Right Opinion

Secular Ecclesiology

Erick Erickson · May 26, 2017

Ecclesiology is the study of the church. That includes the forms of church government, its leadership, how it worships, its relationship to the people of God and even its sacraments. In modern American evangelicalism, ecclesiology is needed more than ever. With fly-by-night churches built around a single charismatic leader, corruption of church leaders, and community churches spreading like Southern kudzu, evangelicals are losing perspective on the role of churches, their relation to churches and the proper oversight of both church leaders and laity. The lack of sound ecclesiology in many Protestant churches is one of the big reasons many conservatives are migrating towards Catholicism and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Meanwhile, on the political Left, a secular ecclesiology is cementing. In an age where members of the Democratic Party could boo the inclusion of God in their platform and Barack Obama could proclaim the state is the only thing to which we all belong, government is replacing God, abortion is becoming the chief sacrament and tax paying is tithing. The Left is sorting out how government will stand in for the church and, like the Spanish Inquisition, the left-wing Torquemadas will burn at the stake any who dissent. Conservatives are the new heretics.

This is on full display with President Trump’s budget. Under Barack Obama, Congress never actually passed a budget. Through a series of continuing resolutions, the Congress just adjusted funding. President Trump wants to actually govern as intended by preparing a budget and submitting it to Congress for passage. He is dealing with several realities inconvenient for left-wing orthodoxy.

The nation’s debt now exceeds $20 trillion. Barack Obama raised the national debt. If Republicans were to give Democrats all the tax increases they ever wanted, there would still be a deficit and the national debt would continue to grow. Interest payments will continue increasing, depleting money for other things.

Something has to be cut. Waste, fraud and abuse along — presuming they could be eradicated — would not close the deficit. Programs must be cut. The left-wing desire to cut the military is an increasingly irresponsible aspiration considering events like the suicide bombing in Manchester, England. Something, though, must be cut.

As secularism takes on the form of religion in this country, one religious tenet is that the more people dependent on government, the better life is. Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, is challenging that religious tenet. He thinks the appropriate measure for a government program is how many people the government can elevate out of poverty and off government dependence.

Jesus said, “The poor you shall always have with you.” Mick Mulvaney and conservatives believe that means we will always have a class of poor people who must be helped. Secular progressives believe it means we will always have the exact same people poor who will never be elevated out of government dependence. The idea of getting people off welfare and decreasing dependence on government is anathema to people who have come to believe dependence on government is akin to dependence on God.

As a result, there is a newfound hysteria among secular progressives. They are convinced Republicans are going to kill people by consolidating, eliminating and streamlining government programs. If one is convinced greater government means more salvation, a reduction in government means more damnation. This is akin to Christian concerns about saving and losing souls.

Likewise, as abortion becomes the chief sacrament of the Left, letting government cut Planned Parenthood is akin to denying a church of its funding. Conservative areas of the country give more to charity because they have maintained a distinction between charitable aid and government program. Liberal areas of the country are the least charitable because secular ecclesiology has eliminated that distinction and any reduction in funding to any program is an attack on the liberal church.

This leaves us, as a nation, unable to proceed with civility. If one really believes Republicans want to starve old people and throw grandma off the cliff, hysteria and violence are the logical outcome. So too is bankruptcy. The president’s budget is a compassionate budget because it seeks to elevate the poor into the middle class, not keep them dependent. But to the Left, that is heresy.

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