For nearly two decades I have wondered whether there might also be a unified theory that explains the apparent predictability of politics. For example, if someone is known to be a liberal regarding one social issue (e.g. abortion), there is a high likelihood he or she will also be liberal on many others (e.g. homosexual rights or environmentalism). Conservatives can be just as monolithic on the other end of the spectrum. Of course exceptions exist, but they do not entirely mitigate the predictable tendencies within political allegiances. To explain the predictability of politics, particularly of the liberal persuasion, I would like to posit that a Unified Theory includes a Unifying Moral Principle, a Unifying Worldview, and a Unifying Messianic Entity.
A Unifying Moral Principle: The Fairness Doctrine
Within the heart of every human being is an impulse that directs the moral values of the human race. The touchstone of this moral impulse is the Imago Dei. Having been created in God’s image, we have an inherent sense of right and wrong that more or less resembles the dictates of the Law of God (Romans 2:14-15). At the Fall of Adam, this reflection of God’s image was shattered and distorted. Though broken and imperfect, the image nonetheless remains and still reflects a vague impression of the heart of its Maker.
This broken moral impulse most frequently manifests itself in human societies through the concept of justice or fairness. Justice or fairness is the remaining radical moral impulse of fallen humanity. Justice requires a standard of some sort. The standard for fallen humanity is every person’s sense of self, or ego. By means of this standard, we determine what is fair or just, because we have a powerful notion of what we want for ourselves. We assume that if we would want it for ourselves, we should want it for others just as well. For instance, we do not want our lives or property taken from us, so we do not want lives or property taken from others. By this standard, we determine that things like murder and thievery are wrong.
We can assume that this ego-instrument was in some way an aspect of the Imago Dei, built into us by God’s perfect design. In a perfect, unfallen world, this sense of self would have served unerringly to direct people to do what was right. Knowing how real our own needs were, we would have lived with a constant awareness of others’ needs and, loving them perfectly, would have possessed an unerring standard by which to serve others.
We know that this is the case because when Christ redeemed those who believe in him, he brought them back to this radical moral principle. He clearly stated, “Love your neighbor like you love yourself.” Instead of encouraging selfishness, a redeemed self-awareness should keenly alert us to the reality of the countless egos surrounding us. Christ viewed this redeemed self-awareness as so reliable that he even restated the timeless Law of Love for practical application—“Do to others what you would have them to do to you.”
So the idea of justice and fairness is simply humanity’s way of applying the fallen ego-instrument. To those of us who understand the biblical concept of depravity, the ego-instrument almost seems counterintuitive. We know ourselves too well and have observed countless times our own selfishness running roughshod over everyone else on the way to assuaging our own desires. However, there is a sense in which the ego-instrument still works and should be celebrated, distorted though it may be, as a manifestation of God’s image in the entire human race. When we see people fighting from the depths of their hearts for justice and fairness, we can acknowledge that they would not fight so hard or at all were it not for the simple fact that they are God’s creation.
Humanity is fallen and depraved, however. So we can expect that its applications of justice and fairness would be skewed away from God. Humanity takes what was initially implanted by God, and because it was distorted by the Fall, misdirects it away from the perfect guidelines provided in the Law of God and implanted within humanity’s conscience. We should expect the result to be a severely warped notion of justice. Lacking the redemption provided through the Son of God, efforts to apply the ego-instrument would frequently result in misdirection, imperfection, injustice, imbalance, and evil.
We can see evidence of this radical moral impulse gone awry in human society, providing examples of good things somehow gone bad. It might have some semblance of nobility in its most basic form, but its misdirection by depravity provides for wrong applications and methods. Homosexuals march on Washington for equal rights, believing it unfair that they cannot marry like heterosexuals. Women fight desperately for the right to abort fetuses because it is unjust that someone else should have the power to tell them what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Politicians redistribute wealth, power, and healthcare because it is unjust for the wealthy to have more money and resources than the poor. Environmentalists and animal rights activists anthropomorphize the created order and claim that animals and mother earth are treated unjustly. Nearly every act of government on behalf of its people, for better or worse, is rooted in this radical moral impulse that is built into the heart of every person. The issues or causes of nearly every charity, political action committee, or community organization have the concept of justice figuratively emblazoned upon a high-flying banner. This impulse for fairness exists even in the hearts of the most godless of people, though detached from its moral foundation.
Although this unifying moral principle beats within the heart of all humanity, it lacks a divine anchor. Nevertheless, it drives people to seek justice with near religious fervor. Somehow, even those whose morality is detached from its foundation realize that morality requires some sort of religious connection. Ecclesiastes teaches that humans were created with an eternal aspect to their being so that they constantly seek for answers to life’s ultimate questions. Some have called this the “God-sized hole” in the heart of every person. Ecclesiastes makes clear that apart from God humankind will not be able to tell the end from the beginning and the search for answers will be futile. Therefore the search continues incessantly, only in all the wrong places. This search provides the unifying moral principle with a frame of reference and a domain of application. I posit that this frame of reference and domain of application flows from a Unifying Worldview.
A Unifying Worldview: The Cult of the Created Thing
A worldview, in simple terms, is a way of viewing reality. For instance, some people view reality as if God did not exist, and this belief influences how they interpret the world and everything in it. On the other hand, Christians are fond of referring to what they call a Biblical worldview—one that presupposes the existence of God and the truth of Scripture. It purports to accept what the Bible says about reality and tries to integrate that into every area of life including work, entertainment, social experiences, family relationships, politics, etc. A worldview provides an ultimate frame of reference or a paradigm that makes sense of the world in which we live. Worldviews can be expressed or unexpressed, formal or informal, known or unknown, Christian or non-Christian. Regardless, commitment to our various worldviews manifests itself predictably in their domains of application. Worldviews are unifying.
According to the Apostle Paul, those who do not look to God for answers to life’s ultimate questions will seek for them within the only other realm they know—the created order. They seek to fill the religious void within them by means of things that have been created. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). This explains why some cultures have been inexorably driven to worship idols made of wood and stone. Other cultures may not claim a specific deity but are still driven to give their most fanatical affections to elements within the created order. Apart from the true worship of the Creator, all religious commitments will inevitably aim at something less than the One True God. I have called these religious commitments the “Cult of the Created Thing.”
When the unifying moral impulse lacks a divine anchor, and when it combines with a lesser religious anchor such as the Cult of the Created Thing, it finds its realm of application restricted to the created order. Similarly, the means (enforcer) of application for the moral impulse cannot be divine, so it must also be restricted to the created order. This inevitably leads humans to seek for a unifying messianic entity that will enforce the unifying moral impulse within the limited domain of the unifying worldview.
A Unifying Messianic Entity: Lord Government Almighty
Apart from the redeeming power of God, mankind’s only effective means for forcing the unifying moral impulse upon other moral agents is entirely earthbound. Throughout history, the supreme moral enforcer in all cultures has been their collective authority organized as government. Apart from God and the Church, human government of some sort has always been the only available and effective enforcer of the radical moral impulse. In a very real sense, government is the religious deity of the Cult of the Created Thing. It is the messiah, the savior to which all must turn to enforce the fairness doctrine.
Once again, Christians should quickly see a good thing gone bad. Scripture teaches that government was ordained by God to be his servant, ordering society by his principles. Still, to a limited extent, government does indeed serve this purpose, preserved by his sovereign power and influenced by the vestigial shattered image that brokenly reflects God’s character. But a government that fails to anchor itself in the divine and limits itself to a Godless reality will display the effects of depravity at every turn. Its applications of the ego-instrument will swerve bizarrely away from the divine standard of God’s Law. It will view itself as messianic, as the only adequate enforcer of a fairness doctrine that is uninformed by God’s love. It will become, in effect, Lord Government Almighty, the only champion of the people.
The Unified Theory of Politics Applied
How then does this paradigm explain the predictability of liberal politics? I will now posit what readers might expect from a conservative Christian—some have progressed farther down a path of depravity than others. Their applications of the fairness doctrine are a grotesque mutation of the Imago Dei. They worship the created thing in forms like unbridled secular humanism and environmentalism. They place their faith and trust in a Godless messiah to enforce justice. With a little thought, it is not difficult to see how each thread of the Unified Theory factors into fanatical obsession with environmentalism, climate change, cap-and-trade, animal rights, homosexual agendas, extreme feminism, abortion rights, welfare, universal health care, government bailouts, and Wall Street salary caps, just to name a few. The notion of degrees of progress down a depraved path might also explain why some lie at each end of the political spectrum and why some fall somewhere in between. Those farther down a path of depravity may have more fully embraced the shattered moral impulse of the ego-instrument, the Godless Cult of the Created Thing, and a messianic view of government.
Are conservatives then unscathed by the depravity’s power? I think not. They may not have traveled the same path of depravity and might have been preserved by God’s common grace to a greater degree, but this a far cry from saying that conservatives represent what is right in the eyes of God. The greed of unrestrained capitalism, the supposed freedom of deregulation, the arrogant and evangelistic rectitude of democracy, the entitlement of inalienable rights, and the legalism of moral legislation are only a few of the conservative ideals that have been polluted by depravity. Conservatives, like liberals, still see government as a sort of champion, particularly with regards to moral issues. We suffer from the delusion that government would be fixed if only we would return to the supposed Christian principles of our Founding Fathers.
Depravity has impacted the entire political spectrum. This means that any government regime, regardless of its political persuasion, cannot be trusted to accurately represent God’s perspectives. At the same time, some people will take the country more quickly into moral decline than others. The solution to all this however, is not a simple democratic victory by the moral majority. They will not be able to legislate God’s Laws in a way that fixes the human condition, and they will not be immune from the deforming effects of depravity upon their own rule. The only power and authority to countermand the effects of depravity rests in the Lord Jesus Christ. There will come a time when government shall be restored to its original created intention. That time will not come until Christ rules within the hearts of all people everywhere.