“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Elections are all about policy: Which view of government, of the common weal, of this or that issue or situation will be awarded the opportunity to prove its merit? Government establish policies affecting every area of life, and this makes the political process, tedious and tiresome as it can be, especially important. Christians owe it to their country to take seriously and exercise responsible all their duties and privileges as members of “we the people.” Our votes will help to determine the kinds of policies that will guide the immediate future of our country, and we need to be active in seeking to shape those policies by every available means.
It would be a mistake to believe that public policy is made by government in the first instance. Governments issue policies, but public policy is actually created in other places, other loci, before our elected officials begin working to put them into effect. The loci of public policy-making are three: conversation, publication, and participation. These are the venues where public policy is made, and of these three, the first is by far the most important.
The policies by which a free people are governed are incubated among the people, beginning in homes and neighborhoods all across the country. What parents teach their children to believe, the priorities they inculcate in them, the values they instill – these will have long-term implications for and effects on the policies of government.
Additionally, what people talk about with one another as they discuss issues, candidates, and current events also shapes public policy. As German sociologist Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann has shown, those who are the most active and conversant regarding their views and demands are likely to carry the day in democratic societies such as ours. The more people talk about their issues, the bolder they become. The bolder and more outspoken they become, the more a “spiral of silence” begins to engulf those who think otherwise. Politicians will tend to follow the clamoring and act accordingly.
So it is very important that believers in Jesus Christ make the best use of every opportunity to talk about what is good and pleasing to God. They must teach their children well and insist that their churches assist them in this process. They must learn to think about the Word of God and its applications to matters of public policy. They must not fear to bring Scripture into conversations about contemporary issues, and, when they do so, they should be prepared to show the wisdom of God’s Word and to explain the promise of blessing it contains.
If believers will not use daily conversation – in their homes, their places of employment, among their friends, with their neighbors – they can expect the media and special interest groups to set the public policy agenda, and to impose a “spiral of silence” on any views but their own.
But imagine a nation of scores of millions of people, deeply conversant with God’s holy and righteous and good Word, eager to discuss and able to defend the kinds of public policies it presents. There is more power in conversation than in either or both of the other loci of public policy-making.
In this democracy “we the people” represent the bottom-line of government. Public policy-making begins with us. Believers in Jesus Christ must make the best use of this duty to press for policies consistent with God’s good and perfect will and to resist those which are otherwise intended. Let us study and prepare and work together to make the best use of conversation as the framework and foundation for this important work.
God intends the unbelieving world to benefit from the wisdom and understanding, encoded in His Word, as these are embodied in and explained His obedient people. Knowing God intends this must move the people of God to make His will for public policies known by every means and in every season. Matters of public policy present timely and unique opportunities for God’s people to publish the wisdom and understanding of His Word, and this constitutes the second loci of public policy-making: publication.
Publishing the Word of God for the nations to see its wisdom and understanding presupposes, of course, both that God’s Kingdom people know His Word and that they are walking in obedience to it (Matt. 5:17-19). The knowledge of God’s Word brings forth divine wisdom in our daily lives, and the ways we live out the hope of glory to which the Scriptures lead us will certainly be evident to the people around us (1 Pet. 3:15).
On that basis, then, we must make every effort to speak the wisdom and understanding of God’s Word into issues of public policy, using every available publishing outlet. In our day there is no shortage of media through which we might do so. Local newspapers still receive occasional op/ed pieces as well as letters to the editor. Even national journals of opinion will publish letters that are concise, considerate, and well-written.
But by far the greatest medium through which believers can make known the wisdom of God is the Internet. Websites abound where Kingdom citizens can comment on matters of public policy and becoming involved in blogging conversations in which we may set forth our Scriptural views. Many websites exist in which questions of public policy are given thoughtful consideration by believing thinkers. Articles from these websites relating to public policy matters can be downloaded and copied or simply emailed to friends. We should always make sure to follow-up on any emailed articles, or articles copied and distributed, with a view to seeking to engage in conversation over the issue examined.
Believers should not be reluctant to post their own views on public policy – on their own websites, through email, or for discussion in small groups – and thus to encourage conversation that can affect public policy-making.
No one is going to publish the wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word for us. We must explore and employ every available outlet for putting the wisdom and understanding of God’s Word before the eyes of those who are engaged in making public policy, beginning with “we the people.”
Public policies are shaped in everyday conversations and through the published views of “we the people.” The believer shares in this responsibility for the ongoing work of public policy-making. But public policy is actually crafted, decided, and implemented in the arena of politics – amid the machinery of political parties and campaigns and in the halls and chambers of government. At least some members of the Christian community will follow the Lord’s calling to serve here.
Moses was reluctant to involve himself with political power, but he was made to understand that God’s will for His people could not be accomplished without such involvement (Exod. 3). The same is true today. Christians do not look to the State for anything other than that it should fulfill its calling as God’s servant for good. This requires, in part, that government maintain a peaceable and orderly society where righteousness can flourish, human dignity is respected, and people are free to proclaim, hear, and heed the Gospel as the Lord leads (1 Tim. 2:1-8).
That governments frequently stray from such a framework of goodness will surprise no one. It certainly did not surprise Moses. Christians must be prepared to enter the arena of politics and government, as the Lord leads and calls, in order to work for policies consistent with divine goodness. Moses did not feel qualified for such work; God provides the qualifications His people needs when He calls them to any task.
Involvement in the political arena begins with prayer and is sustained by prayer, for all participants in the process (1 Tim. 2:1-8; cf. 1 Sam. 12:23). Beyond prayer, however, believers should not scorn opportunities to serve in voluntary ways for those candidates and parties whose platforms reflect or are agreeable to Biblical teaching.
Further, some believers will hear a call to stand for public office or to serve on the staff of a public official, and they must look to the Lord and one another for help in taking up such responsibilities.
Still other believers will be led to opportunities than can affect the decisions of political leaders through indirect involvement in the political arena – in the media, for example, or with think-tanks, lobbying groups, and the like.
For the Word of God to impact public policy we must have believers who are willing to serve in all these areas. Thus we will have people on the ground in the arenas of public policy-making who, like Moses, can exemplify and explain the wisdom and understanding of God’s Word.
What role are you currently playing in the paideia – the educational environment – or your church? What are you contributing? What are you learning? Do you think this paideia will ever change unless we all begin thinking more along Kingdom lines? What will this mean for you. Share this article with some Christian friends. Meet to discuss these questions and consider what you might do together to strengthen the paideia of your church.
For additional insight to the work of Christian education, order Craig Dykstra’s book, Growing in the Life of Faith, from our online store. You might also benefit from reading T. M.’s previous ViewPoint series, “The Christian and Learning,” which is available as a free PDF download.