The End Game of the Culture Wars
What’s the end game of Christian activists?
What kind of country do you want?
Conservatives — as a general rule — long for a nation where human life, born and unborn, is respected. We believe family means a married mom and dad with one or more children. We want a country where you can live-out your faith freely, not just one day a week in a building.
Justice, order, and market-based prosperity should be the norm. Pornography and racism should vanish.
The list could go on, and any common-sense conservative could write it. Of course, the likelihood of all this happening at once is slim to none. My point is this: What if we achieve all of our goals and America became exactly the nation we want?
Political Victories Aren’t Enough
After recovering from the shock, we’d soon see that our gains would begin to erode. Slippage would happen almost as soon as the victories are won.
Why? Because people are sinful, prone to be selfish and greedy, ungrateful and rebellious. Because people are prone to be short-sighted and fearful. Because human effort will never establish the kingdom of God on earth.
Christians affirm this truth. The God Who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) is not desperately hoping we will someday get things right.
Often, though, I wonder if we remember that our end-game is not a better political regime. Our practice and rhetoric can imply that triumph is in our grasp — if only we “give today to stop the Liberal Agenda!”, elect the “right” people, and pass the “right” laws.
What if we achieve all of our political goals? Slippage would happen almost as soon as the victories are won.
We worship a false god if we think that political action can “reclaim America” (from what, exactly, is never made clear). Our political opponents believe as strongly in their vision of public life as we do in ours and won’t slink away because they’ve lost an election. If you disagree, just watch MSNBC for a half-hour or so.
Left and Right oppose not just one another’s policies, legislation, and court decisions but hold to entirely different understandings of life and the world. From differences on the very existence of truth to what freedom means, the Left and Right look at one another over a yawning and hostile gap. The idea that with a bit more work in our churches and at the polls we will begin to become a Christian republic is plain silly.
Additionally, there is a difference between a good America and a Godly America. A decent society that esteems life, liberty, property, and virtue is distinct from one in which Jesus is recognized nationally as Lord.
More and Much Better
So, what’s the end game of Christian activists? To restore America to an Eisenhower-era kind of suburban serenity? To win enough elections that liberals will eventually shrug their shoulders, give up, and move to, say, Canada? To continually nurture their shock and shame over what America is becoming? To look longingly at the past and turn good memories into glorious myths?
Our Constitution is worth defending, as I have written about elsewhere. A limited government, a strong defense, and a just and safe society are important. So is what Washington called “ordered liberty” in all areas of life. These things mirror the Bible’s teaching about the role of government. We should advance and defend them with wisdom and courage.
Yet aiming for comprehensive American renewal is too small a goal for people redeemed for eternity.
Our involvement in public life should be about something more. More and much better.
Let me suggest three things Christians should do as citizens of ours, the greatest of all nations in human history.
3 Things Christian Activists Should Do
First, Christians should engage in political action to stem evil and advance the good. We should fight abortion, racial injustice, the erosion of marriage and family, assaults on religious liberty, and other evils. Not for the sake of some longed-for national millennium but because offenses to God cause harm to those bearing His image. And because public policies that honor human dignity honor not only people but their Creator.
Laws that encourage marriage and discourage “no fault” divorce tell people that marriage is a great value. Good law can encourage a good culture, just as a corrupt culture can produce bad law.
So, yes, let’s work for good laws. By all means. But, again, even if we got all the laws we want, sin would still exist. Resistance to those laws in philosophy and action would be rampant. And our victories at the ballot box, in legislation, and in the courts almost invariably would be partial and not permanent.
Second, churches, Christian ministries and charities, and individual believers should doing good to all men in Jesus’s Name. This includes the people in one’s apartment or on one’s cul-de-sac, the impoverished in the developing world, prisoners and their families, inner city children with little hope, and so many others in a host of spheres and locations.
And third, we should work to persuade using all the tools in the arsenal of God. We should offer kind counsel and clear reason. Our message should be full of grace and truth. We should appeal to the conscience. We should remember that soft answers turn away wrath. We must love our personal and cultural enemies.
These three things should together compose the heart of Christian political and social engagement among American Christians.
Best for Culture: Proclaim the Good News
There’s one thing I’ve neglected, something that should infuse these and all of our endeavors and our whole lives. That’s the proclamation of the good news that God became man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a sin-free life and died an atoning death. He was raised from the dead, and offers eternal life to all who will trust in Him alone for forgiveness and new life.
So let’s not set our sights so low as to forget that this world is passing away. Things that are temporary and fallen might have value, but there is a kingdom that will never pass away. Its King will not be elected and His rule will never be threatened.
Let’s serve that King faithfully, and look ever to the day when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.