Saturday, September 24, 2011

When Government and Environmentalism are the Cultural Idols

The following post is long, could probably be turned into a series, but, it’s my blog and I’m not overly concerned with following the conventional blogging wisdom. I’m trying to work out some thoughts I had today, and if you care to read through I’ll eventually get to the reason for the title, though I’m aware it takes me quite a while to get there. Feel free to follow along, or not, as you wish.
I don’t typically write much in the way of political ponderings in this space. Not that I don’t have them, I just don’t share them here often. Part of the reason is that I am working through how to properly live with and hold onto a very real tension between the now and the not yet. I love my country, to be sure, and I am very grateful to live here and for the sacrifices that have been made so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy and believe to be important. I find current events stimulating, engaging, and important. However, I think it is unwise to become too caught up in this world system. I am not saying it is unimportant to care about our politics and unimportant to be involved and to vote and be engaged citizens. Not at all am I saying that. I am saying, though, that I am uncomfortable with being so overly concerned with what happens here in the social and political sphere that we somehow lose sight of our overarching purpose for being here, namely to be concerned first and foremost with the gospel and with being citizens of that city that is made without hands, the Kingdom of God. We live here in the Kingdom of Man, and as citizens, we are biblically charged with submitting to the authorities and being good citizens and, in our society part of that is expressed by voting our consciences and by finding responsible ways to positively influence our culture and speak for things that are right. 
Not to spark debate, and way, way, way beyond the scope of this post, I have come to have some qualms about whether the revolution that was the beginning of this great country and which we celebrate, was actually something that someone who truly wants to live biblically should have supported at the time. And, I think a valid argument can be made that many of our founders were motivated much more by the Enlightenment and the exaltation of human reasoning than by a truly Christian worldview, and an argument can also be made that this has led over the years to more of a negative influence in American Christianity than a positive one. Like I said, way beyond the scope of this post, but my thinking for today where I am right now and with what we have to work with at the moment is that we err when we get so focused on politics and the social injustices that we think that the answer is found through political and social activism first, however. The answer is the gospel, and that is where we must have our focus in every endeavor. 
Having said all that, I do think that we Americans have a unique gift in the country we’ve inherited, and though not all of our founding fathers were necessarily Christian, they did have some good insight into human nature and the dangers of a too strong government that it’s not a bad thing to remember now and again. But, when I quote the founding fathers, I do it with the earlier caution in mind.
What prompted this post was a story I ran across this morning. You can see it here, and you need to read it to understand what spurred this train of thought. Actually, it piggy-backed with something I was already thinking about because of my study for my Sunday school lesson for tomorrow, as I’ll explain.  So, my thinking after reading about the EPA forcing OTC asthma inhalers off the market due to ‘environmental concerns’ went two directions. One worldly, one much more important. I’ll deal with the temporal first.
First, here are a few quotes from some of the founders of our country that I find quite interesting, and with which I agree:
“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge fore more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society.” ----John Adams, Novanglus Letters, 1774
“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” ----James Madison, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention (June 16, 1788)
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” -----Thomas Jefferson
I believe that less government, not more, was the goal of those who founded our nation.  After reading that story I linked to, I have been thinking that it is just one more symptom of the wrong-headed thinking that government needs to micromanage everything. I also find it frustrating to listen to liberals go on and on about how we need the government to manage our healthcare because people can’t afford it, but then in the next breath they go making something that lots of people need MORE expensive and hurtful to the same people they claim to be protecting in other conversations. They talk out of both sides of their mouths, and they don’t seem to even see it. The people who insist on shoving more and more government intrusion into our lives in the name of helping people fail to see how instead of helping, they hurt and make things even worse. The role of government, biblically speaking, is to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (1 Peter 2:14) In a word, to keep order. I am not an anarchist. God instituted government and it is He who is sovereign over it. I also believe that biblically we Christian citizens are to peaceably submit to government, even when it isn’t what we think it ought to be. We are to be salt and light in our culture and to reach out to others in the name of Christ and for the sake of the gospel, so please don't hear me saying we are to ignore social issues. I 'm not saying that. We can use legal means to bring about changes we believe are good, but I don’t believe we are to rebel. The Bible is clear about this. But I also do not think it is wrong to speak up about what we believe is the best way to govern, especially in our country which was founded on the principle of free speech.
Now, to the more important point that struck me forcibly today and the actual reason for writing this post and what I really want to be the ‘take home’ thought. What I originally thought when I saw this story, along with bemoaning the breath-taking arrogance of big government, was that this is what happens when we forsake a biblical worldview. Man was created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth, not the other way around. We were not created to serve the earth, the earth is not our ‘mother,’ and extreme environmentalism consistently gets this out of whack. God created this world, He has a plan and purpose for it and He will do it. God will take care of the environment, and we are just plain wrong, unconscionable even, to downplay or endanger the health of people because of negligible effects on the environment that scientists can’t prove and don’t even agree upon. We have become a people who worship the earth rather than its Creator, and this is what results. While preparing my lesson for tomorrow, I came across this:
“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
That was GOD speaking in covenant to Noah, and He hasn’t rescinded it. Yes, we need to be responsible stewards of the creation, but we need not fear to the point where the environment becomes more important than the human life it was created to sustain. 
So, while that article I linked is just one story, and not even a gigantic one, for me it shows what happens when we allow big government and environmentalism to become idols. We look to government to take care of us, protect the environment, tell us how to live rather than look to the One who created us. We value the environment more than we value the life that was created in God’s image. In short, we neglect God, the very One who gives us life and holds that life in His hands. It is God alone who sustains our life and the Creation He spoke into existence.
And it is in Christ alone, in the gospel, that we find hope. Government cannot ultimately overcome the evil that is in man’s heart, and being ‘green’ will not preserve the environment. All of Creation is groaning for the restoration that will come when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords brings it. Only in repenting of our sin and bowing before King Jesus, our Savior, can the evil in our heart be overcome. 

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