In our attempts to stay up to date, we subscribe to all kinds of publications and journals. Many of these journals are published by atheists, and many by religious extremists. The majority of the periodicals we read are published by people that we have to assume believe in what they are doing, and sincerely want to make the world a better place in which to live. One of the interesting vacillations that we have observed in the over 25 years that we have been involved in this program, has been the constant swings in how people perceive political leaders.
Several months back, we received a periodical with a large red Bold-type headline "Big Sister is Watching You." Opening the front cover, we found a series of pages advertising a 208-page book exposing Hillary Clinton and her feminist friends (Janet Reno, Joycelyn Elders, Ruth Ginsburg, etc.) as "women of the new order" who are telling Bill Clinton what to do and who are determined to destroy the United States and build a "New World Order." The magazine went on to claim that the Clintons are anti-God anarchists determined to suppress and destroy religion in America. This magazine was right on top of an atheist publication which had a large title "The Clintons are Leading America Back to Religious Fundamentalism." This journal went on to point out all of the things that have happened since Clinton took office including the fact that the family observes Christmas and goes to church, as indications that Clinton is a religious fanatic determined to set America back to the days of religious control over all aspects of American life.
Your writer admits to having a disdain for politics and all things political both in and out of religion that is so great that he tends to walk away from all situations that smack of political rhetoric. Still, we all have to be thankful to live in a country where we can go to worship and not be shot for expressing our beliefs in a public way. I am glad that I am usually able to present public lectures on the existence of God without being molested or intimidated by the law. Certainly I am disturbed that a principal in Jackson, MS, was fired for reading a prayer over the PA in a public high school which was generic enough to not offend any religious person even if they did not believe in Christ or the Bible. Yes, I think it is alarming that Herald of Truth filmings were stopped by Washington, D.C., police because they objected to the content of a message on morality that said there are absolute rights and wrongs of behavior.
The problem is that "rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto Got the things that are God's" is hard to do, because so many things intertwine these two realms. If a man is a Christian and also involved in pubic service, it is just as important that his moral standards guide him as it is for the person who is not in the public sector. For many years, I have had a Christian friend here in South Bend who is employed by the Internal Revenue Service. He is highly critical of some of the methods and policies that have come to him from superiors over the years; but his integrity and value system have caused him to be quite successful in his work. Straddling the line between the secular and the spiritual is not a problem peculiar to our age. We cannot isolate ourselves from the political system in which we live. In fact what Christians need to be doing, is to influence that system in a positive and yet not secular way.
To understand how this can and should be done, we need to examine all of the Biblical teachings that are related to this subject. Jesus dealt with the politicians of his day. He also dealt with the workers in the system who were not in control of anything, but who earned their living from the system. In Matthew 8 when the centurion came to Jesus to have his servant healed, he indicated the prejudice against his work in verse eight by saying that he was not worthy that Jesus should enter his house. He tells Jesus that he is a part of the authority of the Roman government, and his honesty and faith is rewarded by Jesus in spite of his political position. In Luke 5 a receiver of customs named Levi receives Jesus and has a whole company of Publicans eat with them. When the religious leaders of the day complain, Jesus indicates that "They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (verses 31-32). The story of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18 further indicates the need for reform from within--not isolation from without.
In all of these cases and many others in the Bible, we do not see believers withdrawing from the situation. As far as we know, the centurion continued to serve in his capacity in the Roman army. The tax collectors continued to collect taxes, though hopefully with more honesty and morality than previously. Cornelius in Acts 10 and the jailer in Acts 16 continued in their occupations and benefited Paul and Peter because of their positions. If God had expected Christians to participate in armed revolt against the immorality and injustice of the Roman system, there would have been biblical instructions and examples for us to follow.
The fact of the matter is that Christianity is not portrayed in the Bible as an extremist political movement. The injunctions of the Bible writers are to have a good report of them that are without, and to live at peace with all men. It is good that we have brothers and sisters who are able to work in the government, and to influence in a positive way the policies and laws that govern our society. We know from Acts 4:18-2l that if the government degrades itself to the point where Christians are legally commanded to do something that is against what God has told us to do, that they are to serve God first. Every government that has tried to do what Acts 4 describes has fallen shortly after taking such a position, because what the Christian stands for benefits and helps any political system.
Let us not align ourselves with the extremists. We need to stand for what is right and moral and good; and, if we do that, we will advance one of the strongest arguments for the validity of the Christian system. Breaking the law to protest abortion is not the only way to work to stop the taking of innocent lives. Killing doctors and destroying property fly in the face of all that Christianity stands for. We can stand for every issue that exists, and we can precipitate change for good by following the attitudes and the practices of the Bible, and we can do that within the legal system in which we live. Rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's is not that hard to do-- especially in the culture that we live in at the present
John N. ClaytonBack to Contents Does God Exist?, January/February 1996