The lessons of history
When Charles II regained power after Oliver Cromwell in 1660, one of his contemporaries wrote:
We have a pretty witty king,
Whose word no man relies on;
He never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one.
Those lines were the response to his brutal treatment of Christians after promising religious liberty.
In Tanzania between 1973 and 1978, President Julius Nyerere ordered 11 million men, women, and children to move to waste land from their family farms. When the peasants returned to their homes quietly after a few days, government officials burnt their houses to the ground. But this was all done for the good of the poor.
Russia’s government officials sent cart after cart into Ukraine in 1932 to load all the grain farmed and harvested in the villages. State employees guarded the grain once it was collected and even punished the peasants for not meeting their quotas by taking their reserves of food. Death by government took the lives of nearly 4 million through the state-created famine.
The Xhosa king Sarhili listened to the voice of a teenaged girl who asserted that her forefathers had spoken to her. These spirits required that all the cattle and food supplies be completely destroyed so that the ancient spirits would revive and push out the British and the Afrikaaners. In 1856, the cattle was destroyed by government order. By 1857, starvation had destroyed this once numerous people.
More recently, government employees in the United States declared on 22 January 1973 that if someone has the right to privacy, then they also have the right to murder their children.
In ancient history, one government leader ordered the murder of all baby boys, and 2,000 years later a provincial ruler tried it again. In both cases, the motivation was religious though in both cases, the kings claimed to have other motivations.
One government leader had some wise counselors, but he chose to listen to the fools he had around him. As a result Jeroboam increased taxes until riots broke out.
Daniel had a similar view of government officials picturing them as dangerous beasts set to devour. In the Revelation, another beast restricts men’s freedoms so that they cannot buy or sell without his approval, and the Great Whore is a political power from whom believers are told to come out so that they will not receive her diseases.
The sword that placed John the Baptist’s head on the platter was paid for and authorized by more than one government official at a party with numerous politicians. As a response, Jesus insulted that local king in public.
Time would fail to tell of Saul whose employee murdered 85 priests, or Nebuchadnezzar who threw his most faithful into a furnace because of their religion, or the regional politician who decided to protest his military loss to Israel by sacrificing his son (2 Kings 3:27).
But these were all bad men. What would happen if your president were a truly good king, a man after God’s own heart? Even the best man when raised to power, fell to adultery and hid his guilt by conspiring with other government officials to murder one of his mighty men.
Without taking any pains in research, simply consulting my usual reading, more than a dozen examples of bad decisions from government officials stand before us. Since God would have us to use our minds wisely, then we must take history’s lessons into account when reaching our philosophical conclusions. Government officials commonly make wild, worthless, or even wicked decisions.
A theological lesson
All Christians believe that man is sinful. To deny this truth you must not only close your eyes and empty your mind of a lifetime’s experiences with other sinners, but you must also cut from the Bible the scores of verses that teach the sinfulness of man. Here is one that you may not have noticed before:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
Who are these people? “We… ourselves…” In the next verse it says, “all mankind.”
What are they like? They have mental problems—foolish. They have moral problems—disobedient. They have intellectual problems—easily deceived. They are particularly weak—enslaved. They are petty—spending their lives in malice and envy. And they have massive interpersonal problems.
Only those who have been born again are freed from these bonds. But most people are not born again. Most politicians are not. What then is true about them?
The great majority of politicians in the world are foolish, immoral, easily tricked, enslaved to lusts, wasting their lives, and secretly dominated by hatred.
A conspiracy theory
At the core of an angel is a mind—a center for memory, communication, desire, and evaluation. All this is true of Satan as well as the thousands and thousands of spirits that fell with him (Rev. 12:4). Abaddon, the antichrist, and the other rulers of the darkness of this world work together to accomplish their purposes.
Is there any reason to think that a man is protected from their influences when he becomes an employee of the state? Why would we not expect government officials to be especially targeted and controlled by Satan and his forces since “we know that… the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19)?
The wrong place for confidence
Fascism is a way to think about politics. It is a view of government, and specifically a wrong view. It is a raising up and an honoring of the state beyond proportion. Mussolini is known as a fascist because he demanded loyalty and received it. In this sense, Hitler was a fascist as well even though Germany and Italy had important political differences. As Jonah Goldberg shows in Liberal Fascism, the essence of fascism is placing confidence in the state rather than the country. The country is a collection of people bound together by a common culture. The state is the arm of power that enforces civil behavior.
These days for a number of reasons, our world is particularly vulnerable to fascism. If we read a report from the government, we tend to give it a special place in our minds. If we hear someone is a high-ranking government official, we tend to think they know more than us. If we see a government building, we tend to think it should be glorious. Why do we lean this way? Because humanity is desperate for something solid, lasting. An inner magnet is constantly pulling us toward that which is permanent, even while inherent sin pushes us away from the only true Permanence, the One who does not change (Mal. 3:6).
Further, as capitalism has produced so much wealth, politicians have discovered new ways to redistribute it with the result that the average citizen has come to rely more and more on the government: At first for the military and legal system, then roads and transportation, then schools and education, then hospitals and medicine, then grants and welfare. Where will it end? When Satan has catechized the world with “Trust in the State with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge the president and officials and they will direct your paths.”
The entire book of Isaiah is against this: Trust only in Jehovah for in Him alone is salvation. The history of Joshua, Judges, and the Kings is against this: God gave us the kings so that we would not hope in government, but in God. Revelation is against this: Only Christ can rule the world.
One of the basic presuppositions of a Christian heart is a lack of trust in government because of a lack of trust in men.
This is why we should be critical of the government’s response to COVID. Scripture and history are more solid places on which to put our feet than the shifting sands of a politician’s edict or a doctor’s opinion even if they agree with you.
Ultimately, COVID has been largely a political and economic issue more so than a medical one. It is Biblical to doubt government, and it is unbiblical to accept the government’s words without caution, criticism, or concern. Aren’t those words written by men who—in the most important matters—are foolish, disobedient, and deceived? How much more so when the government pretends to know how to arrange the medical health of all its citizens as well as the entire economy?
Christians trust God not government; the Bible not the bulletin; and the sinless Offering not the sinful office-bearers.
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