[Part 2 of 2] In my previous post, I referenced a series of articles a wrote a couple years ago concerning the relationships between the Church and State. I talked about one article where I pointed out that “the Apostle Paul advocates for Christians to support the government and seek to change individuals rather than institutions by being the Church to the broken world around them (which will in turn shape institutions)”. I then showed how Paul stayed politically neutral most of the time, except when the government was acting in a way that kept him from living as a faithful member of the Church of Christ.
I then concluded that “political views are generally theologically-neutral and are up to the individual Christian’s conscience except when the State hinders the Church from freely being the Church to the world around it. At that point Christians are called, I feel, to engage in whatever means necessary to remain independent and able to do that which they are called to do: preach, gather, serve, give, and love.”
So what does all this have to do with Wikileaks? Well, a few things. As has been pointed out by many commentators more qualified than me, looking at Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, we see that there is a clear basis for the support of the government by Christians. We are to support our government because (according to Peter) it has been “sent by him [God] to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” and (according to Paul) it is “God’s servant for your [the Church’s] good…For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer”.
In other words, our support of the government extends only insofar as they fulfill their God-given obligation to help the innocent and righteous prosper while punishing and protecting them from the “unrighteous”. When it is exposed through various means that the government is not in fact fulfilling its proper role, our “obligation” no longer exists to support it in its endeavors.
Though the media has fallen into the trap laid for it by the administration and has myopically focused upon the release itself rather than the content of the release, these leaked cables have painted a picture (more here) of an America that should lose our trust and support. The way it is doing things in the world is not good, and does not help the truly righteous prosper while punishing the truly innocent.
But an even greater implication exists for Christians to support Wikileaks. As I said above, Paul’s main political “activism” or “political participation” was limited to those actions that would allow him and the Church to have more of an opportunity to freely “be” the Church to the world around them.
A government that cannot be challenged by its citizens who have a crisis of conscience, that can shut down any organization that stands in its way, and that can have nearly unchallenged power to move and work in the world and the country under a shroud of secrecy is a government that is no longer in a position to allow the Church to be fully free in the long term.
Historically, there’s never been a positive correlation between executive power and religious freedom. It is in the long term interest of the church to disentangle itself from the government and to decentralize executive power. (By the way, this does not explicitly speak to domestic social issues, where I feel that liberal policies can be a legitimate and reasonable expression by Christians whose consciences can’t allow them not to “consider the least of these” even in their voting.)
To be sure, the Church has prospered and grown in both number and depth as it has found itself in every kind of government from dictatorships to anarchies. And in the end, our allegiance is pledged first and foremost to a King and a Kingdom before it is ever laid before a flag.
Ultimately, this call to move politically to allow for greater freedom for the Church is merely an allowed freedom extended to us by Scripture; we are still called to be the Church and fulfill our responsibilities as citizens of heaven regardless of the political structure we find ourselves in.
But while this allowance remains, and while the opportunity presents itself to safeguard a future of liberty, openness, and yes, even freedom to do that which offends us, I pray that we as Christians can support those organizations–like Wikileaks–that challenge and limit the ability of the government to do things in our name that are both unrighteous and over-reaching of its true and proper place.