As I wrote my most recent article for WND.com (the subject of my previous posting) I found myself thinking about Christianity’s unique effect on our understanding of the justice (and injustice) of human action. The last point made in the article is about the connection between arrogant elitism and the self-inflation the Pharisee derives from comparing himself with other people. In light of this connection we can better understand why the elitist forces that strenuously promote the specious doctrine of the separation of church and state are so often guilty of favoritism. They invoke the doctrine to repress Christian institutions and practices, while treating those of other religions as protected artifacts of “cultural diversity.” I think this discrimination has to do with the fact that the words and example of Christ convey an understanding of human authority that supports the sovereignty of the people even as it undermines the assertion of elite predominance (the sovereignty of the wealthy, more intelligent, more talented few.)
However we may characterize it ideologically, the ultimate effect of the present push to overturn the principal of consent as the lawful basis for government is to reestablish the rule of the few, whose assumption of power derives from their Pharisaical claim to be superior to the rest. On the convenient excuse of whatever problem or crisis happens to be handy (the jobs crisis, the health crisis, the environmental crisis, the crises of poverty, hunger, homelessness etc.) they assert the urgent need for approaches that concentrate control of more and more resources and decision-making in the hands of professional and bureaucratic elites. Against the preponderance of evidence and logical reasoning, they pretend that centralized government institutions will deal with the critical challenges we face more effectively than those that respect individual liberty. Of course, as they advocate this view they are not as open as the Pharisee about their assumption of moral superiority. They cloak their assertion of superior righteousness with a fabricated perception of scientific knowledge, global catastrophe and compassionate egalitarian intention. But once the smoke and mirrors of crisis and compassion have served their purpose, we will be left with the reconstructed edifice of unchecked elite domination. The elite promise is that people will enjoy the comfortable dependency of well cared for household pets. But once elite control is consolidated, some will suffer the brutalization and casual destruction of lab rats or noisome vermin while most experience the commingled care and misery once bestowed on work horses or pack animals, valued mainly for the work they perform for their betters.
A discussed in “The Publican’s Prayer” Christ’s insistence on the perfect standard of God’s will (“Be ye therefore perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48) undermines the claim of intrinsic superiority that gives some appearance of justice to this elite consolidation of power. But more radical still is what he says even to the Pharisees: that “the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) In his kingdom, the word of the king is the law. Those who have direct access to the sovereign are therefore privileged to hear at first hand the content of the law. When they pass it on to others they speak with an authority derived from their direct access to the king, and their words cannot be definitively contradicted except by others with the same access. What Christ says to every person is that they have direct and exclusive access to the King of all Creation, the author whose name is the root of authority in every sense. Though common to all, this access is, even so, radically exclusive because it involves the inner being of the individual, to which only that individual has direct access. All the subjects of human kings are thus vessels of God’s authority. Made in His image, they have within themselves a model or likeness that accords with His will. The knowledge they derive from this model appears in the natural promptings of conscience, whereby they judge what they do to others in light of their own reaction to what others do to them. (“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12)
When discussing personal morality, it is common enough in Christian parlance to speak of every individual as a temple of God, i.e., a venue in which the will of God resides. Christ’s reference to the Kingdom of God within us also has implications for the just exercise of sovereign power, implications that bear directly on our understanding of lawful government. As a direct and exclusive form of access to the sovereign is available to all individuals, no one person or group of persons can by themselves have an unchallengeable claim to speak with sovereign authority over all the rest. Every other individual is a potential check on their claims, and may in his or her own right claim to be consulted as to the authenticity, content and meaning of the sovereign’s will. The understanding of God’s rule achieved through Christ thus becomes the basis for limiting the just claims of human rule to governments that respect the individual’s right to be consulted, i.e., those “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This suggests that the political premise of the American Declaration of Independence draws upon and reflects the most basic Christian understanding of the meaning and political consequences of human moral equality (that is, the equality of all people before God.) Christ’s American followers face increasing pressure from elitists who seek to drive their exercise of faith from politics, and indeed from all the arenas affected by law and public policy. In dealing with this pressure, we would do well to think through the vital connection between our faith and the principle of government by consent. Christ’s teaching does not conflict with the requirements of Constitutional self-government. In truth, government by consent is based on an insight into the nature of political authority that would not have been achieved except through Christ. As Christ’s followers are driven, as such, out of the political life of our country, what will become of this insight? It has dim prospects. For some people, that’s the whole point; isn’t it?