People who say the followers of Christ shouldn’t be involved in politics aren’t paying attention. And they aren’t paying attention to Jesus himself.
During the Last Supper, Jesus said to his chosen 12 (11 if you subtract Judas from the mix), “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29).”
Now I don’t have a trained eye, but sitting on a throne is a political thing no matter how you slice it.
In other words, Jesus’ entire discipleship program with his apostles was an academy designed to prepare them for service in the political arena.
So Christians just need to get over this debate about whether or not Christians ought to be involved in politics. Jesus has settled this question for us himself.
Now Jesus also gives some concrete direction to his nascent policy makers on how to make decisions in political office. He points out that the kings of the Gentiles (political animals one and all) “exercise lordship over them.” But, Jesus says, “not so with you.” When you exercise kingly power, I expect something different and better than what I see in the world.
Rather, he says to his budding politicians, “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26).
In other words, holding public office is about service, not power. It’s about using your political authority on behalf of your constituents, not using the authority of your office for the thrill of being able to control other people.
People pursue public office for one of two reasons, one contrary to the spirit of Christ, the other consistent with it. Some – perhaps most – pursue public office because they want to control other people. They see themselves as the smartest people in the room, the elite, people so smart that they believe they should make lifestyle choices for other people, for the benighted masses who are too stupid to make intelligent decisions for themselves. This, Jesus says, is how the “Gentiles” do it, but it is “not so with you.”
Others – sadly, the great minority – pursue public office because they want to liberate people rather than control them. They want people free to make choices that affect their own lives without the interference of the overreaching hand of government. They want to free their constituents to engage in the God-given right to the “pursuit of happiness” without bureaucrats defining happiness for them. This is public service in the spirit of Christ.
How do you make good decisions in public office? How do you become a statesman rather than a politician? Easy. Jesus says public servants must “become as the youngest” and become “as one who serves.”
In other words, the statesman puts himself in the place of a child and asks how public policy changes will affect him, and he puts himself in the place of the ordinary worker, “one who serves,” and asks how public changes will affect him, his take-home pay, and his ability to pursue his own dreams. Will the public policies I support, he asks, utlimately help children and workers or hurt them?
This would lead the Christ-centered statesman to gradually get government out of the welfare business altogether, for example, because welfare has done more damage to children than any thing government has done.
We have spent over $16 trillion fighting the war on poverty, and it’s time to run up the white flag of surrender. Poverty has won. We now have more people on food stamps – think children here – than at any time in our history. The war on poverty has been a total, dismal failure and it’s time to recognize that. You get more of whatever you subsidize. You subsidize poverty, which we have done since 1965, and you just get more of it.
Welfare has destroyed the African-American family by telling young black women that husbands and fathers are unnecessary and obsolete. Welfare has subsidized illegitimacy by offering financial rewards to women who have more children out of wedlock. We have incentivized fornication rather than marriage, and it’s no wonder we are now awash in the disastrous social consequences of those who engage in random and reckless promiscuity, whether they are Caucasian, Hispanic, or African-American.
Overall, over 40% of America’s children are born into homes with no father presence. The problem is particularly acute in the African-American community, where the illegitimacy rate is now over 70% and and MSNBC reports that an astonishing 59% of black mothers have conceived children by multiple fathers.
And the children are the ones who get chewed up. Welfare, as Walter Williams has pointed out, has done what slavery, racism and Jim Crow laws could not do: destroy the black family. The Christ-centered statesman puts himself in the place of a fatherless black child, sees the catastrophic damage that the meltdown of the family has caused, and pursues policies to wean people off marriage- and child-destroying welfare, and pursues policies that incentivize marriage, incentivize self-reliance rather than abject dependence, and incentivize the reconstruction of the American family.
Why will he do this? Because he has set aside the trappings of office, the desire to control people and the desire to have the Washington Post say nice things about him, and asked himself what policies are in the best long-term interest of children. He will do this because he has “become as the youngest.”
We have hardly touched on what it would mean for a statesman to think of himself “as one who serves,” that is, the ordinary guy who works at an ordinary job to provide for himself and his family. But if the statesman does, he will labor to reduce the tax burden of the working man, and get government out of the regulation business so that entrepreneurs can start more businesses, create new jobs, and increase wages for ordinary workers. He will do everything in his power to swat down the greedy and overreaching hand of government that reduces productivity by stifling ingenuity.
Why? Because he has “become as one who serves,” and his heart burns to give ordinary folk the chance to realize their fullest potential without government interference at every step.
Bottom line: we need more people in public office who think like Christ and fewer people who think like Karl Marx.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)
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The Moral Liberal contributing editor, Bryan Fischer, is Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association, and is the host of the daily ‘Focal Point’ radio talk program on AFR Talk, a division of the American Family Association. ‘Focal Point’ airs live from 1-3 pm Central Time, and is also simulcast on the AFA Channel, which can be seen on the Sky Angel network.