On Pulling Back From Politics

Recently, I’ve seen a few posts on National Review that have to do with the engagement of evangelical Christians in politics, and, specifically, whether said Christians should pull back from that engagement.

To me, this is akin to asking if the mailman should pull back from his engagement with an irritable German Shepherd. Conservative Christians have to engage — politically, culturally, and everywhere else — because of the non-stop, in-your-face bombardment of liberal activists, who are relentlessly trying to take the country to a place conservative Christians don’t want to go.

Besides, engagement is what Christianity is about. I’m sure that, absent aforementioned bombardment, we’d rather be engaging in different ways, but you often don’t get to pick the battleground on which you must fight.

Russell D. Moore address the issue in a way I pretty much agree with:

When we stand against legal abortion, we do so because we believe—because of the gospel—that life is better than death, and that a person’s value is more than his or her utility. We simultaneously speak of justice and of justification, prophetically standing up for the unborn in the public arena while extending the mercy of Christ, through the cross, to those who are guilty. The gospel means we must point to the sin—and call it that—but we do so with a focus that we’re not prosecuting attorneys, but defense attorneys. It says to those who hate us: There’s good news for those who repent and believe. It also means we speak and we vote and we mobilize. We engage on Capitol Hill, on issues ranging from stopping the abortion industry, to protecting religious liberty, to speaking out for human rights for the persecuted overseas. But we don’t do so as gloomy pessimists, continually wringing our hands or crying conspiracy. And we don’t do it as naïve utopians, believing we can organize our way back to Mayberry. We do it as those who weep for those around us who are being overtaken by darkness. We do it as those who are cheerily marching to Zion, knowing that whatever the short-term setbacks, we are on the winning side of history.

That means modeling a Christian political engagement that doesn’t start or end with politics alone. It starts and ends with the gospel and the kingdom of God. Those who oppose our convictions will hate us. Those who want to use our church voting lists as their political organizing tools won’t understand us. So be it. Kingdom first.

We teach our people that their vote for president of the United States is crucially important. But we teach them that their vote on the membership of their churches is even more important. A church that loses the gospel is a losing church, no matter how many political victories it wins. A church that is right on public convictions but wrong on the gospel is a powerless church, no matter how powerful it seems.

Pullback? No. Unless, that is, we mean pulling back to the ministry of Jesus—who addressed everything, body and soul, public and private, political and personal, but who did so with the cross in his vision at every point.

(And special props to Mr. Moore for his nod to LL Cool J at the end of his piece.)