Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Borrowed Capital, Borrowed Liability

Continuing our look at Christianity in the public square, I'd like to direct our attention to Michael Horton's observation that:

"Because non-Christians are still wired for law, they can build decent civilizations. And because Christ-ians are simultaneously saint and sinner, there is absolutely no guarantee that a 'Christian nation' will be any better than a pagan one. In fact, it may well be worse precisley because of false ex-pectations derived from bad theology" ("Church or Political Action Committee?" in Modern Reformation, October/November 2008).
I know, I know: Everything in you wants to rise up in righteous indignation at such a seemingly preposterous idea, perhaps even suggesting that Horton move to Iran to test his theory out. But before we break into a spontaneous rendition of "God Bless America" complete with hand-holding and swaying back and forth, we need to reckon with a couple of things.

For one, there are plenty of (insert ominous music and thunder-clap here) European countries whose Christian witness has long-since died out, but whose citizens nonetheless somehow manage to resist the temptation to rape, pillage, and murder one another for their own amusement. In fact, violent crime is much less rampant in many post-Christian nations than it is in ostensibly Christian ones.

Further, the U.S., which is arguably the most outwardly Christian country on the planet, is hated by much of the rest of the world, and it's not for our freedom (!). Instead, we are looked upon as a bunch of obese, materialistic bigots who see no problem cloaking our war-mongering and greed (which are connected by the way) in sanctimonious religious rhetoric.

How can these things be if it is true that believing in Jesus supposedly gives us the corner of the morality market?

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter (as Horton points out) is that we Christians, despite our faith in Christ, are every bit as likely to cheat, divorce, or ignore suffering as anyone else (though sometimes this takes a different form for us). But fortunately, the pagan, despite his hatred of Christ, is every bit as likely as anyone else to seek to promote a society that is fair, just, and peaceful.

What is really tragic is when our "Christianity" makes us less peace-loving, compassionate, and family-oriented than those who have to borrow those traits from the theist's world-and-life view. Yes, the pagan borrows capital from the Faith, but it is also true that the believer borrows plenty of liability from the world.