Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sacred & Secular Belief (Or, Why I Am Not a Democrat) Part 1

Note: this is part one of an indefinite amount of posts. This entry will, hopefully, represent the bulk of what I post here, in that it is a place for me to sound out my thoughts, which are so often in-process. This will be something more akin to a stream-of-consciousness essay.

I find that I have two belief structures--my sacred beliefs, or theology, and my secular beliefs, or philosophy (for lack of a better word). Often, these two structures are in conflict with one another, particularly when it comes to the arena of politics, or more appropriately, state government.
As a Christian, I gather the majority of my theological beliefs from my interpretation of the Bible. My political beliefs, however, seem to come from a different stream (though not entirely unrelated). Yet I have this nagging guilt that the Bible ought to be the source of my governmental and political philosophy, even though I'm doubtful of how much it speaks directly to this, outside of theocracy. If I'm to be a good Christian, shouldn't I get all of my beliefs, including my politics, from Scripture?
If I were to draw a straight line from Scripture to politics, paying special attention to the words of Jesus (the red letters), I think that I would, like many progressive evangelicals (esp. Emergent), be a Democrat, or at least politically liberal. However, I'm not convinced that there is a straight line to be drawn from Scripture to state government. Jesus didn't tell us to put our hope in elected (or non-elected, as in so much of the world) leaders. He merely told us to obey and respect them. Paul even goes so far as to say that it would be best for us to live quiet lives in respect to the state.
Despite what I'm hearing from certain circles of Christendom, Jesus was not a political activist. He did not seek, like Judas Maccabees or Simon ben Kishoba (sp?), the usurpation of occupying governments. He did not seek the restoration of political Israel. (However, I do believe that he sought and achieved the restoration of Israel {and of all the world} through the forgiveness of sins.) Jesus was not a rebel, in the political sense; and I truly believe that this ought to influence our hermeneutic, particularly of these "red-letters." If Jesus was not a political activist, and if he did not offer salvation through political, governmental, or state means, then we ought to be wary of giving his words a political application. In other words, we ought not apply our sacred beliefs through secular means.

I'll try to sort out the implications of this thought in a post soon.


rich hagopian said...

I don't know, Andy. The Acts statement, "There is another Lord, namely, Jesus" (i.e., not Caesar) does seem to imply that the first Christians felt as if Jesus did make some sort of explicitly political claims. Does this mean "sacred beliefs" become political beliefs?

(My thought re: these things has been significantly influenced by Yoder, Brueggemann, others. Also, I tend to read Revelation as explicitly about Christians relationships w/ political entities.)

Hope you're well. Haven't talked for what, 8 years?

andy said...

Great to hear from you Rich!

I suppose I've always interpreted the "Lord" statements as cosmological and eschatological. But you certainly make a good point. I hope I can continue to flesh out these thoughts with good insights from you and others.

theansellfamily said...

Andy, you need to work for the CCO!! These are exactly the kind of questions we love hashing out with our students. I believe that scripture does speak to all areas of life. So what does it mean to be a Christian and not align with either of the big two political parties? The bible doesn't tell us how to vote. But how do we do so responsibly? They are great questions! You should come to our Jubilee conference next year. Hope you are doing well.

brendan said...

It would seem to me that you are debating in yourself if you can seperate your political beliefs from your spiritual beliefs...Do your spiritual beliefs not encounter and influence all aspects of your thougt processes (they should) "In all things acknowledge christ" I dont see how it is possible to have them be has their own interpretations of the scriptures.Some only the social justice aspects of scripture and ignore the spiritual justice...but you cant have one without the other and unfortunately liberalism is in complete contradiction to spiritual justice or the idea of sin and the need for repentance. I am interested in how Rich sees Revelation as explicitly about Christians relationships w/ political entities...It is a letter to the church that spends a good bit of time rebuking the church for many things one of which being their lack of social justice and over abudance of spiritual decay, ie. Laodicea, which I believe is the state of the church today.

andy said...

Brendan, good to hear from you! I suppose that what I'm wrestling with is the fact that my political beliefs are not biblical. By that I mean I do not derive them directly from Scripture. I think that they are extra-biblical in that they support, rather than mirror, my theology. ...I should probably flesh this out in a post soon. Thank you for getting me thinking.

brendan said...

Scripture unfortunately does not lay out for us what we should think about current political affairs. I don't derive 100 percent of my political views from scripture either...I don't think it is possible. Jesus never spoke about illegal immigration and the overwhelming debt that we would face due to it...but I then struggle with the political verses the spiritual...because on one hand we should try to help everyone...blah,blah, blah...but on the other hand how can our nation survive with the continued strain on our economy. So I have to come to a decision on my own, using what I know of the character of God and...I believe God is just and wants all people to work for what they have not free-load...(God is very big on personal responsibility)Give unto Caesar what is his...that whole if i put all that guess is that God would prefer that they come in by legal means...due to the fact of obeying the laws of man...I could go on forever and argue both sides (for example: its all Gods land so he sees no borders...oh yes but he also left us to govern ourselves because we chose to disregard his instruction and then begged for a ruler, so it was only natural that kingdoms would be established...Risk anyone?...blah, blah, blah.) I always say it this way..I am a Christian...and I am a conservative...I am not a Christian Conservative.

kay said...

hi am looks for the meaning of some word for my gcse health and socail care homework, one of the words i need to right about is secular beliefs. please can you help me??? im also looking for the meaning of ethnictiy and loTs more but i need help on them the most. thank you =) w/b kay x