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I Pledge Allegiance - Part 2
Government Authority and our obligations.
What Rights Does The State Have Over A Christian And His Children?
The family-state relationship has become a battleground. In general it is conceded that the state under its so-called "police power" has the authority to prevent one citizen's injuring another. For example, the state has the authority to make sure that a family is not a source of contagious disease. The government could quarantine someone who has chicken pox or diphtheria or some other contagious disease. The state has the right to make sure that someone's home does not become a festering ground of rats and garbage to the detriment of the neighborhood. If someone's children are running around the street, delinquent and neglected, the state has the right to intervene and insist on proper care and control of the children.
The state has a stake in general literacy, so it can establish educational standards, public schools, and truancy laws. In time of war, the state has the right to enlist the young for service in the armed forces. As we have seen, the state has the right to collect taxes in various forms from its citizens to pay for the legitimate costs of government.
The problems we face today, however, go much deeper than this. The state is attempting to assert control over the thought life of children. For instance, the federal government published a course called MACOS, "Man, a Course of Study," that attempted to indoctrinate young children into the teachings of humanism. The federal and state governments also have been at the forefront of liberal experimentations with amoral sex education. Humanist values are being taught in the schools through such methods as "values clarification." All of these things constitute an attempt to wean children away from biblical Christianity.
Another subtle encroachment of the state into family life deals with the discipline of children. We have a severe problem with child abuse in our country, and the state obviously has a role in protecting children from unfit parents. However, state social welfare agencies have been known to attempt to prohibit Christian parents from disciplining their children in accordance with biblical precepts. But loving discipline is a fundamental part of child-parent relationships. Children need it and parents must give it if they love their children (see Proverbs 13:24, 23:13-14). To characterize normal parenting as "abusive" is itself an abuse of state power.
In one instance, a state attempted to take a daughter away from a divorced woman because she made her daughter attend church and forbade the girl to smoke marijuana or attend rock music concerts. A state social worker termed this conduct mental abuse. When things like this happen, the state is exceeding its proper bounds. More and more there is a tendency for humanistic or irreligious educators or social workers to intrude on the relationship between Christian parents and their children, thereby destroying the trust between them.
To Christians, children belong to God and have been entrusted to their parents. To Communists and many humanists, there is no God, and children ultimately belong to the state. Christians believe that parents, not the state, must have primary control over children. This is where opposing values come into conflict. Some battles deal with whether the state can force a child to be brought up by a homosexual parent, whether two lesbian women can adopt children, or whether two homosexual men can raise children.
Such cases are being taken into court, and judges and sociologists are making decisions which are totally contrary to the Bible. We are going to see more and more of this during the next ten or fifteen years, unless there is a dramatic spiritual revival and a return to biblical values.
Unless America repents and regains a proper respect for God's law and God's moral order, the time will come when God will punish us. I think we are suffering now, in the sense that more than one million children run away from home every year. For every two new marriages formed one marriage ends in divorce. A shockingly high rate! One quarter of all American children suffer sexual abuse. Just look at the number of teen-age pregnancies, the millions of young people on alcohol and drugs, and the pervasiveness of violence and juvenile delinquency. Regrettably, as our traditional Christian family values break down, the government will step into the vacuum and will use secular solutions to the problems. These "solutions" will only exacerbate the nation's decline.
Can One Be Both Christian and Marxist?
There is no way that one can hold simultaneously to philosophies from God and the enemy of God. Marxism, at its base, is an atheistic system that has a view of history based solely on materialism. Marxism is in itself a religion, and it demands the allegiance of people everywhere. The Leninist model of Marxism demands allegiance at the point of a gun and the violent overthrow of legitimate governments.
It is ludicrous to think that Christianity can be believed along with a system that calls religion "the opium of the people" and a falsehood. In every instance where Marxists have taken control, they have suppressed the church. They have outlawed the Bible, forbidden the instruction of the young in religious values, and persecuted believers. Communists are always enemies of Christianity. Why the Western governments and many people still cannot see that, after all these years, is a mystery to me.
"You cannot serve God and mammon" (see Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). You cannot serve Christ and Belial, and there is no way a Christian can serve Jesus Christ and Karl Marx.
Is Capitalism Right or Wrong?
Although capitalism can be abused and abusive, it is the economic system most conducive to freedom, most in accord with human nature, and most closely related to the Bible. The unfettered laissez-faire concept of Adam Smith led to the free-booting robber barons of the nineteenth century. The story of the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and other monopolistic capitalists, who built up the industrial base of our nation but who did so at the expense of their competitors, is not a pretty one.
However, the basis of free enterprise is very biblical. We read in the Old Testament that the millennial time, everyone will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree on his own property (see Micah 4:4). There we have an idealized concept of the private ownership of property.
In the early days of our country, the Massachusetts Bay Colony attempted a primitive form of socialism. Land was owned jointly, everyone was to work together, and then the produce was to be divided to each according to his need. This experiment failed miserably. The people began to starve to death because there was not enough incentive to work. It was only after the land was divided into acre plots and given to individual families that the people began to prosper. That was because they were now working for enlightened self-interest and giving to one another out of their increase.
God has given each human being a healthy personal self-interest. Jesus said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19). This is something we all can relate to. There are few so altruistic that they will give up all they have produced for the good of other people. A person may love others as well as he loves himself, but he will not love them to the exclusion of himself.
Communism, on the other hand, demands that everyone work for the state; that everyone be controlled by the state; and that the means of production be in the hands of the state. There should be no profit motive, because Communists say the profit motive is evil.
But the profit motive is not evil; it is a creative force. It is based on self-interest, to be sure, but from this has come technology, creativity, the tremendous explosion of the scientific method, and other things that have made our world a better place in which to live. The profit motive has also produced tremendous social initiatives that have provided millions of dollars to help the poor, to care for the sick and needy, and to build hospitals, schools, and charitable institutions.
Yes, unbridled capitalism must be restrained, or people will get too much money and too much power and will use it to oppress others. But at the same time, government must allow people the freedom to create, to own property, and to develop the potential God has placed within them.
And the Bible contains a solution to the problem of excess accumulation of wealth and power. It is the year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25:8-17, 27:17-24). Under Old Testament law, every fifty years there was a cancellation of all debts. All the slaves were set free, and those who were in economic bondage also were set free. All the money was redistributed and the means of production was placed back in the hands of the original families. Personal property and city land that had been accumulated could be kept, but wealth resting on debt was canceled.
I believe that free enterprise is much closer to the biblical model than any other form of economic system. But wealth contains great spiritual danger. Just as the coercive utopianism of Communist materialism is not of God, neither is a capitalist materialism--based on the amassing of riches of personal gain, with disregard for the afflicted and the needy--right.
Just remember that Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). If money becomes your god, you cannot serve Jesus Christ. Gain is not godliness. A man's life does not consist of the abundance of things he possesses (see Luke 12:15). The rich man was called a "fool" for not being rich toward God (see Luke 12:20). A rich young ruler was told to sell all he had and give it to the poor (see Luke 18:18-23). Jesus told His disciples that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25). The apostle Paul taught that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil (see I Timothy 6:10). The apostle James pronounced woe upon rich men who oppressed their workers (see James 5:1-4).
In short, economic freedom and the private ownership of property are the biblical model. But wealth contains great spiritual danger; and no system based on materialism, in whole or in large part, can claim to be Christian.
When Shoud A Christian Disobey The Civil Government?
When a civil government refuses people the liberty to worship and obey God freely, it has lost its mandate of authority from God. Then the Christian should feel justified in disobeying.
Thomas Jefferson believed in the right to revolt against tyranny. He believed that when a government began to be tyrannical, it was the right and even the duty of the citizens to rebel against that government. Our forefathers rebelled primarily because they were being unfairly taxed by a foreign parliament. They felt that taxation without representation was tyranny. The Christian is called to bear with his government wherever possible. Jesus did not call for revolution against Rome, even though it was an oppressive conqueror of Israel. On the other hand, the apostles refused to obey an order not to preach and teach in Jesus' name (see Acts 5:27-29). Whenever the civil government forbids the practice of things that God has commanded us to do, or tells us to do things He has commanded us not to do, then we are on solid ground in disobeying the government and rebelling against it.
Several years ago, a group of people was tested concerning how much authority they would accept without question. They were seated at a set of controls behind a glass, while on the otherside of the glass a man was strapped to a machine which administered electrical shocks. A person in a white coat directed these citizens to inflict pain on the subject. They started moving the dials as the man strapped to the machine screamed in pain. The person in the white coat, who was the authority figure, kept telling the people to push the lever higher, and they continued to do so until the subject seemed to be either in a state of collapse or dead. Though the subject gave every evidence of being in excruciating pain, people obeyed orders to hurt him, simply because those orders came from an authority figure. Only a few people resisted orders to inflict pain. The rest of them did whatever they were told to do.
It is this kind of blind obedience to government that we all need to fight. However difficult or costly it may be, we all must reserve the right to say no to things that we consider oppressive or immoral.
Is Capital Punishment Wrong?
Capital punishment is unfortunately a necessary corrective to violent crime.
In ancient Israel, there were no prisons. A thief was commanded to pay back four or five times what he had stolen or damaged (see Exodus 22:1). Public whippings were also administered to criminals.
In ancient Israel, it was believed that blood shed in murder would defile the land and that shedding the blood of a killer was restitution to the land.
Those who were considered incorrigible, who had committed unseemly acts that turned Israel against God or destroyed the fabric of society, had only one alternative--capital punishment (see Leviticus 20). Through capital punishment, society was rid of that offense, and the land was cleansed of evil.
In the Ten Commandments there is the prohibition, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Righteously administered judicial executions were not considered murder and therefore not prohibited by the Ten Commandments. In fact, the same law that included the Ten Commandments also had clear provision for capital punishment for specific offenses.
Capital punishment, if administered surely and swiftly, is a great deterrent to crime. It is no deterrent whatsoever if it is uncertain and continually delayed. But if those who scoff at society, and who constantly prey on innocent victims, were aware that death would be the penalty for their actions, we would see a dramatic drop in our crime rate.
Today we place criminals in penitentiaries--places of confinement in which the offender is supposed to become penitent or sorry for his sins. In truth, these places are breeding grounds for crime. In even the best of them, 85 percent of the inmates will be incarcerated again.
Society must pay for the anguish suffered by the victims of crime, then pay again each year to hold the criminal in prison, a cost equivalent to an Ivy League college education. The biblical model is far wiser. The perpetrator of lesser crimes was returned to society where he was made to make restitution to his victim. The hard-core, habitual criminal was permanently removed from society through capital punishment. In neither case was society doubly victimized as we are today.
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