“If Christians want to advance the common good,” says D.C. Innes in a a review of the new documentary With Liberty or Justice for All, “they should turn to their own hearts, not the government.”
The one statement of substantive political thinking in the film comes from Emmett, and I think it is profound. He describes a healthy political order as one made up of largely self-regulating citizens. “The Founders’ vision was, and because God’s vision was, that we would be … regulated from within. In other words, we’re self-regulated. In other words, when God is being honored, people regulate themselves, not being regulated from the outside with laws.” In language more reminiscent of the nation’s Founders, men are least in need of masters when they can master themselves.
Biblically speaking, we find the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel stating this idea when they foretell the fulfillment of Christ’s redemptive work in the New Covenant. At that time, people will no longer need instruction from without, but instead will know from within what is right and act on it faithfully (Jer. 31:34). “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:27). Of course, that’s an eschatological picture, one of our complete liberation from sin after Christ’s return. But such pictures indicate what we should aspire to embody now.
In other words, what God desires for a politically healthy nation with a strong Christian influence is not a society top-heavy with complicated laws and omnipresent bureaucracy, but a society of decent people who need few laws because their character largely suffices as law and who demand few government services because they serve each other. Bailey suggests that our government would be more faithful to our God and to our Founders if it would protect this character in the people against corrosive economic, cultural, and political influences, and promote it where it was lacking.