Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Self-discipline required for self-government

Note* This post is a composite of several responses made to students when we were discussing the influence of Christianity on our system of law and government. There was a great deal of confusion at first because students were using ambiguous terms and were not carefully analyzing the sources they were using!

God and Government

It is not always an easy thing to communicate effectively with someone. Words are symbols of ideas..an attempt to make concrete something that is abstract. First... "there is a lot of misinformation and half-truths." Most communication takes place for a PURPOSE, that is, the speaker (or writer, or movie producer) has AN AGENDA. The PURPOSE of communication is to move an idea forward. When the subject is as sensitive as religious faith, or political influence, or some other deeply held belief, then the field of speakers and writers becomes quite crowded and very noisy. I am one of those people who communicates with a purpose: that is, I speak (or write) in order to MOVE an idea forward. Listening to (or carefully reading) a message from another is also moving an idea forward.

Second...the CONTENT of the communication may contain error, either by design, or by ignorance, or through carelessness. In this day of instant information via media (including Internet), it is HARDER (not easier) to get accurate information. There is a plethora of "information" that is more conjecture than fact. It is very important that we exercise due diligence as we process new information.

Third... there are different kinds of TRUTH. There is OBJECTIVE truth (which is generally held to be true because sufficient experience/research/study has gone into the matter that most people are persuaded without further evidence) and there is SUBJECTIVE truth (which is "subject" to the filtering process of one's own personal experience, or perceptions.) These two terms are NOT mutually exclusive...that is, one MAY exist with the other. In other words, some "truth" may be a mix of objective and subjective reality. ALSO, truth itself is used differently in context. There is TRUE (as in morally right), and there is TRUE (as in factually correct), and there is TRUE (as in "original") etc.. You see, the word "true", without context, is ambiguous (having more than one possible meaning).

Concerning legal and social issues, there are many sources of beliefs, among the most prominent, religion. People draw upon their religion (or religious upbringing) to frame their values and expectations in their social relationships. In another article, I address the question of whether America is a “Christian” nation. Although many people claim to be “Christian” they are really describing a moral system that governs, at least to some extent, their conduct and their social interaction. This group of “Christians” is NOT describing a relationship with Jesus Christ in which they regularly and materially participate. There are probably millions of people for whom religion is merely a social framework within which they interpret behavior and regulate social relationships. There is nothing "spiritual" about their experience! Jesus taught AGAINST this kind of religion! Religion (and religious experience) is both objective AND subjective. There are people who claim to be "Christian" but who lack faith, and have no RELATIONSHIP with Christ. These people have transformed a faith into a fraud. These people are "religious", but NOT Christian, even though they go to traditional "worship" services and perform ritualistic "Christian" acts like pray before mealtime, pay tithe to the their church, and even do good works. You see, the Taliban is a very "religious" group. The Muslim Extremists that threaten us are deeply "religious" people.

Christianity is NOT a religion...it is a RELATIONSHIP. You cannot be a Christian by "belonging" to a Christian church. The people who try to ram their religion down your throat are, probably, not secure in their relationship (if they even HAVE a relationship with Christ. Those who have never HAD the experience are in no position to deny the validity of that experience for those of us who HAVE. You will notice that, very often, it is people that have not even an inkling of spiritual experience who are the loudest protestors against it. (That is a case of subjective reality or truth, trying to suppress objective reality or truth.)

Atheists are people who hold a belief that there IS NO GOD. A person who is not yet decided, and holds forth the possibility that God may, or may not exist, is properly labeled AGNOSTIC. An Agnostic is, by definition, a searcher. As to being "anti-religious", JESUS was definitely "anti-religious". He spoke out repeatedly against the Sadducees (theological liberals), and the Pharisees theological conservatives) of His day.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Because religion is at the very heart of the conflict in which we are currently embroiled. The Muslim Extremists are devoutly "religious" and they very much believe in the idea that religion is necessary for the control of people (Just like the Pharisees of Jesus' day). Anti-Christians HATE Christianity because it teaches the AUTONOMY of man. If a man (or woman) is under the control of Christ, he will not be controlled by other men. Christianity teaches that women are spiritually equal to men (this idea REALLY rankles the Muslims.) Christianity teaches that men are FREE to choose between good and evil. THAT is an idea that is not popular with "control-freaks" (like the Taliban, and many in our own government). Christianity teaches INTERNAL control (SELF-Discipline) which leads us to a form of government that possess and exerts minimal external control. John Adams once said, “Our constitution is only fit for a moral and religious people. It is wholly unsuited to the governance of any other kind.” When we grant ever more power to our government in order to control our behavior, we are acknowledging that we are no longer a “moral and religious people”. Self-government can ONLY work with a self-disciplined people, and apart from the internal direction and discipline that comes from our faith, we Americans are incapable of self-governance. If we allow the destruction of our historic principles, rooted in our historic Christian faith, we are deserving of the tyranny of big, controlling, intrusive, government.

John A. Sterling

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