Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts on advancing the church by political means

Jonathan Merritt's most recent post:
Steve Monsma, a senior research fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College and author of Healing for a Broken World, recently received a brochure from an evangelical organization. The pamphlet stated,

With strategic partnerships in Washington, D.C., it [the organization] is able to be proactively involved in the effort to reclaim America for Christ. Whether delivering petitions; encouraging constituents to respond to critical legislation with letters, faxes, phone calls, and email; fighting for qualified judicial nominees; or registering voters; the [name of organization] aims to provide a megaphone for the collective voice of Christ's church.

Reflecting on this, Monsma comments, "There is a problem here, is there not? How, according to this brochure, is America to be reclaimed for Christ? Not by Christians preaching the gospel, not by winning their neighbors to Christ, not by Christian husbands and wives creating homes of mutual respect and love. No, it is by political means: petitions, constituent pressures or public officials, working to affect the judicial nomination process, and voting. It is assumed that America can be led back to Christ by political means. But this cannot be right. Whenever in history the church has tried to advance the gospel by political means, the church has been corrupted and the gospel dishonored."

This story was brought to my mind after some recent comments on this blog. I am reminded that over the last quarter century, many Christians in America have developed the belief that our greatest responsibility is to affect change as citizens of an earthly nation. But even a cursory reading of scripture reminds us that first and foremost we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, and our ultimate responsibility is to live as one devoted to the Ruler of that realm. It is unfortunate that so many people get red-faced and wound up in an effort to mobilize Christianity into some political force to fulfill their duties as followers of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, our duties are fulfilled when we live like Jesus--preaching the Gospel, serving the sick and poor, and feeding the hungry.

We have a responsibility to be involved in the political process of this great nation, and if you have followed this blog for very long, you know I take my civic responsibility very seriously. We should rise up to oppose injustices and make good use of our political system. Yet, I am increasingly concerned by the number of Christians who go well beyond this. They fly into an apoplectic panic over political disagreements, reactively fling weak arguments like horseshoes on Independence Day, and demonize any who dare to disagree. We of all people should know that ultimate hope is not found in the hallowed halls of Washington, but in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we spent more time mobilizing people to serve others and share Christ, our communities and even our country would realize the change we so badly desire.
I agree wholeheartedly.


  1. Thanks for the thoughts. I believe the same way, and sometimes feel a little frustration with the Moral Majority (really??) attitude of the 80's that communicated
    "You are sinners" to liberals instead of the Gospel's "We are all sinners--you and me and God has done something about that".

    How do we get away from the right focus? I think that it's pride, thinking that God needs us to implement a better plan than His, basically, The Great Commission.

  2. I agree that pride seems to be the reason. I also see it caught up together with an American elitist attitude (God loves America most). That's not always the case, but they seem to be connected, especially here in the South.