By Richard Allen - October 11, 2021
Finding Peace is a noble pursuit, and one that pushes people to great lengths in our hurried world. People often talk of finding “contentment,” but I think that what they’re really looking for is peace, that guiltless feeling that all is well with their souls, and that they can live in harmony with God and man. At the end of the day, neither wealth or even physical health are a replacement for the “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). The sheer number of wealthy people in counseling, or who have attempted (or accomplished) suicide fully attests that money, fame and fortune can’t buy inner peace. Take for example the “Peace Symbol,” the irony is that its origins are probably from an ancient anti-Christian religion, the symbol itself representing “the inverted, broken cross” (just look at it).
For the believer in Jesus one thing is certain, there can be no real peace apart from the Cross! And by Jesus’ death and resurrection we are fully forgiven, justified, and restored to fellowship with God the Father! We are no longer subject to slavery or fear of death (Heb 2:15), or to spend our lives trying to “perform enough righteous deeds” by law-keeping to gain acceptance with a vengeful deity. All man-made religions have this in common – a desperate attempt to “establish our own righteousness by keeping the law” (Rom 10:3). The peace that Christ gives to those who trust in Him is totally different than the peace that the world promises (John 14:27). In truth, while the world promises peace, it never brings real peace, but only “surrender, enslavement and subjugation” to some ideology with its own set of man-made rules!
Most people know that Islam is the Arabic word for Shalom (peace). And many in the West believe that it only means Peace. But Muslim scholars freely admit that the word comes from a three letter Arabic root meaning: “surrender,” “submission,” “commitment” and “peace.” While it may in theory mean surrender and submission to God, in practice it means “subjugation,” that is the yielding of an inferior to one stronger. It is an ideology that admittedly has world conquest and dominance as its focus. The contrast between Peace and Subjugation may sound strange, but Islam is not alone in the practice of subjugation and world conquest. Currently the world has 5 competing Ideologies that seek to subjugate & rule, or offer Peace!
Those Five Ideologies are: Marxism, Materialism, Islam, State-Christianity and Real Faith in Christ! It’s only this fifth ideology - Real Faith in Christ that offers us actual “peace with God” (Rom 5:1). Throughout history Kings, Califs, Party Officials, Popes Cardinals, Emperors, Emirs, Bishops, Reverends and Wal-Street Bankers have all used fear to subjugate the masses into submission to their rule!
So, you may wonder why I call these belief systems including real faith, “ideologies.” Truth be told – at the end of the day there isn’t much difference between a religion or a political ideology. And you can easily argue that all four of these ideologies have at times masqueraded as a “political theory,” and at other times have demanded their beliefs be believed and obeyed like “religious tenets.” Marxist-Socialist ideology has always behaved as a religion, calling upon its adherents to “blindly accept economic fantasies that just weren’t true,” all for the good of the state no doubt. And Islam, while revered as a world religion, in societies where it holds sway, practices a political ideology of strict obedience, thought control, world conquest and subjugation. While Real Faith doesn’t seek world conquest or subjugation of others, genuine faith in Christ produces life-changing behavior that all around can see. It’s this later concept, subjugation that I want to discuss today, for four of these five ideologies - including State Church Christianity are ideologies of works righteousness that end in subjugation of the masses and no peace.
For fifteen hundred years of Church history, Christianity was practiced as “political state religion.” The true church of the faithful – was often mixed up within these State Churches both Catholic and Protestant, and suffered intolerance and severe persecution at their hands. The State Churches often quoted Church Fathers on “compelling heretics” to repent and join the church, as well as several Reformers who taught a “Two Kingdoms” view of the Church as grounds to compel unbelievers by force to convert. Sadly, many great men who sought to lead and reform the Church had misgivings about their hybrid state-churches, but still stuck with the subjugation model. In the end, it was the Counter-Reformation of the Anabaptists who Reformed the Church from the State Church model. Today, only a few hard-core radical groups still believe that the Church is called to a political conquest. One thing is certain, State-Church-Christianity was more interested in subjugating and controlling their own citizens, and bringing about political peace and stability, than in helping men and women find “peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Only a genuine “life-changing faith” in Christ can offer and provide real peace, contentment and personal happiness. The other four ideologies all promise “utopia and peace on earth,” but end up enslaving men and women into a system of works-based obedience to capricious laws. And submitting in obedience only serves the elite ruling class and not the God in heaven! So you may ask “why I use the term Materialism and not call it Capitalism.” Mostly because Capitalism is still an economic theory that on its best behavior mimics the marketplace, that is - the natural state of things since man was expelled from the Garden of Eden.
You might also call this “sweat of your brow economics,” which by itself is neither good or evil, it’s just an economic reality. Only when it’s mixed with Despots, Monarchies, or the Politically Connected does Capitalism produce evil. There will always be winners and losers, those who get by and those who’re poor in life, Jesus told us as much (Mark 14:7).
Capitalism, while by no means perfect – has done the best job of any system in equally distributing wealth and creating a middle class! It’s no accident that Freedom of Religion and Representative Government by “consent of the governed” happened at the same time. Only in a nation where we tolerate each other’s different ideologies, and let our fellow man worship at his own shrine (or not), can we live in the marketplace together in peace and harmony. And conversely the opposite is also true: Show me a country where there is no Freedom of Religion or Ideological Belief, and I’ll show you a nation which is politically and economically enslaved!
And just so I don’t appear to give Materialism a pass under the guise that it’s a benign system of capital disbursement, let’s talk about the extremes that happen when we pursue things to excess. Due to our physical frames, we have need of materials to live. We all have to eat and drink, wear clothes, and heat our homes. Our Lord Jesus told us as much:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? . . . . Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:25-33)
But let me also say that Materialism goes well beyond “give us this day our daily bread,” it goes all the way to being subjugated by money and the things it can buy. If we don’t watch it, our appetites will own us! The Apostle John tells us:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 2:15-17)
Materialism, in its rankest form only brings slavish devotion and coveting after material things as a way of satisfying the weary emptiness of soul that only Jesus Christ can fill. No wonder the 10th Commandment tells us: “Thou Shalt Not Covet!” Greed for, and worshiping our “stuff” is no less a subjugation of our minds and souls than any of the other ideologies herein critiqued.
King Solomon, lamented the “insatiable desire for stuff” in Ecclesiastes 1:8 where he states:
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”
All five ideologies we’ve looked at have to deal with the reality of the marketplace on some level. And since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women must work and labor for their daily bread. In most cultures, those who work are usually able to provide for themselves and their families. Even in its benign form in Western cultures where it promises free stuff, equality and utopia, Marxist-Socialism still ends up subjugating the masses to the will of the “ruling class” which has control!
Today we find ourselves in a “post-Christian western culture” where the once dominant State Church Christian ideology has completely “vacated the public square.” Faithful Christians find themselves much like the 1st Century Church: “Outside the politic looking in!” And to make matters worse, the newly anointed secular “Marxist-Socialist-Religion-Of-State” has taken the place of Judeo-Christian ethics, and is demanding strict adherence in thought and behavior from the masses to the Religion of the State! Whether it is the latest teaching about Marriage, Racism, Healthcare, Genders & Sexuality, Vaccines, Abortion, Climate Change, or any other trendy pseudo-science “flavor-of-the-week-theories,” we’re told that we “must take them completely serious” and obediently subjugate our minds and wills to the latest political fads of the Marxist-Socialists in control. No one can “opt out” of their indoctrination, on pains of shunning, persecution, or incarceration!
Nothing new here, this is the no-tolerance exclusivism that has been practiced since antiquity. It doesn’t matter what era or people you study, most cultures practice: One-People, One-Religion, One-Political Party, and One Value System! And if you want to have peace in our society, you must be subjugated and join, or be excluded and die. Most cultures don’t practice Freedom and Liberty, they practice Subjugation!
So, what are we to do, how can we possibly survive this onslaught of subjugation and find real peace? I often tell my Christian friends who are shocked at the moral-spiritual slide of our culture: “Welcome to 1st Century Rome!” This is what the early Church dealt with daily as a faithful followers of the “Prince of Peace,” stuck in the middle of the Greco-Roman Empire! So, don’t be shocked, this is the way it’s been for most of the past centuries before modern society temporarily decided that being tolerant and inclusive was better than controlling and subjugating everyone else. However that doesn’t mean we have to give in to “subjugation.” We can, and should use our political freedom to promote Tolerance and Personal Freedom. The Church has survived subjugation many times before. Even if outward subjugation comes to be the norm, please remember: “If the Son of God has made us Free, we are still Free indeed!” (John 8:36) And His peace will preserve and keep us until He comes to set all things right, and perfectly rule the world forever as the “Prince of Peace!” (Isa 9:6)