Responsible Citizens

Progressives Think They Know What’s Best for You!

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. 

Authentic New Testament Solutions

On Being Stable

God has established two institutions to help us all live healthy and strong lives—the family and the church. Since human beings make up our families and our churches, there are glaring flaws in both. Even so, those who mature wisely draw great mental, physical, and spiritual stability from participating in these institutions. And interestingly, the two entities work well together. If the family becomes dysfunctional, the church has the ability to make up the gap. If the church becomes dysfunctional, the family has the ability to make up the gap. So ultimately, we can all live better lives and be more stable in every way by learning how to build healthy families and churches.

ABC News reports that eighty-three percent of Americans self-identify as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, identify as having no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions. That means that 83% of our population shares some degree of common direction by believing that the Bible at least includes the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who demonstrated for all of us what God is really like.

Inherent in having a foundation of Christian faith is the core value of embracing forgiveness and kindness instead of revenge and fear, and contributing to the health and strength of our families and our churches. Doing so creates a very different world than many human beings currently survive in. I believe everything we do is a combination of five desires within all of us: survival, love and belonging, freedom, power, and fun. When we do our part to create a healthy family, everyone in the family can have those five basic needs satisfied. When we do our part to create a healthy church that our family participates in, more people in our community can have those five basic human needs satisfied. In contrast, when the family and/or church gets sick, we start trying to survive without having our needs being met in a healthy way.

So how do we do our part to build a healthy family and participate in a healthy church? We read our Bibles, ourselves, to glean life-giving ideas that “teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. The Bible corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16b-17).

The first few verses of the book of Proverbs explain the purpose of the proverbs. We can apply this explanation to all of Scripture, which is a strong motivation to read the whole Bible and apply it. Proverbs 1:2-6 says,

“Their (the Proverbs) purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.

“These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.”

What a wonderful world we would be living in if we who identify as Christians would simply read and apply the Scriptures. To grasp this idea, read and re-read, then think about the previous two paragraphs from Proverbs. Maybe you could talk about those two paragraphs with someone. Why? Because sometimes we have a tendency to read the Bible just to pick up a few nice ideas, or maybe find good points or suggestions for addressing meetings or preparing sermons. Certainly that is better than never being exposed to the Scriptures. But generally that approach does not get rid of our ignorance of the true meaning of the Scriptures, and leaves the Bible unnecessarily ineffective in our lives. That approach engenders superficiality, both mentally and spiritually.

I’ve seen it too many times. People live their lives as they please until tragedy strikes. Then they randomly ask God to give them guidance through Scripture, or to intervene supernaturally in their situations to relieve their pain. When I see this, I’m reminded that it’s too late to think about fire prevention after your house is burning down, or to start thinking about your health after your second heart attack. You still might be able to get help, but it would have been better for you if you had prepared before your bad day.

Same with the good life God has for all of us. The Word of God was never meant merely for hurried consultations. The Bible was written for study and contemplation, and it was compiled so we can know the Word of God as a whole. Becoming a student of God’s Word can give any of us knowledge of God’s personality and dealings with others so that we can gain depth, richness, and fullness to every dimension of our lives. It teaches us, so we can enjoy full, informed, and satisfying lives. And so that during difficult times, we can stay steady.

I have enjoyed pastoral ministry with significant effectiveness most of my adult life, and I’ve experienced the stabilizing power of God’s Word and Spirit during difficult times. But I can say that the greatest sermons usually come when I am not looking for sermons but simply studying the Word of God for the sake of its own vital truth. Then I can teach the Scriptures in a life-giving way that is both powerful and effective. People love it, and more importantly, God loves it!

Begin today reading the Word for yourself and letting the Scriptures instruct you in a way that builds your life into a tower of strength and integrity. If your local church has a good discussion based systematic study of God’s Word, attend and participate. Then apply those truths so that you can contribute to the health of your family and your church. This will enable you to draw stability from the institutions God has ordained for us—our families and our churches—and within those institutions have your needs met for survival, love and belonging, freedom, power, and fun.