I found a great book recommended by the Lachlan Macquarie Internship website, which is a place that, if you are a university graduate (or soon to be) with an interest in the intersection of Christianity and public policy, you should check out.
The book is Political Visions and Illusions by David Koytis. Koytis runs through some of the most popular political theories today, including liberalism, conservatism, nationalism and communism from a Christian perspective.
Koytis’ key idea is that all these political theories start with something else other than God, and set that up as their idol. There is essentially no difference between the Canaanites who worshipped Baal and the liberals that worship the individual, or the communist that worships the working class, in that they both set their world up around something other than God.
This is a serious problem for the Christian who wants to develop a Godly view about public policy. Nearly everything we read about education reform, workplace laws or politics is written by non-Christians with a non-Christian philosophy. Therefore we have grown up seeing perspectives which do not put God first, and probably have never seen a perspective which did. Therefore, as Francis Schaeffer asked, how should we then live?
In the last book of his famous Chronicles of Narnia series, CS Lewis observed that mixing a kernel of truth in a lie makes that lie all the more believable. This is very true.
Every perspective on politics, public policy and our world has an element of truth to it. It is true, as the liberals claim, that the individual is very important. It is true, as the Marxists claim, that workers can be downtrodden. It is true that it is good to belong to a nation, like the Nationalists claim.
But these ideologies make that part-truth an idol which will solve all of their ills. Liberals believe that society’s needs are met by an “invisible hand” when each individual is free to do whatever they want. Conservatives worship tradition, and communists set up the state as the final arbitrator of justice between workers and middle-class. That is all wrong. The individual cannot meet all our needs, man’s traditions are not to be worshipped and the state shall not be the final judge. These are God’s roles, which the ideologies try to usurp.
We need to be able to discern the truth in each ideology (idol-ology if you like) without worshipping that half-truth.
If we worship both God and an idol, then we are confused, and our opinion of public policy will be confused too, one moment following God, another moment following a human idea.
I’m finding reading through Koytis’ book is therefore really helpful. I’ve also relearnt in recent times that I need to write down what I’m thinking about what I’m reading, otherwise I’ll forget it. So expect some more blog posts on Koytis’ book as I go through it.