Definitionally

Thanks for another great blog-fodder recommendation.  I invite you to read the following editorial from the Washington Post entitled How Would Jesus Vote?

Right off the bat, we have problems.  Jesus wouldn’t vote.  Jesus didn’t vote.  Jesus is proclaimed by Christianity and its sacred text, the Bible, to be the Lord of all, the King of Kings.  He is far and above every earthly office and individual.  Jesus does not participate in the political machinations of our own choosing, He comes ultimately not just to subvert them but to eliminate them entirely.  Jesus was ostensibly killed for claiming to be the king of a people already subject to a temporal authority – the idea of him voting for a system of our own creation misses the point entirely, which is something both the liberal and conservative sides of our political spectrum forget all too quickly.  Neither side would be pleased with Jesus if He showed up again today.
The author moves on to cite how Christianity in the UK is viewed.  The author doesn’t delve in to whether or not this view is accurate.  It is convenient, and that’s enough.  The definition provided is not a view of Christianity, its a view of every major religion and philosophy that has likely ever existed, as well as every governmental system.  Any group of people trying to convince others to do what they want uses some variation of this definition to justify their actions and exhortations.  It is no more Christian than it is Hindu or agnostic or Republican or Democrat.  
The author would like this definition to be seen as consistent with the liberal political agenda of the day, leading the reader to the conclusion that the liberal political agenda of the day is actually the embodiment of Christianity and therefore deserving of the endorsement of the Son of God himself.  The liberal agenda seeks to be nice to others therefore Christians must accept it because this is what Jesus himself taught.
It’s flawed logic, but it is internally consistent enough so that readers may find it hard to determine just where it begins unraveling.  
Jesus did indeed call us to care for the poor.  More precisely, He calls every individual to have compassion for the poor.  He does not delegate compassion and care for the poor to an organization of any kind, let alone a secular political one.  I suspect Jesus would tell us that caring for the poor is an intensely personal attitude and action, not one that is fulfilled by paying taxes to an entity that determines how best to accomplish these goals on our behalf.  I am called to be concerned for the poor.  I am called to care for them.  If I create a system of government that also values these calls, it does not relieve me of my duty.  Nor am I obligated to assume that the system of government will respond to these calls in the best possible way.  Objecting to the State’s efforts to care for the poor on the grounds that they are inefficient or counter-productive to their stated goals is not equivalent with rejecting the Scriptural demand for me to care for the poor.  It does not mean I reject any State-sponsored program, it just means I have concerns about the systems we have.
Likewise, stating that there are plenty of people who will abuse a system of benevolence for their own personal comfort and goals is not the same as demonizing the poor.  Seeking to ensure that the poor are cared for well necessarily requires constant evaluation of the processes and procedures.  It requires that we admit that since we are all broken and sinful, some people will be tempted to abuse the systems and processes, and those administering them will be tempted to compromise them for our own reasons – personal and political.  
To accuse critics of welfare systems of being cold-hearted and unloving must have at its base the assumption that people are not intrinsically bad, but rather intrinsically good.  It must assume that people will not tend to take advantage of situations.  This is not a Scriptural, Christian assumption.  Jesus would be quick to point this out, as our fundamental brokenness was the reason for the Incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return of the Son of God Jesus of Nazareth.  
Likewise, the support of gun ownership is not tantamount to endorsement of violence and senseless killing.  The support of the right to bear arms is not generally so that seriously broken people can go out and massacre innocent people in movie theaters.  The support of gun ownership is directly related to the understanding that systems tend to be self-perpetuating.  Any government – even a good one – evolves into a system of self-preservation.  While it’s all well and good to argue that citizens have the right to revolution, pretty much before the ink dried on our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the State was already in the business of refusing to ever allow such revolution.  The Civil War was a pretty good test of this assumption.  
We can argue about the relative merits of preserving the Union from fragmenting through civil war, but the right to bear arms is most threatening to whatever power it is that originally granted that right.  People are forever finding ways to hurt one another, and banning firearms doesn’t change this.  But what it does potentially change is the ability for the State to arbitrarily enforce its will on its subjects with impunity through disarming them.  The Civil War was an actual war because the people had the right to bear arms.  If nobody was allowed to own guns other than the national army, it would have been a lot harder for there to be an actual war.  
From this perspective, the lesson of the Civil War is not just that preserving the union is a good goal.  It’s an object lesson on less-than-civil-disobedience.  It was a reminder to the State that people are not able willing, they are able to resist the demands of the State, protecting themselves with force if necessary.  
The violence we read about almost daily is not an issue of guns, per se, but an issue of broken people living out their brokenness. (I use the term brokenness here to indicate more specific psychological or emotional conditions, not generic Original Sin as earlier.)  Eliminating private gun ownership will not change this brokenness.  If we are serious about curtailing the kind of violent acts that dominate our headlines these days, we need to dig much deeper than just taking their guns away from them.
What would Jesus say about all of this?   Scripture is not just painfully silent on the idea of civil or not-so-civil disobedience, it is actually rather painfully vocal on the issue.  We are called to obey our civil authorities in Romans 13.  This passage has been repeatedly used both by those in power to justify their power, as well as by Christians to remind one another that the convenience of insurrection is not a holy right, but rather a usurpation of the created order.  The abuse of power is never justified, but neither is rebellion against power.  Which leaves American Christians in a sticky spot.  We claim in the Declaration of Independence that we have the God-given right to rebellion, but our real founding document, the Word of God, tells us we don’t have this right.  
Hmmm.
Perhaps private gun ownership is, in a wacky sort of way, a means of preserving secular liberty without sacrificing Christian obedience.  Perhaps the threat of having to violently subdue your constituents is enough to keep those constituents from ever having to sinfully engage in armed rebellion against the State.  Status quo is preserved, for better or worse?  
That sort of hurts my head, but it’s a topic I’d be very interested in discussing further!  Thoughts?
To sum up, this essay twists both the purpose of Christianity and the purpose of politics, fusing them together into a misshapen lump that accurately portrays neither one.  I support the idea of a government that tends to the poor, but it doesn’t relieve me of the personal responsibility of doing so as well.  My support of larger systems for helping the poor does not require that I never be critical of those systems if they seem to be failing in their purposes, or if they begin to demand more and more from me to compensate for their shortcomings and abuses.  
Likewise, my practical support for private gun ownership is not the same as the sanctioning of violence.  The removal of private gun ownership does not, in my opinion, promise to alleviate violence.  
As with most political discourse, this article commits the fallacy of false alternatives, presenting opposite ends of the spectrum as the only options.  Our need is to quit this way of thinking.  To start thinking in terms of solutions to problems, not as means to ensure the power of one group or another.  I don’t think this is going to happen, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t the best solution.
Regardless, Christians have to realize that Jesus is not interested in the promulgation of a particular party.  Both parties have ways that they seem to be closer to some of Jesus’ ideas and farther away from others.  One party is not God-pleasing and the other not.  Both fall short.  Far short.  Which should motivate us to keep talking with one another across the political aisle, rather than escalating the vitriol.  Again, I don’t think this is going to happen, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a better solution until all of this gets dismantled with the return of Jesus.  

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