There was a time, I think, when Evangelical Christianity in North America tended to be dominated by what might be (pejoratively) called a “retreatist” or even “defeatist” view of society. For various reasons, Christians believed that society was headed downhill and there was nothing the Church could do about it, and thus nothing they should do about it.
Then, at some point, we had the “moral majority” countersurge. The importance of voting and lobbying and other political activity was emphasized. (I think also the importance of involvement in real life ministry and outreach was also stressed—for example, we began to see many more crisis pregnancy centers. This was a good thing.)
While this latter view had some great features, I think it also was sometimes misdirected. For one thing, in my experience, it sometimes seemed like the message was going out that all Christians are called to be political activists.
Jesus has been raised up as, is now, and always will be “the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1.5). But it is important that we work for the acknowledgment of his Lordship in a way that is consistent with our witness to it. For one thing, if Jesus is now king of the universe, then we need to show by word and deed that we actually believe that to be the case, rather than slipping into the idea that we should or can “make” him king. The Gospel proclamation says that God has already done this (Acts 2.36; 1 Corinthians 15.1).
While it is true that political activism has some place in the way Christians acknowledge the Kingdom of Christ, making this too much of a priority is practical atheism. It can become a way of life that presupposes that human leverage is the key to how the world can be changed.
Here is a contrasting Christian view of political and cultural cause and effect:
The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded” (2 Chronicles 15.1-7).
While Asa is exhorted to do something that, in context, was quite political, the reasoning and the aims are rather different than what I typically hear about among Evangelicals today. Do you want to see peace on earth? Do you want to see prosperity in the world? Then make sure the church worships God the way he wants and that pastors teach the truth.
The world isn’t changed by human manipulation–not even by Christian activism. The world is ruled by Jesus, and he evaluates and responds to us. Does he see a church living by faith according to every word that comes from His mouth? (Deuteronomy 8.3; Matthew 4.4; 28.20) Or does he see a place of mostly erroneous teaching and other forms of unfaithfulness? When the church is unfaithful, God’s Word says that the world is given over to war and instability and fear.
Voting for, or even electing, the right candidate will not turn the situation around. A new outpouring of “Christian worldview” analysis and “Biblical solutions” are not going to help us. If God finds the Church “without a teaching priest and without law” then all these efforts will come to nothing.
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