For the past couple of months I’ve repeatedly posted articles which pertain to cultural transformation. In these articles I’ve argued that Evangelical Christians should stop investing the majority of their time and money in ‘top-down’ approaches to cultural renewal (i.e. political activism and legislation) and focus their energy on transforming the culture from the ‘bottom-up.” In the midst of this I also argued that we should break out of our subpar subculture and live as if every aspect of life is sacred–with the understanding that the Christian Worldview has something to say about everything we do. Unfortunately, some people have taken this to mean that I’m asking Christian voices to be completely removed from the public square; or, to put it more plainly, that Christians should just “shut-up!”
Due to this misconception of what I’m saying, I’d like to go on record as stating that I do not, in fact, believe Christians should shut-up and completely remove themselves from the public square. Allow me to explain.
First, let me make a crucial distinction. The topic of discussion has been that of true cultural transformation. The question has been: how can one truly, effectually, and authentically transform or renew a “Post-Christian” culture? The answer could not possibly be simply through top-down methods (i.e. political activism) because they do not cultivate virtue, engender faith, or transform hearts; all of which need to happen in order to effectively transform a culture. This, however, is not equivalent to saying Christians should, therefore, not participate in politics and should remove themselves from the public square. It is simply to point out that authentic cultural transformation does not occur through legislation–something that Evangelicals seem to believe (even if they do not realize it).
The problem I’m addressing is that with all of our focus being on political activism we have largely lost sight of our own personal responsibility to live virtuous and just lives and to make disciples. To use one example I made recently, it is not enough to simply shout and scream and stomp our feet about the nature of marriage: we must demonstrate what true marriage is by living it. The nature of marriage is not determined through a vote, and we are not successfully preserving it within our culture simply by ratifying laws which will be changed by the next generation.
Now, if we were examining the question of whether or not Christians should have a voice in the public square, and participate in politics, my answer would be a resounding and emphatic yes. This should be clear from my recent post regarding the sacred/secular split. I consistently argued that we must break out of our subculture and exist and move and have our being within the general culture. Repeatedly, I argued that the Christian Worldview has something to say about every vocation–this includes being a politician, a political scientist, a lawyer, a judge, a legislator, or even a journalist. It also has something to say about every academic discipline: and this most certainly includes political philosophy, and matters of human rights and social justice.
Furthermore, I explicitly stated in one of my articles that political involvement is necessary when it comes to matters of human dignity and social justice. The two biggest issues that come to mind being: abortion and human trafficking. Both abortion and human trafficking are horrendous evils and laws must be made to help protect the destruction of more innocent lives. This, by default, assumes that one would need to engage in politics.
Should Christians just shut-up? Certainly not. However, Christians should be more shrewd, more tactful, more intelligent, more just, more merciful, and, above all, more loving whenever they lift up their voices within the public square.