As Republican presidential candidates, both announced and presumed, begin to woo social conservatives in Iowa, the role of religion in politics has once again become the subject of debate. Mark V. Kormes, an Objectvist and therefore non-believer, took to social media expressing his frustration.
Was Mark expressing bigotry against believers? Or was he offering a valid point regarding the stakes in our political discourse? He asked me to chime in.
Tabling the issue of online etiquette, let’s consider Mark’s initial point and whether it properly ought to offend believers. First, recognize that a particular group of believers are being addressed, those who view an imminent return of Christ as an escape from political consequences. I’m not sure how large that contingent is or how engaged they are in the political process. But Mark seems to ask that they leave the realm of politics to those fully vested in life on earth.
As a Christian, I would modify Mark’s point. My appeal to fellow believers would be to remain vested in political consequences because, until further notice, this is the world we live in.
Imagine the secular equivalent. If a non-believer checked out of their earthly responsibilities under the reasoning that they will eventually die anyway, we would likely recognize theirs as an unhealthy state of mind. Why then should believers exhibit effectively the same attitude?
There’s a difference between retaining faith in the sovereignty of God and appealing to that sovereignty as an excuse for shirking personal responsibility. Jesus offered a parable to that effect when relating the tale of the three servants found in Matthew 25:14-30:
Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, “Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.”
The master was full of praise. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]”
The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, “Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.”
The master said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”
Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
But the master replied, “You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”
Then he ordered, “Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The point proves valid both within and beyond Christian theology. There is no virtue in sitting around waiting for the master to return. We ought to work diligently at our earthly responsibilities until relieved of them.
To Mark’s point regarding social conservatives, the question becomes whether believers’ earthly responsibilities include wielding the force of the state to regulate sinful but non-rights-violating behavior. I find nothing in the Bible mandating such a course. Instead, believers engaged in politics should be concerned with the same things that non-believers should be, the preservation of liberty so that each can live according to their conscience.