I will be the first to admit until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of the term subsidiarity and would have had no use or interest in the unusual word. Yet, I pride myself upon becoming more enlightened day by day. I shall hope if I live to a ripe old age of say, 90, I would always desire to be ever learning. Of course, many factors will significantly impact the degree that can be possible, but God has made humans as thinking beings. For Evangelicals we are to take very seriously the Biblical command to love God with all our mind.
The doctrine of subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. As one example, political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority. This is one of the many reasons I favor the Republican influenced worldview as opposed to the Democratic worldview. Republicans, on the main, favor smaller government while Democrats; again, on the main, favor bigger governments.
Take the subject of education. One of the biggest sources of controversy in Education today is who should be making the major decisions that impact and develop our pedagogical (teaching philosophy) methodology? Again, Republicans believe the local school board is in the best position while Democrats favor the seat of authority to be vested in Washington.
(As an aside, even from a centralized perspective as the Education Czar ruling from on high from D.C. I could fix America’s Education malaise with the quickness with the following implementations)
1) Parental and student accountability
2) Corporal punishment
3) Strict teacher/administration accountability centered on ethics/professionalism
4) Equitable funding for all
5) Compulsory Military/Governmental Service
6) Tax incentive for academic excellence
But now back to this blog article
I believe this understanding (subsidiarity) has some uniquely theological implications for Evangelicals as well. Yes, the Body of Christ is one and our unity is to be desired, maintained and safeguarded to the highest degree possible. There is strength in numbers and there is safety in numbers as well. Yet, there is a corollary solitudeness to the Evangelical life that in some very important ways dwarf these appeals to plurality.
Think with me, if you will. Who is the main source of weakness in your marriage? Who is holding back your church, your company, your family from being great? I doubt as you pondered any of the subjects nary did your name come up as an option. It is almost our self-defense mechanism to always hold others more accountable than ourselves.
If you personally know of anyone who perform relationship counseling of either a spiritual or secular nature, I encourage you to query them how many couple begin a session with something along these lines in response to the question, “What brings you two here today” with the following: “The reason we are here today is because of ‘such and such’ and I am the main source of the problem and want to work on solutions so it can be fixed.”
No, the typical response would be something along these lines, “The reason we are here today is because of ‘such and such” and “fill in the blank of someone else’s name than yours” is the main source of the problem and I want to you to provide solutions so “insert the other person’s name” can get it fixed.
The ultimate mano-mano situation will be the Judgment. We will be judged on that great Day as individuals. So, the people in the pew will not be able to throw their pastors under the bus when they are found lacking in their theological knowledge. Young adults will not be able to lay the blame because their daddy did not love them or stayed around. Wives will not be able to use a Get out of Jail Free Card because they married a man who did not lead the family in the fear and admonition of God well.
Churches will not be able to shift the blame to their denomination headquarters when they are weighed and found wanting when Christ scolds them for not being the Church. Pastors will not be able to point the finger at seminaries when they are exposed at lightweights in the pulpits. Boy, when it is all said and done, we will stand naked and bare before the all-penetrating gaze of Jesus Christ of Nazareth alone as individuals.
All of these truths are crucially important, and I do not want us to lose sight of them, but I want to spend the remaining time of this blog post to apply the concept of subsidiarity to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucially important we employ this doctrine as to how we will respond. This is one of those times you could not pay me enough to be the President of the United States (POTUS).
The POTUS must attempt to walk the tightrope of stabilizing the economy with the need for public safety. Each week it is announced that record number of Americans file for unemployment. This pandemic has affected my family personally. Our son is a physical fitness small business owner in Virginia. His gym has been closed since March with no projected end in sight until August, at the earliest. Not many of us could afford to have no income for six months, let alone a person just getting started in his career.
So, believe me, I get it. Believe me President George Herbert Bush got it, eventually, sadly, after the fact. It is the economy, stupid. President Bush had a 70% approval rating in the aftermath of Desert Storm and Desert Shield but was still defeated by William Jefferson Clinton in 1992.
How is it that a sitting President who came into office as the Vice-President of one of the most popular Presidents in U.S. History (Ronald Regan) and as the President who defeated Sadaam Hussein be essentially thrown out of office a mere 18 month later? Because it is always the economy, stupid!
There is a growing murmur about the necessity to get people back to work so the economy can get moving. Now, I am blessed. I am working from home and will be doing so for the rest of the school year as just today (Friday, April 17, 2020) the governor of Texas announced that decision. There are already murmuring when school begins the 2020-2021 school year it may not be campus based. I know people are hurting and I am in no ways insensitive to their REAL impacts upon the lives of real people.
Yet, there are still clamoring from many people we have to get things moving back to normal as quick as possible in SPITE of the fact there is no vaccine. President Trump announced his three-phased plan which you can Google to find out more information. The question I have pressing when the topic is broached is how we go back to normal without a vaccine (and the health experts give a 12-18-month timeline before one is developed). Even if you wanted to be more optimistic the reality is it will not be this winter, it will be produced anytime in 2020.
The health experts tell us the virus will begin to go dormant as the weather becomes warmer in the summer. It will still be in the atmosphere and people will still catch it and transmit it, all the while being asymptomatic. Then as the weather gets cooler as fall and winter return the virus will once again to become more active and eventually people will once again begin to show symptoms. The cycle will begin once again. Those who are vulnerable health will be at extreme risk.
Yet, despite knowing all of this many people are clamoring to go back to life as usual. I read a news account of people beginning to complain because their summer plans are being derailed. You have got to be friggin kidding me. People are literally dying and people are upset because their plans to go to Disney have to be put on hold
Which brings me to the dilemma that spurred me writing about subsidiarity in the first place.
Our government can make whatever pronouncement they want to make. They can open up businesses and things for the most part can return to normal, but I will not be attending any movies at the movie theater. I will not be attending any sporting events and it really pains me as I am spending a lot of time training I will not be running any races until a vaccine is found.
I am going to adopt a Joshua influenced type approach. I am going to say something akin to what Joshua said long ago, As for me and my house I will not assemble with others who are likely to have the virus. Not because I am concerned about my health personally. I am generally healthy and not part of the vulnerable demographic. I would hate to acquire the virus, not know I am infected, visit my family in Chicago and infect my dear grandmother or attend church and pass the virus to some unsuspecting Senior Adult or any other possible similar situation.
We are living in difficult times and people will come to different conclusions as to what is wise and prudent. If you are not in a regular practice of praying for those in authority over us NOW would be an excellent time to develop this very necessary discipline. I will labor to most certainly pray more for our President and all those who are making the health decisions for our great country.
But, make no mistake. The decision is best left to the individual. Wise counsel requires us to listen to others who are qualified and give strong consideration to their counsel but at the end of the day you have to determine for yourself. As the Bible says, “Let every man be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
In other words, practice subsidiarity as to how you respond to COVID-19. I am not talking about obeying or disobeying any established governmental directive. But understand, the government is never going to order you to attend the movie, it will not order you to attend a sporting event, even when it becomes allowable once again.
I am talking about practicing wisdom to the things that become permissible. Until there is a cure I will continue to practice social distancing and refrain from being part of large gatherings. That includes church, sporting event and race. Right now, my three biggest loves in life.
Let me know what you think. Will you return to the movies? Will you attend sporting event? Will you trek to the mall and shop? If you run, will you attend and participate in races. All the while there is no cure or vaccine.
Until then keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One!