We have become increasingly suspicious of others over the past decade, no doubt connected to the internet’s constant flow of information. Spend a few minutes on social media, then you will hear every opinion under the sun. The most sensational it is, the more we stare or leer. Soon, we find that government and friend alike must be up to some nefarious ends.
Such suspicion makes us fear others (and so isolate) and be angry at others who fail us.
Suspicion Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
In the latter case, our expectation of the government or group or person’s failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since we do not think they will succeed and are nefarious at the core, we do not contribute or join them to make a positive change. Then time passes and tribes develop. A group falls or fails, and the accuser says, aha! I told you so.
But then what if we started without a baseline of suspicion? What if we committed to mutually support each other? Would we not see government or group as part of who we are, a community of people whom we can affect and work with?
Christian, Canadian, and American Thinking
There may be good reasons for suspicion. Christians believe that human beings have been corrupted, and so we expect people to sin.
Americans tend to view a large government as a negative and expect the government to eventually become tyrannical—hence, the second amendment and the liberal notion of freedom of government intervention as being so central to that nation’s DNA.
Canadians have over the last decades adopted this mindset as our liberal left (NDP, LPC, Green) and liberal right (Cons, and now PPC) increasingly argue over how the individual might live and express him or herself in Canadian society.
The liberal left encourages us to define our essence, our gender, at will. They maintain that the government cannot legislate what happens in our bedrooms—as Pierre Trudeau famously noted. Mixed into these notions of liberty comes various forms of social control through law and state planning.
The liberal right tells us that we can have the absolute freedom to do as we will as long as we do not directly harm anyone. No masks, no vaccines, and little government interference. The state should not restrict the freedom of the individual.
Liberalism and Suspicion
We sometimes see the argument used by the liberal right that “my body, my choice” means no vaccines for me in intentional parroting to the liberal left’s pro-abortion slogan. Both draw on the same well, that of excessive individualism. Both want to define themselves absolutely as free individuals with sovereignty over their own bodies.
I have no interest in denying the best of the liberal spirit (and every interest in conserving it!). But what I will say is that the liberal right (conservatives, libertarians, etc.) have increasingly adopted a liberal stance that finds any government intervention as inherently suspicious.
The result is that we criticize without contributing, and we self-fulfill our own prophecies of how bad the other is. If we don’t contribute to society, even society with whom we disagree, it will never improve. We either become afraid of it or angry at it and so isolate ourselves from any real contribution.
Christianity and Suspicion
To live in this way means that we live a vicious lie. Tragically, many Christians have adopted such suspicion into their worldview, cutting themselves off from any influence in society. If people are not converted, they must be totally my enemy, we think.
But God told the exiles to seek the city’s welfare: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7). And he reigns over all creation, whether they admit it or not. His rule is not limited by our will.
He orders and ordains all authority in heaven and earth (Rom 13:1–3). And so a magistrate “is God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4). As Polyander, the great reformed thinker of Leiden once said, the reformed see the greatest possible harmony between church and state.
Now nobody is naive enough to think that state’s cannot be evil or persecute Christians or fail to live up to their calling. No Christian should obey a pastor or politician who commands him or her to sin.
An Organic Society
The point is that society has an organic connection through and through, and God ordains and institutes all authority. So we must find ways to fit into that organic unity, in whatever reality we find ourselves. We might find ourselves as a hidden, underground church, within an authority structure corrupted by evil; we find ourselves in a more comfortable position with legal authorization to practice our faith.
Church history tells us of all sorts of situations such as these. The point though is that we avoid the suspicion that so harms our souls and society. Shall we let fear win over our hearts and cower from the state? Or can we commit ourselves to each other and the welfare of our nation? To do so might mean we pick up the spade and work to mend bridges, literal and metaphorical.
Shall we rest in anger and disdain at the state or others who disagree with us? Or shall we destroy this isolationist notion and do our part in society.
We live in two kingdoms after all—or rather one reign under Christ distinguished by our duties in creation and in church. We pay taxes and order our outward lives according to the regulations of our society—we don’t speed, etc.
But our conscience along with Word and Sacraments belong to the church, to the body of Christ with him as our head.
Such a distinction allows us to honour Christ the Lord of creation, not just of the hearts of the saved. He now reigns in Canada and the USA. He reigns everywhere over Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar as well as the First Baptist Church down the road.
To claim that he only reigns where his law is obeyed minimizes God’s reign over creation.
Nature proclaims God’s glory, and we are without excuse when we do not recognize it. But that reign is real. We all live by the law of God, whether we obey it or deny it, since that law is written on our hearts through nature, and the light of nature perceives it.
On this, see any reformed or classical Christian writings. It is a universal or nearly universal way to put things.
In the end, undue suspicion of the state and others undercuts our ability to seek the welfare of our nation and live without fear and anger.