If following the example of Daniel means drawing on Christianity in order to tell the truth in the public square, then this means that, at one point or another, the Christian is going to be opposed to every political ideology. This was, in part, what I was trying to say when I asserted that the church ought to be anarchist in orientation. In this post, I want to briefly reflect on these points before moving on in other directions.
One point of reflection is to emphasize that telling the truth in the face of reigning ideologies does not mean that the church or the Christians that make it up should be in any respect apolitical. In many respects, as much as it means standing up to ideologies, it also means taking these ideologies seriously. If for no other reason, they need to be taken seriously because others take them seriously. And taking them seriously means, at times, agreeing with some of their points.
Christianity is not in whole agreement with either Marxist communism or economic libertarianism, despite what some people might say about either. On the other hand, both Marx and Austrian economists (to cite just one example of economic libertarianism) make points and draw on ideas that are congruent with particular points of Christian doctrine. For example, Marx’s critique of the state in a capitalist society holds more than its share of water in light of pervasive crony capitalism. But Marx’s critique of private property does not stand up to libertarian (or Lockean) points on the ability of private property to safeguard other liberties. In most political discourse taking place around Thanksgiving tables or office water-coolers, people fail to mediate between these two positions. Communism and free markets are seen as zero-sum poles in which one must adopt either one position or the other. Christianity not only mediates these positions but outright denies the dualism implied by this point of view.
Personally, I am a fan of the historic European model of Christian Democracy as a political movement. One reason I am a fan is its (at least in the past) commitment to navigating the space between hard left and hard right based on Christian principles. In a sense, Christian Democracy occupies what, I think, most people should think of when they think of the political center. While identifying where, precisely, the political center is can vary between contexts and periods (modern Christian Democracy was born in the middle of the twentieth century’s standoff between communism and fascism), much in American politics over the last several years puts us at a place not too dissimilar from the movement’s roots.
That being said, I don’t think that there is any hope of transforming either the Republican or Democratic parties in America towards a Christian Democrat trajectory. On the other hand, the United States does have its own third-party Christian Democrat organization: the American Solidarity Party. I am not a member of the ASP, but I cannot find anything objectionable in their platform, and I recently wrote a class paper in support of ranked-choice voting on the grounds that it might allow for a Christian Democrat party to be competitive on the local level.
I bring all of this up because the posts prior to this one have largely been of a general and theoretical nature. I enjoy political theory, but I am also interested in examining other public issues beyond rehashing the same general themes over and over. Thus, I want this post (rambling as it is) to serve as a sort of baseline foundation for the directions I want to take going forward. That is to say that, if I was forced to identify what theoretical angle I use to approach public policy, it would be as a Christian Democrat. Or to put it in more specific terms, I am concerned with the public issues of truth, justice, freedom, and equality as they are conceived of by taking into account the whole of Christian Scripture. Of course, others say the same thing but take a very different path.
In a back-and-forth comment thread on a previous post, a reader and I discussed how some people outright oppose policies on the grounds that “it’s socialism.” It’s that type of blanket judgment that I try to avoid by using theology as a lens for public policy. Opposing the welfare state because “it’s socialism” is not inherent within Christian doctrine just like Acts 4 does not mean I have to reject private property. Adopting either position just to fit into whatever political group I tend to favor means that I’ve done nothing more than sell out my faith as just one more interest group to be courted and won by the reigning political elites. This is a position I reject because I take my faith too seriously to do otherwise.
And that is where I will leave it, for now.