With both major political parties now headed by professing Christians, the discussions about faith and politics in Australia continue to gather steam. Christians can rightly argue as to which party best represents their faith. And they can agree to disagree as to what are the most important political policies from a Biblical point of view.
As I have discussed elsewhere, the Christian faith is not limited to any one political party, and cannot be fully realised in just one party. But it is still possible to argue that certain political philosophies may better express some basic Biblical principles than others. The worldview behind one major political party may come more close to approximating biblical concerns than that of another party. These are all moot points of course.
But given the growing interest in such questions, it is always a worthwhile exercise to see how they have been debated elsewhere. The US has certainly had a long history of deciding how to integrate faith with politics, and debating which political party best represents the Christian vision.
One interesting article on this complex and controversial subject appeared in a January 5, 2007 article in Townhall.com by David Limbaugh. Entitled “It’s the worldview, stupid,” Limbaugh sought to show how the differences between the political philosophies of the Democratic and Republican parties play out in the area of Christian political concern.
He begins with this observation: “The American left exhibits ambivalence toward Christians and Christianity. On the one hand it routinely demonizes them and their values, and on the other, identifies with them. This sometimes looks like an insulting charade. Liberals often mock the perceived backwardness of Christianity, yet their prominent politicians jump at the chance to appear at megachurches to rub elbows with their robust congregations.”
As in Australia, the left in America is mainly secular, while the conservative parties are more likely to be made up of religious folk. But Christians on the Left in both countries are seeking to redress this imbalance.
Limbaugh continues, “I agree that many Democrats are Christians, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats’ guiding ideology (liberalism) fervently promotes secular values, even at the behest of government, whose endorsement of ‘religion’ it unpersuasively purports to oppose. Nor does it negate the political left’s commitment to reducing Christianity’s influence, not just in government, as it claims, but in our culture and on our moral principles. The left’s aversion to Christianity can be seen in several current books urging Christians to keep their noses out of politics or arguing that Christianity has been a destructive force in history and that diminishing its influence will benefit society.”
And the religion wars are just as pronounced in the US as they are here, even more so. “New stories abound chronicling efforts of atheists and secularists to denigrate Christianity and its values. These aren’t just appeals to Christians to be more tolerant of nonbelievers. They are manifestations of the profound intolerance of secularists toward Christians. Many liberals deny any antipathy toward Christianity, hiding behind the convenient pretext of vindicating First Amendment principles. But their selective opposition to the government’s ‘establishment’ of the Christian religion and their hypocritical support for the government’s endorsement of secularism betrays their true mindset.”
At the centre of the political differences lie deep ideological differences. Differences in worldview thinking is the main issue that needs to be addressed here. “While I don’t doubt that many liberals sincerely believe liberalism is ‘more Christian’ than conservatism, they can’t explain away the left’s abiding discomfort with Christianity. That’s because liberalism – no matter how you sugar coat it – is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian worldview.”
He explains, “I believe the main animating difference between conservatism and liberalism is that the former believes in the Biblically revealed sinful condition of mankind. Our Constitution’s framers established a system of government around their belief that man-operated government had to be limited and held in check in order for freedom to flourish. Liberalism generally embraces a secular humanist (or enlightenment) faith in the general goodness, perhaps even perfectibility of man.”
“Conservatives accept that government exists as a necessary evil, to prevent anarchy, establish order and maximize but not absolutize freedom. Human beings within this context will be freer to minimize, but never completely solve society’s problems. By contrast, liberals place their secular faith in government to wholly eradicate societal problems (John Edwards will eliminate poverty in 30 years, following LBJ’s 40-year, multi-trillion dollar failure to do just that).”
Limbaugh then appeals to the father of modern conservative thought, Russell Kirk. “His writings affirmed these essential differences between liberals and conservatives. In his work, Kirk sets forth certain conservative ‘articles of belief.’ At the core of these, is an adherence to a Biblical worldview. Conservatives believe in ‘an enduring moral order’ and that ‘revelation, reason, and an assurance beyond the senses tell us that the Author of our being exists, and that He is omniscient; and man and the state are creations of God’s beneficence. This Christian orthodoxy is the kernel of [Edmund] Burke’s philosophy’.”
Says Kirk, “conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. … The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the Twentieth Century into a terrestrial hell.”
Limbaugh concludes with these words: “If you won’t take my word for it, listen to Kirk: The differences between conservatism and liberalism flow from their competing worldviews.”
Not everyone will agree with these reflections, but I believe they do get to the heart of the conflicting political philosophies. Not that political liberals are incapable of embracing a fully biblical worldview, but the tendency is for this to occur more often on the conservative side of politics.
Whatever one makes of such thoughts, the idea that worldviews matter is certainly worth reiterating.