I recently read the 2020 book Jesus Politics by Phil Robertson. I like Phil. I’ve seen his various shows a little bit. He has really made something out of himself by hard work. He remains connected to nature. He speaks firmly the truth about sin and redemption, but does it in love. He is not afraid to take on the leftist activists who are always stirring up trouble. I saw through the lies people told about him years ago. That is why I found his book so disappointing. It seems like he is falling into some of the stereotypes.
Before I bought it, I somehow thought the book’s message was going to be one of giving up on looking to politicians to solve our problems and instead putting our energy into spreading the gospel. Instead, it is the opposite. Phil apparently thinks we haven’t been putting enough energy into getting the right people elected, and through negligence have allowed Godless politicians to take over.
There is much we agree on. We are both pro-life. We understand that the root of violence is not guns, but hate, and that broken families feed into this. We do not elevate nature over human needs. We are both skeptical of government-run health care. We are both sick and tired of the hateful attacks on public figures when some minor mistake they made twenty years ago is brought to light. We agree that we need to act with more mercy and teach truth gently. He rightly sees that in order to better society and spread the love of God, Christians must be free to speak about their faith and free to spend their own money to help others. By extension, we both believe in free speech and capitalism.
Where I have trouble is the sloppy thinking around what he thinks are the solutions. I am fully against any government-created obstacles that would hamper the advancement of the Kingdom, but I see an important difference between a government that allows advancement, and one that would attempt to aid such an advancement. You can’t legislate morality. Threatening people with state punishment for sins will not make them better people inside, even if they act better on the outside. It will also create resentment, which can lead to retaliation and even more sin. Depending on just what it is we are talking about, it might create an underground black market for sin. Finally, giving the government so much power to regulate our lives creates the risk that it will be used to encourage sin and punish righteousness when the sinners win in the next election cycle. Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.
Throughout the book, it is never clear whether he is talking about a government that allows advancement, or one that aids. He cites some examples of leftist overreach, where government was used against the Kingdom, such as the time a Christian baker was forced to make gay wedding cakes or lose his business, the time a Christian foster care organization was forced to recommend gay couples, and the time that a school was forced to remove from display a copy of the Ten Commandments that a previous graduating class had gifted to the school. On these, I am with him totally that we must put a stop to such injustice, but then he goes on to say stuff like this:
Speaking of Jesus, he says, “he asked us to bring the Kingdom into the world around us through every means possible, including, if possible, political means.” Do we bring forth the Kingdom or does God do it, drawing all men unto himself when we show Jesus? Are we to bring forth the Kingdom by sinful means? What does it mean to “render unto Caesar”?
He says that Godless politicians removed God from public schools. In some cases, they tried, but in most cases, they merely stopped inappropriately bringing him into it. Just as you would never go to a dentist to buy flower seeds, you wouldn’t go to a school to learn about God. That’s what churches are for. Schools are for math, science, and geography. The real problem is that there is no way that we could bring God into the schools that would be acceptable by Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and everyone else in the community. We shouldn’t be so arrogant to think we have the only correct model.
He says we should vote for politicians that will “promote policies designed to strengthen families.” Strengthen families? Or get out of the way and stop breaking families up? Families should never be allowed to become dependent on the government.
He says, “through politics the government liberalized sexuality, removing it from the confines of marriage.” Did government do that? Or did individual sinners do that while government did nothing to stop it? There is a big difference. He talks a lot about how no-fault divorce made our culture worse, but which is worse? A modern divorce? Or a spouse who commits abuse or adultery first in order to have grounds for a divorce they wanted anyways? Keeping people trapped in marriages does not make them better people. Only Jesus can make them better people.
I bought the book hoping for JESUS politics; what I got was Jesus POLITICS.
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My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.