Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christ and the Political Divide

The one essential and transformative influence in politics was articulated by Jesus Christ. Before his time, and long after, as his precepts were slowly and gradually introduced into the institutions of the West, there was no concept of limited government, as never before had any state or empire other than that of the Hebrews recognized an overarching, higher authority which limited earthly governance.

But, as Lord Acton pointed out in his great essay, The History of Freedom in Antiquity, "when Christ said,‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,' those words, spoken on His last visit to the Temple, three days before His death, gave to the civil power, under the protection of conscience, a sacredness it had never enjoyed, and bounds it had never acknowledged; and they were the repudiation of absolutism and the inauguration of Freedom. For our Lord not only delivered the precept, but created the force to execute it. To maintain the necessary immunity in one supreme sphere, to reduce all political authority within defined limits, ceased to be an aspiration of patient reasoners [such as the Greeks],and was made the perpetual charge and care of the most energetic institution and the most universal association in the world [the Church]. The new law, the new spirit, the new authority, gave to Liberty a meaning and a value it had not possessed in the philosophy or in the constitution of Greece or Rome, before the knowledge of the Truth that makes us free.”

The limitations and boundaries of the state, previously limitless and onerously exacting, including in the matter of taxation, were articulated in that one phrase: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

From that time on, the war against the all consuming power of the state to take whatever it wished from its citizens, was commenced and has been fought over centuries.

That war continues to this day, and is currently expressed by the revitalization of the Right—not the Left, which sees the state in antique, pre-Christian terms as limitless; in fact, as a god unto itself who attributes to itself the divine attributes of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.

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