Monday, July 23, 2012

Can Government be a False God?

Governement Spending Per Capita 1800-1990
The size and scope of federal government has exploded during my short life time. The chart at the right shows the growth from 1800 to 1990 in inflation adjusted dollars per capita. It is MUCH higher today.

Expansion of the State happens to the degree that it becomes a God substitute. We worship civil government when we ask it to provide what only God can provide. We deify the state when we look to it  for meaning, ultimate security, ultimate justice, and salvation from the effects of human folly (sin). The technical term for this expectation is "Statism." It is an ugly form of idolatry.

To the degree that a culture moves away from the living God a vacuum occurs. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something will fill it. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Throughout history the State has been the god-substitute of choice. It began with F.D.R. in the 1930s when he began the Social Security program. It was the first significant expression of statism in U.S. history. The State would now take care of the aged, a job biblically delegated to the family.

In the 1960s Lyndon Johnson instituted the "war against poverty." "We will eradicate poverty in our lifetimes," he promised. After 50 years and a three trillion dollar spent on the poor, the percent of those in poverty has edged up from 14% to 14.5%. The State as Savior is not saving. The Bible delegates care for the poor to church and family. Most U.S. citizens today assume the opposite. Taking care of the poor is the State's responsibility, not ours.
The State is a tyrannical deity. The God of scripture only asks 10%, but U.S. Government now takes over 40% of our national wealth, and it wants more! The State also controls and restricts freedom. Like the God of scripture it demands our worship. It will have no other gods before it. We should not be surprised that the State has been the primary persecutor of Christianity for 2,000 years.

Jesus gave us the formular for freedom. "If you abide (obey) my word you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn. 8:31-32). Jesus primary reference was to spiritual freedom. But his words also have a secondary political application. When a culture abides in God's word, knows God's word, and obeys God's word it relies upon God, not the State. The God of the Bible is gracious. He does not oppress. He is not tyranical. To the degree that we worship God, the State shrivels and political freedom flourishes.

As we approach the polls this Fall, let us keep this in mind. Government has taken a massive and unprecedented expansion since Obama came to power. At the root of this expansion is "Statism." Let us pray for our country and vote our conscience.


  1. More scary charts.

  2. Thanks for picking up the pace on your blogging. I really enjoy your posts.

  3. Another good post for the Raven.

    You brought up something I've thought about for awhile--the Bible delegating care for the poor to the church and family. Sometime could you expound on that further--what does that look like presently in our church and what would you like it to look like in the future?

  4. A couple of things came to mind reading this.

    One is trends in the last century that may have had an impact. In national defense, we can no longer fight wars where men bring their own weapons, ammo, and supplies. The cost of defense has skyrocketed and, I believe, we still aren't spending enough or placing adequate emphasis in this area. We will probably pay very dearly on our shores sometime in the next couple of decades for that. Then talk about economic crises!

    Another trend is mobility and urbanization. Proximate extended family groups have been vaporized as our society has gone from agrarian to industrialization and service orientations.

    A third trend is medicalization. No longer is pneumonia the "old person's friend" as an aged frail person recently released from the hospital once told me that it had been when they were a child. For better or worse, the possibility of survival of once catastrophic illness and injury is with us at tremendous expense--one which few families or churches can bear and increasingly fewer employers as well. A blessing, but also a curse.

    These are but a few of the trends that make life and the challenge of governing so much more complex (and expensive).

    But overriding all these is the issue of worldview. We convince ourselves these days are all there is, we die and there is nothing else, and certainly there is no God to answer to. And so our focus lacks the eternal to put it all into proper perspective. We become myopic. Government becomes the answer whether it be democratic, socialist, communist, despotism--whatever. Government becomes hope.

    But, "Hope that is seen is not hope." There is only one true hope. And that requires faith in one not subject to any earthly government.