If you read my last post you’re probably clued in to my personal view on the effectiveness of political activism in regards to the mission of the church. If not, let me say it clearly: I believe Christians should be politically active, yet I do not believe that political activism is the best means of advancing God’s kingdom in culture. In fact, to state that last part more clearly: I believe militant political activism is one of the greatest distractions for the church seeking to engage the mission of God in their culture.
When I’m saying “culture,” I’m primarily referring to “the people who make up culture.” For the sake of this discussion I’m concerned with the people aspect of culture, not simply “culture” in terms of art or food or architecture. Our culture is made up of people, and if you’ve read your Bible lately you’ll know that those people matter to God.
God created every person who walks the face of the earth in His image. Unfortunately, humanity (you and I included) has rebelled against our Creator, choosing to worship ourselves over God (we call this “sin”). The result of this condition is that we are all born lost and broken, disconnected from the God we were created to worship with our lives.
God, who is rich in grace and mercy, sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem lost and broken sinners, and Christ accomplished his mission through his sinless life, substitutionary death (died as a substitute for sinners), and resurrection from the dead. After Christ was raised from the dead he ascended into heaven, waiting for the time when he will come again to complete the rescue of his people from sin and death (we call this the “consummation” or completion of thekingdomofGod).
We are currently living in between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. The instructions that Christ gave his followers (called “Christians”) before he ascended was to “go into all the world and make disciples (followers of Jesus).” That is the mission of the church. We are called to make followers of Jesus Christ, to lead people to Jesus, and this is done through engaging our culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ (through preaching it and living it).
People need to hear and experience the gospel of Jesus Christ because people are lost and broken. Our culture, inasmuch as it has not been redeemed by Christ, is lost and broken. It is the job of the local church, and it should be its sole passion and purpose, to engage a lost and broken culture (people) with the good news and redeeming love of Jesus Christ. When you stop to listen, even for a second, to the cries of culture, you’ll begin to hear a scream that emanates from lost and broken hearts and minds. It sounds faint at first, but if you eliminate all distractions, if you turn the volume down on all the chatter, you’ll begin to hear a resounding shriek that is bursting from the hearts and minds of sinful people groping in darkness.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4
As I said above, I believe one of the great distractions, one of the loudest voices, that the church in America needs to learn to regulate in their lives, is the noise produced by the political arena. Politics is not the best strategy for advancing the mission of the gospel in culture. In fact, let’s just be really clear about this: political activism is a very misguided and poor strategy for attempting to advance the mission of the gospel in culture.
Why so extreme?
Politics is the echo produced by the screams of our culture. As much as some may disagree, the political arena reflects the values of culture; it doesn’t set the values of culture. The laws passed and the judgments made by those in power are not a result of some secret society trying to steer culture into the toilet. These laws and rulings are the result of a culture that is already circling the drain. When something is legislated that contradicts biblical standards and values, it is a reflection of a culture that does not live by biblical standards and values.
Politics and political policy take their cue from culture, not the other way around. Our culture screams and we hear the echo in politics. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that politics screams and culture echoes. Culture screams, people who make up culture scream, and that scream comes out of hearts and minds that are lost and broken. Meanwhile the political activist church spins itself into the ground trying to change the echo, while the source of the scream (hearts and minds of lost and broken people) remains un-touched.
Theologian Vern Poythress observed (in Tullian Tchividjian’s book Unfashionable):
“Bible-believing Christians have not achieved much in politics because they have not devoted themselves to the larger arena of cultural conflict. Politics mostly follows culture rather than leading it…A temporary victory in the voting booth does not reverse a downward moral trend driven by cultural gatekeepers in news media, entertainment, and education. Politics is not a cure-all.”
How silly is it to get distracted by an echo? How crazy is it to try to change an echo, while failing to address its source? Is the echo useless to us? Of course not, it shows us the hearts and minds of the culture we are called to redeem through the grace and gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet to miss the mission because we are all stirred up by the echo is a grave mistake that we will be accountable for when we stand before Christ.