger ryan said...

It can also be found on the Beacon online, here.

10:31 AM  

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