Some ponderings

Okay… I know I owe a post on Article 2 of the Confession of Faith… life has been strange lately.

In any case, something my wife mentioned today made me wonder some stuff.  Here are some questions that I think the Christian church in the USA needs to seriously ask themselves.  Likewise, these are fair questions for any Christian in any society today.  Please note, these are not political questions, these are ecclesiology and missiology questions.  They apply no matter what the politics, governmental structure, economic philosophy, or what not that you are currently living under.

  1. If your government were to fail utterly today and a tyranny that is unfriendly to the mission of the church arise in its place, what would you, as a Christian, do differently?
  2. If there is something you would do differently, why aren’t you doing it now?
  3. What is preventing you from making those changes in your life?

I personally need to think very hard and very carefully about these.   The answers may be a lot harder to deal with that appear on the surface.

If you are challenged by these questions, please comment here or on the corresponding FaceBook link.  Let’s start this discussion now, before it becomes necessary.

Comments (6)

  1. Samuel

    I’ll bite-
    presuming an actively hostile totalitarian government that discriminates against churches (or my church in particular, I guess) I think there would be a couple of possible options-

    1) leave-if possible, and if things were bad enough, I certainly would consider following the footsteps of spiritual fore bearers for generations and get out of Dodge. I’m not sure that we have a moral obligation to stay and fight it out (metaphorically) in a place where we aren’t welcome. Wipe the dust off our feet, as the saying goes.

    2) Get martyred. I have trouble keeping my trap shut. I can imaging choosing or accidentally getting myself imprisoned/worse depending on the level of hostility from the government. We are called to face persecution on account of the gospel.

    3) helping the resistance: this is probably my favorite. I could see myself participating in underground resistance until I was caught. The Christians who helped Jews in Southern France, or African Americans escape from slavery are some of the most profoundly impressive models of what to do in times of oppression-turning the other cheek in the Walter Wink way.

    4) suffer in silence-I hope I wouldn’t do this. I think I have enough courage not to, but it is what most Christians end up doing in these situations, and there is something noble in surviving and getting back up after the evil has swept over-I think of the ways in which the Russian Orthodox Church has been revived after years of Communist rule.

    What I’m curious is what answers you see for question 1) that dictate question 2 or 3-what I would intend on doing because I was living in a dictatorship I don’t want to do now, because I don’t live in a dictatorship, and the amount of bellyaching I would need to do to get arrested seems excessive, I don’t need to leave to preach the gospel, and I already try to resist the institutional evils of the United States in some ways (maybe I could do more-push my congregation to offer refuge to Illegal immigrants or something).

    I hope that your life is going OK, and I am looking forward to the next article-the last discussion was pretty fascinating.

  2. Robert Martin (Post author)


    Thank you for your responses.

    For me, personally, I’m thinking about how friendly our government is towards the more social aspect of the gospel. Right now, we do have governmental support of the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, etc. It may not be to the extent that some would like. It may even be more than others would like.

    But what if no programs like welfare, medicare, etc, existed? Or, if they did exist, were conducted in a completely unjust fashion, leaving many people out in the cold. Some would argue this is already the case. Would I be satisfied to just sit back and “suffer in silence”? And, if the government were hostile towards faith organizations, would the government allow the church, openly, to fill in those gaps? Would the government even allow the church to speak out, from the pulpit, against such injustice? If the government is unwilling to listen to the church, what should the church do?

    For me, the suffer in silence option does not resonate at all. It is within the spirit of Christ for me to get up, get out, and do what I can to live for justice for those around me, to take care of “the least of these” with whatever means I have. And, in that kind of environment as I’ve suggested, I would have no guarantee of secular support. I would be on my own, perhaps with the support of the faith community behind me, but definitely in a hostile environment.

    There are, in fact, countries in this world where this is exactly the case.

    So, if that’s what I would be doing in that case, why am I not doing that now? Do I have to wait for a government to be hostile, actively or passively, towards people of faith to act justly? If I am called, by Christ, to live justly, why do I need to wait for a friendly government to do it for me?

    Essentially, I’ve been convicted. I have, as a Christian, become too dependent upon the social systems around me to do the work that I’m supposed to be doing. I sit back as people depend upon the social systems for their health care, for their food, for their care in retirement when I have the means, in myself, to do something about it, albeit a small something. A government that is hostile and unjust would not be caring for “the least of these” so I, as a Christian, would have to step up and do something. Why am I not stepping up and doing something now?

    It is wonderful that we have a society in the US that is trying to do something. We’re trying to solve the problems in our society of inequity and injustice on a societal level, using our secular institutions to do so. I’m sure that God is pleased that our secular institutions are participating in some way towards the Kingdom.

    But if those secular institutions were to fall, am I prepared as a Christian to do what would need to be done to pick up the slack? Is the church as the embodiment of the Kingdom prepared to do so? Or have we become lazy in our dependence upon secular society?

    That’s all wrapped up in question #1.

    Question #2 and #3 are then the response. We don’t live in such a society right now and, thank God for that. But should that excuse us from acting on our own? If we didn’t have the government supporting us in our mission, we obviously would be doing a lot more, as a church, to live out that mission. Why aren’t we doing so now? Do we have to wait to be living in an unjust society for us to radically act? Why, instead of sending people to the government welfare agencies, aren’t we giving of our own blessings? Why, instead of depending upon the government to provide payment for health services are we not meeting that need ourselves? Why, instead of depending upon the government to provide housing are we not doing that ourselves? There are so many things that our government is doing now that are great…but why aren’t we doing it ourselves?

    That’s a rough question because, obviously, we are grateful that we do have a government that acts justly to an extent. We should be thankful for that. But, and this might just be my perception, it seems that our gratitude has turned into complacency or, at least, is turning into it.

    So, for myself, I’ve come to a place in my convictions where I am no longer satisfied with waiting for the government to act. We have friends and neighbors that are struggling. And yes, there are government programs to help them. But I’m the one that is right there with them. It’s my job, as a believer, as someone who is supposed to be a “little Christ”, to be Christ to them. Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with Christ for me to act rather than wait for the institutions? If the government were hostile and unjust, wouldn’t that be what I’d be doing anyways?

    These are my thoughts. They may not be yours. But for me and my house, and I’ve recently gotten confirmation from my wife on this, we will serve the Lord. Whether or not the government follows along is irrelevant for me any more. My Kingdom is not the USA, it is the Kingdom of God. It is time for me to act that way.

  3. Tim Baer

    Is playing video games and eating Doritos still an option? That’s what I mostly do now. Most Christians aren’t really active in being annoyingly proactive so I think things would be pretty similar.

    Now where’s my coffee?

  4. Robert Martin

    Concise but annoyingly accurate. Thanks, Tim!

    But you made my point for me. Complacency rules in the American church, no matter what “flavor” of Christian you are.

  5. Samuel

    I see what you mean, what would we do if we were living in a society with radically different attitudes towards the poor.

    I think at some level you are exactly right-that we would feel compelled to do more for those who are in need, and that thus we are called to do what we can for those in need today as well. That’s why our congregation is involved in a food pantry, cooks a free meal on a regular basis, and has a mutual aid fund for those who are in need in the congregation.
    I think it is really important for individual Christians to think about 1) how their congregations spend money and 2) how they give money, such that it is aimed at the poorest of the poor. Also, its probably worth pointing out that since there are lots of countries that don’t help the poor as much as ours, giving overseas has a lot of value.

    But I don’t really think our complacency (which is real) is a function of the social service network in our country. Rather, I think, we face the challenge of an overwhelming need, a feeling that nothing will ever actually change, and a resistance to giving-at least that’s what goes through my mind when accosted by a homeless person.

  6. Micah

    Why do we allow the government to be the primary care taker of the poor? Why are we as a church voting for more government organizations to take care of the poor and needy? The church is outsourcing compassion to the government. How much glory does God get for welfare programs? Our good deeds are done to give God glory and by going through the government we are cutting God out of the picture. It is our failure as a church to love our neighbor that has resulted in loveless, Godless, ungracious, inefficient system of compassion supported by forced taxes and not gracious giving.
    I appreciate the ponderings. Yes, it is time to make some changes. How about matching my giving with my taxes?

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