Exalting God in the Public Square
- Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Questions concerning church and state and the Christian's role in the political process regularly come my way. These questions come in part because I often sound very different from the typical neo-con (I do not use that term in a pejorative way but only as a descriptor of most contemporary Christians and the extent of their political thinking).
Christians often wrap the gospel in the American flag and in so doing confuse not only the nation and the church but also our allegiance to Christ and His gospel with our allegiance to America and our rights.
Christians ought to want Christ acknowledged in every sphere. More than that, they should want Christ embraced in every sphere, for simple acknowledgement of God in every sphere falls far short of what God desires or deserves. He desires worship, not lip service. At the same time, Hell is filled with people who acknowledged God prior to their arrival. Christ is to be exalted, not merely acknowledged.
This dynamic is precisely the issue William Stuntz addresses with regard to public displays of the Ten Commandments and similar God acknowledgements. He notes, "That might be tolerable if the monuments and manger scenes satisfied some religious duty. If anything, though, duty cuts the other way.
There is a passage in the book of Revelations [sic] that bears on this point. The risen Jesus is speaking of, and to, the church in Laodicea. He tells them: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold –I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
Symbolic acknowledgments like the Texas monument and the Kentucky plaques, like religious mottoes on money or public manger scenes (usually accompanied by Santa and his reindeer), are quintessentially lukewarm. They do not so much honor God as try to buy him off, cheap. This was precisely the problem with most mandatory school prayers in the days when such things were allowed. The prayers were so vapid as to insult believers, yet still managed to offend non-believers. Just like baby Jesus with a stable full of reindeer."
Now I have no problem with such public displays. I even desire them. However, the point is well made. Indeed a tip of the hat to God ought to grieve the Christian's heart beyond measure. How dare we engage in policies that will allow the glorious Name of our God to be turned into nothing more than a dead symbol of an ancient moral code?
At the same time, it is not in keeping with the gospel to legislate Christianity as it not only fosters the lukewarmness mentioned above, but a dead Pharisaic mentality that keeps persons comfortable in their self-righteousness, sin, and separation from God.
Moreover, do we really think we can win the culture war through political strong arming and public policy imposition? Do we really think the assertion of our rights, particularly through coercive tactics is in keeping with the gospel message and gospel methodology, or will in any way help us to win those who hate us from the outset? Won't it cause them to hate us even more? Are we fighting for our rights or are we fighting for souls? Didn't the apostle Paul suspend his liberty for the sake of the gospel? Did he not say that he would never eat meat again if that would advance the gospel? Did he not say that he had become all things to all men that by all means he might save some? Wasn't he talking about suspending his rights in that statement?
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