Keeping up with the news can be downright disheartening. Donald Trump has come out in favor of using water-boarding and other forms of torture on terrorism suspects. In the tradition of George W. Bush’s misleadingly labeled “Patriot Act”, Ted Cruz has come out in favor of setting up surveillance cameras in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. Barack Obama has traveled to communist Cuba and rubbed shoulders with the Castros, somehow forgetting that they are demonic monsters who’ve oppressed and ruined countless lives. Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of the so-called “Equality Act”, which some fear would in essence criminalize Christianity by once for all squelching any tolerance for those who, on religious grounds, conscientiously object to same-sex marriage. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, wants America to become a country where your money doesn’t fundamentally belong to you, but rather to the government.
Assessing the current political landscape, one is hard-pressed to find a presidential candidate or an elected official at the national level who cares much about freedom. Sure, Obama pays lip service to freedom, all the while opposing religious freedom whenever there arises a conflict between religious freedom and his administration’s policies. Consider, for example, the current Supreme Court case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor who are fighting for the right to not be forced to fund abortive contraceptives for employees. These Catholic nuns object, on religious grounds, to paying for birth control, but the Obama administration tells them they don’t have the right to refuse—they must help fund abortive contraceptives, conscience be damned. Hillary Clinton talks about “freedom of worship”—i.e. freedom to go to church—but she shirks “freedom of religion” which includes freedom to, out of religious conviction, abstain from celebrating same-sex marriage. That’s the irony of professedly “liberal” politicians. They are not genuinely liberal in the best sense of the word. They do not welcome a diversity of worldviews and they are intolerant towards those who have the audacity to dissent.
The fundamental problem with all of the 2016 candidates on both the Republican and Democratic side is that no one is genuinely interested in decreasing the size of the government. Choosing between Republicans and Democrats is like being asked to choose between one inefficient, unwieldy, overbearing bureaucratic monstrosity on one hand, and a different inefficient, unwieldy, overbearing bureaucratic monstrosity on the other hand. Both sides are offering us candidates drunk on their own power, candidates who are willing to sacrifice our civil liberties in the name of financial security, border security, protection from ISIS, or fill in the blank.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats are taking any substantive action against the atrocities of our era. Some Republicans, in the name of “national security”, are emphatic that terrorist “suspects” continue to be detained at Guantanamo Bay. Some Democrats have protested detaining people indefinitely without formally charging them as being a human rights abuse, which of course it is. However, Democrats have actually done very little to liberate those who’ve been wrongfully detained at Guantanamo (some for over a decade now). Actions speak louder than words.
Unlike Democrats at a national level, many Republicans identify as being anti-abortion or pro-life. However, a mere profession of being pro-life shouldn’t dupe voters. Child Protective Services, in the name of “protecting” children from abuse or neglect, has ripped apart and devastated numerous innocent families who’ve committed no crime against their children. In her shocking 2007 report, Georgia senator Nancy Schaeffer likened CPS to Gestapo, saying their practice of seizing children from parents basically amounts to “legalized kidnapping”. Schaeffer exposed the little-known quota system in her report, discussing how social workers are expected to yearly place a proportionate number of children in foster care, depending on a city’s population, and if they fail to place that number, they lose grant money. Such a nightmarish system amounts to nothing less than taxpayer funded child trafficking.
Apart from the quota system concerns, CPS’s very existence is predicated on the totalitarian principle that children do not belong to parents, but to the government. One cannot be “pro-life” on one hand and pro-Child Protective Services on the other. Republicans who try to accommodate both positions may be “pro-birth”, but they are certainly not pro-life. They may stress the importance of the baby’s right to be born, but they don’t give a damn if the baby is kidnapped at birth from his loving parents by overzealous CPS social workers and raised by the government.
America has a good constitution, if only it was followed. C.S. Lewis wisely observed in Mere Christianity that in every system of government, whether it’s a monarchy, a democracy, or whatever, inevitably the worst people in society eventually rise to the top and corrupt the system. Human nature being what it is, every system of government, if given enough time, eventually self-destructs because every government is run by people whose hearts by nature are disinclined towards God. The “American experiment”, still very recent in world history, this notion of government by the people for the people, is not immune from the pitfalls that have ruined all the other great empires throughout history.
We are witnessing in our country the despotism that has ruined so many nations of the past. We are witnessing an over-reliance on the government, a willingness to defer to the government, as if it could be trusted. Government, as St. Augustine observed, is a “necessary evil”. Though government may be necessary to keep order, it is naive to think the government is your “friend”. It is not. The sooner American Christians see and understand this the better.
A generation ago, many evangelicals viewed the government as something they could potentially use to further their own agenda (consider the “Moral Majority”, for instance). They viewed government as a car that they themselves possibly had the potential to steer. Today, not only do evangelicals not have any realistic aspirations of steering the car, they are scrambling to get out of the road lest the car should run them down. It’s imperative that we know where we stand.
We are in many ways in the same boat as the Christians of first century Palestine. We live under an oppressive government where following conscience over Caesar is considered subversive. We’re expected to render to Caesar that which is God’s alone. Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ, not the Empire. So long as that remains our conviction, power-hungry politicians, both on the Left and the Right, will view us with suspicion and contempt. May God preserve us, as he preserved the early Christians. Even so, come Lord Jesus!