When did that Help?

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

Can I get a little controversial up in this mug (that sounded way cooler in my head)? Of course I can, who doesn’t love a little controversy besides former places of work?

Is being religious something that can change
governments, schools or places of work?

To be honest, I would say no.
Obviously, to blanket the question with a NO can be a little absurd, but I do believe that religion inside of government brings about more problems then solutions. At its surface level anyone who would take the beliefs of Christianity and apply them to authority or ruling would realize that it would be a healthy establishment. King David is an example (even though he struggled) of following God and leading people. Unfortunately, religion does not rule, people do. One thing I know about people is that they are sinful, they make mistakes and fall more short of God then they come close to being God. I think government, teaching, and sometimes even the work place calls you to suspend your religious judgment.

We have talked on this blog in the past about suspending judgment. I have asked the simple question in regards to being in government office means you have to suspend moral judgment. We have seen this played out in front of us in regards to having Presidents who follow the conservative Christian right and run on platforms that deal with faith and not policy. Opinions aside I want to ask one question (even though I have given my opinion and I think you know my opinion)

What if a Muslim or Buddhist became President?

Would we expect them to stop practicing what they believe or would we be okay with adopting some new policies?
How would this change the way we view politics and faith?

*kyle

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • http://morethanuseless.com/ Tom

    I have too much potential to go off on a tangent on this stuff. I'll try to summarize.

    I wouldn't expect a Muslim or Buddhist to stop practicing their faith anymore than I'd expect a Christian to stop practicing his (or hers to be politically correct, I suppose).

    It's difficult to distance yourself from your faith because it's becomes ingrained in your personality. That said, it's not impossible to consider perspectives of others outside the context of your faith. As long as they aren't making sweeping legislation or generalizations motivated by their faith, then I'm fine.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

      I think you are right, it is impossible to distance yourself from your faith because it becomes ingrained into your personality. I think where I really start to struggle with this is legislation by morality. meaning I am going to put laws on you because morally I have the superior right and authority. I have always wondered how we would react if the roles were flipped?

      • http://morethanuseless.com/ Tom

        There are clearly smarter people than me voicing their thoughts on this topic ;).

        • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

          That is the point, at least for myself. I throw the stuff out there and then listen or in this case read

  • KyleH

    Kyle, this discussion really has rich history in the Christian Church. Before we shoot from the hip on a subject like this, we ought to at least have some bearrings on where the Church has been.

    For the sake of a 'blog discussion' I will simplify the two primary positions within Protestant Church history: the Two Kingdoms approach and the Theonomist approach (and of course everyone wants to say they are somewhere in between). The Two-Kingdom's approach states that God rules the earth (His left hand kingdom) through laws, logic, kings, and other secular authorities, but God rules His right hand kingdom (the Spiritual Kingdom) through the Gospel. The Theonomist (or maybe reconstructionist) approach argues that God has revealed Himself and what it means to be human most clearly in His Law (which is contained in the Old and New Testaments), therefore, the country that honors God ought to be govern by the Laws (and the Gospel) God has given us.

    Both positions have consequences. The Two Kingdoms view has often caused the church to be silent on social issues such as can be seen (on occasion) during WWII (at times Church held that what the State does is part of God's left hand kingdom and not right hand kingdom, therefore they worry about it in right hand kingdom). However, in answer to your question, the Two Kingdoms view would allow one to say that a Muslim or Buddhist who is the best candidate SHOULD be president. Your view appears to be in line with this (maybe you are secretly a Lutheran????)

    The Theonomic view allows the church to have great social interaction, fighting poverty, injustice within the government, and social ills around the world as a Church (not as simply individuals). The Church can move back and forth in both kingdoms, however, this is often messy and ugly. If one were to hold to a theonomic view, a Muslim or Buddhist could be a president, but would be rebelling consistently against God and therefore would be a “bad” President (because to be most human is to be in line with the will of God found in Scriptures)!

    The phrase, “I think government, teaching, and sometimes even the work place calls you to suspend your religious judgment” really disturbs me, as I believe it is impossible to lay aside your religious judgment without taking on someone's religious judgments (maybe the religious judgment of Enlightenment influenced Secular Humanism). If you were to hold to a two kingdoms position, you could say that your religious conviction IS and DEMANDS that you use natural law to interact in society (and not Special Revelation found in God's Word) because that's how God rules his left hand kingdom.

    I realize you might not have had my post in mind when you wrote this article, however, I feel like those who forget (or are ignorant) of history are doomed to repeat it, and therefore had to write this response. As Christians, we should not sit around and make the same arguments over and over again (“re-invent the wheel), but we ought to learn what others have said and done before us, and interact with and advance the discussion within the church as a whole. What is at stake if we don't understand the historical discussion? Wasting time? Irrelevant fights? … Maybe that is why I cannot get into blogging, it tends to only interact with a small isolated community.

    I hope this VERY BRIEF AND REDUCTIONISTIC post was not a comment killer on you blog. I am sure I have not exhausted the possibilities of a Christian view of the world, however, I find these two a discent starting point for Protestants.

    Kyle

    • http://twitter.com/adamrshields adamrshields

      I do think that this is helpful and not a discussion killer. But I think that the issue isn't that people are in between, but that they have different lines that they want to draw from the Theonomic perspective. Some think that poverty issues are primary and therefore want to focus on how the government should focus on alleviating poverty. Many conservative Christians thinks that government should not have a role in alleviating poverty, but should have a role in maintaining heterosexual marriage and preventing homosexual marriage.

      I think I am more of a two kingdoms perspective person, but I think that the are some moral issues that government should deal with, not as a specifically Christian, but as a generally moral perspective. If I can only show that something is right or wrong by referring back to my Christian faith, then I think it is probably something that I shouldn't try to legislate (church attendance, blue laws, etc.). But if I can point to broad agreement in a variety of moral/religious perspectives then maybe it should be legislated (against slavery, for some amount of help for poor, those in disaster areas, etc.)

      There is also those within both the two kingdoms and Theonomic perspectives that think that whether or not something should be legislated for or against, the church should have a significant, if not primary role. So these would be those that are pro-life, but don't think that abortion should be illegal. Their primary way to oppose would be through ways of reducing unplanned pregnancies or providing assistance for those that need help to either keep the baby or incentive to go through the pregnancy and allow adoption.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

      Great points here Kyle on stuff that I definitely have not studied myself and therefore lead to some ignorance on my part.
      I will say that the statement I made about suspending judgment or moral judgment inside of your job or government is impossible. I think I meant to say that more in a question way rather then a statement sort of way. My fault there.

      I am ignorant of history and could do a lot more reading/understanding.
      Thanks for the history lesson though. very interesting.
      And I am glad we are good friends and you are not some random guy, then I would feel really stupid.

  • http://theestherproject.com/ Lex

    That's a fascinating question.

    The more I think about it, though, I don't think it changes anything. And I think my answers are No and Depends. No, I wouldn't expect him to stop practicing his faith. New policies depend on the policies.

    Christian presidents make policy based first on the constitution (we hope) and the law of the land. Their morals influence those decisions, but their morals rarely override the courts. I would hope that a Muslim or Buddist (or whatever) president would be held to the same standard of maintaining religious freedom as our Christian presidents have been.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

      But would that really happen, at least the last part of what you said?
      What I find interesting is that we live in a predominantly Christian nation in name. I do not know the exact numbers (where is George Barna when you need him) but the majority would recognize that they fall into the Christian title of religion. I think this lends to some freedom for a Christian to be in office, but if another man or women who practices a different belief would take a lot of grief. I wonder if that would be true?

  • dennisferguson

    I agree that is why the founding fathers said no to state religions

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  • http://davidgoodwin.com David

    In way more detail, KyleH covered what I wanted to say really.

    Idealistically, the faith of the person leading my country shouldn't matter (eg: our current Lord Mayor of Sydney is Buddhist). However, it can lead to issues regarding the foundations of our governmental systems. Both Australian and the US have systems essentially based on Christianity.

    I would not like to see a Muslim leader decide we should have Sharia law for instance.

    I've always approached politics and faith from the perspective that if we as Christians care enough about it, then we'll make sure our governments are full of people we trust will take our Christian world views into play with their policy decisions.

    As I said…idealistically. In reality, Christians can't agree on policy any more than they can agree on anything else.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

      I think the last statement is what muddies everything up…idealistically it would work, but we do not live in an idealistic world

      • http://davidgoodwin.com David

        Exactly.

  • Ryan Peters

    When you consider the reality that our country, though it allows religious freedom, was founded by people with essentially Christian beliefs and morals, and that the majority of (not all) people in the U.S. identify with Christian beliefs and more specifically Christian morals, and the fact that our people choose our leaders, it only makes sense that we will have leaders who govern with Christian morality in mind. In that respect, if a Muslim or Buddhist were to be voted into office, it would have been by the majority of the citizens in that area, so the majority of people wouldn't be upset with that leader making Muslim or Buddhist influenced decisions.

    I wouldn't vote for anyone who I thought would put aside their religious convictions on behalf of leading the country. How could you trust a person that doesn't act on his/her own moral convictions. But there is a difference between using law to push your religion on people and voting with your moral convictions (which flow out of your religion) in mind.

    That being said, the idea that we, as Christians, can try to vote Christians into office so that they can legislate people into acting like Christians is ridiculous. That is what the 1st Century Jewish people thought that Jesus was going to do. Instead, he focused on changing the hearts of the people.

    • http://thoughtsaboutnothing.com @kylelreed

      Well said Ryan, especially the first part.
      I did not think about it that way. the idea that most of america would recognize themselves as Christians and therefore if they voted a muslim into office it would be their choice and they would be okay with his or her legislation.
      I think that might have gave that question an answer.