The State of the Nation

  Should Christians be involved in politics? In the wake of the failed impeachment hearings, many evangelicals decided that the attempt to bring a moral perspective into the political sphere had proven fruitless. In their new book, Blinded by Might, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson charge that Christians have been seduced by the siren call of politics, and ought to restore their priorities to building the Church. All told, the mood among evangelicals is more pessimistic than I've seen in decades. To turn the tide, we need to understand that this painful deflation of hopes is a sign that our earlier hopes were OVER-inflated. Many evangelicals were first galvanized into political activism by the liberal victory in Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that turned around an entire culture on the most crucial moral issue of the day. The lesson was not lost on moral conservatives: They concluded that top-down political action was the most effective means of cultural transformation. If liberals could do it, so could they. Thus was born the so-called Religious Right, a movement that often made extravagant promises of "saving America" if we could just elect the right candidates and pass the right bills. Much of its political rhetoric smacked of triumphalism. We thought "we had the power to right every wrong and cure every ill," Cal Thomas writes. In short, at its worst, the Religious Right was a mirror image of the secular left. But if earlier hopes to "save America" were overblown, so is today's mood of withdrawal. Instead, we ought to learn from our mistakes and become better equipped-and that means developing a biblically based political philosophy, guided by the classic elements of a Christian worldview: creation, fall, and redemption. The doctrine of creation tells us the state is ordained by God; it is not a necessary evil but a good part of God's creation. Therefore, participation in political life is a moral obligation. Christians must always seek justice and civil order, striving to be "the best of citizens," as Augustine put it, because we do for love of God what others do only because they are coerced by law. But the doctrine of the Fall teaches us the limits of political success. This side of heaven, our accomplishments will always be partial, temporary, and painfully inadequate. There is no basis for triumphalism. Neither, however, is there a basis for despair. For the doctrine of redemption promises that there can be healing and restoration, even in a broken world. All creation came from God's hand, all creation was affected by the Fall, and creation itself shares in Christ's redemption. Salvation is not only about personal renewal, but also about social and political renewal. These principles give Christians an independent stance that prevents us from being tucked into any political party's hip pocket. They also provide a framework for developing a powerful and distinctive approach to politics. As the new millenium approaches, Christians must resist the temptation to retreat. With a Christian worldview approach, we can learn how really to be, as Augustine put it, "the best of citizens"—even in a post-Christian world.


Chuck Colson


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