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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why the Church should embrace small government

You can’t legislate morality.  That is the tired old argument that liberty minded folks and constitutionalists present to those who favor using the government to enforce their religious views.   But as a person of faith myself, I will do you one better.  It is true, that is impossible to force people to be moral with the use of government force. Evidence of this fact can be seen everywhere. Alcohol prohibition of the 1920’s was a faith based initiative.  The aim of those in favor of prohibition was to rid society of the evils of alcohol consumption.  As history showed, this plan backfired and organized crime infected society and alcoholism exploded.

However, the simple fact that that government is not capable of being a moral enforcer is the weakest argument for liberty in my opinion. The real evil of this concept is, when you give the moral authority to the government, it replaces the church in that role.  By setting this standard, you set the precedent that someone should look at whether or not something is legal when making the decision of whether not it is moral.  If you’re claiming that the government will protect you from bad behavior, doesn’t that presume that if something is legal, then it must be morally acceptable?

Recently, a person stated to me, “I agree with the concept of liberty, but I don’t think it should extend to allow immorality.”  They went on to apply that to the issue of homosexuality, and advised it should be illegal. Say we give this power to government, along with the money, guns and authorization to use violence that goes along with it.  Do they propose we put a camera in every bedroom?  The idea that it should be the job of the police to monitor everyone’s sexual behavior is far more perverse than the alternative.

Christians make the issue of gay marriage one of their central concerns during elections. They are unaware however, that their embrace of the big government nanny state made them lose this battle a long time ago. It was a long time ago that the Church accepted that it should be a responsibility government to sanction marriage. Once again, the Church relinquishes the moral authority.

Society has almost entirely replaced faith with government. It was well-meaning Christians who helped embrace the concept that the government should take the earnings of some to provide for the poor and down trodden. After all, the Bible does command us to help those in need (though we are given free will, which makes the action of giving one of faith rather than compliance).  There was a time in America, when you needed help, you went to a Church.  Once again, this function has given to government, removing the opportunity to witness to those individuals.  Now, society views (mistakenly) government as the savior and doer of good deeds.  Since the role of welfare has been handed over to the state, and income redistribution is perpetrated on a massive scale, many folks pay more than half their income in taxes.  If government did not claim rights to this much of our wealth, we might have more to give or to tithe.   Once the image of righteousness is attached to government, it doesn’t take long for people to witness one of the many evils that it engages in, destroying along with it, the perception of Christianity which has placed its stamp of approval on the system.

The notion that government is synonymous with morality has created a monster.  In order to police the behavior of the people it has been necessary to create a leviathan of power, a vast network of laws and the guns, personnel and prisons to enforce it.  What happens when a force with a different view of morality, or worse, a purely evil force gains control of this mechanism?  We have seen what happens.  Nazi Germany is an example of a once-moral people embracing the idea of a totalitarian state.

The poor arguments come from both sides in this debate.  Many of those, whom I respect for their faith and devotion, have a view of this relationship I cannot accept. When examining an atrocity or evil committed by the state, they often respond by saying “we live in fallen world.” So, we should attempt to regulate behavior of individuals, but write off institutionalized sin? Other arguments include a reference to how the end times are prophesied or a quote of the verses in Romans 13.  I like to remind them however, that Romans 13 was Hitler’s favorite Bible verse, and that Christians in Nazi Germany believed they were witnessing the end times.

The Church does not often recognize this dangerous relationship with government.  However, governments have and will always understand it.  The government, now bloated and drunk on the unending power which we have allowed it, views the family and faith as its competitor.  Realizing this reciprocity, whether by nature or by calculated tactic, those in power seek to destroy and dismantle the family and real faith.

It is for these reasons that I would urge people of faith to embrace a more humble role of government.  One that is more safe for everyone.  We should recognize that the only true and necessary function of government should be to protect the liberties of all and the only legitimate function of government force is to prevent illegitimate force.  If we embrace this, we will eliminate Christianity’s most fierce predator. 

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