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Friday, December 18, 2015

A Review Of The GOP Debate On Security

Dr. David Gushee (bio is at the end of the article being reviewed here) has just written a short review criticizing the most recent, that is the 5th, GOP debate for its lack of Biblical values (click here). This article appeared on the Religion News Service's website. The most recent GOP debate was run by CNN (click here for the full debate between the major participants).  Gushee's main point is that despite their Party's proclaimed respect for and adherence to Biblical values, the GOP candidates seem to not be employing them, especially charity and compassion, when it came to what was said about how the US should treat Syrian refugees. For while Gushee believes that we should accept such refugees out of charity and compassion, the GOP candidates rejected that idea until it could be guaranteed that none of the refugees would participate in a terrorist attack on us. The political concern here revolves around how national security issues and how protecting one's own citizens should govern whether or not our nation should accept refugees. Such a concern should be taken very seriously. 

Gushee took both Rand Paul and Chris Christie to task for exhibiting what he calls an 'ethical dualism.' That is that as citizens, Christians are urged to follow a Biblical set of values, but as government officials, they are urged to follow another, more pragmatic, set of values. Though this poses no problem for nonChristian politicians, the dualism does exist for the Christian ones. 

And though I have many strong unfavorable reactions to what was said throughout most of the 5th debate, it seems that Gushee's approach was inadequate and even self-sabotaging. For one thing, Gushee could have challenged Rand Paul on whether caring for refugees is merely an issue of charity. If we were to employ Nicholas Wolterstorff's thinking here (click here for a link to his book Justice: Rights And Wrongs), we would start to consider how a nation should treat refugees as more than just an issue of charity; it would be considered to be a justice issue too. The difference between the two approaches is this: while charity focuses on those who give, justice focuses on those who are in need and what rights of theirs are being deprived.

Once we determine what the rights of the refugees are, we can now  challenge the basic theme so often repeated by the GOP candidates that night: that the job of government is to protect its people. We can challenge this basic theme because we can safely say that no government has the right to practice injustice in the name of national security. In fact, we have enough history as well as current events that testifies to the fact that practicing injustice on others, in the end, puts one's own people at risk for future retaliation. We saw that with the 9-11 atrocities. We have enough testimony from Bin Laden himself that said that what motivated the attacks were the injustices we visited on or sponsored for others. What was being referenced here were the UN sanctions on Iraq that we both pushed through and implemented with Great Britain which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. In addition, we are supporting Israel's brutal occupation of Palestine.

But there is another problem with Gushee's dualism objection. Such an objection would require conservative Christians to not only oppose same-sex marriage in society, but freedom of religion too. For we Christians believe that God's Word has condemned both same-sex marriage and idolatry. And with that being the case, how can Christians support freedom of religion for others or same-sex marriage in society without practicing dualism again? Indeed, some of our spiritual and even national predecessors used their own governments to persecute people who believed differently. This happend here in America up to the Revolutionary War.

For Christians to participate in government, there must be an acceptance of dualism to some extent. That is unless we believe that all people in society, regardless of whether they believe, must follow the same rules and laws that the New Testament provides for the Church, we will be practicing two different standards: one for the individual believer and the one that determines our laws and governmental policies.

So how can we determine where dualism is appropriate and where it is unbiblical? We should note that distinguishing social justice issues from personal moral choices can help us here. For social justice issues deal with some form of theft and murder. And no society that allows for theft and murder can hope to stand. On the other hand, we should note, from the New Testament Scriptures that deal with Church disciplinary issues, that the society in which churches exist are expected to have people who cannot, because of lifestyle or beliefs, remain in good standing in the Church (see I Corinthians 5 for an example). That is all societies will have unsaved sinners. And at least some of the sins of these sinners must be tolerated by society.

Though I agree with Gushee's moral sentiments, his article being reviewed here needs a more thorough and nuanced approach on dualism and when Christian government officials can practice it and when they can't.




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