Thursday, June 20, 2024

Politics and religion. . . again

Luther is credited with promoting the two kingdoms understanding and, whether true or not, with the idea of the separation of church and state.  What Luther was concerned about is less the intrusion of the government into the life of the church but the preoccupation of the church with governing.  That is something that seems lost to us now.  Now more than ever, Christians seem prone to confuse the church  with the state and to operate with more worldly forms of power.  While this is normally the accusation laid at conservative Christians, the so-called Christian nationalists, it is no less true of the liberal and progressive side of Christianity.  They are just a likely to use worldly forms of power to promote their own worldviews, values, and agendas -- perhaps even more so!

Looking back on the Nazis and their relation to the churches of Germany, it is precisely the liberals who succumbed to the lies of national socialism, the abhorrent treatment of Jews, disabled, and a host of other minorities.  In particular, you can find that when more conservative religious leaders began to support the Nazis or simply to remain silent before their extreme injustice and intolerance, they tended to move from their more conservative religious position to one more liberal or progressive.  The reality is that these theologians abandoned the transcendence of God because they believed that it had failed them and failed their nation in pursuit of the immanent goals and needs before them as people and as a country.  In other words, it is impatience with the progress of their vision that caused them to substitute social action for faith in God.  When this happened, the church became merely an agent of the powerful in their move to reshape the political and cultural identity of a nation.

Could the same be happening here?  While the world is up in arms over such things as calling Christ King and fears a Christian nationalism that will break down the barriers of church and state that they regard as the bulwark of religious freedom, Christians on the other side have already succumbed to a Christian nationalism in which deference to the culture and government have come to define what it means to be a liberal or progressive Christian.  Certainly this is true with regard to sexual desire and gender identity but it is equally true with respect to the sacredness of life issues and ecology and climate change.  These positions have become the positions of these churches and the very definition of the gospel reshaped to mirror the diversity, equity, justice, and accessibility agendas borrowed from government, education, and social liberalism.

Is America really in danger of those who call Christ King and who reflect in His rule and reign a Biblical ethic with regard to life, sexual desire, gender, the stewardship of creation, and such OR is America more in danger of a Christianity which has abdicated the Scriptures in favor of the current political and cultural agenda on nearly every subject?  Of course, it is a danger when people presume that America is a Christian nation and not simply a nation of Christians.  It is a danger when they determine to use secular laws to promote religious purposes.  But the real danger may not be from the right at all.  So far, it is struggling simply to survive in an atmosphere in which disagreement with the positions of culture and government is considered radical, hateful, and not to be tolerated.  The cooperation between liberal Christianity and the aims of our woke society is a few steps behind the cooperation between the woke culture and education in America -- but not by much.  Progressive theology and progressive government and culture are natural allies and their common enemy is the Scriptures and orthodox Christianity.  The politics of religion we need to be more concerned about is the alliance between liberal Christianity and the woke world of government, education, sexuality, and diversity.  They are far more likely to use the tools of government and law against traditional Christianity than the other way around.

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

Prior to the U.S. entry into World War I, in "Unsere Distriktssynoden und die Munitionslieferung an die Kriegf├╝hrenden" ("Our district synods and the supply of ammunition to the belligerents," Der Lutheraner, February 15, 1916, p. 63), Frederich Pfotenhauer (1859-1939), president of the Missouri Synod (1911-1935), presented the theological justification for the involvement of the church (and also the Missouri Synod) in government affairs:

"Where is the right boundary here? It must be said that the Church's office is involved wherever morality is concerned, i.e. right or wrong before God. Where right or wrong is not in question, the church should remain silent and not want to make any regulations. Luther expresses this in such a way that the church's office 'should not and cannot go further than that alone which is called sin before God, that where the same is concerned or turns' (that is, ceases), 'there also its regiment should concern and turn both, and all that lives and is called man on earth, be it emperor, king, great or small, should be subject to this regiment, no one excluded'." (St. Louis Edition XI, 757.)