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Is government the friend of the Christian?

Posted by Chance on July 27, 2006

Focus on the Family’s Guiding Principles are:

We believe that God has ordained three basic institutions — the church, the family and the government — for the benefit of all humankind. The family exists to propagate the human race and to provide a safe haven in which to nurture, teach and love the younger generation. The church exists to minister to individuals and families by sharing the love of God and the message of repentance and salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. The government exists to maintain cultural equilibrium and to provide a framework for social order.

I think these are good guiding principles, and I like the work Focus does. They have an Institute that college students can take for credit, they do pro-life work, and they have good books on marriage, family, and development. I understand many people don’t like Dobson, and many do like him, right now for his work concerning the Federal Marriage Amendment, or whatever it’s called.

The Guiding Principles mention the government. I agree that the government is established by God, because it does provide some order. At the same time though, I think Christians can be too trustful of government.

Now, there are some areas where government has to be involved. Should abortion be outlawed? should gay marriage be allowed? etc… At the same time, however, I believe many of the problems we have in the first place is simply too much government. One of my favorite articles in the blogosphere is by Glen Dean. One key paragraph that I’ve quoted before states

Most people do not realize why the framers sought to separate government from religion. It wasn’t because they feared that religion would harm government, as most modern liberals seem to think. The founders actually wanted to protect religion from government. Government is not the friend of religion.

Glen mentions two examples that I bring up often, even in my last post. Education and Charity are two areas in which the church, in the past, has been heavily involved. Through the history of the U.S. however, government has become more involved in these areas, pushing the church out. For instance, Christians often complain about anti-Christian values being taught in schools. I don’t think the way to fight this is simply try to modify what is being taught in schools, but to reform the entire school system itself, so that people are not forced to learn the values of others.

In my view, going through the channels of government is often not the way to fight the culture wars. Now, there are areas where government should get involved. I am pro-life because I believe the chief function of government is to protect innocent human life. Concerning gay marriage, I don’t believe in laws outlawing homosexuality, but I don’t want a government stamp of approval on it either. And this is not an endorsement for libertarianism, and I am not a full-blown libertarian saying the government should abolish all welfare and any laws that don’t directly protect people. But I think people from all political persuasions can appreciate the idea that government should only be grown when necessary (it’s just that we all disagree on when its necessary). I am just saying that we should be weary of government power, and that it should not be our first resort. Government power is a double-edged sword. It may swing in our favor today, but maybe not tomorrow. The government schools that were teaching our kids Christian values a few years ago are teaching opposite things now. Freedom can be a double-edged sword as well, but I believe virtue best flourishes in an atmosphere of freedom.

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8 Responses to “Is government the friend of the Christian?”

  1. The Prophet said

    Great post, Chance.

  2. Dan Trabue said

    I’m with you and Glen Dean in that I’m at least as concerned (if not much more concerned) about the gov’t degrading the church by its involvement than the other way around.

    For instance, as a Christian, I don’t want some person I don’t know leading my child in prayer at school. For one thing, what if they’re not a Christian? And secondly, what if they are a Christian who believes vastly differently than I do? I just don’t want it. My kids can pray if and whenever they want to and that’s good enough for me.

    I find it curious though that you include gay marriage bans as an acceptable role for the gov’t. Isn’t that getting in to legislating a particular brand of religion? I mean, almost exclusively the only reasons given for gay marriage bans are religious ones.

  3. Chance said

    I find it curious though that you include gay marriage bans as an acceptable role for the gov’t. Isn’t that getting in to legislating a particular brand of religion? I mean, almost exclusively the only reasons given for gay marriage bans are religious ones.

    Thanks for your comments Dan. I suppose one could say that arguments against gay marriage are chiefly religious. I would argue that a family structure of a mom and a dad is the best. Now, I know this is primarily based on my own religious beliefs, but to me anyway, it makes sense from a psychological point of view as well, but I know many disagree with me. This is the conservative side of me; I just think the mom-dad-kids family structure is the best. Now, I said earlier, I did not want the gov’t stamp of approval on gay marriages, but I realize there is this stamp of approval on heterosexual marriages. Perhaps it would be best if “marriage” was something performed by the church (or some alternative for the non-religious), and government was kept out of the marriage issue altogether.

    As Glen Dean said, a marriage is actually a covenant between a man, woman, and God. In a limited gov’t society, many of the privileges a married couple has would not exist anyway. For instance, it would be up to a health insurance company if they wanted to offer special coverage to a married couple, or even two guys living together.

    I know may views may seem inconsistent, and perhaps that is the conservative and libertarian sides of me duking it out.

  4. The Prophet said

    Chance, I’m glad you said that. I’d like the government to get out of marriage altogether, and just consider Civil Unions. And not call them marriages altogether (I mean the government not providing special privelege for “married couples” just “civilly unioned couples”). Marriage: a Civil Union. Gay couple living together as partners: Civil Union.

    Let the church marry hetero couples, because the definition is a scriptural thing in the first place. Government should get altogether.

    My opinions.

  5. Dan Trabue said

    If I were marrying today, I’d wed in my church only and forego the government’s “blessing.” Don’t want it. Don’t need it. Especially as long as my gay brothers and sisters don’t get the benefits that are part of that.

  6. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    I’m with you, Dan. Christian marriage is a covenant. Civil marriage is the right to sue each other if you get tired of working hard at living together and the right to make sure that your kids can inherit in all 50 states.

    The early church accepted pagan marriages without forcing the newly baptized couple to get remarried, interestingly. I don’t know what I think about that.

    The American pattern is odd. In Europe, a couple getting legally married goes to the courthouse. If they are Christian or Jewish or Muslim, they get a separate religious ceremony. At no point, does the cleric invoke the power of the state in the marriage ceremony.

    I’m for same-sex civil marriages and same-sex church marriages, too–but NOT for any religion being forced to recognize any civil marriage as “marriage” in any religious sense.

  7. Glen Dean said

    Good post Chance.

    Dan, although we may disagree on most things, you’re good people.

  8. Dan Trabue said

    Why, thanks, Dean. And I’m sure there’s stuff we agree upon.

    We just haven’t found it yet…

    What’s your opinion on vanilla ice cream?

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