Friday, September 11, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: The Christian Globalist

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

For the last fifty years, the media has quietly endorsed it. Politicians in every country in the world have worked tirelessly to build public support for it. Mega-corporations love it: who wouldn’t like to have the entire planet to choose from when optimizing for low taxes, inexpensive manufacturing and cheap labor?

Tom: Globalism is officially out of the closet, Immanuel Can. The Economist declares: “The danger is that a rising sense of insecurity will lead to more electoral victories for closed-world types. This is the gravest risk to the free world since communism. Nothing matters more than countering it.”

“Nothing matters more.” That’s pretty clear. So tell me, IC, is it possible to be a Christian globalist? Can we hold such an ideological position coherently and biblically?

Two Opposite Considerations

Immanuel Can: Two opposite considerations occur to me: Firstly, of course, we have in Genesis the Tower of Babel, which in its day was the prototypical globalist initiative. But conversely, we have in Revelation a new kind of globalism, don’t we? So I suppose we might say that it depends on what we mean by the concept. What’s your first thought, Tom?

Tom: Right. The first sort is man setting himself up against God (“Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves”). It’s all about us. The second sort is entirely of God (the Lamb is worthy because he has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”, and has made them a kingdom and priests to God). So we have one sort of globalism we’d never want to get behind, and another sort that we’re absolutely delighted to get behind.

I guess the question arises whether the sort of globalism contemplated and promoted by the EU, by Hillary Clinton and Justin Trudeau and a zillion others is of the first type or the second.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

IC: The “how” is crucial, isn’t it? A global political order is only as good as the means used to bring it about. If it’s the King of Glory, then hallelujah. If it’s human efforts to combine the iron-and-clay of the nations into some putatively solid and healthy whole, then yikes!

Tom: This would be the iron-and-clay version, and I can think of plenty of reasons for Christians to be opposed to it. After all, from Daniel to Revelation, scripture tells us to expect that at some point in human history mankind will do exactly this, and that it is slated to end very, very badly for them. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome all prefigured it, holding sway over much of the world in their day. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue hinted at it and what’s the first thing he does? Sets up his own statue and tries to force everyone to worship it. So I can understand Christians looking at the globalist agenda and looking at their Bibles and saying, “Hey, we want no part of this nonsense.”

But in practice many Christians seem to be very much on board with it. What sorts of intellectual and interpretive contortions might enable a believer to do that?

Rationales from Prophetic Interpretation

IC: Well, Amillennialism, for one, and Postmillennialism for another.

Once you get the idea in your head that there’s only one return of Christ, and thus no difference between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming, and that the Tribulation is not the intervening event but a fait accompli from 70 AD (or some other past period), you’re already in trouble. The temptation is to start thinking that the job of the Church is to improve conditions on earth so as to make possible the Second Coming. And just as the secularists want to see the world unified so as to be subject to their agenda, we can start thinking that “getting everyone together” could be the first step toward ushering in the kingdom of God.

Tom: That’s not looking terribly likely at the moment in anything more than a very, very superficial way.

IC: It’s the same mistake being made by both sides: the delusion that globalization is bound to turn out to be morally “tame” and practically open to their particular agenda.

Rationales from Old and New Testament

Tom: So in the first case globalism is rationalized eschatologically. But we’re also seeing it rationalized theologically. One of the major tools in the globalist toolkit is mass immigration, which is now being openly defended as a key part of the globalist program and vigorously championed by various evangelical groups as being consistent with: (i) the Old Testament instructions to Israel to treat sojourners well; (ii) the teachings of Christ, particularly the parable of the Good Samaritan; and (iii) the teaching of Paul that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile.

All three of these are significant misuses of scripture, but they’re very, very common.

IC: Yes, they are. There is a sort of wide-eyed stupidity among liberal Westerners today, Christian as well as non-Christian. Mass migrations are taken to be virtuous. Every person who comes to the border is assumed automatically to be a true “refugee” and “victim”. And no questioning of this narrative is tolerated. Any questions about that are automatically “racist” or “unchristian”, so far as popular thought is concerned.

Sojourning Forever

Tom: Exactly. But the problem with the first example is twofold: Firstly, a “sojourner” is by definition a temporary visitor, not a permanent resident. In ancient Israel he did not receive full citizenship and a right to engage in remolding the country to conform to his own culture and taste, though he was certainly well treated. Secondly, Western democracies are not ancient theocracies. God was personally present in the midst of Israel, and the Law was a precondition to that Immanence. Modern secular nations have neither the mandate given to Israel, nor the protection of Jehovah’s presence.

The Good Samaritan

IC: Are you suggesting that transferring the “Good Samaritan” metaphor to just anyone might be more a product of secular liberal propaganda than good Christian doctrine?

Tom: Right. The problem with the use of the Good Samaritan is that the Samaritan voluntarily spent his money for a brief period for the very valid purpose of restoring an injured man to health. He was not forcibly taxed to provide for him for the rest of his days. More importantly, he did not invite the robbers to move in next door!

IC: Yeah, I don’t see that parable as teaching us to accept the robbers as “travelers” or “victims” …

All One in Christ

Tom: And the problem with the “all one in Christ” meme is that Western democracies are not the Church of God. Their citizens are wholly incapable of the sorts of sacrifices necessary to live side by side with people of other cultural backgrounds and inclinations, and Christians have no right to demand it of them. We’re already seeing major pushback against mass immigration in the U.S. No matter what the media says, Donald Trump did not create that sentiment. It was already there simmering. Those who push hard for dumping more “ingredients” into the “melting pot” in this political climate seem unclear about how dangerous that could well become.

IC: The flip side to the “open borders” policy is also the dissolution of nations. And there are a fair number of people — Christians and secular liberals — who would argue that national boundaries and distinctions are, if not mere artifacts of racism or apartheid, at least oppressive and illegitimate. How would you respond?

Borders are Oppressive and Illegitimate

Tom: Well, I’m responding here as a Christian in the interest of suggesting to my fellow believers which side of the issue they ought to be on in a democracy, where their opinion is (at least nominally) taken into account. That’s my only purpose. I can’t prove anything to the secular liberal, who does not accept our terms or our evidence. But Christians have lived — and Christianity has thrived — in the most harsh and abusive of political realities. If we have to go back to that, so be it, provided it is the will of God.

That said, for a Christian to maintain that national boundaries and distinctions are oppressive and illegitimate is to fly in the face of the Lord Jesus himself, who accepted the punishment meted out to him under Roman law despite its manifest injustice; who instructed his disciples to “render unto Caesar” that which was Caesar’s; who said, “My kingdom is not of this world” when the answer of today’s globalist believers would be, “Yes, I’m the king of everything, and you’d better fall into line right now. Here come a few legions of angels to sort you out.”

If our Lord did not in any way invalidate nationalism, even when it was terribly inconvenient for him personally, who are we to claim it is oppressive or illegitimate? “The authorities that exist” (not the ones we would LIKE to exist) have been instituted by God.

Identity Politics

IC: Yes, I think I agree with you there. Nationhood is both an OT concept and an NT one. Christ himself says that “nations” will remain a fixture in the future until the very end times, as does the Spirit speaking through John in Revelation. So it would seem daft and unbelieving for a Christian to invest hope in eradicating national identity in the name of some global ideal. Better to get preaching the gospel among the nations than campaigning for the elimination of nationhood.

Tom: National identity is neither good nor evil; it is simply a fact of life in our present age, much like the fact that we do not get to choose whether we are born male or female. It’s one of those essentially neutral things that seems to get the blame whenever something else goes wrong. The secularist says, “I see we are always fighting; it must be nationalism.” That’s a misdiagnosis. Sure, it’s nations doing the fighting, and nationalism is promoted by each government involved in order to get its citizens to take up arms in the first place, but the actual root cause of the conflict is nearly always something else.

As long as we are sinners, we’ll find something to fight about even if you could eliminate borders entirely.

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