Ultra-Conservative Christians and Government

It might be shocking that I’m addicted to reading the blogs of ultra-conservative Christians. I can’t help it…it’s like crack to me…well, maybe mint chocolate chip ice cream. I don’t know why I’m drawn to them (it’s not for their political ideologies), but I just am. Comments like “Democrats are Marxists/Socialists/Nazis.” crack me up…never mind that Socialism and Nazism are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. They are both authoritarian forms of government, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

In case you can’t tell, I lean somewhat left of center politically…with some Libertarian tendencies (my poor mother).

Anyways, I would like to ask a question of the ultra-conservative Christian bloggers. In light of passages like Romans 13: 1-3, Matthew 22: 15-22, Titus 3: 1-2, and 1 Timothy 2: 1-5, how do you justify your attacks against the government and those in power?

As I was formulating this post, I stumbled across this transcript of a message John MacArthur gave back in 1997. I know it’s older, but it still applies.

I wish I could give them all to you this morning…well I could but I won’t, so you have to come back next week for the last. But let’s take point one…remember your duty. What is our duty? We may be hurt. We may be disappointed. We may be angry as we watch the vestiges of Christian influence die. We may be angry at what we see happening in the courts and in the congresses and the executive offices of our land. What is our response? We may not agree with the decisions that they are making. Here’s what he says. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” Seven virtues are listed there. Seven virtues. Now listen to this. It doesn’t matter whether your ruler is Caesar, Herod, Pilate, Felix, Fetus, Agrippa, Stalin, Hitler, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, it doesn’t matter who it is, he says be subject, you teach them to be subject.

MacArthur goes on to say:

So, submit to the government. Why? It is designed by God, resisting is resisting God. Resisters will be punished. Government is designed to restrain evil and promote good. Rulers are empowered to punish and do it for conscience’s sake. Then the sum of it, verses 6 and 7, “So pay your taxes,” verse 6 says, “for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” And then verse 7, “Render to all what is due, tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” The whole point is God has put government in place and you are to submit to it.

I do think that I have an answer, but I’m not going to give anything away right now. I want to know what the other side thinks (although liberals are more than welcome to comment too ;)).


20 thoughts on “Ultra-Conservative Christians and Government

  1. You might call me an ‘ultra-conservative Christian.’ That is okay. In answer to your question, however, the truth is that many true Christians are just wrong in this matter. I agree that attacks on our God-given government are far too frequent. Ultra-Conservative Christians (so to speak) who talk this way ARE breaking God’s word. Why do they do it? I don’t know. Some don’t realize that the command means. Some are able to feebly justify it without good reason. Some are just not true Christians because they keep on disobeying, and we know that whoever practices sin is not a true Christian.


    • Daniel,
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Just a few things from your comment: I do agree that most ultra-conservative Christians are, as you put it, “able to feebly justify it without good reason.” I do think there is a legitimate way, but I have not heard it come from the mouths of conservative Christians. I wouldn’t so so far as to say they are not true Christians, because that requires making a judgment we are not capable of making; judging someone’s heart. Also, just because someone keeps disobeying God’s command doesn’t mean they aren’t a true Christian. It means they are, like everyone else, a sinner. I use this phrase alot, mainly because I’m Lutheran and this is the go to Luther quote. Luther said that we are “simul iustus et peccator”…we are at the same time saint and sinner. If everyone who practices sin is not a true Christian, then there are no true Christians because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory.

  2. I see what you mean about there being no Christians. However, I think that we may be saying the same thing. I am not denying that Christians sins. Rather, I agree with Luther that we are ‘simul iustus et paccator.’ However, I also try to reconcile this with 1 John 3:8 – ‘he that committeth sin is of the devil…’ The meaning of this is not to NEVER commit sin, but to practice sin. I think that Luther would agree with me on this point; all Christians sin, but no Christian commits the same sin habitually.

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  4. Here’s a thought that I’ve been unable to reconcile in my head.

    Most UCC’s support things such as “Under God” in the pledge, “In God We Trust” on money (ironic, eh?), etc., all in the name of “bringing God back into Government”.

    However, when it comes to things like taxes and social programs….the backlash and opposition is loud and angry. They firmly believe that Government has no place, no right to perform those functions.

    Jesus paid his taxes (although by pulling coins from a fish), Paul said in Romans 13 that we are to pay our taxes, the OT laid out God’s economics, and scripture is full of verses on how we are to treat the poor….yet all these go ignored and the focus is on two pieces “the poor you will always have with you” and “those that don’t work don’t eat”.

    It’s as if they want God and Government blended together everywhere, except when it comes to their money. It’s as is money and wealth have become idols.

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    • I’m not entirely sure why you posted that article, Charlie. I remember that interview and, even knowing the interview was severely edited, I thought the book title was a misnomer.

      Most Political Scientists classify Nazism and Socialism as polar opposites on the authoritarian half of the political quadrant. They are different political ideologies. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:European-political-spectrum.png. They were two different ideologies. I think part of the confusion is Authoritarian is equated with Fascism in modern usage. And there is also the confusion that is the National Socialist German Workers (aka Nazi) Party name. Although some would argue that Nazism and Fascism should be separated, they would still be on the far right, not left.

  6. Hi Craig,
    I posted it because it might serve to upset the received, but false, wisdom in your claim. Neither that article or even the book itself will serve to do that, but it could get one thinking about what wiki and political scientists are saying.
    Just a little on Nazism as expressed by Hitler:
    He came out of the socialist movement of the day and was reared up a Marxist as was popular at the time. He was a revolutionary and totalitarian who opposed the bourgeoisie, the traditionalists, the monarchists, the capitalists, notions of class, traditionalism, Christianity, market based lending, etc. and Mein Kampf is full of references to socialism. He appealed to populist socialistic economic theories, nationalization of trusts, confiscation of war profits, profit-sharing with labour, nationalizing industry, expansion of government health services, etc.‚Ä® and he created the “people’s community”.
    The reason the Nazis became considered anti-Socialist is since he appealed to the same crowds and had the same ideals as they did he had to defeat the left in Germany .‚Ä® A very large chunk of the base support of the Nazi party was the poor and working class. Hitler rose to power on anti-capitalistic platforms and the notion of class-transcendence.

    As a Bohemian artist and college drop-out, he considered himself a social reformer before his rise to power and designed progressive housing programs for the working class and emphasized social justice ‚Äď especially railing against the upper class, useless, aristocrats.‚Ä® Some of his policies included expanding old age security, universal education, guaranteed employment, nationalizing property, nationalizing industry, expanded national health, etc.
    This is not right wing. Theirs was anti-capitalist, anti-conservative “communitarianism”.‚Ä® He called his party members comrades, after the communists, of course, and wanted to raise the class-conscious proletariat against the monarchists to finally end all class struggle and remove social castes. He promised that the farmer, the worker and the businessman would all be equal. He even promised them the “people’s car”.‚Ä®

    Nazi ideologist, Gregor Strasser said:‚Ä®

    “We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of a hman being in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens”.‚Ä®

    The swastika flag was designed explicitly to attract communists to their party.

And Mussolini was even more the leftist socialist.

    The fascists in Italy and Germany expanded the government workforce, increased spending on health and welfare, opposed capitalism, opposed laissez faire economies, nationalized industry, intervened in price and wages, subjugated the individual to the state, etc.
    Mussolini’s first programs included the repeal titles of nobility, ‚Ä®labour laws, including a government mandated work day, age limits and minimum wage, ‚Ä®government bodies run by worker’s representatives‚Ä®, reform old age pensions, ‚Ä®expropriate private land for farmer cooperatives‚Ä®state, run rigidly secular schools for the raising of “the proletariat’s moral and cultural condition”, seizure of a portion of all wealth‚Ä®seizure of all religious properties, ‚Ä®seizure of bulk of all war profits, ‚Ä®nationalization of arms‚Ä® … and so on.

    Mussolini started out as a communist, edited a socialist magazine, and remained a socialist to the end. He was forced out of the party by political opponents for his stance on entering the war, not for ideology.

    I think this is all I will say on this subject, but hopefully it will start to show you that the claim that Nazism and Socialism are polar opposites misses just about everything important about the two movements. They are only said to be opposites by definitional fiat, not by ay real logic.

    Peace and Christ’s rest.

  7. By the way, calling it a spectrum does not make it one. When conservatives are placed on the right and socialists on the left there is no logical reason to place Nazism/Fascism further right, as though it is the extreme version of conservatism. It is not as though one fades into the other naturally like the colour spectrum or that one leads historically to the other.

    What is it about a desire for smaller government, more personal autonomy, less government intrusion into personal lives and the free market that necessarily puts conservatives nearer on the spectrum to Fascists than it does socialists?

  8. Charlie,

    While technically you can say that Nazism and Socialism are not polar opposites, that’s not entirely true. While Nazism does have some Socialist political ideologies, it is actually much closer to Fascism, and thus the far right, than people like to admit.

    Nazism was a politically mixed ideology. However, two years after Hitler came to power within the party, ideological leftists were purged. BTW, two years after that quote, Hitler retracted himself saying socialism was ‚Äúan unfortunate word altogether‚ÄĚ to have used. He later corrected himself again, saying: ‚ÄúOur adopted term ‚ÄėSocialist‚Äô has nothing to do with Marxian Socialism.” Additionally, Nazism was virulently anti-communist, so I’m not sure how that would qualify it as politically left.

    As far as your last question, that’s a false choice. It’s akin to asking “Have you stopped beating your kids?”

  9. Hi Christian,
    A couple of quick answers.

    While Nazism does have some Socialist political ideologies, it is actually much closer to Fascism, and thus the far right, than people like to admit.

    Notice that I and the laughable conservatives in Craig’s OP put Nazism and Fascism together so we are not loathe to admit their similarities. What I argues above is that this does nothing to put them on the right instead of the left, especially since I also argues that they are equally close to socialism.
    There is no reason to put them on the right if conservatism is what defines the right.

    Being anti-communist doesn’t mean much, as I already described above. You are talking about rivalries between parties/factions more than ideologies. That’s like saying the Boston Red Sox are anti-New York Yankees. Well, not exactly, but you may get my point. They were competitors and opponents, not polar opposites.

    As far as your last question, that‚Äôs a false choice. It‚Äôs akin to asking ‚ÄúHave you stopped beating your kids?‚ÄĚ

    This is only a false question if you never beat your kids. If the underlying premise is true and I’ve not mischaracterized the subject then it is a valid question.
    Which of my premises is false, or whom have I mischaracterized when I asked:

    What is it about a desire for smaller government, more personal autonomy, less government intrusion into personal lives and the free market that necessarily puts conservatives nearer on the spectrum to Fascists than it does socialists?

    ?I think I have fairly represented what a conservative (right … as opposed to “far” right, or “extreme” right) takes as his ideology and contrasted it with what the Fascists actually did and stood for. As you can see, Fascism and Socialism stand in contrast to conservatism here.
    In what important ways is Fascism more like today’s conservatives (most liek classical liberals that it is Socialism?

  10. Pingback: More on Conservatives and Social Justice « Simul Iustus et Peccator

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