By Michael Kloss
If angels were men then we wouldn’t need governments. Governments are not a necessary evil. They are a blessing from God in direct response to the reality of mans depravity and inability to govern himself as he should in light of the laws of God. We should be thankful for the provision of government. Political leaders exercise justice, execute the law and defend the citizens from enemies foreign and domestic. The modern view of government as a necessarily horrid and sordid group of mongrels, is inaccurate and an overreaction to the mismanagement of state affairs by generations of politicians. Even inept governments like ours, haunted by the gospel, offers some justice and protection, though dimly. Governments are not evil in themselves, but are only as evil as the men who wield them.
And yet, over the two hundred and eleven years of Constitutional democracy in the United States, quite a few things have changed. It is easy to compare current events to just a few years ago and see that they are different, that we are drifting. However those ‘by-gone” years were themselves drifts.
What response does this require of us? We must apply our doctrinal thinking beyond theology proper, to see that the categories of life include every area which Christ rules. Biblical wisdom in defining faithful theology is the same measure with which we should measure every area of our lives. Everything is not theology but everything has theological implications. This is very important when thinking about politics. Just as we apply the rule of faith to our creedal formulations and exegesis, we must apply it to our political theory and practice. There is not a single, distinct way to organize men in a society. But there are important principles laid out for us by scripture. Parliamentary, monarchal, republican and other forms of governmental organization are all legitimate. In the United States the founder’s biblical (but Low Church) heritage was developed into constitutional, democratic Federalism. The revolutionaries in the American colonies were conservatives and what they were conserving was elements of the protestant political heritage. We need to keep what’s worth keeping and reform what is isn’t.
So in keeping with good biblical reforms, if we are to bring about the changes we need to see in this country, there needs to be a good understanding a Christian Ethic, Representative democracy, and Federalism; the boundary markers to our political heritage. They should remain the boundary markers for our reforms. Understanding these markers leads us to understand how our political situation has strayed from wise, biblical practice. All of this, of course, is predicated on Psalm 2 – all the way down.
A Christian ethic
We must begin to rebuild a biblical understanding of authority to do away with our humanistic democratic beliefs. It is the way to reform constitutional representation in the US. Once we begin to understand the biblical principles that led to our way of governing, it will be easier to see exactly what is amiss and how to fix it. We cannot return to some 1789 utopia that did not exist; we must mature in our civics. As men of Confessions and Creeds, we know the good of a solid document while understanding the need for mature clarification and development of our core beliefs. Regardless of a Christian founding or the number of citizens who attend church, if the American king does not kiss the Son, we are a pagan nation. Where the king’s heart goes, so goes the people. This is fundamental.
Every baptized person must be primarily concerned with the Kingdom of the triune God, which is the commonwealth for which we contend. Growing the kingdom is the only thing that shrinks government. How can you convince an all-consuming glutton to go on the Atkins diet? You cannot petition nor reason with a wicked government to shrink; it is against its very nature. We are not called to put on the full armor of the GOP and we are not called to gather under the tent of political dissent and rail against donkeys. We have laid aside our armor and have given up our strength to stand in the public square like a bunch of gentiles seeking office the worldly way.
Any country consisting of covenanted people in a civic body is to be led by godly and upright men. Psalm 2 describes the result of ungodly leadership. The prophets railed against the moral corruption and idolatry of the civil leaders. Where go the kings, so go the people all through the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.
There is a huge hole in the middle of our National documents. No matter how much Gary DeMar and American Vision try to find a shadow of Christ in the laws of the US, their evidence continually shows overwhelming capitulation. There is not a formulated, confessional stamp on the Constitution. Any Covenant made between men must reflect and explicitly recognize the Covenant of the One Lord and King. Without God at the center of the law that binds Americans together, he is not honored.
We can no longer allow ourselves to be bated into and marred down by slicing and dicing the founding documents for some inference of God. The founders of the Colonies stated why they were entering a civil covenant and as Israel’s Constitution in Deuteronomy shows; our civil documents must be founded on the King of the universe; both what he has done for us and what he requires of us.
Reforming our foundational documents requires two things: Creedal Constitutionalism and Civic Eldership. The Founders of the US were right not to require a formulated, categorical religious test for public office. However, the bible informs us there is a test for eldership and though the civil magisteriam is different in its area of authority, it requires the same Godly Eldership to operate. If a man cannot lead is family, he cannot lead the sanitation department. If a man cannot restrain his children, he will not restrain the evil doer.
In order to properly represent the electorate of any given jurisdiction, a man must represent his wife and children well. The United States is a representative democracy. Its political theory and laws are codified in the Constitution and its moral compass must be that of Biblical wisdom and righteousness.
How we operate not only contradicts the need for a Christian ethic but defies true representative government. The working definition of democracy, the way most people use it, refers to a theory called direct democracy. This means national sovereignty is lodged in the assembly of all citizens, who regularly direct the government through some form of voting. This usually occurs in the United States through ballot measures and referendums, but can also exist in polling; an unofficial mode of measuring the public support, which directs most politicians actions. The theory of direct democracy should be anathema to us.
Direct democracy is both unwise and tyrannical. Throughout history it has been referred to as “mob rule,” and rightly so. Modern Americans often refer to the “voice of the people” and are angry when our elected leaders ignore that voice. However, we send representatives into the government to ignore the voice of mobs and to make decisions based on principles; to invest their lives into understanding the complexities of issues that they must decide on, to make decisions based on the truth and the law, which is as constant as the Lord they are predicated on. They should be our wisest, most moral and righteous men. Politicians should not be basing their decisions on the prevailing winds, regardless of how “right” we think those winds are. It is a dangerous precedent and the situation we now find ourselves in. The biblical principle of the “consent of the governed” has given way to Marxist notions of mob rule; the “will of the people” has become the token of good governance, flying in the face of all biblical wisdom.
When God relents to the “voice of the people” in 1 Samuel, it’s to punish them with exactly what they ask for. This is one of the most difficult things for Americans to understand. In 1 Samuel 8 the Israelites reject God because they want a king other than God and the king they get is Saul! Oh Yeah! We need to pull that ballot lever asking God to be our King and to provide us with vice-regents we don’t deserve; ones with a heart for God. Be leery of the president you ask for. Our ways are not the Lord’s. The people do not know what is right, or what is best for them.
Now, consenting to be governed is different than the “voice of the people” leading the nation. Choosing to subject yourself to a ruler and his authority is not the same thing as gathering together to tell him how to do his job
We elect our representatives, which makes us a democratic republic. Popular sovereignty means the sovereignty of the nation resides in the people. This is unbiblical and foolish, and in reality, impossible. When discussing political sovereignty, definitions are important. All political sovereignty, the legitimate authority to coerce members of the body politic to obey God by obeying the laws, remains in the hands of the Lord of Hosts and is bestowed on a subset of the body politic for His purposes, in His name.
Those vice-regents are thus answerable to the Most High for the use of that authority, as all people of authority are. The way sovereignty (national sovereignty or popular sovereignty) is often used denotes supreme authority, which only God possesses. Political leaders and civil leaders are his under-shepherds, distinct but similar to his ecclesiastic under-shepherds. They exercise their authority for God’s Glory, because that is the chief end of man and all of man’s institutions. As Psalm 2 explains, there are proper and improper ways to exercise political power. The role of civic leaders is defined by God and His Word. Representative democracy means sovereignty is bestowed on a subset of the people, usually on the basis of casting lots by election, by our Lord in Heaven.
The representatives form an independent ruling body (for an election period) charged with the responsibility of acting in the people’s interest, but not as their proxy representatives—not necessarily always according to their wishes, but with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances. This is the opposite of direct democracy, where representatives are absent or are limited in power as proxy representatives, who wait for polls or ballot initiatives to tell them what to do. A representative is chosen by the people (this is the consent of the governened) and their job is to make policy/political/legal decisions in the name of the people. Here the democratic choice ends. The government is now in the hands of officers of the state. This eldership is a weighty position, because the nature and purpose of government is coercion, which is carried out by force. Representatives who make decisions by polling data, select constituency (special interest groups), or as a favor to other politicians, are corrupt.
In order to protect the representatives from themselves and wicked influences, representatives need accountability. The heart of federalism is accountability. Federalism means two political bodies possess authority that overlaps. We answer to our local authorities and we answer to the federal authorities; they hold jurisdiction over separate areas and this is meant to act as a check and balance. However, the federal government continues to ignore this shared power and continually overruns the State and County authorities. It has swallowed up most coercive powers and wields them like a drunken fool.
We often consider our government to be made up of three branches that provide “checks and balances.” Though the government is made up of branches for that reason, other checks and balances do exist and are harder to understand in the post modern world, where everything is divided into neat, separate categories.
The media, the electorate, the church and the military are all checks on the abuses of coercive power in this country, which is theoretically how society should always be structured. The electorate lodges its complaints at the ballot box. The media should expose corruption and abuses of power. Lower magistrates should be ready to protect the electorate which they swore to defend, even from higher magistrates. This is crucial. Regular citizens have no biblical grounds for rising up in sedition against the government. Lower magistrates are obligated by their oaths and their service to God to stand to unrighteous higher magistrates.
The Supremacy Clause is the foundation of the current and false belief that the Federal Government always supersedes the States. But the Supremacy Clause “does not allocate power between the national and state governments” (ed. Meese, 291). Thus the Federal government does not supersede State governments, except where State governments have given up specific rights. Furthermore, “the Supremacy clause was a straight forward conflict-of-laws rule designed to resolve conflicts between state and federal law touching the same area” (ed. Meese, 291). In regards to mutual jurisdiction, the federal laws are only to supersede within the scope of their limited powers, outlined in the Constitution. The Tenth Amendment reserves the rights not enumerated, to the people or the states. There is no provision for the Judiciary or any other Federal Branch to determine or enforce rights not expressly mentioned in the Constitution. This gave the States autonomy in certain areas where federal law was not permitted to tread. This concept is of course anathema in modern mainstream political thought to the point of shedding millions of Americans’ blood in the War of Southern Independence. The Bill of Rights was meant to apply to and restrict the Federal Government, not the States.
Restoring the Federal Government to its proper and limited role is foundational to restoring liberty in the United States. But only free men can establish and protect a free society.
Looking forward with feet set firmly in the past
These are the fundamentals with which we must reform our government, using brick and mortar, sitting around our dinner tables. We must seek to Honor God and repent of our national sins. We need to read and debate and stay informed.
The most prominent myths, told by liars and peddlers of the American gospel, must be refuted in order for us to begin to understand our civic role in the city of man while remaining faithful in the city of God. We are sons and daughters of the living God; churchmen. We are citizens of the commonwealth of Israel and are subject to a King and bound by a Constitution. We are also Americans and this is an important aspect of our lives. America’s history and structure are important to understand in order to be an informed citizen; to do our duty. It is important for us to re-prioritize our political activism in order to be the most effective witnesses of Christ’s Gospel. Understanding a Christian political ethic, representative democracy and federalism are the keys to re-establishing a Christian nation.
However, every Christians’ first priority in politics is the Church. The most effective means of transforming our political culture is to understand what it means to be the Church. Political office is a calling. Like the callings of policeman, doctor, pastor, surveyor or architect. Politics proper should be left to those whose calling it is. Not everyone was meant to be a pastor and neither were we all meant to be civic elders. Being involved is best accomplished by a right understanding of proper worship, Holy living and raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
Politics is too often a distraction and wastes the resources of well intentioned churchmen. We think anyone with a blogspot account and a Ron Paul bumper sticker, who’s read a commentary on the constitution, is capable of writing a redress of grievances against the State.
The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom. One who seeks authority seeks a righteous thing. But he who turns the people’s heart away from the True worship and devotion to Christ will be thrown into the pit. This should cause many in the halls of congress to shudder and to tear their clothes. God did not send Jonah to pass a ballot measure and organize a tea party. To save the city, Jonah was sent to preach to the king and to his subjects. Jonah was not sent to become the king on the third party ticket, but preach salvation and the coming destruction to those who do not turn to the Lord in Repentance.