By Shayne Mason Vincent — Because I am an independent, I appreciate truth on both sides of the aisle. Both major parties have something important to offer society; and they also both have extremes. A perfect example of this is my education. My schools of discipline include both social work and theology. I love them both for their deep insights into human nature. Yet both have very different solutions when it comes to “how to fix the world.”
Certainly, our society is in desperate need of “fixing.” But, whenever we attempt to discuss the issues of race, immigration, poverty, environment, governance, and taxation, the discussion becomes about party rather than principle. Worldview and political views are now assumed to be one and the same. Yet, it is entirely possible to be a Democrat who believes in fiscal responsibility, just as it is possible to be a Republican who cares about the poor.
Unfortunately, partisan media and politics have used current events to embroil our nation in a very dangerous, “cultural proxy war.” For at its core, they are in a philosophical battle for control of the narrative; and this war has been in the crock pot since the American and French Revolutions:
Two distinct lines of Enlightenment thought: first, the moderate variety following Descartes, Locke, and Christian Wolff, which sought accommodation between reform and the traditional systems of power and faith; and second, the radical enlightenment inspired by the philosophy of Spinoza, advocating democracy, individual liberty, freedom of expression, and eradication of religious authority. The moderate variety tended to be deistic, whereas the radical tendency separated the basis of morality entirely from theology. Both lines of thought were eventually opposed by a conservative Counter-Enlightenment, which sought a return to faith (Wikipedia).
As a nation, we are now likely near the end stage of this ideological war between enlightenment-based, secular-humanist values and historic constitutional Christian values where Secularism derives truth from the rationalistic and material; it values naturalism, evolution, secularism, rationalism, the sexual revolution, and post-modernism’s rejection of absolutes. Christianity derives truth from the metaphysical and biblical; it values church and state (theocracy), tradition, patriarchy, theism, and fundamentalism.
These two views have been in an open existential battle in our society for more than 200 years now. And as a firm believer that historicist-eschatology only applies to major paradigm shifts in history, I suspect that our culture war has prophetic significance related to Daniel 11:40 and Revelation 11:7; Egypt (secularism), the King of the South, and Babylon (Christianity), the King of the North, are battling for supremacy of worldview.
And here is where we must be wise. Fleeing Babylon does not mean we should run to the arms of Egypt simply because they support causes we cherish. To state this biblically, fleeing the earth and sea beast does not mean we should flee to the beast from the bottomless pit! We are followers of Jesus, not of this world; and sadly, we often seem to have a little too much of Peter and his sword in us.
So, when politicians, with all their double standards of moral equivalence, hijack legitimate issues for political expedience, citizens become enemies. We put up our dukes and stand our ground (no matter the side). I can’t tell you how many people I used to love in Christ who are now no longer on speaking terms because of politics. But in all of this partisan propaganda, Christians seem to have forgotten that the principles of Truth and Justice actually belong, not to the state, but to God!
Where do you think our modern “secular” ideals of justice came from? Rights for workers, women, children, blacks, immigrants, LGBTQ, and our social services, social security, adult and child protective services, and the five-day work week? They were originally championed by Christians! It began with what was called non-sectarian philanthropy. It was an ecumenical mission done by those who had a burden for the oppressed. This same work took place in Europe as well, under, for example, the Elizabethan Poor Laws, which were developed through the work of William Booth and his Salvation Army, as well as the abolitionist work of Christians for multiple centuries.
Their grand achievements for widows, orphans, the elderly, the working class, the slave, and the poor were slow and gradual, ultimately becoming institutionalized into secular law and government. But it was never done as an entitlement or a “right”; they fought for these causes because they loved Jesus and cared about their neighbor! And now, in all of our partisan madness, we seem to have forgotten that Jesus loved His enemies.
So, let’s stop pigeon-holing God into one particular vein of conservatism or liberalism. He is a living God, and He expresses truth in a rainbow’s palette of colors. Consider the panoply of flowers, animals, clouds, and climates He has created. The refractions of light, the various colors, the end- less varieties. Clearly then, God loves all races, He loves all nations, and He loves the earth itself, for He created it all!
Therefore, as followers of Christ, what we should be looking for is, “What is truth?” What are the biblical principles I can support in these current events that are not related to the politics of it all? Because His Word is loaded with hundreds of texts that span both sides of the aisle:
James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Isaiah 58:6: Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.
Leviticus 19:33-34: When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native- born. Love them as yourself.
Revelation 11:18: He will destroy those who destroy the earth.
2 Thessalonians 3:10: For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
2 Corinthians 9:6: But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Proverbs 10:4: Idle hands make one poor, but diligent hands bring riches.
Proverbs 21:25: A slacker’s craving will kill him because his hands refuse to work.
The church of Christ’s day wasn’t just some homogenous group of Jewish males who only had one perspective on all things. It was diverse, including people from many nations and cultures, and God loved them all: Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Africans, women and men, slave and free, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, blue collar and white collar. Because loving your neighbor has nothing to do with politics. It is, rather, a fruit of the Spirit. And if hate is all we are experiencing due to our views, clearly, we are not following the Spirit of God, for hate is the fruit of the serpent.
I fear that our “cultural proxy war” isn’t going anywhere; it will likely only increase until the final events. And because we can already see the beginnings of the lamb-like beast speaking as the dragon, we need to be conscious about where we stand. We need to avoid being caught up in the mob that cried out for the nationalist zealot Barabbas to save them from bad governance (no matter if it is left or right). Nor should we exclude ourselves from the fight to protect the least of these, for those are the very ones God commands us to protect! Instead, let us be the ones who cried out for Jesus, so that our testimony will be like that of the early church, where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:33-35).
–Shayne Mason Vincent is lead pastor, Casper Wyoming District. Email him at [email protected]