Tag Archives: Freedom of Religion

Bill Lockwood: Mixing Politics and Religion

by Bill Lockwood

In a letter to his wife Abigail in May, 1780, John Adams famously wrote:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

To John Adams the most important element of life was family. His continual service to the nation included that he was a delegate to the Continental Congress, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, an official Minister to England on behalf of the United States, and the second President of the United States. But this service he considered a “necessary evil” in order that he might enjoy pleasures of family and that his own future generations might enjoy the same.

In our modern era where warnings against “mixing politics and religion” are memorized and repeated without any real deep thought as to why or even what this means, Adams teaches us a few things about it. His keen mind was able to probe the issues of life and distill the principles and realities involved.

In analyzing what Adams meant when he said “I must study politics that my sons may have liberty to study …”, note the following.

What is Politics?

First, what is Politics? Politics simply means the management or administration of society. The word “politics’ is from the Greek word ‘politika’ meaning the “affairs of a city.” It is “the process of making decisions that apply to members of a group” (Wikepedia). Frequently the word “politics” is used negatively, such as in “play politics.” The root idea of the word, however, refers to principles by which people are to be governed.

The question now becomes, by what set of principles shall we govern society? Shall we use biblical principles or humanistic ones? Shall we use God-inspired principles upon which to base human laws, or shall we simply drift off into allowing people to do “what every man thinks is right in his own eyes?” The only issue in our society therefore is whether or not we plan to manage ourselves according to Christian principles.

This applies to a wide variety of social levels: the workplace, the office, the team, the church, or cities and nations; there is even “international politics.” All policies that are adopted in these various groups are called “public policies” precisely because those policies effect others. Once again, these policies will either reflect Christianity or humanism (non-religion).

These facts being so, whence comes the idea that Christian people should remain free from “politics?” Is it somehow inconsistent with biblical values that Christians should not influence public policy?

Freedom Politics is Pro-Family

Returning to Adams’ quote above, note that he was interested in freedom for his family. He wanted to construct a society along Christian principles that by this framework of freedom his family in future generations might continue to enjoy liberty. Specifically, limited government would allow personal freedom to flourish while at the same time curtail dictatorships or top-down controls that destroy freedom.

A sidebar note: Many confuse Roman Catholicism with New Testament Christianity. Not only were the colonists almost 95% Protestant in their belief-systems, but were afraid of Catholicism. The reason for this is clear. Roman Catholicism is an unbiblical political system that was constructed through the centuries to mimic Old World kingdoms such as the Roman. It too, therefore, is dictatorial and stifles freedom. Its record as a tyrannical power is matched only by other forms of government absolutisms.

Adams was well-aware of all of this. This is why that during the tumultuous formation of the United States he felt that he needed to invest time in order to create a political landscape such that allowed freedom to ring—but this was in order that his children might be able to enjoy more pleasurable pursuits. The political machinery of a nation is a direct reflection of religious values and presuppositions that underlie the society. For future family freedom, Christian politics was necessary.

Politics was not just one “hobby” that Adams chose among others he might have chosen, even though that is the casual way people view politics today. Adams showed this by couching it in his word “must.” In other words, politics was his “duty.” It functioned as an obligation. Political freedom is foundational to other freedoms.

To illustrate, Adams used “war.” Those who enjoy freedom and liberty rely on the sacrifices of untold thousands who study war and become warriors. A warriors’ occupation is not like playing sports, or collecting old cars or antiques. Without a fight for freedom, there would be no games to play or antiques to collect. Someone must do this business of war if we are to have pleasures of life. If we were all running for our lives from enemy soldiers, who cares about playing games?

So also is managing people by politics. It is foundational to freedom at large. For this reason, Cicero, the ancient Roman statesman at the time of Julius Caesar, observed: “For there is really no occupation in which human virtue approaches more closely the august function of the gods than that of founding states or preserving those already in existence.”

So exactly. Christians, being correctly informed, can change the character of the political landscape. By bringing the moral standards of Christ into the civic arena, society itself is transformed. The gospel of Christ not only changes lives and hearts of men, but the course of civil government. Why should Christians not be involved in politics?

Modern Judas Politicians

Modern Judas Politicians

by Bill Lockwood

The text of John 12 is instructive insight into the distinction between true and false “compassion.” During the last week of our Lord’s life He came to Bethany where was a feast in his honor. At the somber meal, Mary, the sister of Martha, anointed the feet of Jesus with very expensive “pure spikenard.” It was a class of aromatic amber-colored oil the value of which was equal to a year’s wages for the common agricultural worker of the day (12:5).

Judas, the treasurer of the apostolic band, objected to such a lavish expenditure and queried why the ointment had not been sold for 300 shillings and the money given to the poor (12:5). John gives us this editorial note after years of hindsight, “Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief and, being the keeper of the treasury, took away what was put therein.” Obama and company cares very little for the poor, in spite of multiplicity of speeches which portray himself as their champion.

It is easy to frame a grasp for power or wealth beneath a cloak of “compassion.” Judas’ words painted him as a one concerned “for the poor” but the reality was quite different. So also today our modern unconstitutional welfare state is driven by the same deceit. One cannot begin discussing, for example, the removing of taxpayer money from even the murderous Planned Parenthood without immediately facing the argument of “compassion” to woman’s needs which they are said to provide. How can we remove money from “the poor?”

The Democratic Party majors in this Judas-style question and the Republicans do their best to catch up by insisting that they are “compassionate conservatives.” But it is easy to be compassionate with others’ money, isn’t it? Added to that is the fact that our gargantuan welfare state, bloated out of reasonable financial responsibility bounds, is unable to even keep track of the billions of dollars flowing through the hands of bureaucrats who are the “keepers of the bag.”

Compassion
There is much spoken of compassion today but seemingly very little known. Some suppose that meeting physical needs of the American populace is to be prioritized over spiritual needs; others think that giving my tax dollars to Uncle Same satisfies the obligation to be compassionate; still others talk of the lack of compassion in those who wish to return to a Constitutional government in which it was illegal to redistribute taxpayer money to various special interest groups or segments of society.

First, true compassion is to be exercised at a personal level. Government programs are no substitute for true compassion. Actually, Uncle Sam’s programs are not really compassionate at all, but destructive to society. Witness the growing minority unrest in the inner city—many of whom are recipients of government handouts provided by other people. No one watching these riots unleash on the cities by destroying private property has the impression that the rioters are thankful for the provisions that have been given them by others. What is the problem? True compassion is a personal matter. In order to discriminate between those who are truly needy and those interested in bilking the system by refusal to work, personal contact is necessary between the given and the recipient.

Sometimes poverty comes upon people through no fault of their own. Fires, earthquakes, crippling accidents, deaths and diseases injure people. Christian charity is called for (1 Cor. 13:1-3). But on the other hand, according to the Bible, sometimes poverty is the due penalty for laziness. “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, so shall thy poverty come upon thee like a robber, and want (lack) like an armed man!” Solomon insists that work is good for the soul.

The point is, how is one able to distinguish between those truly in need and those who are taking advantage of the system? Only by exercising compassion at a personal level, where people might know. As Marvin Olasky, former professor at the University of Texas at Austin, observes, failure to “establish personal relationships with recipients” means that one cannot “sufficiently discriminate between the needy and the lazy” (The Tragedy of American Compassion, 26).
Government programs absolutely violate this major component of personal contact between the giver and the recipient. And since the nature of mankind is such that man will live of the labor of others if that is possible, government or structural poverty only grows under the oversight of bureaucracy.

Second, true compassion recognizes that man’s most important need is spiritual. At one time, when churches were distributors of goods to the needy and not the government, spiritual emphases were in place. As a matter of fact, Jesus Himself criticized the crowds who came to him interested only in food and not spiritual nourishment (John 6:25-28). Instead of feeding them, He instructed them to “work” for spiritual sustenance. This is a shock to today’s society which lauds the person or agency which provides clean needles to the drug addict or contraceptives to the promiscuous and call it “charity.” This just shows that we have forgotten the true meaning of compassion.

In the end, all government programs accomplish—for poverty rates have remained unchanged since the advent of The New Deal and The Great Society—is accumulating power into the hands of the politicians. Exactly what Judas had in mind.  

Back to Homepage