Missionaries do try to alter society from the inside; while all statesmen, sociologists, reactionary and revolutionary, old-fashioned and new-fashioned, try to change it from the outside.”
A comment such as this helps you realize the nature of the political landscape. It is the belief that to make things better, to get an improvement in the human condition, or even ameliorate the present circumstances, it is necessary for laws to be created and enacted at the political level.
Even Christians at home have given up on the Missionary vision as outlined by Chesterton. They hope and pray for the success of the Missionary in his work of changing the hearts, minds and actions of foreign people through the power of God. Back at home, meanwhile, Christians believe and act in the power of the sword and legislative process to bring about meaningful and lasting change.
According to Chesterton, the Missionary “is the last representative left of the idea of changing a community from the inside; of changing it by changing the minds of its citizens.”
The legislative process in the post-Christian world is a transference of the idea of total government from God to the political order. Men may say they do not believe in God; but they are quick to claim for themselves the attributes of God. Thus the political order, if it does not make the claim overtly, implies that it possesses sufficient knowledge to know the right legislation for a particular situation. In other words, it claims all knowledge — omniscience.
Try as hard as they do, and no one can begrudge them their concerted efforts, they never seem to get it right. Something is missing. So the hole(s) in the existing legislation need(s) to be plugged. This requires yet more legislation. And the so-called middle-of-the-road system marches inexorably towards its ultimate destination – total government, or totalitarianism.
It is common for pastors and evangelists at home to speak of their converts. The mega churches that grow and flourish are an indication of the number of conversions that have been experienced. People are converted, and there is rejoicing. Yet the voters in so many churches still believe that the solution to the problems of our age will be found in the legislative process. They figure that what is wrong with the political panorama is that the incorrect crowd is controlling the agenda. Change the controlling crowd, and things will be resolved. And so our political leaders are sometimes Democrats and at other times Republicans. In Australia, they can be Labor Party at one time or Liberal-National Party at another occasion. The one thing that does not change, however, is the onward march of expanding legislation. This, it is held, is the key to a better future: more legislation.
Chesterton understood the issues well. A paraphrase of his closing comment might run like this: “And I ask for some Pastor to tell me, not merely whether Americans (or Australians) have been converted to Christianity . . . but whether Americans (or Australians) have, in real truth, been converted to anything at all.”
If the current state of politics is any indication, the folk at home have been converted to the idea that external conformity to a non-biblical legislative agenda is the right way of living.
Which is a way of saying that they haven’t been converted at all. They held those views long before their shadow darkened the doorway of a church.
- G.K. Chesterton, Conversion Without a Creed, March 30, 1912.↵back
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