In September, 1999, the editors of Christianity Today, interviewed several prominent current and former players in the Religious Right as to the proper Christian approach to government. The following response to the article was submitted to Christianity Today by Steve Sawyer of Fountain Hills, Arizona, on September 21, 1999.
Thanks for the interesting pieces by "Religious Right" leaders. While I respect each of these men as sincere fellow Christians, I feel compelled to offer constructive criticism to each from a "classical liberal" viewpoint.
Paul Weyrich thinks we need to separate ourselves from our hostile culture, but remember that it is only in a culture dominated by government (such as ours) that this response becomes desirable or necessary. If cultural interactions were voluntary as they should be and were to a greater extent in the past, what need would there be to separate?
Ralph Reed, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and, with some cautions, Charles Colson, advise us to bravely continue the Culture War, remembering that God is responsible for the outcome, not us. But the very idea of a Culture War assumes that some group or other can and must control the "power centers" and dictate to the rest of society cultural norms. This is a very dangerous way to view the relationship between civil society and the role of government in it and it is not surprising that those who value liberty have become alarmed by it. While Christians are not the cause of the Culture War, we worsen the problem by focusing on defeating our cultural adversaries instead of addressing the true cause of the problem; a government that has clearly and massively exceeded its proper authority and whose illegitimate power now seems "up for grabs" by whoever can control it.
I believe Cal Thomas comes closest to the mark by warning us of the dangers of mixing faith and government power. He advises the church to speak to moral issues and avoid political ones, but it seems to me that the church can and must condemn a government which has far exceeded its proper constitutional authority and increasingly encroaches on the realm of civil society, to the grave detriment of the latter.
Don Eberly wants us to focus on cultural rather than political renewal. While this is an admirable goal and is more in keeping with individual liberty (since cultural changes are based on persuasion rather than force), it is critical to understand that the source of much of our cultural decay is excessive government power, which forcibly tramples civil society (the source of "culture") to impose its top-down mandates.
I was saddened to observe that none of these Christian leaders considered what I take to be the obvious solution to this issue, namely supporting and working towards returning the federal government to its rightful constitutional limits of simply protecting the lives, liberty and property of its citizens. Doing so would remove most of the urgent need and desire we and other groups feel to dominate and control government for "our" purposes and in fact remove much of the current "us" vs. "them" political mentality.
Fountain Hills, AZ
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