God’s law and the Republican Party

When I first became a born-again believer, I somehow fell under the impression that Christians must also be Republicans when it comes to political issues. After all, it certainly seemed to be a more righteous ideology than the one held by crooked politicians like Obama, Sanders, Cortez, or the Clintons. I knew I shouldn’t be for those guys; but that was the only driving force behind wearing the Republican label: the sole reason that it was better than the other political side.

But was the fact that it was “better” a sufficient reason to jump on the Republican band wagon? Would God have me embrace philosophical pragmatism in order to attain more righteous political policies?

The standard Scripture gives us concerning political theory is much higher than secular pragmatism. Scripture teaches that Jesus is King and rules heaven and earth (Matt 28:18), and he has been placed as the universal head over all things for the benefit of his church (Eph 1:22). Christ’s kingship is not merely ideal… it is reality. God has really made him King over all creation. So it follows that Christ’s will over his subjects should be the governing principle for all nations and every political party. Both common folk and earthly rulers must bow the knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). His will is supreme in all the earth.

But what is His will for mankind? Jesus answered this question by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Every word he says! This means all of Scripture, including the law and the prophets (Matt 5:17). It is by this standard that Christian should judge every institution, whether they be political, ecclesiastical, or familial. If any political party fails to uphold Christ’s law as its governing principle, then it should be revised, reformed, or if necessary, rejected.

The Republican party has a long history of falling short of the commandments of God. In some cases, Republican policy has been in direct opposition to the righteous laws of God. To show this, I want us to look at (1) the distinctive policies of the Republican Party, (2) their historical record of implementing these policies, and (3) what God’s law/word says about these issues.

DISCLAIMER: I do not intend on calling down fire and sulfur upon my Republican brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a loving critique meant to realign political values with biblical ones.

To begin, we will discuss two distinct ways Republican politicians bring in money to fund their many unjust policies. The first one is…

Tariffs 

Tariffs. Republicans usually don’t like to think of tariffs as taxes, but in reality that is exactly what they are. Tariffs are taxes on imports between sovereign states. The primary use is to regulate foreign trade and also serves as a large source of income for the state. There are many misconceptions about tariffs, largely, that the foreign sellers are the ones paying the tariff duties (i.e. money collected under a tariff). But this is not how tariffs work. U.S.-registered firms are the ones paying the duties to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency which eventually goes to the U.S. treasury. In short, U.S. tariffs are taxes on Americans who trade over seas.

From the beginning Republicans haven’t been able to resist imposing tariffs on their own citizens. Lincoln enforced the collection of taxes from southerners who threatened to nullify the Morrill Tariffs Act by threat of military evasion. This Act immediately raised the tariff rate to 15 percent and would soon more than triple.[1] Herbert Hoover passed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, one of the highest tariffs in American history which nearly all economists agree exacerbated the Great Depression. In recent times, the current Republican president, Donald Trump intended to impose duties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from all countries.[2]

Does God’s law authorize such high tax rates? There is actually no law given allowing civil authorities to tax their citizens. The only laws which come close are an atonement offering which was a flat head tax, (Exo 30:11-16) and tithes (10 percent of earnings or possessions) to sustain the ecclesiastical institution (Lev 27:30-33). Both of these laws were of a priestly nature, not civil.[3] God has not given political institutions permission to exact taxes from citizens, thus, there is no biblical defense for imposing tariffs.

God has, however, revealed how he feels about civil leaders who demand a higher tax rate then his own required tithe offering. After Israel demanded a king “like the other nations” (1 Sam 8:4) and so rejected Samuel and ultimately God as leader, Samuel delivers God’s warning to them of the tyranny that would come from the king they requested:

“He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants…He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day” (1 Sam 8:14-18).

As we see from this warning, God considers a civil leader who taxes 10 percent to be a tyrant who enslaves his people. Judging by the aforementioned tariff rates, the Republicans have qualified themselves as tyrants.

Such tyranny through the implementation of high tariff rates has destructive consequences. To make up for the money that is lost by having to pay tariff duties, firms will have to raise prices on their imported goods, making it more expensive for consumers to buy from them. 19th century Economist Henry George described the destructive nature of tariffs best:

Protective tariffs are as much applications of force as are blockading squadrons, and their object is the same—to prevent trade. The difference between the two is that blockading squadrons are a means whereby nations seek to prevent their enemies from trading; protective tariffs are a means whereby nations attempt to prevent their own people from trading. What protection teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war.[4]

Government spending

When the U.S. government decides to expand their responsibilities and add new programs that are supposed to “help” citizens, they must have a way to finance their growth. There are two primary ways a politician does this: If they’re a Democrat, they will raise taxes; if they’re a Republican, they will increase government spending. This second method is just as taxing upon a society as the first, if not more so. The reason is that excessive government spending floods the market with cash, which raises inflation in the long run. This results in depreciation of the dollar, hence the expression “inflation tax.” Those who save money will experience a significant decrease in the value of their dollars after a certain period of time because of inflation brought on by government spending.

The Republicans love this method of financing government expansion. Let’s look at how much government spending increased by the Republican presidents in recent years.

  • Hoover increased federal spending by 38 percent (current dollars).

  • Eisenhower increased spending by 30 percent.

  • Nixon increased spending by 70 percent.

  • Ford increased spending throughout his term.

  • Reagan increased spending by 53 percent.

  • Bush the first increased spending by 12 percent.[5]

And the second Bush increased spending by 70 percent making him and Nixon the most excessive government spending presidents in recent history.[6] The American dollar lost significant value under every one of these president’s terms of office. Both Reagan and Nixon deluded the dollar to almost 70 cents during their terms.

Artificially deluding the value of currency is a form of theft which violates the commandment not to steal (Exo 20:15; Lev 19:11; Deut 5:19). For this reason, one of the Mosaic case laws prohibits the artificial devaluing of money for one’s own benefit. In the book of Leviticus God commands his people,

“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD” (vv. 19:36-37).

This commandment is expressed in a particular example of business transactions where currency and commodities are to be weighed and measured accurately as to avoid theft. However, its general principle is universal and applies to much more than the example given. God gave this case law to restrain the complex method of thievery devised by wicked people.

Excessive government spending can be a complex way of steeling, but it is steeling, none the less. It deludes the value of hard earned money for the benefit of those in political power. Government spending is in essence one giant unjust weight and measure.

Now that we have discussed two particular ways Republican politicians immorally attain wealth, brace yourself because what they spend money on is just as anti-biblical. Let us discuss a few of them.

Corporate welfare

The legendary figure, Robin Hood is known best by his endeavors to “rob the rich to give to the poor,” – a concept adopted by socialist thinkers. Republicans see this philosophy as a violation of our God-given right to property and so condemn it as immoral, as they should. But for some strange reason, Republicans have adopted a concept as equally immoral: “rob the poor to give to the rich business owners.” This is a concept known as corporate welfare.

Corporate welfare is the bestowal of government subsidies to business firms. It is, in essence, the redistribution of the entire country’s wealth, given to particular business corporations. Through either taxes or government spending, everyone – the rich, middle-class, and even the poor all share in the burden of financially prompting up these business firms.

From their early beginnings to present time, Republicans have implemented corporate welfare. Abraham Lincoln passed the Pacific Railway Act which subsidized the building of the transcontinental railroads. Herbert Hoover passed the Agricultural Marketing Act (welfare for farmers), and established the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (welfare for businesses). George W. Bush bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $25 billion of taxpayer money.[7] President Trump has managed to collect $28 billion for farming companies to compensate for their losses from his trade war.[8] The term “too big to fail” is a concept conceived by a Republican congressman, Stewart McKinney. His theory asserted that certain corporations are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be detrimental to the economy as a whole. Thus, corporate welfare was the solution.

God never intended for corporate welfare to be a solution to any problem. Ever since God placed Adam in the garden to work it and keep it (Gen 2:15), earning one’s own living has always been the standing mandate for mankind. God commanded that his people labor and do all their work for six days and rest on the seventh (Exo 20:9; Deut 5:13). Paul commanded certain “busybodies” to earn their own living” (2 Thess 3:10-12, emphasis added). He himself was careful “not to be a burden to anyone,” but rather “with toil and labor we worked night and day,” so that he wouldn’t even “eat anyone’s bread without paying for it” (2 Thess 3:8).

But doesn’t God want us to be compassionate? after all, doesn’t He command us to make special provision for the poor and unfortunate and commands his people to offer the same care He does (Exo 22:21; Lev 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut 24:19-21; 15:7,11)? Yes He does!

But corporate welfare does not fit this picture at all. The businesses that receive government subsidies cannot be considered either poor or unfortunate the same way as the widow or orphan. Businesses do not fail because of the loss of a spouse, or parents. Neither do they fail from physical harm, blindness, sickness or any other calamities. They fail (caeteris paribus) for one of two reasons: (1) the goods or services they provide do not meet the demand of the public, or (2) unwise business decisions and practices. If a business fails for these reasons, than it should be allowed to die off and find some other way that meaningfully contributes to the economy.

Instead, today we see the prompting up (by corporate welfare) of business firms that have proven to be irresponsible or unable to meet the public’s demand for goods and services. This promoting up is financed by either taxes or government spending, both of which are at the expense of private citizens, including the lower class.

God warns of the pattern that would emerge should anyone seek to help the rich at the expense of the poor: “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty” (Prov 22:16). We have actually seen the doom of this proverbial pattern come true as a result of Republican-subsidies.

For example, every subsidized railroad company that was apart of the transcontinental railroads construction (subsidized by Lincolns past policy) went bankrupt. All except James J. Hill’s who did not receive any subsidies. His project is known today as the Great Northern Railway.[9]

Like Hill, Cornelius Vanderbilt also competed against government-subsidized political entrepreneurs. One of his competitors was an Edward K. Collins who wined and dined president Millard Fillmore (part of the “no nothing party,” a precursor to Republicans) and his entire cabinet until they agreed to subsidize his transatlantic steamship business. Collins received so much money in subsidies that he had little incentive to build his ships efficiently and to keep costs down. This eventually ended in his bankruptcy. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, took the lead in the steamship industry and managed to beat all his competitors prices. He ran his business so efficiently that at one point charged his costumers zero and relied solely on concessions as income.

Corporate welfare is destructive and wicked. When it is implemented, it usually ends in bankruptcy. This is one of the curses God brings when the state intrudes in areas of life which God never authorized them to be in the first place. What Hill and Vanderbilt show us is that God’s economic designed is perfect.

Immigration 

Never in the history on the United States has the subject of immigration received so much attention as it does today. Immigration policy in the early days of America were virtually non-existent until the late 19th century and really didn’t tighten up until the 20th century. Now it is as hot of a topic than any, and one that the Republicans have strongly taken a stance on.

Ulysses S. Grant signed the 1875 Page Act which excluded Chinese women from entering the country. Chester A. Arthur passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act out of fear that Chinese immigrants were “stealing” american jobs. A more revised immigration bill was passed by Benjamin Harrison who passed the 1891 Immigration Act which banned “idiots, insane persons, and paupers” from entry. Theodore Roosevelt passed the 1903 Immigration Act which further tightened the restrictions for entering the states and a few years later passed the 1907 Immigration Act which added mentally and physically disabled persons to the list of those not permitted to enter the country. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 signed by Reagan made it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants and established penalties for companies who employed them.

All these Immigration Acts are based on a supposed responsibility that was never delegated to congress or the presidency. The U.S. Constitution does not authorize congress to regulate immigration, only to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” For a party that loves to announce their commitment to the constitution, these immigration laws expose the Republican party’s hypocrisy.

Strict immigration policy is unconstitutional, but more importantly it undermines God’s law. In the book of Numbers, God gave this law to Israel regarding foreigners:

“The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you” (15:15-16, NIV).

This law is given under the assumption that there would be foreigners who reside with Israel. If God assumes that immigration would be the common occurrence in Israel and nowhere prohibits it later in Scripture, then there is no theological basis to justify strict immigration laws. But God doesn’t leave it there. He says that Israel and the foreigner shall be the same before the LORD, and that the same laws and regulations will apply to both.

This meant that foreigners and native-born alike were to have equal standing before God under His law: equal justice in court, equal liberty, and equal opportunity to pursue wealth and personal aspirations. Obeying this command would have been impossible had Israel overrode God’s instructions and set up strict laws that prohibited migrants from entering the land.

After Israel returned from Babylonian exile, God did not change His mind on how Israel was to deal with foreigners. He commands them through the prophet Ezekiel,

“You are to allot it [the land] as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel” (Eze 47:22).

Like the Israelites, foreigners were to have the same privileges and rights, just as if they had been born natives to the land.

Breaking God’s command by enforcing immoral immigration laws has had destructive consequences. Just before America’s involvement in the 2nd world war, a ship called the M.S. St. Luis carrying many Jewish refugees who attempted to seek asylum from Nazi persecution in Florida. Because of strict immigration laws, these Jews were not allowed to even disembark. Instead, they were forced to turn around and head back to Europe where many of them were killed or placed in concentration camps. The U.S. immigration laws during the 1930s functioned as a death sentence for these Jewish refugees.[10]

Americans themselves are currently feeling the inconvenience and loss of liberty from these laws. Border patrol agencies are now allowed to place checkpoints up to 100 miles from the the U.S. border. That area happens to be where the majority of American reside. At these checkpoints, those who are traveling by car are forced to stop and are asked by a government official if they are an American citizen. If they refuse to answer, they can be detained until the agent is convinced they are not an illegal immigrant. Yes, the days when Americans could travel freely from state to state without being bothered by government officials prying into their personal affairs are indeed over.

The social turmoil that emerges from overriding God’s law regarding immigration is endless. Families are ruined and separated. Refugees escaping persecution or oppression are turned away, and liberty is assaulted for everyone, – all because of the abandonment of God’s simple command to love the foreigner (Deut 10:19).

Warfare

Warfare. The Republican Party has always favored a strong military “defense,” which in actuality means “offense.” William McKinley during the Spanish-American war not only acquired Cuba as an informal possession but gained a foothold in Asia by taking the Philippine Islands over from Spain.[11]

Theodore Roosevelt was very eager for warfare. One of Teddy’s college friends once wrote that, “He would like above all things to go to war with someone …. He wants to be killing something all the time.”[12]

George H.W. Bush set the pattern for endless conflicts for the next thirty years with the Gulf War and the Panama invasion. His son, George W. Bush began and never finished the war on terror. Ever since the Reconstruction of the Civil War the Republican party has always been about expanding military force.

God’s law, however, is meant to restrain political leaders from the temptation to build up military power. For example, God prohibits Israel’s kings from obtaining three things: many horses (for military conquest), many wives (to gain foreign alliances), or excessive silver or gold (to fund military expansion) (Deut 17:16-17). God never meant for kings to possess great offensive power.

Instead, God only allows war in the case of unprovoked attacks. (Exod. 17:8-16; 1 Sam. 30:1-18; 2 Sam. 5:17-25; 2 Sam. 10:1-9; 2 Sam. 21:15-22). The exception would be the Holy Wars Israel waged on the nations occupying the promise land. These wars served as shadows of spiritual realities and were fulfilled by Christ and the New Covenant. The normative purpose of war, however, is strictly a defensive measure against foreign violence. It is supposed to function as the penalty for offenses committed by other nations in order to bring them to justice. War is never to be used to expand power or to gain a strategic stronghold on territory.

Defensive war was the standing restraint for Israel and should be the unwavering policy for the U.S. today. There is a particular war Republicans have been fighting that deserves special attention, and that is the…

War on drugs

War on Drugs. In June 1971, Nixon officially declared a “War on Drugs,” stating that drug abuse was public enemy number one. Nixon increased federal funding for drug-control agencies, created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and proposed strict sanctions for drug use, such as, mandatory prison sentencing.

In the 1980s Reagan escalated and expanded many of Nixon’s anti-drug policies. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986 which established mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses.[13]

President Trump has gone as far to say that his administration was looking into changing the law in order to allow the death penalty for drug dealers.[14]

Republican’s take drug abuse seriously and labels those who use them as criminals … But should Christians consider drug use a criminal act? Would God have societies punish drug abuse with prison time or as Trump wanted, the death penalty?

One distinct feature of the civil aspect of God’s law is that there were no victimless crimes. Sins which harmed persons or property called for civil sanctions for violating them, such as: murder, rape, and theft. Some penalties called for the death penalty (e.g. murder and rape) while others may included a fine (e.g. theft and damage to property). Unlike these laws, God has given no command for penalizing the sin of drug use, drunkenness or any other form of intoxication, and so cannot be called a crime by biblical standards.

If God’s law is the standard for justice today (which it is), then there are many people imprisoned today who ought not be. A recent statistic by the Federal Bureau of Prisons showed that 45.3 percent of incarcerations are from drug “crimes”[15] Sadly, this means there are thousands of troubled image-bearers of God, struggling with drug addiction that cannot receive help or ministry from Christ’s church because they are locked up behind bars. This is a system that works against the mission of the Church, and has been pushed by Republicans for years; and must be condemned by the Church.

Application

Maybe now you are at least entertaining the thought that the Republican Party does not have God’s law/word as the foundation for their platform, and in some cases directly opposes it. The natural question then is: Should I renounce my Republican affiliation? To my own admission, I don’t have enough wisdom to answer that question. However, as a Christian who recognizes Jesus as head over all things, I would encourage the following:

  • Learn to despise any political policy that violates God’s law/word.

  • Be more proud of your citizenship in heaven rather than a party affiliation (Phil 3:20).

  • Love and do justice according to God’s standard and not man’s (Mic 6:8).

  • Celebrate when man’s law conforms to God’s law.

  • Treat all matters as spiritual matters (not merely political) since nothing is left outside the authority of Christ (Matt 28:18).

Closing

Since the days of Lincoln, the Republican Party has not changed much. They have consistently stood on the platform of bigger government at the expense of God’s law. Such political behavior has resulted in a progressive loss of personal liberty and justice. Their policies should be condemned by the faithful follower of Christ and His Kingdom.

Being excited about political parties and movements can be tempting, but Christ said to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matt 6:33), and so we should be much more excited about his kingdom and strive to be good citizens and stewards under the rule and reign of our true king, Christ Jesus.

References:

[1] DiLorenzo, Thomas J. “Lincoln’s Tariff War: Thomas J. DiLorenzo.” Mises Institute, 6 May 2002, mises.org/library/lincolns-tariff-war.

[2]Ikenson, Daniel J. “Steel Yourself as Trump Cuts Off Trade to Spite His Face.” Cato Institute, 31 May 2018, http://www.cato.org/blog/steel-yourself-trump-cuts-trade-spite-face?gclid=CjwKCAjwg-DpBRBbEiwAEV1_-NJmZCM7Hg2VWNdRwqCkLQ0Lr7LIoGYx3C2LGZ9rTIM9fwHDkgtz_BoCcUYQAvD_BwE.

[3]McDurmon, Joel. Restorning America: One County at a Time. American Vision, 2012.

[4]George, Henry. Protection or Free Trade: an Examination of the Tariff Question, with Special Regard to the Interests of Labor. Robert Schalkenback Foundation, 1962.

[5]Ostrowski, James. “Republicans and Big Government: James Ostrowski.” Mises Institute, 19 Feb. 2002, mises.org/library/republicans-and-big-government.

[6]Edwards, Chris. “George W. Bush: Biggest Spender Since LBJ.” Cato Institute, 19 Dec. 2009, http://www.cato.org/blog/george-w-bush-biggest-spender-lbj.

[7]Ekelund, Robert B., and Mark Thornton. “More Awful Truths About Republicans: Robert B. Ekelund, Mark Thornton.” Mises Institute, 3 Sept. 2008, mises.org/library/more-awful-truths-about-republicans.

[8]Hiltzik, Michael. “Column: Rich Farmers, Not Mom-and-Pop Farms, Will Collect Most of Trump’s Tariff Bailout.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 28 May 2019, http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-trump-farm-bailout-20190528-story.html.

[9]Folsom, Burton W. The Myth of the Robber Barons. Young Americas Foundation, 2018.

[10]Blakemore, Erin. “A Ship of Jewish Refugees Was Refused U.S. Landing in 1939. This Was Their Fate.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 June 2019, http://www.history.com/news/wwii-jewish-refugee-ship-st-louis-1939.

[11, 12]Denson, John V., Joseph R. Stromberg and Tom E. Woods jr. Reassessing the Presidency: the Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom. L. Von Mises Institute, 2001.

[13]Editors, History.com. “War on Drugs.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 31 May 2017, http://www.history.com/topics/crime/the-war-on-drugs.

[14]BBC News. “Trump Urges Death Penalty for Drug Dealers.” BBC News, BBC, 19 Mar. 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43465229.

[15]“Federal Bureau of Prisons.” BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 3 Aug. 2019, http://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp.

Published by Ben Moore

Hi, I'm Ben Moore, a Christian worldview writer. This site is committed to seeing Christ's kingdom permeate throughout all of life, including the social institutions that God has designed; family, church, and civil government. While Christian churches have been focused on applying the Bible to the heart of the individual, its application to society is often neglected, lost, or even rejected. The content of this site predominately speaks into these issues and wants to discover how God's word applies beyond the life of the individual Christian and to the public square.

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