Bedfellows with the law


In the United States the election season is in full swing. It is a time when people become extremely concerned with what candidate will be elected, the direction of the country, and what they can do to change the course of America. Every four years, the American people revolt against the system and vote in a new leader, or they show support of the system by electing in the same leader (or one like the previous leader). In the midst of all this are the Christians.

Christianity in the last two centuries has been quite interesting. It was paid lip service for most of the 19th century, became quite irrelevant in politics in the early and mid 20th century, and came back into full-force in the early 1980’s. The ‘Religious Right’ was born and attempted to legislate Christian morality.

It was originally a reaction to the issue of abortion, but then began to tackle other issues as well (such as homosexual marriages and the disintegration of the family). As time progressed it began to take more and more stances on issues that weren’t necessarily supported Biblically, such as a Capitalist structure. More and more it found itself in bed with the Republican Party as an ally and not just a co-belligerent.

With this newfound alliance, many Christian leaders began endorsing politicians, taking up political causes, getting petitions signed, and partaking in protests. Yet, the louder Christians became the less irrelevant they seemed. There is a reason for this.

In our pursuit of political purity we forgot one simple rule; individuality. We forgot that legislation cannot change a culture, but can merely hold back the underpinnings of change within that culture. Legislation doesn’t force a person to think a certain way. Legislation doesn’t force a life change. Legislation only forces people to comply with a moral standard. We forgot about the individual.

We forget that if we truly want to see abortion – both legal and illegal – come to an end, we need to reach out to single mothers and at risk ladies. We forget that if we want to see Welfare slowly dwindle then we need to stop moving out into the suburbs, building million dollar idols to our own achievements in membership, and instead focus our monetary gains on helping the needy and under privileged. We forget that if instead of protesting a homosexual rally or banning homosexual marriage that we should instead demonstrate the love of Christ to homosexuals and bring them to Christ, where sanctification can save them from such a lifestyle.

This is not to say the law isn’t important – it is important to challenge immoral laws. One would be hard pressed to argue that William Wilberforce wasn’t an amazing Christian for engaging the law and eventually getting slavery outlawed in the British Empire. This legislative act, however, didn’t change the view white people had toward black people – the segregation, the racism, and the like still existed. The law prevented the action, but didn’t stop the sentiment. In our own day, though we should use the law to ban immoral practices (such as abortion), we should likewise reach out to the individuals.

The only way to cause actual change within a society is to convince individual people that their worldviews aren’t correct and are inconsistent. It is bringing people to Christ – or even in a minimalist view, a Judeo-Christian ethic – that changes a culture and changes a society. When this occurs, the laws naturally follow.

Instead of wondering which candidate will bring about the most change, Christians instead should concern themselves with reaching out to individuals and bringing the change themselves. 

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One thought on “Bedfellows with the law

  1. I full-heartedly agree. In Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s wonderful book “Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals”, they make the point that it’s not so much what we do on November 5th that matters, it’s how we LIVE on November 4th and November 6th that matters.

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