Much if not most of Christian political witness today, especially through official church channels, makes demands of government without accepting responsibility for how such demands can be fulfilled.
Church groups widely insist the USA must accept large numbers of Syrian refugees as a humanitarian and Gospel imperative. But they are largely dismissive of security concerns about radical views or violent proclivities among potential entrants to the USA. They exclaim: Love, don’t fear! And they insist the security vetting process is already very thorough, without fretting the details.
But the USA is a desirable destination for so many because it is largely safe, thanks to police, the judiciary, intelligence agencies, the military, and a culture of respect for law. How can these pillars of security be sustained? Few church or Christian voices, in their political advocacy, bother to explain. They seem to assume that security is just an automatic given. A glance around the world quickly reveals otherwise.
It’s not hospitality to invite guests into an unsafe environment. If your home were covered with exposed asbestos, filled with toxic mold, infested with vermin, suffered from rotten floorboards, haunted by poltergeists, routinely burgled by armed intruders, and a safe house for heroin dealers, would it be hospitable to invite overnight visitors?
Shouldn’t church advocates for wide USA hospitality take more active, substantive interest in policies that will safeguard the USA as an ongoing refuge for refugees in the future, and for all Americans?
The blasé assumption that the USA is an eternal cornucopia is also reflected in the mass presence of church activists at the Paris climate change summit. These church activists want the USA to spend massive amounts and dramatically curtail economic growth with hopes of affecting global temperatures. Who would pay these bills of many trillions across decades? What will they have to sacrifice? And who will suffer the consequence of reduced economic growth? How can they be compensated? Church activists show little to no interest in these questions.
This same indifference applies to wider religious advocacy for trillions of dollars in entitlement and welfare programs mandated, reputedly, by biblical commands to care for the least of these. Beyond vague, often resentful expectations of “the rich,” who will pay the bills, and what are the trade-offs?
Blithe indifference to costs and consequences applies to much of Christian witness on criminal justice issues. How will proposed restrictions on law enforcement, reduced incarcerations, and legalization of previously banned substances affect crime rates, and who will likely suffer? Who will pay the monetary and physical costs?
In short, much of contemporary Christian poliical interest is not interested on what creates, sustains and perpetuates a secure and prosperous, lawful society. It instead assumes that American prosperity and safety are the de facto natural condition, against which there is an endless credit supply, to which every visionary social justice aspiration can be charged.
Of course, most Christian political witness proponents are themselves clerics, academics and activists, who’ve never had to create wealth and safeguard it. They are usually the beneficiaries of American bounty and protection, without much perceived need to reflect on the sources. They sometimes resemble politically-charged college students, who demonstrate and chant, forgetting about their parents paying huge tuitions, much less the generations of entrepreneurial philanthropists who funded their schools and their manicured campuses.
When will organized Christian political witness accept mature responsibility for understanding, explaining and perpetuating American democracy, civil order and wealth? Such maturity requires much more than demands for greater spending and more expansive government, or furious denunciations of America’s supposedly shameful past or current systemic injustices. It also means pacifists and critics of “empire” who expect the state to coercively enact their ambitious political programs must reflect on the ironies and hypocrisies of these soaring contradictions.
Serious Christian political witness can’t just complain, agitate, demand and leech. It has to offer a full orbed spiritual narrative for creating political order, prospering it and defending it. It can’t just focus on the needs of the perceived victimized, aggrieved and entitled. It must also relate to the entrepreneur, the tax-paying laborer, the police officer, the soldier, the border guard, the judge and all who sustain civil harmony, without which the public good is unattainable.