Is There a Uniquely “Christian” Way of Being Superior?
A Reflection on “Christian” Politics
In every political conflict, the feuding parties uniformly assume that they are wiser and/or morally superior to their opponents. They have to. On what other basis could two political parties oppose each other?
For example, if you oppose the Republican or Democratic economic plan, it’s because you believe it is either unwise or unfair – and this, of course, presupposes that you have more insight and/or a greater sense of justice than those who espouse whatever plan you oppose. So it is for every conceivable political dispute you could imagine. Should we have a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq? Should stem cell research be legal? Should all abortion be outlawed? Should laws be passed that aim to reduce the human contribution to global warming (if there is indeed a significant human contribution to global warming)? And so on. Whatever position you assume on divisive questions such as these, you have to assume that those who oppose you are wrong either because they lack your superior insight or they lack your superior moral sensitivity.
This raises an interesting question: Does following Jesus make a person smarter or morally superior to others? Many people seem to think so, but a momentary glance at Church history and at the Church today is enough to demonstrate that the answer is “obviously not.” But even if it did, would it ever be part of our unique call as Christians to take public stands predicated on our assumed superior wisdom or moral sensitivity? That is to say, would it ever be part of our job as Christians to present our supposedly superior positions as the “Christian” position? In other words, Is there a uniquely “Christian” way of being smarter and morally superior?
It seems to me that the New Testament commands followers of Jesus to assume an opposite stance. We are to humbly place ourselves under others (Phil. 2:3-5; Eph 4.2) and to regard our own sins as much greater than other people’s sins (Mt. 7:1-5)? Of course, we may have opinions about certain political issues, and undoubtedly we think our opinion is right (why else would we hold it?). But in light of what has been said, it seems we should take great care to not claim there’s anything distinctly “Christian” about our assumed superiority. For all I know, you may in fact be wiser and more morally developed than all who disagree with you. Congratulations. But that doesn’t make your view “Christian.” It just makes you politically smart and moral.
So by all means go ahead and have your opinions about how to best fix the world. Be wise and moral, and vote accordingly. But please don’t ever label your views “Christian.”
Finally, never forget where the hope of the world lies. If anyone could fix the world with his or her superior wisdom and moral sensitivity, wouldn’t the world be fixed by now? As it is, nothing has broken the world more than people trying to fix it, doing whatever they must to defeat those they assumed had inferior insights and morality. Most of the slaughtering that’s been done throughout history has been done in the name of someone’s intellectual and moral superiority!
The hope of the world certainly doesn’t lie here. It rather lies in that small tribe of people who trust God enough to simply love others like Jesus loved them, obediently placing themselves under others while confessing that they are the worst of sinners (I Tim.1:15-16).