What is the role of government?
What is justice?
Hard questions, but a man should pray what he believes and I weekly pray the following:
We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue.
If a man is a Christian and called to the hard task of governance, he could find no better guide to the advice of Bible and the universal church than this prayer.
Our goal is a culture that truly and impartially administers justice. In this context, justice is giving each man his God given due. It creates a culture where God given rights, such as life and liberty, are protected.
Government mostly does this by punishing wickedness and vice. Simultaneously, however, government provides the space for the practice of true religion and virtue. We have learned from hard experience that this is most government can safely do for Christianity. It must stop evil doers, but also allow for men become true Christ followers . . . a task made more difficult when government coerces forms of Christianity!
These two jobs are sometimes in tension. Government cannot use means to hinder evil that will destroy his or our ability to practice the faith or the ability of others to freely choose to do so.
The Christian in government must act in a manner consistent with his faith. His faith teaches him to loe his enemies. This is why Christian thinkers have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion (in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions) that torture is not acceptable. We punish, but we do so with an eye to mercy.
A commonwealth of Christians would rather suffer than to act wickedly.
I summarize my thoughts on this prayer in a blog series on the last presidential election here.
Note (5:28 PST on Friday)
To avoid dominating the discussion (and because I have a book to write!), I will avoid any further comment on this topic if I can at all!