A Manifesto on the Proper Role of Christian Liberty

(Part Two — please read Part One, below, before reading this.  Thanks!)

A few months ago, I was talking to a nonbeliever about pacifism, and I said that if she and I were together and she were attacked, I would fight to the death to protect her; if, however, I were the object of the attacker, I’d hope that I’d have the grace and courage to not respond to a violent assault with violence.  In other words, I would hope to choose pacifism for myself, but would never choose it for her. My acquaintance, somewhat easily provoked to belligerence, was disgusted with what she called my “low self-esteem.”

This led to a fascinating Safeway deli talk about my ultimate faith that my life is held securely in Yahweh’s mighty hand — the temporal part of it will end when it ends, and perhaps by the violent hand of a human being, but the eternal part rests, and it does, with my Savior.  Further, I tried to explain, the Christian disciple should always hold her or his rights — all of them — with a loose hand, which frees them to fight all the harder for the rights of the people around them who are in peril.

I counted it a most meatloaf-sandwich worthy talk, even if she went away thinking I was, if possible, even more annoying than she had thought.

But it’s something I believe, and something that I’ve gleaned from the Bible, and something that puts me at direct odds with Doug Wilson, my current opponent, and the larger Christian community that holds the securing of their rights — again, given by God and only confirmed by the Constitution — as a characteristic of utmost importance in the face of what Wilson and others call “tyranny.”

The issue this plays out in currently is the “tyranny” of Obamacare and, especially, its individual health-insurance purchase mandate, which will force all Americans to secure coverage or pay a fine.  It is a requirement, for the first time in history, that the citizen buy a product, and the presumed infringement on people’s civil rights has sent Wilson and others into Full Eleven on the Reckless Outrage Meter.

This “infringement,” however, has some precedent, albeit imperfectly, in State-mandated purchase of auto insurance by those who drive.  Further, this horrible violation of all that’s good and decent will encourage the already-insured to keep policies they’re happy with while providing some 30 million people with coverage previously out of their reach.  More starkly, this toxic tsunami of treasonous tyranny will save the lives of countless millions of people — simply by insisting that everyone who will someday need health care (everyone) act responsibly and secure coverage before the catastrophe that would otherwise send them to the ER or other provider, costing the rest of us other untold millions per year.  So reasonable is this that the right-wing Heritage Foundation, the GOP presidential candidate, and one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative justices has endorsed it, implemented it, and defended it.  Seems there’s a distinctly Kenyan Socialist flavor detected in the Affordable Care Act that makes its virtues non-existent and its violence to the Constitution and, indeed, the Person of a Holy God extreme beyond measure.  But it does take some freedom — an infinitesimal freedom that will accomplish phenomenal good — from the consumer, and it can only, therefore, be defied by Godly men armed with their Constitutions and Bibles.

There is no greater example of the departure of the Christian Church in the U.S. from Biblical values than this, and with that in mind, here is my Ten-Point Manifesto On The Proper Role Of Christian Liberty (Even When Everyone Around You Thinks You’re Crazy, Weak, a Socialist, or an Apostate For Caring More About The Rights Of Others Than Your Own).  I dedicate this to the man, Douglas Wilson, who defends the denial of rights to the women in his congregation and who supports the right of “Christian” slaveholders to own other human beings. The Biblical references are from a few of its books, sections of which, when read in context, strengthen their individual assertions.

1.  God is sovereign over all human affairs; there is no act of Congress or opinion from the Supreme Court that can confound the Almighty.  (Isaiah 44)

2.  The Savior, fully God and fully Human, left us with words of testimony and a life of example for how we are to treat others around us and how we are to respond to governmental authority. (2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 13:1-5, 1 Peter 2:13-14)

3.  Those words and the life he lead are written for us in the Bible; it is the only handbook for Christian thought, practice, and belief, and to disobey it is to sin.  When that sin visits harm on others, we are accountable for their suffering. (2 John 1:9, Romans 13:10, 1 Peter 2:16)

4.  The New Testament provides the testimony of Jesus’ life, words, and example; the Old Testament and whatever it says about private property and individual rights must be read in light of the NT.  When there appears to be a contradiction, the NT Gospel’s commandment to lay down our own rights for the betterment of others takes precedent.   (Philippians 2:3-4, Ephesians 5:21)

5.  The purpose of the Gospel, of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the Bible is the saving of the believer’s soul; the believer’s acts of righteousness have no salvific value but do offer evidence into the state of their heart.  God is pleased when we believe in the Son, obey His Word, and practice acts of righteousness that conform to His express will. (1 Peter 1:9, 2:24-25, 1 John 2:5, 1 John 3:5-6 )

6.  While the Church in the United States generally isn’t obedient or righteous enough to receive the persecution that comes upon the Godly, the Body will experience inconvenience, troubles, injustices and threats, and those may appear to come from an unbelieving world.  These difficulties and even injustices can strengthen the Church as it casts its hope on Christ and seeks to respond in grace, love, and patience. (1 John 3:1b, 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2:12, James 1:1-4, Romans 12:9-21, 13:7, 16:17-19)

7.  The continued insistence on the securing of our own rights often causes detriment to others, assuredly causes detriment to the witness of the Gospel, and defies the spirit and Spirit of the very words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount; Philippians 2:3-5, Ephesians 5:21)

8.  In our relationship with the governing State, we will be accorded certain rights and privileges; it is not sinful to embrace and profit from them unless doing so causes harm to others or harm to the Gospel.  (Romans 13, 1 Corinthians 8). There is a time to insist on the exercising of rights we have when the exercise of those rights furthers the Gospel of Christ (Acts 16:37, 25:10-11).  Otherwise, we must, if the situation is presented, be willing to give up our freedoms for the betterment of those around us in imitation of Christ Jesus.

9.  We have no choice but to strenuously but peacefully resist the State if it demands or practices injustice and harm to others, if it compels us to do evil by committing injustice or harm upon others, or if it forbids us to do good to others or otherwise live out our Christian lives.  (Acts 4:19) Obedience to a State dictate that results in greater specific and necessary wellbeing to others, even if it costs us, inconveniences us, or curtails some of our freedoms, must be expected from the disciple. Willingly and cheerfully.

10.  The payment of a tax or fee is a reasonable consequence of disobeying the State in matters like these that are not a direct violation of Scripture; refusal to do so, thus contributing to the tangible wellbeing of society’s — and Christ’s — “least of these” is not only a gross violation of Christ’s call on our lives, but also a profound fouling of the Christian witness.  The act of paying a tax or being compelled to buy something that brings immediate and specific help to others is a sacrifice the Christian ought to embrace gladly.  This submission to the State is, in reality, a submission to God — and a tangible example of submission to the poor, a giving up of our liberties for the greater good for which God will bless not only the one who submits, but the State that asks for it as a remedy for the poor.

Clearly this is not the product of a classically Christian mind, for which I thank God.  It also reveals no particular wisdom on my part.  Rather, it’s the simple call of the Word of God to Christ’s disciples.  That it’s simple is its beauty, for in its simplicity no one can presume to not understand it.

May God be glorified — through the Affordable Care Act, certainly, but especially through the willingness of a Spirit-led Church to cheerfully set aside some of its rights for the health and wellbeing of those around them, who may be believers or who could become believers in the face of this response of Christian kindness, generosity, and humility.

Submission — says the feminist! — is something we desperately need more of.  Lord, may it start here.

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