The Role of Government and Personal Responsibility
I tread lightly here because home-schooling moms, Constitution law professors, and all confirmed Libertarians know more about the “proper role of government” than I do. I can’t speak confidently from a Constitutional law perspective. But I can speak about my own views based on my Christian experience and reflection. I know a lot more about the Bible than about the Constitution
I know this much: the proper role of government is at least partly a matter of opinion. It is because of those opinions that the founders struggled to put in place checks and balances—to balance the power. It is because of those differences of opinion that they followed the body of the Constitution with a bill of rights. And we have, with new societal challenges, found ourselves opining and deciding about further amendments.
To get into this, I remember the question Jennifer D asked regarding an earlier post:
“Why is it the government's job to take care of people? I guess where I'm coming from is didn't Christ command the church to take care of those less fortunate? At what point did it become the taxpayer's responsibility?”
So… In my view it is NOT government’s job to “take care” of people. And more than any other Democrat in recent memory, Barack Obama states that fact ad nauseam. The nation first heard his views at the 2004 DNC speech:
“The people I meet -- in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks -- they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead, and they want to… People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.”
People don’t need government (the political establishment, elected officials, other power-brokers) to fix everything for them, and too often government (same definition) is the problem.
But the other fact I know is that when we say “government” in the American context, we are properly talking about the people, not the power brokers. American government is made up of all Americans—this is the genius of the American experiment. Barack Obama believes (ideologically) that “the proper role of government” goes beyond the Constitutional allowance, to the sentiment that I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper.
He does NOT believe that government (either definition) is responsible for taking care of people. But he does believe that those in power (wealth, position, status) should not be allowed to increase in power at the expense of opportunity for the weak. How my Christian brothers and sisters miss the biblical spirit of this view escapes me.
God sides with the last, the lost, and the least-- over the powerful. “Okay, Tony” you say, “but it’s the church that God is talking about to take up that battle.” And I say, “The church is not a building (as if a building could act) nor is it primarily a societal entity. It is the people—collected.”
So if the church is the people and the government is the people, we don’t have as clean a distinction as that phrase “separation of church and state” might suggest. I have to go with being a Christian over being an American citizen all within the American context.
So here’s how I see it:
1. When God establishes priorities: protect the weak, defend the oppressed, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, redeem the enslaved, God doesn’t much care whether we do so individually or governmentally. We simply better be careful that in our individual or governmental lives we are not opposing God. It is still the church whether it operates through government or not.
2. God is less concerned with our stated stance on an issue than on our
a) heart-place and `
So, for instance, we can shout at the top of our lungs that we are pro-life, but if that sentiment is not true to our hearts and/or is not reflected in our actions, then what does it profit?
3. Among the “proper roles of government” are to protect the innocents, to maintain order, to ensure equal opportunity (not equal results), to ensure that power does not increase exponentially among the rich and powerful while diminishing reciprocally among the poor and weak.
4. What does matter: What are the effective ways, the wisest ways, and life-giving ways to carry out God’s agenda, and what is simply meaningless chatter or activity?
Again, I know more about the Bible than about the Constitution. So you might have to talk to a homeschool mom, a Libertarian, or a Constitutional law professor (like Barack Obama).