LIVING UP TO THE CREED
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is not salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. (Psalm 146:3-4)
This morning I read an article reporting what Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput said about the priority that should govern how Catholics cast their vote. “We’re Catholics before we’re Democrats. We’re Catholics before we’re Republicans. We’re even Catholics before we’re Americans, because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us.”
I think that statement holds true for anyone who has accepted Christ in their hearts, to be the Lord and Master of their mind and will. For Christ said “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”, which means that, especially when it comes to self-government, the ruler is God.
I can hear the sotto voce muttering of those who resent this simple statement of spiritual truth because they have hardened their will against it in this election year. “Neither God nor Jesus is running for President,” they tell themselves. “We’re all imperfect, and sometimes we must choose among evils.” Even though some people still try to deny it, the fact is that both Romney and Obama have plainly expressed their commitment to policies that violate “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God”, the will of the Creator for all humanity.
Both are willing to countenance the lie that it should be lawful to murder (i.e., purposely kill in violation of their Creator-endowed right to life) our innocent nascent offspring. Both are willing to use the Command authority of the President of the United States to force military personnel to accept, respect and honor openly homosexual relations, making them liable to punishment for exercising the right of conscience whereby they are bound to respect the Creator-endowed natural rights of the pro-creational family.
Such policies abrogate the purpose of government enunciated in the Organic Law of the United States- which is to secure the unalienable rights that come to every human being as en endowment by God, not government. Each and all such policies overthrows just government in principle, invalidating the logic of justice that confines the use of government power within the limits prescribed by the requirements of respect for God-endowed right.
It is evil to act without regard for right. Obama and Romney are therefore, both of them, committed to evil. If we choose one or the other, we make a choice of evils.
This explains why so many self-professed Christians are talking to themselves these day, repeating the double-minded mantras wherewith they seek to silence the small voice of conscience that keeps reminding them that their first duty is to God. It also explains why some preachers have taken to expounding on the passage that seems to justify this double-mindedness. For was it not Christ himself (Matthew 22:15-22) who resolved the dilemma of our political duty with the command to “Render therefore unto to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. Like so many of Christ’s admonitions, however, this one rather challenges than comforts the double-minded. It does so first of all because it seems to require that we serve two masters. But didn’t Christ say with direct simplicity that “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)
Caught as it were on the horns of this dilemma, it may help to think again about Christ’s famous utterance. Assuming that we are indebted to both God and Caesar, doesn’t it beg an obvious question?
In word and deed Christ actually raises and addresses this question before he enunciates the well known command. When asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not, he begins with a rather uncharacteristic request. In what these days we could mistake for a Jerry (Show me the Money) Maguire moment, he demands that his Pharisaical inquisitors “Show me the coin for the tax.” The Evangelist continues “And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the tings that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
As he will later do for us on the cross, in this passage Christ answers the question we raise even before we know we are asking it. What belongs to Caesar is what has Caesar’s likeness and inscription upon it. When we naturally are led to ask “What then belongs to God?” the answer is already before us. “What has God’s likeness and inscription upon it.” But practically on the first page of God’s Word we are told that God made man in His image and after His likeness. And the Apostle (Romans 2:15) speaks of the way the “Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires…They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…”.
Thus, all human beings bear the likeness and inscription of God. All human beings, including those like Caesar who fancy themselves to be the greatest powers on earth, are indebted to God for their very being. What we owe to God is our very selves.
Stunned by this breathtaking conclusion, the Evangelist tells us that the Pharisees “When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” Speaking truth that flowed from the very principle of God’s Word (i.e., its source in God Himself), Christ made it clear that, whatever Caesar’s pretensions, the very lawfulness of the law depends upon God’s will as the Creator, so that no debt of human making can take precedence over the debt we owe to Him.
When Archbishop Chaput reminds Catholics that their first duty is to God, he does no more than what Christ did. And Christ cast this truth in the teeth of those whom he knew were seeking an excuse to deliver him up to Caesar’s governor for execution. But the Archbishop also does no more than what America’s founders did, when they acknowledged the Creator of all things as the natural source of law, right and justice for all humanity. Therefore when a religious leader issues this call of duty to people who profess to put their trust in God and Jesus Christ, it is both a challenge to live out their religious faith, and a challenge to live up to the American Creed.