CALIFORNIA, February 17, 2014 — Politics is not for the faint of heart. More often than not it’s an exercise in picking which political hill to die on. The recent passage by Congress of a “clean”, potentially unlimited federal debt limit increase until March 2015 shows how few options exist to stop our government’s lust for fiscal suicide.
One thing is certain in this caustic political environment: Any politician trying to live out Matthew 10:16 and be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” knows how easily decisions can backfire.
On one hand a temporary, unlimited debt ceiling bill with no strings attached was a bold political decision. It prevents an unpopular budget battle from drawing attention away from a focus on Obamacare in the upcoming elections. In reality, House Republicans who supported the bill are probably in safe congressional districts, while colleagues who voted against it can stand tall with their constituents. Also, the solidarity of every Senate Republican voting “nay” on this blank-check-for-debt bill may help them gain a majority of seats in November.
On the other hand, grassroots conservatives see the House vote as yet another example of weak-willed representation and spineless leadership that continues to compromise on principle and ignore the people that elected them. This could result in devastating consequences for Republican candidates in the next election cycle.
There may be some truth to that perception. But when only one half of one third of the federal government is controlled by a political party even talking about fiscal sanity, a near term compromise may end up being the best long term strategy. That tactic was true when Jesus taught his disciples about war against a strong opponent (Luke 14:31-32), and it’s just as true in our day.
The real question with the debt ceiling is whether compromising on principle today is worth an uncertain political advantage next year. To paraphrases the parable in Luke 14:28-29, is this decision necessary to gain control of Congress to stop Obamacare and prevent further economic ruin?
In considering the tradeoffs, let’s be clear who the real enemy is. It’s not those trying to restrain government. It’s anyone who ideologically embraces a secular worldview that believes government is the source of our blessings and is better able to manage our lives than we are. Whether it’s the mainstream media, the president, or members of Congress, anyone who sees government as the answer to life’s difficulties is not just embracing a harmless concept, but a dangerous and destructively naïve belief system.
Not only does a liberal — i.e., progressive or secular — worldview underestimate the depravity of man, it’s blind to the fact that government will always become a more powerful, accumulated expression of the sinfulness of people if unrestrained by God’s lordship and redemptive grace (Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 17:9; Colossians 2:8).
So, is the debt ceiling giveaway a good tactical move to ensure that Obamacare is the deciding issue in the upcoming election?
It may be, but it’s dangerous to underestimate the ungodly resourcefulness of those whose power is threatened. Remember how the religious leaders and rulers of Jesus’ day unjustifiably conspired against him (Matthew 27:1-26)? The same thing happened to Paul in Ephesus when idolatry was exposed for what it was (Acts 19:21-41). And the same will be true today as abusive use of government power is confronted.
Think this won’t happen?
Consider the dozens of unilateral executive decisions Obama has used to delay implementation of Obamacare to lessen the political fallout. There’s plenty of time to continue ignoring the law until after November. Consider how far the major news media goes to present a rosy picture of the catastrophic damage Obamacare is causing, while promoting isolated “success” stories to shield the President from any criticism. Consider how far Congressional Obamacare supporters will distance themselves from their prior decisions by using any plausible alibi they can dream up.
This political battle is incredibly important for our nation’s future, the well being of our families and the generations that follow. But even if there’s a major change in congressional leadership, those with a conservative, Biblical worldview must never sit back and trust Congress to do what’s right. Every opportunity must be used to influence and hold accountable elected leaders to ensure they understand and defend the principles of governance and freedom that have historically blessed our nation (Proverbs 15:22).
It may be gracious to turn the other cheek when government leaders inadvertently make decisions that harm us (Matthew 5:38-42); but when power becomes so corrupt it forgets its God-ordained purpose it’s time to turn the tables over and cleanse the building (Matthew 21:12-13).
In fact, engaging in this political war is consistent with a Christian’s Biblical mandate to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), just as ignoring it would be foolish and irresponsible (James 4:17). But be warned, this November is just one battle in a long campaign to return government to its proper, limited role (Romans 13:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-16).
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