01 July 2008


Seeing as how it keeps coming up lately (and seeing as how I just attended a subversively wonderful rally on such topics), I thought I'd say a few words about my ever-evolving perspective on secular government. My thoughts on this have been shaped by such practical theologians as Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw, a monkey named Mojo (whom I understand is nothing more than a mouthpiece for Walter Wink), Matt Pritchard, and Marguerite Welton St. Lawrence.

Here's where I stand these days, more or less. Biblically speaking, secular government is Caesar, or Babylon. God really didn't want God's people to have kings, but we insist on having them. Our governments are never going to save us. They are not going to be kingdom-oriented. If we are faithfully following our Lord, we will probably get in trouble with government at one point or another - God knows Jesus and his original followers did.

We should concentrate on following in the way of Jesus, serving and blessing everyone we meet, and stop waiting for laws and policies to make life the way God dreams it could be. And we Christians should be, at the very least, deeply suspicious of any power that uses force (violent force or merely legal, authoritarian force) to compel behavior, no matter how desireable that behavior. That's the way of Caesar. It's not the way of Christ.

Does this mean I completely equate the US government with the Roman or Babylonion empires? Absolutely not. The US is a republic. Whether our democratic process works well or not, there is a very real sense in which our government acts on our behalf, in our name, if we are US citizens. There's a very real sense in which the slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of Western soldiers has happened in our name. There's a very real sense in which the torture of countless "enemy combatants" has happened in our name.

That's why I believe that US citizens, even Christians, really do have a responsibility to some minimal involvement in the political process: damage control. Caesar is always going to be Caesar. He's never going to be Christ, and quite honestly, he's never going to be someone who follows closely in the way of Christ. (He'd get fired.) But a Caesar who does not condone torture is hugely preferable to one who authorizes, commands, and defends the torture of unnumbered children of God in my name. It is worth spending an hour in line at my local polling place to try to pick the lesser of two evils, because we have seen how evil the greater evil can be.

Caesar always sucks. My hope is not in Caesar. But in a republic, we do not have the luxury of claiming that this is not our problem.

And that's what I think about that.


P3T3RK3Y5 said...

i agree.

its not ok for me to look away.

Moff said...


I'm reading "We the Purple" right now (review coming to a blog near you shortly), and

a) I finally know what the political views thing on your Facebook page means and

b) I finally know what I am, and that I have to TRY, even if I think it's futile.

Thanks again for saying what needs to be said, Crog. :^)

dave said...

Absolutely awesome.

I want "Caesar always sucks' on a T shirt(:

dave said...

ps did you see McCain's sermon on serving Caesar?


Mike Croghan said...

@dave - McCain's sermon: very interesting indeed. I really disagree with that guy on a lot of things, but I do believe he is an authentic, sincere, thoughtful, and faithful human being. Interesting discussion in the comments too (though I didn't read all of them). I think I come down in a position similar to the comment from the bald-headed guru across the river from me in MD. :-)

Tim Mathis said...

Hi Mike,

Happy 4th. I wrote (and apparently lost) a long response to this yesterday. You've picked up on this a bit, but my feeling is that in a democratic republic we have to stop seeing Caesar as something external, and start taking Jesus' condemnations/warnings about Caesar on ourselves. Caesar is 'him out there', but ultimately 'him out there' is an expression of 'us' when we have the capacity to make change.

Good relevant opinion piece in the Seattle Times this morning by Danny Westneat: Here it is.