In cultures where religion plays a primary role, the institutions of that society reflect the religion. Even civilizations wherein religion plays only a secondary role, political concepts are merely secularized theological concepts. While a persuasive argument on the role of religion in political thought is often inferred as an exclusive product of the overtly religious, this article, shall show that political concepts since medieval times have ALL been built upon theological ideas. Also, the significant difference between ‘political theology’ and a ‘theology of politics’ shall be elucidated.
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Mt.22:21.
The first term, ‘political theology’, may seem limitless in its application. Simply put, the term involves the structure of political concepts as related to their origin in theological concepts. Admittedly, from a postmodern perspective all theology may be considered ‘political’. Certain modern ideologies may even be termed ‘political religions’. When a theological notion of God transfers to the physical political sovereign a final and total authority in the person of a main decision-maker with whom the power of the state ultimately lies, a ‘political theology’ exists. The notion of the Absolute in religion transformed by conceptualizing the Absolute in the state, starting with the ‘divine right of kings’ and extending to the crisis of our own time has become the ‘norm’ in Western civilizations. A severe problem arises only when the reader understands theology through politics rather than politics through theology.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” – Mt.6:24.
In 21st Century American politics a move from center to both extremes has become increasingly apparent to most religious communities. The popular notion of ‘separation of church and state’ is fast giving way to which ‘church’ (or religion) the state endorses. Conceivably, which ever it may be, adherents to opposing faiths cry foul. Complete secularization cleverly incorporates the ideological use of theology to mask political motivations.
“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” – 2Tim. 4:3,4.
Alternatively, the ‘theology of politics’ comes from an explicitly theological framework. This theological foundation can be either natural or revelatory theology, and in the medieval world, it was both. Politics was seen in the context of the powers of humanity and within a larger realm encompassing objective rights, natural order, and divine obligations. Moreover, revelatory theology came to contextualize politics even more than natural theology, as Christian notions of being, existence, and charity had political ramifications never anticipated by pre-Christian thinkers. Revelatory theology from Roman Catholicism added another element as well: the institutional. Frankly, without an insightful consideration of the Roman Catholic Church, which is dependent on an explicitly revelatory theology, the relation between politics and theology in Western history is grossly misunderstood.
Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses at Wittenberg in 1517 was the start of the Protestant Reformation. Luther, a Catholic priest, ‘protested’ several theological positions deemed official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. His main contention was that Scripture did not support, nor teach those practices. Prior to the time of Luther, the Bible was not available to the masses. The first published version was released in 1454, a mere 63 years before Luther’s exposition.
Henry VIII started the process of creating the Church of England after his split with the Pope in the 1530s. He was the first monarch to introduce a new state religion to the English. When he wanted to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, Pope Clement VII refused to consent to the divorce. Henry then decided to separate from the Roman Catholic Church.
England’s King James I in 1604 commissioned the KJV, produced so individuals could have their own personal copy of the Bible. Theology would become a personal pursuit, Scriptures no longer confined to the scrutiny of the clergy. Individual study could then be skillfully sustained. Finally armed with the written Word of God, Christ’s promise was fulfilled in a much greater, more personal way.
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” – Jn. 16:13.
Interestingly, valid research into the historical origins of America, reveal a continued disdain for the Roman Church by the early Protestant settlers. So distinct were their differences, that the original Jamestown Charter of 1606, also known as the First Charter of Virginia, is a document from King James I assigning land rights to colonists for the stated purpose of propagating the Christian religion – ‘The Anglican Church of England’ – to the express exclusion of the ‘Roman Catholic Church’. The charter contains only one statement of purpose, its religious mission: “propagating of Christian religion”.
King James intended to spread Christianity to those already living in what was to become the English colonies. “in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government”.
Right or wrong, intentionally biased and prejudiced, like it or not, such is the accurate beginnings of the American colonies under original charter. Regardless of the many objections and eventual necessary adjustments to the charter, the premise of an Absolute authority was never questioned. Unlike today, where the mere mention of God, or godly values, is often scorned, American government was framed on the very principles of Protestant Theology.
Those who study theology, religious dogma, or attend regular Christian fellowship rarely dispute these facts. Even the majority of believers in non-Christian religions submit graciously to the moral principles injected into American law from Protestant Theology. While it may not be ‘politically correct’ today to refer to America as a ‘Christian Nation’, its founding was firmly based upon Christian principles.
A two-party system (as well as other ‘independent’ parties) is the preferred ‘checks and balances’ approach to maintaining a healthy democracy. But today, the matter of right and wrong has ominously transformed into factions of the right or left. What once may have been largely indistinguishable between political parties is now unmistakably a profound divide.
Both major parties (Democrat / Republican) once had conservative, moderate, and liberal members. While this may still be true in part, the major party platforms are overwhelmingly split between liberals and conservatives. Democrats have embraced an extreme liberal ideology, insisting that all Republicans are far right obstructionists. Republicans view the Democrats as the obstructionists and becoming increasingly more socialist, even advocating some forms of anarchy.
Democrats have recently declared as policy a dedication to preserve abortion rights, advocacy of open immigration, elimination of the 2nd Amendment, and even the dissolution of ICE. One hope they entertain in regards to open immigration is to perpetuate an ever increasing number of under educated, unskilled, ill informed prospective voters to exploit.
Conversely, Republicans advocate closed boarders and an end to unrestricted illegal immigration. As Dems attempt to malign their efforts by false reports of cruel separation of families. factual evidence reveals that the same policy was in force under former administrations. Pictures broadcast to show proof of inhumanity were actually taken in 2014. Republicans also have deregulated many obstacles to free enterprise, passed stimulus tax cuts, and returned to the successful foreign policy of the Reagan era.
Ironically, the record of accomplishment for the US congress in the past two years proves that Democrats are the obvious obstructionists. Nearly 400 House bills are presently stuck in Senate limbo. Dems now vow to block any Supreme Court appointment, fearing a conservative nomination.
If the right is right (not wrong), and being a Conservative is really about preserving the original intent of the Constitution, why would any American side with a liberal ideology? Similar to our approach to a righteous interpretation of Scripture, the original intent of the authors of the Constitution remains imperative.
Of course, the Republican Party isn’t perfect. Zealots within are often referred to as the ‘Alt-Right’, a vague term actually encompassing a group of people on the extreme right. They reject mainstream conservatism in favor of ultra-conservatism while embracing implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy. Most Democrats perceive that the majority of Republicans espouse this radicalism.
“…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope within you with meekness & fear, having a good conscience; so, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse you…” – 1Pt. 3:15,16.
‘Fake News’ has become common place as many American journalists shrink from their investigative duties. Proper vetting of sources is no longer the norm, as more and more headlines come from “anonymous sources”. Frequent retractions are necessary as initial reports are debunked, but a paragraph of abrogation is rarely noticed, and false narratives shared among liberal media pundits perpetuate the harm. Just as false doctrine victimizes the Scripturally naïve, political propaganda preys on uneducated, narrow-minded citizens.
“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over the gullible , who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.“ – 2Tim. 3:2-5.
Consider intently how the liberal persuasion has ALWAYS attempted to thwart conservative values. By very definition the two are opposites. ‘Love’ is a term liberals like to use to incite division and doubt regarding conservative motivations. But their definition of ‘Love’ is rarely Scriptural. They interpret a Christian’s love of God over everything else as a lack of love for neighbors of other religions, life-styles, and opinions. Now, more than ever before, the two major political parties have become diametrically opposite in terms of liberal ideology vs. conservative values.
As President Trump is nominating a new Supreme Court justice, Democrats are scrambling for a strategy to stop any nominee that would tilt the court in a more conservative direction and reverse liberal gains. ‘Court packing’ has been suggested. Liberals warn that they shouldn’t let a handful of ‘reactionary judges’ get in the way of progressive change – it’s time to pack the Supreme Court.
In other words, liberals (who now prefer to be called ‘progressives‘) believe that conservative values prevent progress. Norms established decades or centuries before must be abandoned and forever changed to allow for more modern freedoms. Of course, they also infer that Scriptural forms of godliness are taboo. Consider what the influence of liberal theology has had on Christianity. Historical evidence indicates that any so-called ‘progress’ it introduced has been eclipsed by its debauchery.
Ironically, both sides accuse the other of subjective myopia. This is why it is imperative to carefully gather the data, research the history of each movement, and draw your own conclusions based on the factual evidence, NOT the mere popular rhetoric. Eternal destiny hangs on a choice – the right choice. The destiny of America hangs on voter choice. Be sure to become well informed, rather than merely partisan indoctrinated. Become fully equipped to make the right choice.
“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” – Duet. 30:19.