Christians can change the political climate if they will speak with clarity from positions of public service.
Prophets of doom surround us. Many believe that the current political and social order is crumbling because the West’s humanistic foundation cannot stand the tensions of contemporary society. Instead of making Christians fret, this should cause them to rejoice since a society that knows it is in trouble is responsive to suggestion. Christians can do something to effect change if they will speak with clarity in the midst of the chaos. And although things may grow worse, the Christian must take Romans 8:28 seriously: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
The Christian who sees no hope is not living consistently with the teachings of the Bible. We should view the world through the mind of Christ, because he is working for all things to come together for the good of the true church. It is the humanist who has no ultimate hope. If we Christians continue to take the position that we are impotent in the face of the crises we face we will continue to have little effect on the culture.
A woman once told me that although the church may be persecuted, “Christians can go to the lions singing.” Indeed. But we have a responsibility to try to stop the downward spiral before we get to the lions.
When someone addresses a group on the need for Christian action in our society, people often come up to that person and say, “I’ll pray for you.” Now, Christ himself guarantees the power of prayer, but a certain type of “prayer mentality” can be a cop-out. It is easy to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and then go home and sink into an easy chair to watch television. If people who believe in prayer really mean it they will act on their prayers. The apostle James tells us that faith is dead without works.
When the church remains silent on the issues, and fails to act as the Bible requires, it is holding “the truth in unrighteousness.” Christians stagnate in churches that have no external political, legal, or moral impact upon the world. Bottled up truth cannot be effective.
The church must learn to make external the principles of its faith as practiced by Christians during the Reformation and in early America. The truths of the Bible must flow from the mind into the world. False pietism, false “spirituality,” all the exclusively internal activities that so often make up contemporary church life, will bring neither revival nor reformation. We must take the light out from beneath the basket and place it on the hill.
Remembering The Cultural Mandate
The church has a mandate from the Creator to be a dominant influence on the whole culture. In Matthew 5:13 Christ requires the church to be its salt: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again?” (NASB.)
It seems the church has learned, as a successful Volkswagen commercial once put it, “to think small.” This idea must be reversed or it stands to reason that we face difficult days ahead. As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he,” and it is exciting to realize that if the church takes the Bible seriously it can think like God. His plan ends in victory for the church, not defeat.
The first step is to recognize the problems within the Christian community itself. We must remove the beam from our own eye by putting God and the Bible first and recognizing that Christ is Lord over all areas of life. Then we are ready for action.
Politics, the legal profession, social commentary, the press—all fields of communication and academia are open to the Christian. Once we have developed a knowledge of the issues we must keep informed on current legislation.
Politics And Community Action
The most important contribution any one of us can make in penetrating our culture is to become actively involved in local community affairs, politics, and legal battles. If America is to be revitalized or reformed in a Christian sense, it will be done at the local level. Getting involved in local politics will sooner or later mean Christians running for office. This starts with becoming involved in various political committees.
At the local level, committed Christians who understand the lordship of Christ over all of life can have a tremendous impact. I have seen instances where one Christian sitting on a public board composed of seven members tipped the balance on the most crucial issues. Public school boards are probably some of the most important and influential organizations at the local level. They determine which books and educational materials go into the schools as well as the curricula teachers follow.
Fundamentally, the public education system, which includes the entire educational structure up through the university level, must be reinstilled with Judeo-Christian theism. This system is of primary importance because it trains the citizens of tomorrow. At present it is producing wave after wave of graduates who have little or no knowledge of Christianity and who, in some instances, are actively anti-Christian. The secularizing of the public schools has been effectively carried out through decisions removing the Judeo-Christian base from education. Humanist Paul Blanshard, writing in a Humanist article entitled “Three Cheers for Our Secular State,” said, “I think that the most important factor moving us toward a secular society has been the educational factor. Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is 16 tends to lead toward the elimination of religious superstition.”
However, while Christians are fighting the decay of the public education system, they should also establish their own institutions. Christian schools are already flourishing. We must take care, though, that they produce children who know how to affect the world they live in for Jesus Christ. If they don’t, Christian schools will simply be the “religious” counterparts of the secular school system.
Short of running for office, a Christian’s contact with local, state, and public officials is vital. In my involvement with senators and congressmen on the federal level, it amazes me how little input these men and women receive from the Christian community before voting on legislation.
Letter writing is very important—not form letters, but handwritten letters voicing objection or approval concerning a piece of legislation. Christians within the various churches can form local political groups to coordinate letter writing. This means getting organized. One letter could tip the scale on a legislator’s vote.
The most powerful tool available to the individual, and to individuals organized as a group, is the ballot box. If your representative does not heed your advice on the central issues, then unseat him. This may involve running your own candidate.
Where possible, seek out lawyers and judges who are sympathetic to your cause and push hard for their appointment to judgeships. Moreover, by placing pressure on your elected representatives, try to stop the appointment of anti-Christian judges.
Situations will arise when the Christian community, either through groups or individuals, will be forced to pursue legal action. At some point all avenues to alternative action may be closed. If legal action becomes feasible, it should be pursued aggressively. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have taken the offensive in pushing their version of social change onto society through the courts. And they have enjoyed great success.
As a rule, however, court battles cannot be won from a defensive posture. The Supreme Court cases removing Judeo-Christian practices from the public schools exemplify this principle. In every one of those cases, the local school boards or governmental entities were the defendants. They had been sued for establishing Bible reading and prayer in the schools. Moreover, Christian groups did not intervene or attempt to join in the lawsuits, and they in no way supported the school boards in those cases. The defensive posture is clearly a losing situation.
The Moral Majority has proven that grassroots efforts can have a tremendous impact on the national level. No matter what else can be said about this movement, it has used the freedom we still have in the political arena to stand against the state. The ordinary citizen can affect the political process.
We also need constantly to question the influences that surround us. Much of the humanistic indoctrination of society is being carried on by agencies that appear to be independent private groups but which, because of their funding by the federal government, are in reality arms of the state. An example is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS.) Although it provides much good material, it frequently broadcasts programs that favor unbiblical choices.
For instance, PBS has aired “Guess Who’s Pregnant Now?” In this one-hour special, 45 minutes were given to directors of Planned Parenthood and others who advocated liberal sex education in the public schools. In contrast, a few minutes of a film clip from a Southern pastor’s sermon represented the Christian stand. Throughout the program Christians were depicted as being against all sex education and as expecting their children to follow the seventh commandment blindly. Actually, Christian groups are objecting to the promiscuity and amoral standards taught in some sex education programs. The commentator’s denunciation of the Christian stand as ignorant and irrelevant was veiled but insidious.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America is responsible directly or indirectly for much of the proabortion propaganda in the U.S. Amazingly enough, this national organization and its hundred affiliates have received over $100 million by direct grants and reimbursements from the federal government to promote its views.
Your representatives in Congress should be encouraged to remove government funding for such projects. It is certainly not a province of the government to urge such policies. If your representatives do not respond, then it is time to institute legal action to stop this abuse. Do not let a false political interpretation of the dictum of separation of church and state stop you from getting involved.
The basic change in our country will come through the truly Christian family. Because the present secular culture is tenaciously attacking the family as an institution, Christians must take a hard look at what they are doing in their own families.
The family should be the center of Christian life. No activity of any institution (including the church) should get in the way of family life. Parents must develop relationships with their children, and this means spending time with them. There is nothing more spiritual than this. It will not only involve instructing them in the Bible directly, but also in the realities of our culture. They must be educated to be a generation that will vigorously resist secular values and infringement on their rights. They must understand twentieth-century problems so that they can face future crises from a Christian perspective.
Genesis 1:26–28 states: “Let us make man … to be the master of all life upon the earth and in the skies and in the seas” (LB.) This cultural mandate was bestowed on Adam and Eve as a potential family. Intimately connected to the cultural mandate is the command in verse 28 to have children: “Be fruitful and multiply.” God expects us to disciple the children he has entrusted to us.
Law Students And Lawyers
Those who are planning to attend or are now in law school can have great impact on the systems of law and civil government. Much of what is taught in law school today is directly opposed to the teachings of the Bible. It is a secular humanistic system in need of Christian orientation.
Christian law students might well propose a course on William Blackstone or the common law if their school does not have one. This can be done through various student-faculty committees. Most contemporary law schools attempt to cover all the historical bases of law in one three-hour course called jurisprudence; it is not sufficient.
Nor is it easy to exaggerate the role of the lawyer in modern society. The entire American system is structured upon law. If the lawyer who professes Christ so desires, he or she can have a major influence on the direction of the culture. Many attorneys, however, compartmentalize their faith and practice, believing their professions are somehow separate from their Christian calling.
The person who becomes a lawyer must see that he or she has taken on a high calling, and as such, must be a steward of what God has given.
Most New Testament books, as well as Christ’s utterances in Revelation, are letters written to local churches. I believe this is because God desires action to be taken there first. Failing this, God works through organizations and individuals outside the local church. Pastors who have voiced their dismay at the numerous evangelical groups that have organized outside the local church have only themselves to blame. The number and extent of such groups is in essence a judgment on local churches and on the institutional church as a whole, a church that has not fulfilled the requirements God has set forth for it. These words are not written merely to be critical but in the hope that they will be heard. The church has been apathetic about much of what has been going on outside its walls.
The church commonly gears sermons, seminars, lectures, and books to the individual Christian within the congregation. Too often the same ideas are presented to the same people. Christ broke with the Pharisees on a similar issue. He ate with sinners because he came to give them a Christian message. He thus taught that this message is both internal and external. It has to flow out into the world, not be entombed within the church building.
The grave problems in the courts, in the law, and in civil government are the consequence of a century of church teaching that involvement in church activities is important, while involvement in the affairs and institutions of the world is not. Christian pastors must redefine church activities so that they recapture the biblical emphasis that involvement in all areas of the culture is a necessary part of true spirituality.
Our massive federal government is by and large the result of a church that has not taken its duty seriously and provided for the welfare needs of the people. It is a function of Christ’s church to care for the sick and needy. Many non-Christians see no value in the church today because it does little to meet the physical needs of people. If we were a servant church, the need for welfare would be greatly lessened. All it takes is the church serving its proper function: externalizing the faith.
An excellent program for churches to sponsor, but one that is seldom seen today, is a free legal aid clinic for the poor and helpless. As James states, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27).
Most important, the local church, as the pillar of truth, should instruct all its people in the laws and mandates of God. In place of some of the many conferences on how to feel good spiritually, the church would profit from seminars on biblical law and the political system. People could be educated and given the tools to exercise the cultural mandate. The local church should be a teaching institution, not just a fellowship group. Through the teaching church will be born a generation of Christians who know the issues and dare to speak out. It was with 12 men like this that Jesus changed the world.
Taking A Stand
The church cannot be timid in the face of crises. One strong local church can demand respect from the entire community. The world is looking for someone or something that will take a stand. Moreover, the bolder the church becomes, the stronger Christians in general become. The church is not to have a spirit of timidity but of power: the power of God, which is at the church’s disposal.
John W. Whitehead’s new book, The Second American Revolution, war published this year by David C. Cook. This article is adapted from one of its chapters, and used by permission.
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