2020 has been a strange year for all of us. For me, I had never broken a bone in my life, but this year I broke a rib, my shoulder, and my arm. I had never been so sick that I was concerned about my future. But this year as I battled COVID-19, I had some serious concerns. Then add the struggle all churches have faced — diverse political views within our congregations that led to passionate responses to the election and the pandemic.
Researchers are now saying many local churches won’t survive as a result.
But ours will. We are Christians, so we know that nations come and go, but the Kingdom of God will last forever. We believe we need to be responsible citizens here on Earth, but our primary allegiance and responsibility are to God’s Kingdom. We are particularly well trained in our congregation. We know how to be life-giving Christians whether we are living under a constitutional republic like the United States, or communism, socialism, an Islamic theocracy, or a military dictatorship. Actually, human governments do not determine our faith. But the government we live under does affect the level of freedom and safety we believers can enjoy.
As a pastor I care about the ideas that improve people’s lives. Here are some of my observations.
We Christians tend to prefer old-fashioned individualism—which, believe it or not, is classic liberalism apart from political party affiliation. Christians tend to be givers, not takers. Christians don’t tend toward victimization or dependance, but instead are generally healers and helpers, offering assistance rather than demanding care from others. Certainly, there are exceptions, but Christians typically don’t blame others for any negative situations in their lives. Instead we embrace personal responsibility while promoting service to others and understanding our responsibilities to our communities.
Generally, Christians embrace political philosophies that open the doors for the largest percentage of people to be as well off as possible. As a result, most life-giving Christians appreciate regulated free markets, private property, limited government, self-reliance, and whenever it’s reasonable, a laissez-faire attitude from government as opposed to an overly involved central control form of government. Why? Because Christians are largely self-regulated and don’t need a great deal of government to supervise our businesses and relationships with others. Why? Because our central tenant is caring for one another rather than taking from one another.
But with the increasing secularization of America and a booming global population, it appears we in America are marching toward collectivism. More and more, I hear pundits, the news media, our politicians, and other leaders demanding global responses to situations, uniform responses nation-wide as well as world-wide. No doubt, some situations require these united responses – such as wars, pandemics, and the maintenance of free and fair trade. But it’s important to remember that every item that a government assumes responsibility for is no longer a freedom or liberty for an individual.
For example, if you live in a neighborhood with a strong homeowner’s association, you don’t have the same liberties you would have if you lived in a non-covenanted area. So, to the degree that the homeowner’s association will make and enforce rules is the degree to which you do not have individual liberties and freedoms regarding your own property. Expand that idea to every type of governance: home, church, clubs, businesses, cities, states, federal government, and global entities.
Interestingly, there is a natural human tendency for all of us to have others govern us . . . until we don’t like what they impose on us, demand from us, or the damage they cause in our lives or communities. But often, once that point is reached, there is no peaceful way to regain liberty and freedom. Why? Because those who love exercising power and making decisions for others don’t give power back to individuals easily.
Sadly, right now, there are strong currents in America for enhanced state power and many of our fellow citizens want to surrender more and more of our responsibilities (individual power) to the state, thinking the government will increasingly care for us. Though these trends appear to be a solution to some situations, generally state controlled entities are not well managed nor are they the most effective way to improve the lives of citizens. In most situations, nothing replaces personal responsibility and good manners.
In the United States, those who live in areas with a higher population density vote for more government, and those who live in less populated areas don’t need, want, or vote for increased government. For example, I like it when government does a good job at what it needs to do, but don’t appreciate excessive intrusion into my life. I don’t need or want it. So, I cringe when I hear someone call themselves a “progressive” while they are promoting the failed ideas of the 20th century as though they will help us. I don’t see it that way. I think many of their ideas are actually regressive in that they create poverty, limit opportunity, and thwart innovation. I’ve seen this all over the world. Their ideas are not new, and most of them do not achieve positive goals. They have mistakenly renamed failed ideas as being progressive.
So, I don’t believe progressives are progressive at all, but instead they are often simply well-meaning and ill-informed people who think they can manage others better than others can manage themselves. I do not minimize the role of government. It is necessary for certain limited functions. But when government overreaches, it becomes a burden with a high cost to all of us. Let’s be progressive by keeping as much power as possible in the hands of our citizens, and fully embrace governmental controls only when truly necessary for the common good.