The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Putting the State in its Place

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Without a proper understanding of the State’s purpose and function, the citizenry can be trapped into believing that the State ought to promote policies beyond its legitimate role and authority. This can lead to the people turning to the State for protection and security. For example, Adolf Hitler studied the policies of Otto Von Bismarck because Bismark understood the German citizen’s state of mind. Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf: “I studied Bismarck’s socialist legislation in its intention, struggle and success.” William L. Shirer, an eyewitness to Nazi atrocities, remarks in his classic work on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

To combat socialism Bismark put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector.[1]

William F. Buckley captures the essence of the people’s preoccupation with the divinized state: “If there is crime in the street, it is because government does not provide enough day care. If there is unemployment in the steel mills, it is because the government is using too much steel making submarines. If there is a growing number of broken homes, it is because government has not passed the Equal Rights Amendment. If there is tension owing to Soviet deployment of missiles in Europe, it is because the government has failed to lie down with Moscow, as with a lamb.” Little has changed since Buckley wrote these words in 1984. Today, they apply fittingly to the Republicans equally well. We can continue the litany: If there is child abuse, it’s because government does not make abortion an easier alternative. If teenagers are having babies outside of marriage, it’s because the government has not made more free contraceptives available. If tests scores are declining, it’s because the government does not give enough money to education.

Politicians pick up on the theme of dependency and use it for great political gain: “The idol state uses the language of compassion because its intention is a messianic one. It finds the masses harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, needing a savior.”[2]

Endnotes:

[1] William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960), 96.
[2] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, [1983] 1990), 185.

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