When we seek to discover threats to the church we must include ills in society that enemies of the state can use to divide the people…a must in order to destroy the United States. Two issues of great moral significance and convenience in dividing a society are race and poverty. Scripture reveals that God cares about both, which means Christians must seek to apply biblical wisdom in appraising how political parties address them.
God’s concern for the poor is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. Exhortations to care for the poor abound (Prov. 3:27-28, 22:22-23, 31:8-9. Isa. 1:17, 10:1-3, Zech. 7:8-10) and Jesus himself displayed remarkable concern and compassion for the poor in His healing and teaching ministry (Mat. 11:4-6, 25:45, Like 6:20-21, 14:14). James wrote that “pure and undefiled religion” includes care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). Thus, a Christian cannot open their Bible and ignore God’s call to care for the poor.
The bible is clear that all people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). The good news of the gospel is for everyone; Christ died for everyone, and in Him believers from every tongue, nation, and tribe are reconciled to God and each other in “one new man” (Eph. 2:14-16). The Bible is unmistakable: distinctions based on race are abolished in the new covenant (Gal. 3:28-29, Col. 3:11). In Heaven, people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will praise God (Rev. 7:9). Re-erecting these distinctions in how we treat people, and acting adversely to people based on skin color (or background or ethnicity) is sinful and must be strongly repudiated by the church.
Unlike the issues of abortion and marriage/sexuality, the positions of the two main parties don’t reflect the same divide on poverty and race. At least neither party is claiming to advocate for more poverty or racism. To the contrary, politicians in both parties say both poverty and racism are important matters to address…they just differ on how they do so. There is no easy answer. “The movement from core Christian principles to public policies is seldom a straight line but often a ‘complex and jagged’ path through layers of conditioning factors and prudential considerations over which Christians of good conscience might disagree.” (Leeman, Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule, page 377). Policies or laws that openly and clearly discriminate based on race, national origin, or sex are wrong. However, there is room to debate policies such as affirmative action, prison reform, and other issues that predominantly affect minority communities. For Christians seeking to apply biblical principles to these issues, discernment, prayer, and wisdom…and room for disagreement…is needed.
While it is popular to conceive the Republican Party as ‘anti-poor’ and opposed to minority rights, and Democrats as supporting them…this conception is not as neatly supported as many would have us believe. For instance take a look at the issue of race relations. When Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 80 percent of House Republicans and 82 percent of Senate Republicans (compared to 61 and 69 percent of Democrats respectively) voted in favor of the historic legislation which ended segregation in public places and schools and outlawed voter registration requirements that unfairly impacted minorities. Republicans and Democrats worked together to end a systematic injustice that had been a blight on the country since its founding. More recently, Republican lawmakers led the way in passing (almost unanimously) legislation designed to reduce recidivism through vocational training and education courses. House Republicans (262) joined 134 Democrats in advancing this bill. The African-American (I do not like this term) unemployment rate plummeted under Republican leadership, hitting an all-time low of 5.9 percent in May 2018 when Republicans controlled the executive and legislative branches of the government. (“Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject”, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2019…https:??data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000006). During this time, ‘black’ teen unemployment fell to 19.3 percent, another all-time low. While exact causation is the result of many factors, the fact remains that under Republican national leadership, more minorities were getting jobs. These are facts that American Christians…accustomed to hearing that Republicans do not care about minorities…should be aware of.
Some may respond by noting that Democrats seem more focused on the plight of minorities and the poor. As the argument goes, they give more support to affirmative action programs and other efforts designed to help minority communities. However, what is biblically clear is a need to care for the poor, not a specific remedy to address their plight. We must ask ourselves if we are truly helping to keep someone ‘comfortable’ in their poverty or whether we should be supporting programs that help those in poverty pull themselves up and out of poverty. Excuses of any kind do not ‘cut’ it as poverty has been overcome by many regardless of situation or race. Christians are not biblically obligated to support Democratic proposals for the poor or minorities…some might even argue that such proposals actually harm them, just as they are not obligated to support Republican proposals on these issues. We must be able to see that neither party’s policy proposals are endorsed by the Bible (unlike with abortion and marriage) and that applying biblical principles to issues related to race often requires situational awareness and discernment.
There is no doubt many individual Republicans and Democrats care for the poor. It is simply misleading to conflate the parties’ different economic philosophies with moral indifference. The fact that conservatives believe in the efficacy of limited government and free markets in addressing poverty does not indicate apathy toward marginalized communities. On the contrary, conservatives believe that the best conditions for economic flourishing are created when the government’s authority is decentralized. The Bible does not endorse a specific economic system…though it does favor some while disfavoring others i.e. the commandment against stealing shows respect for private property as does the Old Testament’s regard for inheritances. There is room for disagreement on how to address such issues biblically…unlike the questions of abortion and marriage/sexuality.
By unfairly characterizing Republican views on racial justice and poverty, cultural elites…many in the media…and unfortunately some evangelical leaders…have created a false dichotomy between the two parties. At a minimum, the views of both parties on racial justice and poverty should be debated.
Next week we will take on the practical application of the Bible in politics. Then we will get back into the us history in dealing with the liberal/progressive/communist threat…with and without the church’s involvement.
“The church must take right ground in regards to politics…The time has come for Christians to vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them…God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to their country as a part of their duty to God…God will bless or curse this nation according to the course Christians take in politics.” (Blackstone’s commentaries on the Laws of England)