In truth all three of these characters are different sides of me. We’re all sitting in the bar together trying to figure out how to assimilate into one body without becoming a schizophrenic hypocrite. Not to be overly simple, but the socialist me wants everyone to have an equal share, the libertarian wants to be rewarded for his hard work without being told what to do and the pacifist just wants everyone to get along.
In my attempt to reconcile these competing agendas, I realized something profound. My personal struggle has NOTHING TO DO WITH GOVERNMENT. It is not about politics because responding to social needs and enacting my liberal democratic rights to do so (in a non-violent way) has nothing to do with who I voted for. Simply put, caring for the poor is not the primary role of government and as much as the UN Millennium goals are commendable, eliminating poverty is just not possible.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. [Deuteronomy 15:11 NIV]
This is a direct command from God. It is not about how governments should behave, it is about how individuals should behave, about how I should behave.
Sure, it’s nice when governments commit money to pay for things like health care and education but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s my money from the taxes I paid. If they didn’t do it I would presumably have more money in my pocket but it wouldn’t negate my responsibility to make sure certain things get done. Nor does the fact that government is doing some of these things take the burden off of me to fill in the inevitable gaps.
Therefore I can live my personal life as socialistically as I want without conflicting with my more politically libertarian leanings. In fact, to live a politically libertarian lifestyle with a personal socialist agenda fits a lot better with biblical teaching than trying to be a political activist. Christ-Followers don’t need to put pressure on the government or other institutions to “do the right thing”. Doing the right thing is our job. If we do it effectively and the government wants to partner with us, fine but we shouldn’t expect it.
Bob Hartman, lead guitarist and principal song writer for the Christian rock band, Petra put it best in 1990 when he penned the lyrics for the song “Seen and Not Heard”.
There's too much talk and not enough walk
Sometimes God's children should be seen and not heard.
As regular readers will no doubt know, I do not hold organized religion in very high regard. Neither did the apostle James. The book of James is all about faith in action. Being seen, but not necessarily heard. As I’ve been trying to reconcile these thoughts James definition of religion has resonated with me in a new and profound way.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. [James 1:27]
Religion is not about steeples and bells, rituals and rules; it’s about taking care of people and remaining pure of heart.
So a Socialist, a Libertarian and a Pacifist walked into a bar, a little while later I walked out with a new vision and clarity of purpose.
Who’s with me?