Nations Are Not You and Me OR You Can be Saved but the Nation Cannot

Nations Are Not You and Me OR You Can be Saved but the Nation Cannot February 3, 2016
The individual gives consent to the state. The state gives justice to the individual.
The individual gives consent to the state. The state gives justice to the individual.

If I take your money without your consent, it is called “stealing.” If the government takes your money without your consent, it is called taxation.

Government can do things that individuals cannot, thank God.

Of course, Americans would argue that even if I personally oppose taxes, I must pay them. Why? Even if my candidate for office lost, the one opposed to the tax, I had a chance to be represented. The winner of the race, the guy in favor of taxes, combined with many other winners make me pay. Even if none of my candidates ever win (imagine a Green party member), I must pay because I am a participant in a system from birth.

This simple distinction is missing in the rhetoric of many Christians, especially some “progressive Christians” who are rarely progressive, lagging two steps behind the spirit of the age, and not very Christian, jettisoning Christian virtue for the DNC platform. Sometimes they act as if the state should act as I am to act!

Jesus wishes me to love my enemy and so I must. I cannot delight in the death of any human being no matter how vile. The state, however, is not an “individual” human being. The state can use force in ways that would be inappropriate for me . . . even if we do not count the death penalty.

The state can seize my property under certain conditions for the good of the community. No individual should be able to do so . . .no matter how rich.

This distinction must be taught because the state can respond with violence in ways that an individual Christian never should. Pacifists or those claiming Christians should be non-violent must recognize that the state, even a state made up of Christians, must have powers that would be wrong in a single person. This is not merely because the state is made up of “many people.” If you do not have a right to do something, then adding many more “no rights” to your “no right” still does not create a right! Instead, the state is a being separable from me. Just as the family is more than the sum of its members, so the states are not just we the people, though we the people may need not consent to the life of the particular state for it to gain justification in the use of power.

You know this is true if you pause and think for a minute: a day came when the Byzantine Empire died, the state ceased to exist, but thousands of the individuals that had been Byzantines still existed. They retained their God given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but the Byzantine Empire was no more. It ceased to be and they did not. In the same way, a country could be “reborn” (in theory) after all the original members were dead. When the Kingdom of Spain was recreated in my lifetime, there were few  living people from the Kingdom of Spain, but the Kingdom of Spain was “reborn” with millions of new subjects. There were traditions, rules, regulations, and a “way of being” that gave continuity between the rule of the last Spanish monarch and the new king, Juan Carlos. The interregnum ended and those who may have been born subjects of a King of Spain, only to become citizens of a Republic, and then subjects to the dictator/regent Franco, found themselves once again subjects of a King in Spain.

When the government bombs Syria to end the threats of terrorism, that might be sound preventative policing. If I get confused and punch the guy on the bar stool next to me for grumbling threats, I am probably failing as a Christian. Why? God has given the state powers God has not given me.

Again, this division suggests that no state can be “Christian.” A state cannot go to heaven or receive Christ as Lord and Savior. A state may be made of Christians whose faith informs their daily life, but we must never confuse the state with a person. God can save the man who is President of the United States, but the office will not live forever. Mr Reagan was Mr President and then he was just Mr Reagan. If he knew Jesus (as I think he did), then now Mr Reagan is rejoicing with God in paradise, but the President is not in heaven . . . the President is Barack H. Obama for now . . . and will be someone else this time next year.

We must not make the mistake of some on the “religious right” (often less religious than concerned about the right) and equate the state and the individual. I am called to make Jesus Lord of my life, not the Republic.

The President has two bodies: one can be saved (the individual who is President) and one who cannot (the office). We are not a Christian nation, but a nation that is and has always been made up of mostly Christians. As a result, when we use the rhetoric of our Faith that applies to individuals about the state, we make a serious category error. The state may be compatible with Christian living or make it easier or harder to live a good life, but the Kingdom of Heaven is not the same as any earthly state.

No state should reward vice and punish virtue, because that is not a legitimate power of the state, but no state can incarnate the Christ, because the state is not a human being. We are His Body, not Washington.

Every Christian is called to feed the poor. The state is not. Maybe Christians will gain a majority in a government and might decide that it is a good idea for the state to feed the poor, but they need not. The poor must be fed, but how to do so is the duty of an individual Christian and not the duty of the government. In fact, a Christian might decide that state food distribution is ineffective.

Nations are not you or me. We have powers the state does not have (having children) and the state has powers we do not have (seeking justice against crime). Failure to recognize the distinction either ends in causing the individual to vanish in homogenous state or the state to cease to exist in a culture of autonomous narcissi.

Rand is wrong. Socialism is wrong. Limited government with maximum individual liberty is right.

 

 


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