Bush, Caesar, and Election 2004
“Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?” —old Irish saying
Jesus’ statement, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” is one of the most important utterances in the Bible—and also one of the most misunderstood. False ideas have crept up around it like a hedge of thorns, hiding its real meaning from view. Yet the truth involved is more than repaid when the true sense of this text comes home to the Christian soul.
I open my forthcoming book Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon by talking about the closing of the American mind, which is my way of referring to the systematic elimination of biblical and constitutional values from the public square. Higher education is more accessible and better funded than ever before in our nation’s history but it has lost anything worth teaching. Blind allegiance to the almighty state has replaced both mind and heart, both intellectual virtue and moral virtue in America.
What has gone wrong? Basically, we have forsaken the old paths. We have forgotten that the God who ordains civil government is under no obligation to always bless it. When Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” He wasn’t granting unlimited authority to the state. So right up front we need to stop and ask ourselves a very fundamental question—a question, indeed, that we always ought to put to ourselves whenever we embark on a discussion of politics. The question concerns our motives and intentions every bit as much as it pertains to our actions. We need to ask ourselves, What is the legitimate purpose of government? We need, frankly, to face ourselves honestly at this point.
Tragically, many if not most Americans have succumbed to the sin of statism (yes, it is a sin), the misguided belief that we can and ought to accomplish Christian objectives through politics. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly enumerates what the federal government can do. Read it carefully and you will see that there is no authorization whatsoever for about 90 percent of what our federal government currently does. It says nothing about social security, education, prescription drugs, national parks, the arts, and so forth. The power of “Caesar” is intentionally—and severely—limited. We come back, then, to where we started. The question is not whether it might be a good idea to help those who are in need, or whether a good education might be valuable, etc. The question is, Can we say, simply, honestly, not because we feel that as Christians we ought to, but because it is a plain matter of truth, that we are absolutely committed to thinking biblically and constitutionally about government?
I ask you: does truth matter any more? For example, during this election year I suspect that conservative Christians will continue to give Bush a pass for his confused (to put it kindly) thinking about Christianity—witness his Ramadan dinners at the White House and his praise of Islam. Recently our “born-again” president reiterated his belief that all religions are recognized by God. In a speech at a New Orleans church, Bush told the crowd that God works through many of the world’s religions. “Miracles happen as a result of the love of the Almighty, professed, by the way, taught, by the way, by religions from all walks of life whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu,” Bush said. The president then added that there is nothing better than a faith-based program to provide hope: “Again, I don’t care what religion it is—there’s nothing more hopeful than the word.” Bush seems just as naïve when it comes to sexual ethics—which explains his eagerness to pay at least lip service to traditional concepts of marriage. With his reelection at stake, however, don’t expect Bush to sign a Marriage Amendment any time soon. The Log Cabin Republicans would have a tizzy fit, not to mention his Sodomite appointees.
On the topic of social welfare, looking at Bush’s policies one might thing that God was in love with the modern superstate—that He supported high taxes, state-sponsored health care, racial quotas, etc., etc., etc. This despite the fact that the Scriptures clearly condemn state-sponsored “welfare” as theft and teach that social compassion is to be completely voluntary. Isn’t it odd how the very same Christians who seek to follow the Bible when it comes to matters of personal morality utterly fail to uphold the Constitution when it comes to matters of freedom? Christian politicians who eagerly support the “right” of all Americans to free health care, education, and retirement benefits do so knowing full well that none of these “rights” is supported by the U.S. Constitution. The Republican Party calls itself the party of limited government, but after three years of George W. Bush can anyone name a single regulation that has been repealed or a single agency that has been abolished? Even the National Endowment for the Arts, possibly the most unconstitutional establishment in America, continues to strut along defiantly. And the problem is not just the Republican Party. On matters of foreign policy, trade policy, immigration policy, and socialized medicine, the two major parties have become inseparable twins.
On the topic of Iraq, the American people have a right to demand that their president lead the nation in the direction our Founding Fathers pointed us. In his Farewell Address, our first president implored us to stay out of Europe’s endless quarrels: “Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?” Washington asked. “Why ... entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European Ambition, Rivalship, Interest, Humour, or Caprice?” Our Founders did not dedicate their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of liberty so that the U.S. could emulate the empire they overthrew. Personally, I find Bush’s allegiance to the warfare-welfare state at complete odds with the worldview of my Baptist and Anabaptist spiritual forebears, who would have been utterly disgusted by the notion of a “Christian nation.” They saw the church as a community gathered from the “nations,” and they no more tried to convert the laws of the countries they were in than the early Christians tried to make Rome a “Christian Empire.”
Meanwhile, the question is being raised as to how a third party candidate might affect the presidential race. Well, I’ll tell you right up front where I stand on third party candidates. As a Christian I have decided to stop voting for the lesser of two evils. In fact, since the election of ’00 (also known as “oh-oh!”), I have decided to stop voting for evil, period. I urge you to do the same. As to whether a third party candidate might affect the election, I predict that the Constitution Party will be very visible this year, and this visibility will likely mean fewer votes for Bush. This may possibly swing the election, as it did in 1992 with Ross Perot. Many believe that Bush the Elder would have won that election if not for the number of Republicans who voted for Perot.
Be that as it may, let’s not be deceived into thinking that the problem in America is our ailing political system. Nor is it our politicians. It is the fact that American families are failing to fulfill their God-appointed tasks, and so are many churches. I am not speaking of liberal churches. I have in mind the thousands of supposedly “conservative” churches that have such nice-sounding names as “Bethabara Baptist Church” that really ought to change their names to something like “Laodicean Baptist Church.” I am thinking of “conservative” pastors who are proud of their unrelenting attacks against worldly living yet who think nothing of worshipping at the altar of their Republican “Caesar.”
Revival, therefore, needs to begin in the churches. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14). God’s people have the power to turn this nation around if they humble themselves, pray, seek the Lord, and turn from their wicked ways. We can and must strengthen our commitment to model strong families, to live out biblical priorities in a culture where self predominates, and to firmly embrace the notion that societal problems are solved one person at a time through the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Above all, we must secede from the New World Order propaganda machines we call public schools, which are nothing but instruments of the federal government to spread lies about Christianity and to desensitize our children to evil.
Ultimately it is not the president or any other politician that matters. It is the individual Christian who must learn to think biblically about the family, the church, society, and civil government. Big Brother will certainly do all in its power to keep committed believers from rocking the political boat, despite their constitutional protections. The neocons in power will continue to advise, Give in on principle, but hold on to office. The gatekeepers of society—the four networks, the wire services, and the major newspaper publishers—will strive to maintain their stranglehold on the news. But you just wait. The tide will turn, if it hasn’t already. How marvelous to see Christian young people—many of whom get their daily news from the Internet—taking a tenacious stand with deep conviction against Evanjellycalism. It is their spirit we must highlight, tap into, and build our future upon.
At this point, you might be thinking, Dave, do you mean to tell me that all those Bush defenders, from Boortz to Limbaugh to Hannity to Fox News to evangelical bigwigs are wrong? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. And the sooner we realize we’ve been had by the “conservative” establishment, the sooner we’ll be rid of all these government intrusions into our lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
David Hall concludes his book Savior or Servant? Putting Government In Its Place with these words:
Citizens of any age will do well to put the government in its proper place. The state is not to become Messianic nor play the role of Savior. It must thus be restrained from assuming duties or domains that God has not entrusted to it. Those things that God has prohibited the state from superintending must be kept from it.
The forms of our constitutional government—as implemented by Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Washington, and others—were carefully designed to acknowledge the authority of God, the power-lust of man, and the limits of “Caesar.” We depart from those forms only with grave consequences. If this modest essay causes any of its readers to identify more closely with the Founders at this point, it will not have been written in vain.
January 22, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.