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  • Christianity and Secularism

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  • Archive for the 'Government' Category

    Evangelicals and Politics

    Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The recent post at Juris Naturalist, is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. Entitled, Evangelicalism == Christian Legislation, it basically, after a lengthy introduction on Wilberforce and slavery, argues that Evangelicals are too tied to the political process and should instead seek more self-sacrifice in their attempts to deal with societal issues, with the main example being, not too surprisingly, abortion.

    A key foundational premise for the author seems to be: “I don’t think morality can or should be legislated.” Thus, all the evangelicals marching in the annual Walk for Life in Washington, D.C., an event that seems to have sparked the post, are misguided as this is not what Christian’s are called to do. We are called to sacrifice, not to legislate.

    Now there are a number of problems in this argument, one being that this is not an either/or issue. While I don’t think the particular solution of paying women not to have abortions will work, I agree that the spirit of sacrifice is lacking in the modern church. In fact, many have trouble giving of their abundance, much less anything that might actually be called sacrifice. Thus the question “Where is sacrifice?’ is a very good question and one the church would do well to explore it more deeply.

    But that immediately raised a problem in that for the author, sacrifice seems to be only monetary. I have no doubt that many at the march in question sacrificed a lot to be there, including the cost to get there, to be counted as supporting innocent life.

    As for the other problems, one that stood out for me was the premise that we cannot and should not legislate morality. While a very common view, this does not change the fact that this view is simply silly. It may sound good on a bumper sticker, but it cannot withstand even the mildest critical analysis.

    Now if you agree with the belief that morality cannot/should not be legislated, then simply ask yourself this question: Why do we have laws against murder and theft? For that matter why do we have any laws at all? Virtually every law is either a direct legislation of morality, such as the laws against murder, or an indirect expression of moral values, such as our driving laws being grounded in our value for life, and our belief that it should not be needlessly endangered.

    Now lest someone conclude from this that I believe all morality should be legislated, I do not. A key question for people in a democratic form of government is what moral values are considered so important that the power of the state must be used to enforce them.

    The author sees legislation, Christian or otherwise, to be “merely another tool for force. “ In this he is correct, though his questioning of whether any legislation “do good, or even do well” is more problematic. Like most things in public life, there is no easy one size fits all answer. In our current era marked by very large, and I would say bloated, government, teetering on the verge of collapse, it is easy to build a case against government action. But the evidence of history is also pretty clear that not enough government can likewise be a bad thing. The difficultly is in finding the right balance.

    The discussion over what is the right size for government is a never ending debate that must be fought out and answered on a continual basis. When it comes to abortion, given the central issue of innocent life that is involved, this is as much a matter of legitimate state interest as laws on murder.

    Christian involvement in politics is also called for by several other factors, which I will only outline here. The first is that we are to be the salt and light to the world. While I do not believe that these verses are in any way primarily political in their nature, I do not believe that they exclude politics, i.e., that we are to be salt and light, except when it comes to politics.

    Second, we are to be subject to the rulers and authorities over us. I do not believe that this duty ceases when the government is a democratic form in which we as citizens have input into the process.

    Finally, the period from about 1925 until fairly recently was a period where evangelical Christians largely did withdraw from any active role in our government, though since the 1980s there has been some renewed interest. I, for one, do not think the results of that withdrawal are all that encouraging.

    Let me conclude by addressing one of the seeming criticisms the author had of Wilberforce’s efforts on slavery, which by implication he applies to modern efforts to ban abortion; that while it was successful, it was not “a clean win.” While this is true, does this really mean that the effort should not have been made? It is very true that God demands perfection, but he also does not expect us to achieve it in this life. Rather, it is something that we must constantly strive for, particularly in the face of a success.

    The Cult Question

    Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    With Romney as the front-runner, the question of his Mormon religion continues to be an issue and came to the forefront recently when a Perry supporter labeled Mormons a cult, which was then followed by calls for Perry to repudiate these comments.

    This is an issue, which if not handled correctly, could blow up in a number of directions. Romney supporters are understandably nervous that if Romney’s Mormon beliefs become an issue, it could cost him the nomination or the election. However, if the defense of Romney is to label any criticism of Mormonism bigoted that could also easily backfire and alienate many Christians who make up a large portion of the conservative base that Romney will need to win.

    One factor that makes this a huge minefield is the general ignorance of the mainstream media when it comes to religion. But the biggest problem in this whole debate concerns the word “cult.” “Cult” is one of those words that has a very large lexical domain (range of meaning) from academic/technical at one end of the spectrum to a derogatory label on the other. Those calling for Perry to repudiate the term clearly see the term in the latter sense. Because of this ambiguity in meaning I do not use the word, and have encouraged others to avoid it.

    While there certainly are some Christians who use the term in a derogatory sense, for many Christians the term cult simply refers to groups who in some fashion claim to be Christian, but who reject one or more of the key doctrines that have defined Christianity. But this gets into a discussion of just what is Christianity. I discussed this issue in my book, Christianity and Secularism.

    On these central beliefs there is very little dispute. In fact, it has been these doctrines that have defined Christianity as a religion. Groups that accept these doctrines are considered to be Christian groups. Those who do not accept these doctrines cannot be considered Christians, at least not in any historical sense.

    Some may consider it to be judgmental and arrogant to say who is or is not a Christian simply because they do or do not accept a particular doctrine or belief. First, let it be clear that we are talking about classifying groups based on beliefs. After all, if there is a difference between being a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu, does it not mean that Christians must have some distinct beliefs that can be contrasted with these other religions? Second we are not talking about an individual’s relationship with God. This is a spiritual matter that only God can judge, for only He knows what is truly in a person’s heart. We may be able to get a good indication by the person’s actions or beliefs but we cannot judge the heart.

    Groups do not have personal relationships with God. What defines a religious group is the beliefs of the group. If we were to be completely non-judgmental, then we would have to conclude that any group that claimed to be Christian was, regardless of what they believed. This would render the term “Christian” completely meaningless. Should we consider a group that believed in child sacrifice to be a Christian group? Would this make child sacrifice a legitimate expression of the teachings of Christ? Clearly not. So the question is not should a line be drawn that defines Christianity, but where do we draw that line.

    If no line is drawn, Christianity becomes a completely meaningless term that could be applied to any group or any action from the most divine to the most depraved. If, on the other hand, we compose a long and extensive list of doctrines that must be accepted in order for a group to be considered Christian, then we would indeed be arrogant and judgmental, restricting Christianity only to those groups that agreed with us in every little detail. The doctrines that define Christianity should be limited to those expressly taught in the Bible as essential….

    Philip Schaff, in his three volume work, Creeds of Christendom, surveyed the doctrinal statements and creeds of the various Christian churches down through the ages. He refers to their ecumenical creeds as those creeds which contain “the fundamental articles of the Christian faith, as necessary and sufficient for salvation.” As to the acceptance of these creeds, Schaff points out that they:

    … are to this day either formally or tacitly acknowledged in the Greek, the Latin, and the Evangelical Protestant Churches, and form a bond of union between them.

    The differences that divide denominations are mostly peripheral issues, such as whether or not some spiritual gifts are available to be used today. (pg 76-7;90-1)

    How this applies to the current debate is that Mormons reject some of these key doctrines. For example, while both Christianity and Judaism believe that there is only one God, Mormons believe that that many gods exist. This does not make Mormons bad people, but it does mean that Mormons beliefs are different from those that have historically defined Christianity.

    It is true that Mormons use a lot of the same terminology as Christians, such as referring to Jesus as the Son of God, but what they mean by this is often vastly different than what Christians have historically meant. Thus when a Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, to name just a few, talk about the nature of God, or say that Jesus is the Son of God, and they all mean the same thing. Mormons talking about these topics may sound similar, but they mean something significantly different.

    This is not an unusual circumstance. Jews, Christians and Muslims all share a lot of beliefs. In fact they all believe that there is only one God. But they also have key differences. Thus we refer to them as different religious movements. While there are a large number of Christian groups with differing beliefs, they have historically shared a core of beliefs that has defined them as Christian. Mormons reject this core of beliefs, so the easiest thing to do is to likewise consider Mormons a different religious groups. This is not said in a derogatory sense, but merely an attempt to be accurate and precise.

    So how does this apply to the election? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. The constitution is pretty clear that there should be no religious test for office. The office of the president has no religious function, and therefore the religion of the candidate should be largely irrelevant. It would only become relevant if the candidate chose to make it an important part of their campaign, but this would in and of itself raise red flags. But Romney has not done this, and nothing in his career would indicate that he would. So as a bottom line, when it comes to Romney, while I do not believe he is a Christian, I am looking for a President, not a pastor. Thus I will be much more interested in his polices than his religion.

    How can Christians be Conservative? Part III

    Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The final question, posed to me on how Christians can be conservatives dealt with the issue of how, since they are so against government intervention, can they seek to use government to impose their view of morality on others, in particular with the Pro-Life movement?

    While a common question, it has several problems.  For one, conservatives are not against all government. There is, for example a difference between libertarianism, and conservatism.  Thus there is nothing inconsistent with conservatives seeking to, as the question puts it,  “use government to impose their view of morality on others.”   But the question is more complex.

    When you get right down to it, the slogan “You can’t legislate morality” is just silly.  Virtually all laws legislate some view of morality, and thus impose that view on others.   It is not that all morals should be legislated, but rather that laws are basically the morals of a society that are believed to be so important; the power of the state should be used to enforce them.

    Murder is morally wrong. In fact, it is so morally wrong, we do not want to leave it up to individuals to decide this particular issue for themselves. Therefore, we use the power of the state to enforce the moral view that murder is wrong and to impose that view on others.

    What does distinguish conservatives from, on the one hand, liberals, who seem at times to want to right every wrong by passing a law, and on the other hand, libertarians, who often seem to be boarder line anarchist, is that conservatives, for the most part, have different standards depending on the level of government.  At the federal level, they are much closer to libertarians wanting very little government. Yet the closer the level of government is to the people the boarder the latitude they give the government to pass laws, and thus in that sense are closer to liberals when you get to local government, at least in their willingness to use government.

    For example, while I oppose prostitution, I would also oppose a federal ban on prostitution, as that is not a federal concern.  If a state or better yet, a community wants to ban it as in most of the country, or legalize it, as in a few areas of Nevada, then that is their concern.

    So how does this come into play with abortion?  There are two parts to this question. The first is the closely related, but somewhat different issue of Roe v Wade and the constitution.  Many, but certainly not all, conservatives seek the overturn of Roe, and this is very consistent with conservatism in general.  This is because an overturn of Roe, would simply remove the issue from the federal level and return it back to the states.  Before Roe, abortion was already legal in many states, illegal in others, but the trend was towards legalization at least in cases of rape, incest, or threat to life of the mother.

    When it comes to opposition to abortion itself, it really comes down to how one views the fetus. It is biologically alive and genetically a human life distinct from that of the mother.  Thus those who are pro-life believe that the power of the state should protect innocent human life in the womb, just like it protects it in a lot of other areas.

    Now granted things get very complex at this point because there is not just one human life to consider, but two.  Exactly how the rights of the two humans are balanced and in what circumstances one can take precedent over the other, is a matter of consider disagreement and a discussion of this would go well beyond a blog post.   But, in short, pro-life conservatives believe that the Declaration of Independence’s claim that we have been endowed by our creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness applies to human life even if it is in the womb.

    Thus they don’t see any contradiction is pushing for laws to protect human life in the womb, just like we have laws protecting it out of the womb.

    How can Christians be Conservative? Part II

    Monday, March 14th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    I am continuing to answer the questions, posed to me on how Christians can be conservatives.  This time I will address the question, how can conservatives show such a lack of concern about the uninsured as seen in their objection to ObamaCare?

    The question itself has some problems, the main one being that it confuses the lack of support for a particular governmental program, with a lack of concern for a problem.   This is something that I have addressed before (e.g., here, here, and on health care here). For many liberals the ideal of government activism is so strong and ingrained, it is hard for them to conceive of any other solution to a social problem.  In short, as a general rule, the solution to any social problem is to be found in government programs, and to oppose a government program is to show a disregard for the problem itself.

    But however strong the view, it is still fallacious, and is in fact the fallacy of a false choice.  Not only are there other non-governmental options for addressing these problems, the simple fact is that, right or wrong, as a general rule conservatives believe that market based solutions grounded in choice and competition for consumers are better than government solutions.

    The conservative view is often mischaracterized as an absolute position which would permit no role at all for government. This is not the case, nor is it correct to say that the conservative view is based on a trust of business or and corporations. It is also not the case. In fact, often conservatives share many of the same doubts and question about business as there liberal counter parts. This is why conservatives believe that choice and competition are so important, as they serve as the main check on businesses driven by the profit motive. This is also where conservatives see a significant role for government that of ensuring that the market place allow choice and competition.

    So it is not that conservatives trust big businesses, it is that they mistrust government because choice and competition do not apply. If you don’t like a particular business, you are free go to another one.  If you don’t like government, you are stuck.

    When it comes to health care in general, and ObamaCare in particular, the problems Conservatives see are many, and I have written about some of them (here, and here).  As I summarized this in another post,

    Thus the Democratic Health care bill will increase regulation and reduce effective choice even if it doesn’t end in single payer.  While in theory it may be able to reduce cost and expand coverage, it cannot do this while improving health care.  In short, it is doomed. And this is best case. Given the past record of government programs, the actual likelihood is that it will not even be able to control costs and we will be left with worse health-care, even higher costs and a system that is even more difficult to change.

    The reason for this is actually very simple. Improvements in Health care will come, as such improvements have always come, from innovation.  Yet government does not innovate, it regulates, and regulations kills innovation.

    None of this should be taken as satisfaction with the current system.  Healthcare in the US is one of most highly regulated areas of the economy. It is far from a system where choice and competition are driving factors.  Conservatives see the problems and want to solve them.  The real problem here is not a lack of concern for “the least of these,” but rather a difference of opinion on how best to address the problems. The opposition to ObamaCare is rooted in the belief that it will not make things better, it will make them worse.

    One final comment; while there certainly are absolutists, many conservatives acknowledge that market solutions will not solve all problems.  No matter how much market forces improve the health care system, you cannot purchase healthcare if you don’t have any money.   Here conservatives consider two additional mechanisms.

    The first is charity. While liberals at time discount the viability of this option the fact is that here are hospitals across the country that deliver health care on an ability to pay basis or for free.  This focus on charity by conservatives and government by liberals is perhaps behind the difference in charitable giving between red state and blue statesbetween liberals and conservatives,  and as revealed in Aruther C. Brooks’ book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatives. If conservatives truly were heartless and greedy, why is it that on average, they give more to charity than liberals?

    Finally, surprising as it may seem to some liberals, conservatives to not reject a government option as a last resort, for those with no were else to turn. The difference would be, however, that it would be a last resort, not the first and only resort, pushed by so many liberals.

    So again, it is not a lack of concern that leads conservatives to reject ObamaCare, it is in fact an abundance of concern that ObamaCare will only result in making matters worse.

    How can Christians be Conservative?

    Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    As I mentioned on my other blog, the wife of a liberal friend of mine recently asked some sincere questions trying to understand Conservatives.  I answered her more political question there.  Here I will address the more religiously oriented questions, though they all still have a strong political component. In general she was basically asking, how a sincere Christian could be a Conservative.

    Before answering that question, I want to be clear that I do not subscribe to the opposite position, i.e. I do not question how a Liberal can be a Christian.    While politics and religion do overlap in some areas, rarely are things so clear cut as to lead to a clearly “Christian” political view, be it on the Left or the Right. Also, I want to note that the Conservative movement is itself a broad spectrum of beliefs and not all Conservatives will agree with my answers, especially since not all Conservatives are Christians.

    But back to her questions; as a background she referenced three major touch stones of the Christian faith, at least when it comes to social policy.  The first was the Sermon on the Mount; the second was Jesus’ statement in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (ISV)  Finally she mentioned Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!”

    Against this background she asked three questions. How can conservative Christians oppose the workers right to collectively bargain?  How can they show a lack of concern about the uninsured as seen in their objection to Obamacare? Finally how come, since they are so against government intervention, they seek to use government to impose their view of morality on others, in particular with the Pro-Life movement? I will deal with the last two in future posts.

    As for the first question, as it turns out, this is an issue that Christians are pretty evenly split on.  But I will address it from my view.  First, I have a problem with the whole notion of “workers rights” and see this as part of the general confusion that exists concerning the whole understanding of rights.  In brief, the concept of rights developed from the belief that we are special creations of God, created in his own image, and that God has given us abilities, such as the ability to think and reason.  The basic notion is that what God has given, no one, not even the King, as a right to take away.  Thus we see in the Declaration of Independence,

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    Given this view of rights, there is no such thing as a right to collectively bargain.  Unions, and the arrangements that they make with management, are just one of many potential financial arrangements that employees and employers could enter into.  Thus I would argue that collective bargaining is neither Christian nor Unchristian, and this may very well explain the divergence of views.

    This of course does not meant that particular employers, or particular unions, have not acted in Christian and/or unchristian ways from time to time. This does not mean that employer or unions are always good. History is full of examples on both sides of greed, bad faith, and unconcern of the welfare of “the least of these.”

    In terms of the recent attempt to restrict unions in Wisconsin, and in other states, I have a particular problem.  When dealing with a company driven by profit, there is always the possibility that management is greedy and simply trying to exploit the workers.   Yet when with comes to government employees, they are not unionizing against a greedy owner, but against the people.  In addition, there is the dichotomy, at least for those on the left, that government is supposed to be a benevolent force, not driven by profit, and looking out for our best interest, as opposed to corporations who are out for profit. Yet when it comes to unions, government is just another employer to be demonized.

    Then there is the fact that it is hard to hold that state workers are in “the least of these” category when both the pay and benefits they receive are significantly better than those in the private sector who must pay the bill.  This is especially true where the public sector unions have become a significant political force, such that they have been able to elect politicians beholden to them into office.  These politicians then repay the favor by giving them pay and benefits that well exceed the private sector.

    As a result, many states such as California are in serious financial problems and have huge unfunded liabilities resulting from these union contracts.  Unions can claim that the state made the contract, but they cannot ignore the fact that these contracts were made often under a threat of strike, and often by the very politicians the unions sought to elect.

    Thus one could just as easily turn the whole question around.  Is the Christian position really to side with those workers who are the best off, at the expense of those who must pay the bills; many of whom are worse off, or who will suffer a loss of services, because the money is not there?  Is the Christian position, really to ask those struggling on fixed incomes to do will less even less, because their property taxes must rise to pay the wages of government workers making far more.

    Bottom line: I believe this is a place where Christians of good heart can and do disagree. Not because of the principles of the Christian faith, but how they are applied and how they view the issue.

    The Defense of Marriage Part I

    Friday, June 26th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Listen to the MP3

    As someone who taught critical thinking at university level to both students and teachers, I find few issues more lacking in critical thought than the debate over marriage.   As a strong supporter of the traditional view of marriage, it is no surprise that I would find the arguments of those who support nontraditional forms of marriage lacking, but I frequently find the arguments of supporters lacking as well.

    The reasons for this are many.  One, of course, is the generally low level of critical thinking found in society in general.  Despite the claims of academicians, people are not taught to think in most schools.  Rather than thinking for themselves, they are taught to accept what academics say, either directly, or in the modern equivalent of the Papal Bull, the scientific study.

    Another big source of confusion is the overlapping concerns of the state and religion. For many the institution of marriage is primarily a religious commitment, done in a church, with vows taken before God. Yet it is also licensed and controlled by the state.

    Finally, there is the fact that marriage has been so universally accepted and so ingrained into our society and culture that most have just taken it for granted. It is just what people do; with little thought as to why. 

    All of this combined leads to a great deal of confusion. So over the next few post I will try to clear up some of this confusion, and to outline some reasons why I support the traditional view of marriage and as a result oppose non-traditional forms such as same-sex marriage and polygamy.   This formulation is not accidental. In many respects, it is not so much that I oppose same-sex marriage and polygamy; rather it is that I support the traditional view of marriage, marriage between one man and one woman.

    So first, I will attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround this issue. Then I will attempt to outline a case supporting the traditional view of marriage, finally I will attempt to answer some of the more common arguments used to support non-traditional forms of marriage.

     The first thing that I want to clear up is the confusion caused by the overlapping of government and religion on this issue.   There is little question that both are involved in marriage and have been for quite some time. Within the Judeo-Christian religious tradition, marriage has always had religious overtones.  Despite the claims of a few, marriage is between a man and woman, the model being the established with the first couple: Adam and Eve. (Genesis 2:18-25)

    For the most part, government’s role in marriage has been at best secondary and at times non-existent.  Why should there be otherwise?  Marriage was maintained by the church; enforced by the standards of the community as a whole.  When communities were small and closely knit, where everyone knew everyone else, there was little role for government to play.

    This began to change in the 18th century, one notable example being the Marriage Act of 1753 in England, which was a huge movement of the government into area of marriage.  The industrial Revolutions brought about not only great improvements in the standard of living, but also great disruptions in the culture. While the exact causes are disputed, illegitimacy skyrocketed. There was also a growing awareness of the period of childhood as a time in which children learn and are prepared to become adults.

    Few would question that governments have a legitimate interest in preserving their existence, and part of this is the development of the next generation of citizens. This is the justification for the existence of public schools.  Likewise, government has an interest in ensuring that children are raised in the best environment and this is the main justification for government entering into the realm of marriage. 

    Remove this interest and you remove the main reason for government regulating marriage at all. The other major issue would be property rights, but if viewed as an issue of property, there is little to marriage, at least from a government perspective, than any other contract and thus little reason for government involvement.  In fact as far as property, government marriage laws are already inadequate as is demonstrated by the increasing use of pre-nuptial  agreements.

    Despite the key role of religion, the current debate over marriage is not a religious debate. Frankly, from a religion point of view, there are religious groups that do permit polygamy and same-sex marriage, and such marriage can be, have been, and are being done.  There is, and should be, nothing illegal about this.  What these marriages do not have is the sanction, and recognition of the government.

    As such, what is really at issue here is state sanctioned of marriage, not the religious definition of marriage.   Since this is an act of government, it is by definition a public act and not just a matter between those involved in the marriage.   To request the sanction of the government is by definition to make it a public issue, and not just a private matter.

    So, even though there is a strong religion component to marriage, in the remaining parts I will restrict my arguments to what is really in dispute, the government role in marriage.  Because of this, I will not post the remaining parts of this discussion on my religious blog.  Those who are reading this on consider.org will need to go to my general blog (www.hushbeck.com/blog ) to read the remaining posts.

    Jesus and Illegal Immigration

    Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    While it has drifted off the radar screen at the moment Tim Morgan at Christianity Today’s political blog recently raised a question that is sure to come back into the forefront as a hot divisive issue, what to do with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants and their children.  That it is coming back as an issue is clear from President Obama’s plans to grant them citizenship, an effort that news reports say will begin next month and last through the summer. 

    Morgan’s question was not so much the policy issue directly, but asks the question in terms of “What would Jesus do?” My thinking on this question has always been somewhat mixed.  On the one hand, it is a great question and one that we should all ask far more often than we do.  But if that’s the case, then what is the problem with the question? 

    My problems begin when the question enters public discussions, and are for a number of reasons.  The biggest problem is that your answer to the question will strongly depend on your knowledge of Jesus, and even for Christians in general, the actual knowledge of Jesus is somewhat lacking, and even more so for the public at large.  While it can be very valuable to struggle with this privately in prayer and contemplation before God, as a general rule, the more people involved, the less prayer and contemplation you will have. 

    I think it can be stated as a general rule that nobody really knows what Jesus would do in the case of such public policy issues.  In fact, the verse that would seem to apply the most is, Jesus’ comment in Matthew 22:21 concerning taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

    The problem with trying to figure out what Jesus would do in any particular issue of public policy, is that we live in a world corrupted by sin and governed temporally by sinful people.  Issues of public policy such as illegal immigration are basically tinkering at the margins.  Jesus would go to the root of the problem, and when he was finished, the answer to the question of “What would Jesus do about illegal immigrants would be : nothing, for there would not be an Illegal immigrants issue to begin with. 

    This is not to say that we should have open boarders and allow everyone in, it is to point out the reality that the roots of the Illegal immigration problem are vast and deep.  There is the economic, political, and social problems in the countries from which the illegal immigrants come.  If every country in the world had the freedom and prosperity of the United States, there would not be a problem. 

    Then there is the breakdown of law in this country that has allow the problem to grow such that there are now so many here.  If there were only a few thousand illegal immigrants in the country who had only been here a few months, again this would not be an issue.  But for a variety of reasons, government at many levels have ignored the growing problem until now there are millions of illegal immigrants here, many for decades. 

    So to come in now and ask “What would Jesus do?” is somewhat like asking what would Jesus do to deal with  his past sins?  He wouldn’t do anything because he would never be in that position.  When he does come back he will not tinker with minor issues such as illegal immigration. He will address the root issues and eliminate the problems that cause it in the first place. 

    One other problem I frequently have with this question comes from the view of God that currently predominates the public square: God is Love.  The predominant view of God is Love, often expresses itself in such questions making them almost “What would Love do?”  In this case wouldn’t love say we should have compassion for the illegal immigrants?

    While certainly true, that is not the only attribute of God.  We sinful humans are never very good at balancing, and it takes a lot of effort.  When balancing something on the end of your finger, if you get distracted or inattentive, it will fall.  The same goes for the church balancing the attributes of God.  God is Love, but he is also Justice.  Psalm 101 starts, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you O Lord, I will sing praise.”

    Love says we should have compassion for the illegal immigrants, but justice says that they have broken the law.  Then there are all the other attributes of God, such as Righteousness and Holiness.  So what would Jesus do about the illegal immigrants and their families?  Ultimately I don’t know. 

    I do think that we need to approach the issue beginning with all the attributes of God, not just Love that would let them all stay, or Justice that would throw them all out.  I also think that any solution would have to focus on the root causes that has allow the problem to get out of hand in the first place, though unlike Jesus, here we are somewhat limited to control over our own country, though we can work to spread economic freedom and liberty to other countries.  Still while easy to say, working these out into actual public policy will take a lot of contemplation and prayer. 

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Christianity In America?

    Friday, March 6th, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    As I point out in my forthcoming book, Preserving Democracy, one of the things that surprised Alexis de Tocqueville, when he came to what was then the new country of America, was religion. As he wrote in his classic, Democracy in America, “Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention;” As de Tocqueville noted, it was not just that Christianity played an important role in peoples’ lives, it played a key, though not direct, role in the political life of the country as well.

    “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but nevertheless is must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions.”

    In the system of checks and balances set up by our founding fathers one of the checks was religion, not as a part of the government, but as an important force apart from the government. This way it could serve as a checks on government, lest government get too large and itself infringe on liberty. As John Adams put it, “Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.”

    Given this it should be of no surprise that those who push the hardest for the removal of religion from public discourse, also tend to push equally hard for a larger role for government. By definition a larger government means less liberty, but in the upside down world we live in they often cast their attack on, and suppression of, religious belief in the terms of freedom.

    This sort of inverted thinking is once again on display in the Obama administration’s decision to rescind the federal regulation that protects people’s “freedom of conscience.” The regulation prevents health care professionals who are morally opposed to abortions from being forced to participate in them.

    It is interesting that those who so loudly proclaim themselves to be pro-choice are so quick to deny choice to anyone who does not agree with them, and to do so in the name of freedom. The reaction of some supporters of the administration’s actions was that health care professionals “should perform the duty needed to the best of the patients interest or change profession.

    Of course this suits them very well. They would love to get rid of doctors and nurses that point out inconvenient facts, such that the fetus is not just a lump of tissue, but a genetically distinct human that is by any normal definition of life, alive. Or facts such as in the case of some late term abortions a living human does not need to be aborted as it could live on its own. Such facts do put a damper on the party line. Once only those who supported abortion remained, then they could say, “but doctors and nurses don’t have any objection to abortion, why do you?”

    If freedom of conscience is forbidden here, how about other more controversial areas? One state already allows euthanasia. If the supreme court were to suddenly find a right to die in some hitherto unchecked penumbras of the Constitution, would all doctors and nurses be required to kill their patients when they requested it? If not, why not?

    We have seen this principle in other areas. In Massachusetts, the Catholic Charities of Boston was one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies and specialized in finding homes for children who were hard to place. But they were forced to close by the state. Why? Because in the new age of enlightenment, the idea that the best way to raise children was for them to have a father and a mother in a loving committed relationship, could no longer be allowed. This outdated notion has been officially declared to be discrimination against same-sex couples.

    The more these new ideas of rights and freedom are imposed on America, the less free people will become, and the freedom to choose certain professions will be eliminated for Christians of conscience. Medicine is clearly threatened by this change. It is not hard to see that teachers will not be far behind as they will increasingly be forced to push same-sex relationships as an equal option for children. Anything less would be discriminatory.

    Even professions one might not expect will be affected. For example, in New Mexico a Christian photographer found herself before the New Mexico Human Rights Division when she declined to photograph a commitment ceremony for a same sex couple. As a result she facing a possible injunction forbidding her from ever again refusing such a ceremony, in addition to thousands of dollars in legal fees.

    The real danger with so many of the radical secularists is that they don’t just have opinions they express and argue for, they tend to cast everything in terms of rights. As such, to disagree with their opinion is to infringe on some right and is therefore automatically discriminatory. Since it is discriminatory, the power of the state can and should be used to suppress it. Throughout history, people have always been free to do what the ruling power agreed with. Unless we are vigilant, that will be the only freedom we have left in America.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.