I believe Christians should be both spiritually, socially, and politically active. Citizens of two realms, we have the obligations of citizenship in each. To attend to both requires wisdom. On the one hand, we know that the most troubling questions of life cannot be answered in the earthly realm; on the other, we have a duty to accomplish what we can—at the least to make a living and care for ourselves and our loved ones, at the most to demonstrate the love of Christ in material ways and earn our access to the minds and hearts of others.
However, we must be careful of how we let the two realms intermingle. The Church has not been called to rule earthly kingdoms; efforts to try to do so seem always to have led to spiritual corruption. Even Israel’s God-chosen kings tended not to remain faithful, with a few exceptions. Neither is God’s mission to be handed over to earthly authorities. While I believe that Jesus’ followers should be the guiding wisdom of a culture, we must guard against distorted secular influences and overreactions.
One area gravely concerns me. Education is not neutral, and I do not believe Christian parents should entrust their children to non-Christian teachers or institutions. When the United States was largely Christian and supportive of Christian ideas and values, public schools were different, but the present system has become openly hostile to those same ideas and values. I see numerous indications that the agenda of many educators, and the government that supports them, is also hostile to our American heritage of individual liberty; yet, while I urge Americans to attend to what’s happening in the schools, I believe Christians need to educate their own children. Children are not missionaries, and a Christian child in that environment is more likely to be changed than to change the environment. Wherever parents place their children in the care of others, they should be actively involved with their kids daily and vigilant for thinking contrary to the truth wherever it may have been heard.
Many evangelical Christians tend to be fiscally and socially conservative, meaning they believe in less government and lower taxes but oppose abortion and homosexual marriage. For a time, many fundamental and evangelical believers opposed political activity beyond voting; many didn’t even do that, and many still don’t! However, as the influence of Christian ideas began to wane, and the culture began to embrace openly sexual activity and then abortion, Christian leaders like James Dobson and Jerry Fallwell encouraged Christians to return to politics. I say return because early American history clearly demonstrates that most of our early citizens and founders were Christian, more than anything else, and far more dominant than today. The colonists came to escape religious persecution, not religious faith. That the Bill of Rights included a statement against government intrusion into religious establishments (which in that day were churches) only proves how significant the presence of churches was and how much they feared sectarian conflict like that between Catholics and Protestants in England.
The interjection of a phrase from Jefferson’s letter to a Baptist Church was never relevant to interpreting the First Amendment, despite the Supreme Court using it. Jefferson was not part of drafting the Constitution, and the advisory to the Danbury Baptists was actually to assure them of the First Amendment’s intent to keep the government out of church business, not the other way around. The concern those centuries ago was that one Christian group might use government power to oppress others, and the First Amendment was written to limit government, not to deny citizens the right to participate fully as citizens, and certainly not to ban a cross or a creche lest an unbeliever be offended!
Ironically, that very concern has turned into reality; the government interferes in many ways and has come to foster a very anti-Christian spirit in the United States, abetted by the media personalities, educators, celebrities, and leftist politicians. That is a problem that we Christian citizens must seek to correct. However, my concern is even deeper; it rests on the effect that opposing secularists and socialists has on Christians themselves.
Along the course of our history, the Church began to give up certain Christian social efforts into the hands of what they assumed was a like-minded government. In some ways, the schools were first although the shift went from strictly local control to ever-expanding levels of management until now, where the federal government exercises enormous power through the money it controls. From small local schools that were voluntary, we now have mandatory schooling forcing students into government schools with government curricula filled with numerous social mandates, so much so that the quality of basic education is failing. Christian and other private schools and home-schooling provide alternatives, but they are not without substantial cost in both time and money.
Yet, I wonder about other social concerns—poverty, marriage, healthcare, and the like. In one sense, many of these were released by the Church with the belief, held by many, that our culture and country were so “Christianized” that the government could be trusted with these tasks and accomplish more with them. I would like to say that those Christians were foolish, but things were going so well, it seemed that soon the entire world would be Christian, and the Lord would return. Yet, the government was not the Church, and the nature of the various social agencies changed in the process. Today, we hear officials claim concern and make promises while many of us doubt their sincerity, with good reason, I believe.
Christian charity, so called, is when believers moved by compassion tend to the needs of their neighbors. So profound was this spirit in the early Church that Christians began to tend to the sick and injured, rather than let them die, as was the habit of the surrounding culture of the time. Even now, widows and orphans in many places suffer terribly, but those early Christians took care of their own as they were taught; gradually they expanded those efforts. Jesus may have said that the poor would always exist, but that has rarely kept compassionate believers from finding ways to help.
I wonder, though, if the current political divisions and the accompanying vitriol haven’t led Christians, especially conservatives, into a serious misjudgment. Those who oppose Christians and conservatives so stridently often justify their plans and policies as help for those in need—poor, jobless, homeless, and various “victims”—and the role of an ever-growing, higher-tax-taking government. While the numbers clearly demonstrate that conservatives and Christians are, by far, more generous personally, that progressives see their “charity” as what they arrange for the government to do, and that those same big government advocates ignore the failure of those very efforts, despite the increase of programs and spending, I fear that Christians often fall into the trap of opposing or even despising those in need in the process of opposing socialist-style programs touted to help them.
On the one hand, the same programs promoted by the Left at such high cost provide an alternative for us, as well. Why give or care about those who are already being helped? It’s one thing, after all, to see a person or family in dire straights through no fault of their own, but what about all those moochers who suck up federal dollars instead of even trying to work? Why try to help all those single mothers who live in poverty because they chose to have children they couldn’t support without a husband? During the healthcare debates, I heard a growing complaint that those who refused to care for themselves didn’t deserve public assistance. Should we be sending foreign aid to places where some hate us? In the polarizing political debate, it’s easy for Christians to end up on the wrong side, even as they are on the right side.
I have particular concern about immigration. The system is filled with politically correct nonsense, and contrary to the rhetoric, shows little real concern for the immigrants or the needs of our country. It is insane that we accept immigrants from countries that support terror, except those whom we can identify with some confidence as truly wanting to become Americans. The priority should be educated folk who may contribute to American achievement, not simply a new underclass of uneducated laborers for those “jobs Americans won’t do.”
What concerns me most is the attitude about illegal immigrants. It appears to me—and as a tutor for refugees, I’ve seen a lot—that these are the ultimate labor class. Schools do not fully educate them, not even basic English, leaving them with few options. They should be kept out and returned if they manage to get here, but what actually happens is neither that nor full acceptance; and it’s an awful thing to do to kids, for many are unaccompanied minors. Immigration must be controlled; the risks of letting anyone come are too great. However, we have people in need–both here and there–and we believers have compassionate obligations to both.
Along with all the familiar social concerns including immigration is a new one, the matter of Muslim refugees from places where radical terror and Sharia law dominate. We were alerted to this concern through the horrifying tragedy of 9/11. Rarely if ever has a nation taken in refugees from areas where we are engaged in war, certainly not when the enemy is seeking our obliteration, not merely our defeat. The insanity of the multiculturalists’ view that tolerance will prevail over any evil is evident. Islamic radicals are not tolerant, nor are they susceptible to tolerant idea. However, embraced and accepted in the love of Christ, they are reachable with the Gospel. As believers, we must not fear or hate them. Since it is unlikely the government will be returning them to their homelands, we Christians have a mission and a challenge to love them into our spiritual family.
Again, we believers must think before we crusade against illegals or others. Most of them come from dismal hell-holes in third world countries where few care what happens, just as few truly care about what happens to them here. For elitists seeking power and money, through big government with them at the helm, the poor, the handicapped, the immigrant, the suffering folk are just pawns for their self-serving agendas. I agree that we should oppose their agendas, but we should take the lead in finding ways to meet the needs of those less fortunate, in so many ways. On the other extreme, I don’t believe supporting unlimited immigration will, in the end, prove to be compassionate to anyone, not those coming and not those already here. If we lose, in the process of helping, the quality of life that makes the United States capable of helping, then eventually all will suffer.
I don’t have answers for each group, but I have some ideas. The high costs of medicine and insurance are more the fault of interfering government and its mandates than anything else. Government also plays a huge role in the high cost of energy and basic necessities, which of course hurts those in need more than anyone. Federal mandates via the “community reinvestment act” created the mortgage crisis by requiring banks to give mortgages to those who couldn’t afford them; any moron could see how that would turn out. Of course, it doesn’t help that government officials are incestuously involved with banks, investment firms, and businesses (despite Democrat scapegoating those same people). What boggles my mind is the willingness of so many blithelyto trust political leaders who are plainly manipulative, deceptive, or even flagrant liars. Nationalizing and centralizing more and more social programs creates large, hard to oversee piles of money ripe for corruption, corruption by which I believe some politicians enrich themse.ves.
I believe the citizens are well on their way to rying to correct some of this, rejecting ever higher taxes and unbelievably mammoth deficits and national debt. We Christians need to see beyond that to the works of compassion that God has entrusted to us. They’re not the government’s job, and we need to begin to teach that to our neighbors, exemplify the compassionate alternatives, and assert genuinely wise and compassionate leadership in our nation. God has not chosen us to be prosperous so we may live in luxury; and yes, compared to much of the world, that’s what we’re doing.
Remember the parable of the talents? In that story, two servants invested their master’s money, and the third buried it, just kept it rather than risk losing it. What would he have done to a servant who just spent his master’s resources on his own pleasure? That’s what American Christians risk. Restoring our nation to the virtues that made it the greatest country on earth is worth doing; from that heritage came a wealth of blessing to the world and opportunity for countless immigrants along the way. However, we as the Church of Jesus Christ need also to work to the restoration of the heart and soul of that great nation. We have nearly lost it in the throes of hedonism and self-centeredness, not just by the elites or the socialists, but also in the general population, many even in churches.
Guess who may prove to be our greatest allies in this restoration? It could easily be some of those “victims” the elitists so love to claim to be helping. Many in our poorest neighborhoods and others newly arrived from abroad are remarkably conservative, many Christian, and many hungry for the freedom and opportunity that are the key to the American dream. Many of them have heard the same cow flop in their banana republics that comes today from the mouths of our politicians, and they didn’t come here for that! Perhaps in serving those in need we may end up serving ourselves as well.
We Christians would do well to remember that it is less our direct influence on government and more our influence on culture that truly matters. The stronger, healthier, and more virtuous the culture, the more likely our government will reflect that positive culture. I don’t believe government changes culture as much as it reflects culture, but institutions may–schools and universities, advocacy groups, and the media. If God’s people are doing God’s work as they should, then the power of God’s spirit in such endeavors will more than offset the destructive forces, while we are also bringing the love of Christ to the most needy neighbors around us. That’s the path to restoration, and I pray that American Christians will get moving down that path.