Proverbs and Politics (part a)
Christians should be involved in politics. Politics and the Christian life are inseparable just as ethics and the Christian life are inseparable. A just government is the foundation for a nation's economic prosperity and social well-being. In biblical theology, the king is replaced by voting citizens.
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Proverbs and Politics (Part 1)
I. Review of Introduction to Proverbs
II. Introduction (8:00)
A. Ethics (11:05): a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts and rules of right and wrong conduct, often addressing disputes of moral diversity.
B. Morals (12:40): Ethics and morals both relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. Ethics, however, refers to the series of rules provided to an individual by an external source, e.g. their profession, the university guided by the Enlightenment, or the church guided by the Bible. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong. Morals are often derived from ethics.
N.B. Proverbs aims to make the Solomon’s ethics/wisdom the son’s/the disciple’s morals. “The proverbs of Solomon … to know [personally] wisdom” (1:1, 2)
C. Politics (19:50): involves the debate or conflict among individuals or parties with different views of ethics and morality, having or hoping to achieve power in government over those with other views of ethics and morality
1. Oxford Dictionary: “The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
2. Applied to Book of Proverbs: The activities associated with achieving the wisdom of Book of Proverbs in the governance of America over those of wicked men and women, whose ethics are derived from what is right in their own eyes and whose morals may include killing the innocent
3. Bill Moyers: Ideas are great arrows, but there has to be a bow. And politics is the bow of idealism
IV. Christian involvement in political activity
A. Negative assessment of Christian involvement in politics because of: (28:40)
1. Separation of church and state: a metaphorical description of the distance between religion and the civil government. But that difference varies in Christian understanding
a. Historically (Jefferson and founders): State should not interfere with humankind’s worship and conscience. Assumed that the government would be conducted based on the values and ethics of the Christian community
N.B. Humankind’s worship and conscience will influence their political activities and the state should not interfere with the worship of people. In Europe the moral persuasion of Christianity won out over the “sword” of Islam
b. Some organized “Christian” religions (e.g. Anabaptist and their descendants--Amish, Mennonites, Quakers—and in the 20t century Jehovah Witnesses) it means not to be involved in politics in any way: they refuse to vote, carry arms or participate in civil government in any way. They believe that by not participating in government they are closer to the kingdom of God, since Jesus answered Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36)
N.B. Fails to recognize that Christians belong to the civil government and the spiritual Kingdom of God:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 12:1—7)
2. Church should prioritize its time and efforts to save souls (41:20). The world is likened to a sinking ship from which people need to be saved. When a ship is sinking, you don’t shine its brass. You make every effort to get people into life boats
N.B. Christian political activity is not shining brass on a sinking boat but rather being salt and light in a corrupt and dark world. Christian political activity keeps the boat from sinking into Sheol and Abaddon. English reformers in the 19th century, such as Gladstone, saved England from the hell of the French revolution and subsequently from Napoleon’s debatably dictatorship and conquest of Europe. Abraham Lincoln emancipated Afro-Americans, and Martin Luther King gave them equality. This is more than shining brass; it is giving people a life
3. Politics is a dirty business (49:10). Cannot wear a white suit into a coal mine and expect to come out of it without a black spot
Mark Twain: “No public interest is anything other or nobler than a massed accumulation of private interests.” Private interests are largely selfish. Like going into a coal mine: cannot come out clean. Kevin on “Shark Tank”: “Its all about money, all of the time.”
José Maria de Eça de Queiroz ( generally considered to be the greatest Portuguese writer in the realist style [i.e., depictions of everyday life]: “Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently and all for the same reason.”
Harry S. Truman (Plain Speaking) that "My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference."
Ronald Reagan: Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first
4. Church loses its universal appeal (51:40)
Alexis de Tocqueville: “When religion becomes allied with a political party it loses its universal appeal. By sharing the passions of the world, defending the peculiar interests of its political allies, and joining the temporal power of the state it merely created animosity and alienation. (Norman Graebner, “Christianity and Democracy: Tocqueville’s Views of Christianity in America,” Journal of Religion, 56, No. 3 (July, 1976)
Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority: “The only difference between Republicans and Democrats is Republican drink better whisky than Democrats.”
N.B. Above, politics is defined above in terms of values, not party allegiance. Church has a prophetic obligation to clean up politics
B. Positive assessment of Christian involvement in political activity because: (53:21)
1. Politics is inevitable and inescapable (53:21)
2. Politics, God and ethics are inseparable (53:50) (I lean heavily here on D. Vincent Twomey, “Introduction to Christianity: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” in The Essence of Pope Benedict XVI, edited by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne (HarperSanFrancisco, 2007], pp. 1 to 13)
3. A just government is the foundation for a nation’s economic prosperity social well-being. (54:16) Without a just government philanthropy is mostly wasted
Gary Haugen, The Locust Effect. Injustice in a country is as devastating as the locust plague that destroyed America’s bread basket in the 1930s. It is a plague of hidden, everyday violence, like rape, trafficking, bribes and police brutality. The plague is spawned by the rich and powerful.
4. In a democracy every eligible citizen rules: people replace the king (55:44)
5. The wise recognize they are in a spiritual war with fools (56:16)
6. The wise restrain evil by punishing wrong doers (56:45)
7. Non-involvement is a vote for the wicked (57:32)
8. The freedom and opportunity of future generations depend on the present generation’s political action. (57:53)
9. Apostolic teaching and practice (58:28)
10. Anti-Christian bias, a “wicked” bias, in American government demands a righteous response (58:53)
C. The Book of Proverbs Was Written by Kings for officials in training
1. The book of Proverbs is democratized – written for all people, not exclusively for the rulers.
Quote from Confucius – (notes p. 22) “To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
2. The meta-narrative of the Bible is the political debate