“Everything is politics.”  Thomas Mann originally wrote it, but it has become a common mantra in the last few years. In another age, this would be seen to be ridiculous. For example, the most hated vegetables, according to surveys, are lima beans and brussels sprouts. I happen to enjoy both of those; someone else does not. Is that a political issue?

It may seem obvious that such a thing is not. Suppose I said to you, “Not eating lima beans, and eating meat as a source of protein, contributes to greenhouse gases, imposing costs on everyone. And a less healthy diet will lead to extra healthcare costs, and may make the eater dependent upon public support.”

These days greenhouse gases, healthcare costs and resources, and public support for those deemed disabled, have all become a matter of public policy and government responsibility. And all decisions of public policy and government responsibility are made politically, whatever the form of government.

Whether we like it or not, and whether we agree with it or not, every new responsibility we place upon government increases the number of issues which will become matters of public policy. Eventually, we come to the place where “everything is politics.”

Just to clarify, I am not taking a position on which issues should be public policy, and therefore decided politically, and which should not. I’m simply explaining what a decade of intimate involvement with politics and legislation taught me.

When I was in church school, I learned about prophetic predictions that one day freedom of worship would be denied by a combination of secular and religious power. In my child’s mind, I could not conceive how a government with freedom of religion written into its very constitution could ever come to that point. But that was at least partially because I believed I was a citizen of the United States, a part of the “Free World,” not some totalitarian state where, well, where political doctrine dictated virtually every aspect of human life.

Add to that my upbringing in a denomination which championed Religious Liberty even for those who did not share our beliefs, and it seemed impossible that we as a people would let it happen.

What I did not realize is that whatever our nationality, our ethnicity, religion, or lack thereof, we all live to some extent in Babylon. When George Orwell wrote his book, 1984, he placed it in a nation called Oceania. He explores how this totalitarian regime suppresses individuality and personal freedom through manipulation of the language using slogans such as, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Even thinking certain thoughts is forbidden and labeled “thoughtcrime.” And thoughtcrime is considered the worst crime of all.

That seems far-fetched. Surely, no rational person in the world outside of Orwell’s book, in the real world we all inhabit, could say anything so obviously ridiculous. Well, yes and no.

For example a New York Times editorial published several years ago proposes to explain when speech is violence.

If we lived in a rational world, such distorted thinking would be obviously false. For the purposes of Babylon, it doesn’t matter whether such ideas are logical or illogical; simply raising the question, “Is speech violence?” accomplishes its goal: confusion. In Oceania, or Babylon, everything is politics. In order to confuse things further, they might turn it around as well, such as, “Speech is violence, violence is speech,” or words to that effect. Like Orwell’s Newspeak, it would be obvious nonsense. One would hope.

There is, of course, no doubt that human beings, sinful as we are, can think and say some truly horrific things. Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that our thoughts can be violations of the Ten Commandments. He said that, though we may never have taken someone’s life, if we hate that person, we have violated the commandment against murder. And even if we never physically touch someone sexually, if we have imagined it in our fantasies we have violated the commandment forbidding adultery.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no difference in the thought versus the act. When someone is murdered, it profoundly affects everyone with any degree of relationship with either the murderer or the victim. And the same goes for physical adultery. Evil thoughts cause great damage, but that damage pales before the devastating and far-reaching injury of the physical actions. Fortunately, we cannot read minds, and do not know the evil thoughts of others. But we cannot ignore dead bodies or broken marriages.

Neither Jesus nor the Old Testament prophets called for the punishment of those who violated the commandments in thought only.  First, we face the obstacle that mere humans cannot read the hearts or deduce the motives of others.

Human justice will never be perfect, and attempting to punish evil thoughts would only make it worse.

That’s why actual human governments limit themselves to dealing with behavior. Or do they? That’s something we will look at next time.

Meanwhile, I’ll have some lima beans. I hope that’s okay.