Go Vote, But Don't Place Your Hope In Your Vote
Today is election day, and I voted. But I also had a conversation with a Christian businessman in our city who is dreaming about a foundation that would fund the education of children in the Bluegrass, and I am much more excited about the latter.
Something tragic has happened to the American Church. Our visions of power have been exclusively relegated to the political arena. James Hunter calls it America’s politicization, “Politicization means that the final arbiter of social life is the coercive power of the state.” Simply put, we in American find it difficult to envision any way of addressing public problems outside the political arena.
Sadly American Christianity (particularly American Evangelicalism) has uncritically bought into this politicization. Cultural change is dependent upon the Church’s ability to influence politics in America. We write our congressmen and congresswomen, we resource and organize lobby efforts, we attend rally’s in Washington, we share partisan blogs on social media, we shout really loudly at the opposing party, and most of all we elect Christians politicians who can overturn current policies and introduce new policies—that, in a nutshell, is the American Church’s strategy to bring about cultural change, and I think it’s really sad.
It’s sad that we have entrusted the Church’s calling to be the agent of cultural change to political systems. It’s sad that we have delegated to politicians our Christ appointed duty to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. Not only is that thoroughly unbiblical, it has, and will continue to be, a staggeringly ineffective strategy.
The reason why I sense such fear and angst in the Church today is because I think we know this strategy is failing. The moral decline and rising secularization of our culture feels unstoppable. And the bitter truth is that it probably is…unless we rethink cultural change.
What if we came together to imagine other ways? What if all our resources, creativity, influence, and passion were leveraged for new strategies? After all, that’s what the Church has always done.
There was rampant immorality and injustices within the Roman culture of the early Church. So what did these early Christians do? Did they dig in to fight a culture war with the Roman Empire? Did they try to coerce the Roman Empire to change its ways? No. They humbly walked in peace and submission to the Roman authorities (Romans 13), and in costly ways labored for the change they longed to see.
For example, the Roman state approved and even encouraged infanticide. Early Christians rightfully saw this as a gross atrocity that needed to come to an end. But what could this small persecuted group do about it? They certainly didn’t place their hopes upon changing Roman policy and making it illegal to discard babies. Instead, they went and picked up the discarded babies!
And by the way, after generations of striving to embody and practice the world they longed to see, it eventually changed the politics and policies of the west. And that is the important distinction. From this perspective, politics are the fruit of cultural change not the instigator of cultural change.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m thankful for Christian politicians and their legislative efforts. And unlike persecuted Christians throughout history, we do have the ability to shape public policy, so Christians should never be apathetic in exercising that right. But there has to be other ways to address public issues beyond legislation. The Church has always found a way to stand against injustice and work for common good without the aid of the state and sometimes with the hostility of the state, how much more should we who are afforded liberty by our state to practice our Christianity be hard at work seeking cultural change .
Every Sunday morning at TCPC I look out at a sanctuary filled with unbridled potential. I see the zeal, passion, and creativity of all these college students and young professionals, combined with the resources, experience, and leadership capital of seasoned adults, not to mention an overflowing nursery filled with the next generation! Every week at TCPC the leaders and future leaders of the Bluegrass assemble together, and to me that assembly is far more impressive and dare I say more powerful than the room I stood before when I recently gave the invocation for the KY senate.
I truly believe that. The Church is a far more powerful institution than we realize; it’s just that our power has been domesticated by our politicization.
It was an honor and privilege to vote today. I’m just not asking (certainly not expecting) those I voted for to give me the Bluegrass I long to see. That calling belongs to the most powerful institution this world will ever know, the Church of Jesus Christ.