Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jesus and government


Does Jesus favor small government? That provocative question headlined a recent NPR report (http://www.npr.org/2012/04/16/150568478/christian-conservatives-poverty-not-government-business?ft=3&f=111787346&sc=nl&cc=es-20120422).

I very much doubt that Jesus gave any thought to the preferred size or role of government, a conclusion diametrically opposed to the thoughts of some liberals and conservatives. Government to Jesus must have meant, at least in part, Roman domination and exploitation, which was his personal experience.

Jesus was for people and God. Government is not an ultimate reality but a means to an end. When government contributes to the general welfare then government is good, e.g., providing a secure social safety net that eliminates hunger, thirst, illiteracy, and bondage while ensuring access to healthcare and shelter and protecting human dignity, worth and rights. When government enables elites to exploit the vulnerable, deprives people of basic goods and rights, or otherwise fails to nurture healthy community then government is bad.

Attempting to argue that Jesus is pro-small or pro-big government misses that point. Furthermore, such claims also presume that Jesus has the answer to all life’s problems, something that is patently not true. The Jesus path offers basic principles; applying those principles to specific contexts requires adapting to specific cultures and historical realities.

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