On Facebook a friend of mine posted a link to an article written by a Christian writer on the current political ideologies. What I found fascinating is that while the writer critiques democracy, it is not because of how it works but how people are using it.
We are more like the French Revolution now than the American one, because we are pursuing a secular democracy, not a theistic one. This has implications in politics, as it does for every field of interest. It means that when we cast our ballots, we are basing our decision on secular aspirations, not theistic ideology.
What I’m about to write is not a critique of the writer’s article, but an elaboration of the conundrum described above.
One of the biggest obstacles facing the modern-day faithful is how to reconcile how they vote with their faith. What they don’t realize is that they’re trying to fit a round peg into a square hole, i.e. fit their religious convictions into their political beliefs.
In other words, it is a Venn diagram in which religion is a smaller circle within the larger political sphere. This is due to their presumption that the political process they participate in is morally acceptable.
The question of religion and its compatibility with the state has been contested for years. Leo Tolstoy is one of the more well-known anarchists who argued the faith held no room for the state, and thus the faithful were bound to steer clear of it and not participate. I really don’t want to get into a debate over religion and politics so much as to make an observation that for the modern-day American Christian, the legitimacy of the state as a governing authority is assumed true and rightfully observed.
This gets them into trouble because it forces them into a frame in which they are either the oppressor of the oppressed. It gets even more vague when discussing candidates to support. Scripture says almost nothing about politics aside from some general counsel on living at peace with your neighbor, but there are no prohibitions.
The Religious Left no doubt appreciates this frame of presumed state legitimacy, because it allows them leeway and ambiguity to promote state action that ordinarily would be considered wholly inappropriate from a Christian perspective by merely reading what Scripture says.
More importantly, the modern Church sees the state as a legitimate means of preserving and perpetuating the faith. Having a democratic vote to decide who gets what from who, how, when, where, and why (through violence or threats of violence) is not seen as inherently coercive and aggressive in nature. Nor do they think it wrong to use the state to encourage or discourage certain behavior that libertarianism would consider to be within the bounds of one’s rights.
Rarely asked, if ever, is whether or not a vote either way on an issue is morally justified, i.e. that they have the authority in the matter at all.
An example of this can be found in the battle over the definition of a state-issued marriage license; should it be between a man and a woman or can be also be two people of the same-sex? The authority of the state to license marriage, which Christianity teaches to be a covenant between a man and woman in the presence of God, is simply accepted by many without question as legitimate, when the entire concept was invented to prevent intercultural marriages.
Only now that their opponents have successfully usurped the power of the state to enforce their definition are American Christians starting to question the state’s role in what they believe to be a spiritual union, but even still there are some who won’t give up the ghost.
This is what happens when you observe the flaws inherent in the Matrix but you refuse to take the libertarian Red Pill.
Yet the Christian community could have resolved the whole matter from the start by insisting that the state has no legitimate authority over it and therefore any of its laws controlling Christian marriages or attempting to twist them into something else are of no effect. They didn’t do this because it would open up a Pandora’s box as to where else Christians have the right to disobey the state on other matters in which God’s instructions to the faithful contradict state decrees.
It’s this presumption that leads them on their way to legislating morality which, by the way, their opponents on the Left do as well under their own secular religion, which is how we’ve seen the term “Left Puritanism” come into the vernacular. Or, they vote for candidates based on their religious beliefs or how they will promote their religion through the state.
A theistic democracy is an example of what I call The Vision™ in which there is a detailed, prescribed manner of behavior and conduct in society and culture enforced through the state. Your rights are dependent on your role in fulfilling it.
This is what American Christians means when talk about voting theistically; they are pursuing their version of The Vision, rather than looking at it objectively from the perspective of self-ownership and property rights.
As someone who has been stepped in the faith his entire life, I can attest from personal experience and observation that this perpetual link between religion and the state is one of the main causes for the church’s decline in America because the faithful have been conditioned to seek spiritual and moral authority from the state. In other words, the church claims authority but if the state usurps they will surrender it with little or no protest. Instead of being its own independent institution and providing people with a separate authority to which they can voluntarily submit to, the church has too often transferred its responsibilities to the state and washed its hands of the consequences. An example besides marriage is education; for centuries the local church was also the local education center teaching children to read, write and learn basic math. Now, the typical American Christian unquestioningly accept the state’s authority and innate role in educating their children from early childhood to higher education.
This is how you get debates about teaching abstinence or sex positivity in public schools. Because they have embraced the state’s legitimacy in education, the Christian cannot see beyond this frame as they seek to have their views promoted over that of feminists and others.
Christians should reject democracy not because people are voting for the wrong reasons, but because it is an inappropriate and erroneous manner of expressing one’s spiritual convictions. Democracy also rests on the flawed premise that the majority of voters within a given jurisdiction get to decide things which aren’t theirs to decide and assume authority in matters which they have no legitimate claim to.
Voting should be used merely to protect and promote property rights, nothing else.