Are Christians today Machiavellian? Do the ends justify the means?
The ends justify the means is attributed to Machiavelli. However, the man never wrote that statement exactly. Here’s what he actually wrote:
[M]en judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result.
For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar, for the few find a place there only when the many have no ground to rest on.
Doesn’t exactly run off the tongue now, does it. The sum of the above statement is accurate to the sentiment expressed though.
A side question raised by some is whether Machiavelli was writing satire or was serious. But that’s for another debate.
In the meantime, let’s get back to the issue at hand – Are Christians today Machiavellian in the sense that they believe that the ends justify the means?
One place to start is to compare this philosophy with what Christ taught. Did Christ teach that the ends justify the means? I would argue no. Not when Christ says love your neighbor as yourself, or love your enemy, or turn the other cheek. Or you could point to the Sermon on the Mount, which is all about sticking to the means.
Colossians 1:10 states that we are to live a life worthy of the Lord – hardly focusing on the ends justifying the means. Other passages of Scripture call on followers of Christ to live blameless, to endure all things, etc. The means seem to be far more important than the ends apparently.
So when it comes to politics, why are so many Christians functional Machiavellians? Why is there a separation between how we live our faith out in our private lives and how we live it out in a public, social way like politics? Why do some Christians end up supporting politicians who are in practice, pretty far removed from Christ’s teachings. By the way, this is bi-partisan indictment – it’s not special to Christians in one party or the other.
When it comes to politics, do Christians put aside their faith? And if so, why? Do Christians actually believe what they claim to believe, or is it more just a nice thing to follow under certain circumstances? Or is there a lack of trust in what the actual teachings of Christ?
I don’t know.
I do know that I have seen plenty of examples of Christian “leaders” and pastors who make excuses for their preferred politician and their politician’s actions, words, and policies. Yet, they criticize harshly their opponents for the same actions, words, or policies that are much milder. I can’t help but think that these Christians value politics and partisan loyalty far more than Christ’s teaching. How could I think anything else? How else to explain the throwing Christ under the bus in favor of political preferences?
Not all Christians are Machiavellian in their outlook. Not all Christians value partisan loyalty over following the teachings of Christ. But all Christians sin and fall. I’m no different, nor am I better than these Christians who have confused their loyalties and what guides their life and actions and words daily. I have done the same too.
Why do some Christians become Machiavellian, if even for a short time? I think it goes back to sin. We turn in on ourselves, we doubt the promises made to us, and we think we have to go about life our own way. We think it is up to us to save the world.
Thankfully it isn’t. The job of Savior is taken. He took care of the ends and the means. And he calls on us to follow him. To carry our cross and follow him. To respond to his invitation in living out the calling he gives us for our lives. To focus on the means, rather than the end and to have trust that the end is taken care of already.