I’ve written before on other blogs about my annoyance with politicians who occasionally abandon their otherwise ubiquitous disdain for religion, specifically Christianity, for infrequent attempts to cite it as a reason for foisting their [leftist] views upon the rest of us.
Whether it was Obama talking about a “partnership with God” in a phone call with rabbis, stumping for Obamacare, Al Gore mangling scripture in a clumsy attempt to shill indulgences for his Church of Gaia Carbon credits, or Chief Lizzie Warren quoting scripture to justify government strengthening and expanding reliance on government, in the name of love and compassion, of course, there seems to be a stunning lack of self-awareness from “the smartest people in the room”, who can barely conceal their resentment for something they have been largely unable to successfully co-opt.
I found myself pondering this last Sunday, as my mind chewed on it, rather than the sermon. “Collective Salvation” has been a term that has been like sand in my shorts from the first minute I heard it, primarily because I think it is a perfect illustration of everything they get wrong about Christianity. My conversations with those who show the most enthusiasm about the concept have done nothing to convince me otherwise.
Salvation is an individual concept. A walk through the concordance of any Bible should make this plain to anyone with an attention span longer than that of a gnat. One of the clearest points of scripture on this is found in Psalm 27:1.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
I can understand that this is a difficult point for non-Christians to fully grasp. They hear about a Savior that gave his life to save the world, and it would be very easy to view it in the frame that the peddlers of collective salvation want to confine it to. But the fact is that while it was a gift that was freely given…the greatest gift ever given, it must be accepted for it to be fulfilled, and that acceptance is an individual decision. This is distinguishable from what politicians are trying to sell when they speak of “collective salvation”, for three important reasons.
First, because what Christ gave belonged to him, and him alone. He didn’t collect it from others, with the force of the state available to compel what wasn’t freely given to him so he could give it to others. Contrast this with the “collective salvation” promised by those who freely utter the term.
Secondly, he didn’t make any distinction about who could receive his gift, or how much of it a particular person could have. Salvation wasn’t for those most favored in God’s eyes; indeed, one of the great tragedies is that God’s chosen people to this day, with some exceptions, largely reject the notion that Christ was the Savior at all. He himself noted that he brought it for all the world. Income wasn’t a factor. He dined with Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector. He cured the blind, and lepers. He brought his news to a harlot. He died in the company of thieves. The “collective salvation” promised by politicians does the opposite. It decides that some people should have more of government’s “help” than others, but this decision is based on the idea that some people are incapable of succeeding on their own, and then structures its “help” in a way to make sure that the recipients come to think the same way. He brought his salvation because he could see that everyone had the same need for what he had, and because he loved everyone equally. Politicians will certainly make sure to bring the ‘help” they promise, but they don’t want to spend any more time than they have to with those they “help”.
Third, the choice to make this gift belonged to him. When politicians bring “collective salvation”, they cast their benevolence as a “moral imperative”, regardless of the lack of accountability for how it is expended, or an expectation that the recipients will make any effort to change themselves or their behavior. As the benefactors of this “collective salvation”, our participation and assent to this squandering of resources to create dependence is presumed, and our character is questioned, and ruthlessly besmirched if we deign to question this benevolence practiced in our name. That would be insulting, but bearable if that were the extent of it. However, these servants then claim the mitre as well as the sceptre, and will adopt their most studious pose as they read a scripture verse or two, and pretend that these selective readings exist in a vacuum, without any understanding of context, support what we know better than to meekly accept. It isn’t the ignorance that is insulting; it’s the lecture on it that is tough to take.
The trends since the Everson decision, and its repugnant misreading of Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” hasn’t just warped the anti-theist’s views on the roles of religion and government; I’ve come to understand that it has warped those views of many religious people as well. The anti-theists believe that religion has no role in government; the religious believe that it should play a much greater role. The more I read the private papers of the Founders, and the Bible itself, the more I come to the conclusion that religion needs to be part of the lives of the individuals in government. There is a difference between the state as church, and church members participating in the governance of the state, just as there is a difference between individually accepting and acknowledging the Savior, and corporate worship and service of that same Savior with others. Those who are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling will not be obsessed with forcing others to change the minutia of their lives to conform with their own ideas of what is “nice”, but they will consider their actions through a prism of right and wrong, and the effect they will have on society. I don’t believe that this nuance is beyond the understanding of those who wish to employ “collective salvation”; I believe that acting in accordance with understanding would interfere with their agenda and their own power.