Category archives: Religion & Culture

Christians and Public Life: Politics, Culture, and Bearing the Light of the Gospel

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 23, 2016

Since our first parents fell from a pristine garden head-long into the morass of sin so long ago, the inability of their heirs to extricate themselves from the moral swamp that is our nature has been the salient characteristic of human history.

Yet redeemed in Christ, His followers are called by Him to live in a manner worthy of His Name, of His character and His commission. Among the ways we’re called to do so:

  • Demonstrating in our own lives that His way is good, and that those who know and follow Jesus have found grace and truth;
  • Defending the weak, healing the broken, welcoming those fractured by the dissolution of their families, and upholding our God-given right and mandate to live-out, without repression, the implications of our faith in His Son;
  • Proclaiming that His standards are here for both individual and social well-being, and that when followed, we gain “a culture in which human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives.”
  • Affirming that His self-revelation in creation, our consciences, and our reason is sufficiently clear for us all, Christians and non-, to understand what’s morally right and wrong for us personally, in families, in civic life, and in the professions;
  • Creating and celebrating “the good, the true, and the beautiful” such that all aspects of our lives reflect the loveliness of our Creator; and
  • Sharing the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave, and is Lord of all, and that He offers new and eternal life to all who will trust in Him alone for forgiveness.

To the second bullet, no one is weaker than an unborn child, and no one more vulnerable to predation than her mother at a time of crisis. No one is broken like the person who has departed from God’s plan for human sexuality. No one is needier than a child needing a father or a woman deserted by her husband. And no one can fully realize the nature of his humanity, that of being an image-bearer of God, without the freedom not only to worship Him privately but also to obey Him publically.

Yet we know that complete victory is impossible: As long as sin remains man’s inherent lot, God’s Kingdom, something Jesus warned us is “not of this world” (John 18:36), can never be built on earth. If we say we can usher-in Revelation’s promised “new earth” (Revelation 21:1) without Jesus, we would do well to reflect on a place called Babel.

On the other hand, if all we want is a place of political ease, one in which cultural comfort is the norm, we follow a false god. While the broad affirmation of Judeo-Christian values is, in any culture, welcome, it is insufficient. Social serenity in a world whose prince is darkness itself should never be the disciple’s chief end. We deceive ourselves if we think that those who disagree with us will just slink away if Christian values become more well-received in our culture and reflected more closely in our laws.

What, then, do Christians want? We cannot achieve comprehensive transformation. We are obligated to do justice and stand for righteousness. We will never be without opposition, at least if we’re living as God wants. And as the foundations of American cultural and political life crumble, that opposition will become increasingly savage and uncompromising.

We need to seek to do good to all men, in matters private and public. We need to take into our homes the abused and discarded. We need to advance legislation that affirms human dignity, opportunity, and hope. Private acts, public law. Both.

We need to be obedient to God. This means being winsome and gracious, bold and truthful. These qualities are not mutually exclusive, especially since Jesus embodied them (Matthew 21:12, Mark 10:13-16, John 1:14).

Toward some, we must be respectfully but firmly confrontational (Proverbs 28:1). Toward others, we must be gentle and aim to persuade (Proverbs 15:1). In doing both, depending on the people involved and the needs of the moment, we uphold the truth and proclaim grace.

Truth without grace is only severity. Grace without truth is mere sentiment.

Some argue that if only Evangelical believers were “nicer,” society would be less disposed to stereotype and dislike us. There is never any justification for being obnoxious or dehumanizing others. Yet however warm we are in the presentation of truth, there will be those who hate us; Jesus promised this (John 15:8). Christians are to be patient and persuasive, but we do well to remember that the most gracious Man Who ever lived was nailed to a cross. It’s not all about grace or all about truth. Both/and, now and forever.

We also need to focus on the things that matter most to God in the moment in which we live. Here in the United States, what are those things? I submit that the most salient issues are the destruction of 2,700 unborn children daily and the victimization of their mothers; the hydra of radical sexual autonomy as the highest good; the pending abolition of the family as grounded in one man and one woman in covenantal union, for life; and the pre-governmental duty of man to God and the consequent necessity of the state to safeguard our ability to live-out this duty as individuals conceive it (as long as such a conception does no violence to others).

This is not to suggest that a number of other issues, whether related to race, economic injustice, crime, and so forth are not important.

Yet nothing is more final than death, and death’s most cherished handmaiden in our time is unrestricted access to abortion on demand.

Nothing is more beautiful than sexual expression as intended by the One Who designed it, and nothing more debasing than sexual expression that deviates from that design.

Nothing is more foundational to human well-being and societal flourishing than the family, and as the family as we have known it starts fading like Alice’s Cheshire cat, children suffer and adults are wounded.

Nothing is more fundamental to our very beings than the fact that we bear the image and likeness of God. Thus, when Christians’ capacity to relate to Him as we believe He desires is curtailed by the state, the fullness of what it means to bear that image is diminished.

Prudence in judgment and persuasion in appeal must be the guardians of our witness. Principled compromise is sometimes achievable. As we exercise sound political and cultural judgment and seek to convince our fellow citizens of the goodness of our agenda, we can do much good and dissuade at least some of our countrymen from courses that will only hurt them and all of us.

However, some compromises are inherently unprincipled and must never be made. Whether that relegates believers to minority status or not is immaterial. We serve an eternal King, not temporal cultural approval.

Whatever the outcome of our endeavors, American Christians engaged in the public life of our nation (and to one degree or another, that should be all of us) must imitate their Savior in character and wisdom, courage and faithfulness, now and until He returns, regardless of political outcomes.

This is why we serve and contend as we do, for by so doing we herald the Gospel to a sin-besotted world, whether overtly or more subtly. Jesus is Lord, is real, and is the one true Light Who offers forgiveness and everlasting hope to all men.

Question of the Week

by Daniel Hart

May 9, 2016

With every passing day, it seems, Christian values are increasingly being pushed out of the public square and out of public policy. What can ordinary Christian citizens do to make their voices heard in their day to day lives and in Washington? FRC is here to help. Every Monday starting today here on the FRC Blog, we will publish a Question of the Week that we receive, along with our answer.

Feel free to send us a question you may have about how you can better live out your faith beyond the four walls of your church, or about any specific value that FRC continues to stand for, whether it be life, marriage and family, or religious liberty. Go to frc.org/contact-frc and enter “Question of the Week” in the Subject line. Thank you for standing with us!

 

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Question: FRC seems to be good at getting information out. This is great, but I feel helpless in the grand scheme of things. There is so much discussion and it does not seem to get us anywhere. How can we stand up for ourselves together as a Christian family, in a respectable Christian manner? It’s the first time in my life that I am sometimes afraid to wear my cross. I do it anyway, because I am very strong in my faith and I love Jesus, but I do feel a bit uneasy at times. Thank you for your time.

FRC: We’re encouraged by your desire to glorify God in the public square. As God’s stewards on earth whose entire purpose for living is to give all glory, honor, and praise to Him in every sphere of life, God has called many of us to work for Him in the public square—some of us in Washington, D.C., others at the state level, and still others at the local level. Thank you for realizing the importance of Christians being active members of society who are willing to promote biblical family values to our government officials. First, do your civic duty by voting according to your Christian conscience. In addition, you can write emails or make calls to public officials at the local, state, and federal levels, and encourage neighbors, friends, and co-workers to do the same. (You can do this by signing up for our Alerts here.) For more information on how you can get involved in the public square, please go to the volunteer page on our website at frc.org/volunteer. Please also ask your pastor if he would like to join our pastors network at watchmenpastors.org, and consider creating a Culture Impact Team at your church: cultureimpact.org. Please continue to pray for our nation and its leaders. This is the most influential action we can take: may God’s will be done. God’s Word is a source of great comfort and hope. Proverbs 21:30-31 says, “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” Thanks again for your desire to help us transform our culture for God’s glory. May He bless you.

What’s Next in a Blurry Culture

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 21, 2016

Ideas have consequences, Richard Weaver reminded us years ago. What someone believes will affect his behavior. What society endorses will consummate in certain results.

We are living in a time when blurry is the new normal. As Christian rocker Randy Stonehill wrote years ago:

    Right is wrong and wrong is right
    White is black and black is white
    I think I just lost my appetite
    Stop the world I wanna get off

Well, his last plea cannot be fulfilled (and where would we go if it could?), but his larger point—moral confusion is one of the gods of the age—is more valid by the day. Here are some scenarios that are wholly possible at a time when gender is seen as “fluid,” petulant insistencies are seen as “rights,” and petty (and often fabricated) emotional duress is seen as “micro-aggressive.”

Transgender use of restrooms and showers: A man, clothed in attire traditionally identified as masculine and short, crisply-parted hair, walks into a women’s locker room at a gym. The women there are upset and demand he leave. His response: “I am a transgendered man who prefers wearing men’s clothing and cutting my hair in a manner consistent with accepted norms for professional male hairstyles. But I identify as a woman and have every right to be here.”

Marriage: Three men and two women insist upon the right to marry. They argue that the definition of marriage as the union of only two people is arbitrary and culturally-based. They assert that their affection for and commitment to one another, and their free volitional choice to unite in matrimony, entitle them to legal marriage. They cite Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s statement in his Obergefell opinion that “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” If two people become something greater than once they were, how much greater will five? Who is anyone to say that the five of them don’t mutually fill one another’s needs uniquely?

Legal accountability: “A Connecticut judge declined on (April 14) to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the maker of the assault-style rifle that a gunman used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School to fatally shoot 26 people before killing himself,” reported the New York Times earlier this month.

How about this: A woman is hit by a drunk driver and experiences physical trauma. She sues the manufacturer of the vehicle’s tires for enabling the guy behind the wheel to automate his car and, in his drunken state, hit her.

Hate speech and coercive silence: Is it hateful to quote a Bible verse, express a controversial opinion, or hold an unpopular view? Fascism was supposed to have been America’s enemy in the Second World War; is it now our accepted modus vivendi?

The University of California, Los Angeles Graduate Student Association approved a resolution Wednesday calling those who do not support a pro-Palestine agenda ‘Islamophobic’,” according to reporter Peter Fricke. This is but one example of hundreds, even thousands, of how the Left is seeking to compel uniform cultural allegiance to its agenda and the silencing of those who resist it.

Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown Law Center professor and an Obama appointee to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, makes it very clear that religious liberty is subordinate to the special privileges of people who identify as lesbian or gay:

For all my sympathy for the evangelical Christian couple who may wish to run a bed-and-breakfast from which they can exclude unmarried, straight couples and all gay couples, this is a point where I believe the “zero-sum” nature of the game inevitably comes into play. And, in making that decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.

What’s next? How about these:

  • Teaching the eternal destruction of those who refuse to trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord is made illegal as it is “hateful.”
  • Telling one’s daughter she must dress as a girl is deemed “oppressive” and “genderist.”
  • Preventing people from eating certain foods because they are deemed inherently unhealthy, or in some way tracking the eating habits of ordinary citizens so as to restrict their intake of various kinds of foods.
  • The Supreme Court voiding all laws against full legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages.

Oh, wait…

The Left’s (Papal) Selective Hearing

by Daniel Hart

April 15, 2016

In yet the latest example of cognitive hypocrisy by the Left, Sen. Barbara Boxer berated a Catholic priest during a hearing on Wednesday for not explicitly agreeing with Pope Francis’s views on the causes of climate change.

It’s at once a maddening yet unsurprising phenomenon: to trumpet the Pope’s stature as a moral authority whenever it is most convenient by belittling those who disagree with him on a scientific issue like climate change, while at the same time remaining entirely silent and apparently having complete disregard for anything he says about matters of faith and morals, like abortion, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, etc.

As the priest pointed out during the hearing, Pope Francis does not and would never claim to be “infallible” or even have any sort of professional expertise in matters of science. It is only “when he speaks on moral issues, such as abortion and contraception and the like, then he speaks on magisterial authority.”

In his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) released on April 8, Pope Francis wrote these eloquent words in regard to the weakening of marriage and the family:

No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?

Some societies still maintain the practice of polygamy; in other places, arranged marriages are an enduring practice… In many places, not only in the West, the practice of living together before marriage is widespread, as well as a type of cohabitation which totally excludes any intention to marry.” In various countries, legislation facilitates a growing variety of alternatives to marriage, with the result that marriage, with its characteristics of exclusivity, indissolubility and openness to life, comes to appear as an old-fashioned and outdated option. Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal. The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family’s problems, it can always grow, beginning with love.”

On the one hand, it’s great that the Left is so eager to revere the Pope’s words (Sen. Boxer emphasized several times in the hearing that she wasn’t just citing anyone, but “the Pope”). Maybe someday they will find the time to actually engage and wrestle in their souls with what Francis says in the area of faith and morals, not just in the cherry-picked topics that happen to align with their agenda.

Obeying God, Not Men

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 5, 2016

In a serious, probing article in Christianity Today, political scientist David Koyzis argues that American Christians are facing an increasingly hostile culture, one which may drive them to a position of respectful but undeniable defiance to a usurping state. 

As FRC has documented, there are far too many examples of believers in our country whose convictions concerning the Savior’s truth outweigh their willingness to accede to government’s demands.  Will this become more widespread?  Undoubtedly, if we refuse to use the political tools we possess to defend our God-given liberties.

Koyzis’s piece is cautious and thorough.  Not every reader of this blog will agree with all of his conclusions, but his efforts to be faithful to Scripture’s demands are admirable and there is much truth to be gleaned from his observations.  As we might be coming to a time when, as the Body of Christ, we will need to “obey God, rather than man,” as Peter put it (Acts 5:29), honest followers of Jesus should contemplate what might be required of them.

Below, I excerpt a few passages from the article I found particularly bracing. 

Among (American) believers, complaining about Caesar’s heavy yoke can look like an affront to victims of genuine persecution—the violent kind meted out by ISIS fighters. It all adds up to a strong presumption that unless there’s a clear family resemblance to the civil rights movement, civil disobedience is simply beyond the pale.

But given the trend lines of our culture, it’s time to rethink this presumption. Christians face intensifying pressure to compromise their convictions and conform to secular ideologies. Calculated lawbreaking won’t be the right response to every government provocation, and it should never be undertaken lightly—especially in democratic societies where offensive laws can be debated, protested, and changed. But no one who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord can meekly submit to the proposition that man-made laws are sacred and inviolable. We need to restore a bold willingness to treat principled resistance as a live possibility, rather than a relic of a bygone era … (Emphasis mine)

Where we can change laws and constitutions, let’s make every effort to do so. But it’s no secret that Christian convictions run seriously afoul of the spirit of the age. Caesar’s edicts may create situations where living them out puts us on the wrong side of the law.

Civil disobedience is our very last resort, to be contemplated only with fear and trembling. But by no means can faithful believers rule it out of bounds.

Stand with the (Unstoppable) Persecuted” Church on Sunday, April 17th

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 31, 2016

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable.  Consider what happened last year when 21 Christians were beheaded on a beach along the shores of the Mediterranean:

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity. “We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, “Two Rows by the Sea” (the story of the Libyan victims) was sent to the printer. One week later, 1.65 million copies (had) been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.

We weep with the families of those slain and pray for their killers.  But we also rejoice that what man planned for evil, God has used for good (Genesis 50:20).

Yet even as human evil can be employed by the Lord of all for His glory, He never excuses or countenances it, and He calls on His people to oppose it (see, as just one of many scriptural examples, Psalm 82:3-4).

That’s why FRC and our allies Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, In Defense of Christians, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are hosting “Stand with the Persecuted Sunday” on April 17th.

We are calling on churches across America to “view a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.”

To learn how your church can participate, go to http://frc.org/stand.  Stand with “the least of these, His brethren,” and thereby stand with the unstoppable Lord Jesus Himself.

MEMO TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT: CHRISTIANS WERE MURDERED IN LAHORE. THAT’S C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N-S

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 28, 2016

Yesterday, “Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility” for a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan that killed at least 69 people and wounded about 300. Why? Jamaat-e-Ahrar makes its reason very clear: “Its spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a statement that Christians were the target.”

The Taliban murders Christians on Easter Sunday: This is the essential headline of myriad news reports, at home and abroad. But you’d never know that Christians were in the killers’ bulls-eye from the U.S. State Department’s news release. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan. This cowardly act, which targeted innocent civilians in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, has killed dozens and left scores injured,” says the statement. No mention of the Taliban. No mention of Islamism and it’s brutal aggression. And no mention of Christians.

What happened yesterday in Lahore was the mass murder of Christians by Muslim radicals. This is not a statement of bigotry or an overreaction to violence. It is not inflammatory or hostile or anti-Muslim. It is a statement of fact, based on the remarks of the killers’ official spokesman (a sickening thought — barbarians have a “spokesman”) and the indisputable carnage at a park where Christian children were playing after Sunday services.

Yet this administration cannot summon the moral courage to say what actually and obviously occurred. This is repulsive and a shame to our country, which proclaims itself “the home of the brave.”

Former federal prosecutor and expert on radical Islam Andy McCarthy, in a recent lecture at Hillsdale College, said, “In the real world, we must deal with the facts of Islamic supremacism, because its jihadist legions have every intention of dealing with us. But we can only defeat them if we resolve to see them for what they are.”

The Obama Administration lacks such resolve. Its fear of giving offense exceeds its willingness to defeat our enemies. Brussels, Lahore, San Bernardino, 9-11: the list goes on and on, as does the Islamists’ intention of destroying us.

It is hard to know how to destroy an ideology grounded in a fanatical faith. But at least we can destroy those of its adherents intent on spreading their faith through vicious brutality. We must do this, even if it necessitates a recognition that such destruction could be a multi-generational endeavor. The security of 320 million Americans and the dignity of human life worldwide demand it.

Listen to FRC’s Executive Vice-President, Lt. Gen. (ret) Jerry Boykin, talk with FRC President Tony Perkins about the threat of radical Islam in a March 21 broadcast of Tony’s “Washington Watch” radio program.

A Win for Religious Freedom in the Military

by Travis Weber

March 9, 2016

A federal judge notched a win for religious freedom last week by ruling in favor of a Sikh Army captain requesting an exemption to grow his hair and beard for religious reasons. This ruling is a positive reaffirmation of RFRA’s application in the military context, and is proof that the statute can be used to protect service-members’ rights while not impinging on the unique needs of the military.

In response to Captain Singh’s exemption request, the Army directed him to go through several batteries of tests with his gas mask and helmet on to determine how they would perform while fitted over his head and facial hair. This order was unique, however, for the Army regularly grants beard exemptions for all sorts of reasons without requiring the testing it directed Captain Singh to go through. Moreover, around the same time the Army was imposing these onerous burdens on Captain Singh, he successfully completed a previously scheduled standard gas mask test with other soldiers from his unit.

It was obvious to anyone that the Army was making Captain Singh jump through hoops, and the Court granted his request to stop the Army from making these burdensome demands on him after concluding his RFRA claim would likely succeed. He had shown a sincere belief that was substantially burdened by the testing, and while the Court recognized the Army “unquestionably has a compelling interest in ensuring the health and safety of military personnel,” the specific tests required of Captain Singh are not the least restrictive means of accomplishing this interest. As the Court noted, “[i]ndeed, conducting or commissioning a study of the efficacy of helmets and gas masks for soldiers donning a variety of unshorn hair, beards, and/or head coverings, which does not target one particular Sikh soldier merely because of his request for a religious accommodation, would be more effective in furthering the government’s compelling interest in ensuring the health and safety of its soldiers.” The Court also observed that “medical exceptions and ‘relaxed grooming standards’ are granted without such specialized information” as the Army claimed it needed from Captain Singh.

On balance, this ruling reaffirms the principle that robust religious exercise for those of all faiths can occur in the military consistent with the unique demands it must impose on its members in order to maintain readiness and accomplish its mission.

11th Circuit Rejects Religious Liberty in Favor of Government-Mandated Contraception

by Travis Weber

February 19, 2016

In yesterday’s opinion in EWTN v. Burwell, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals caused double the damage by rejecting a clear religious liberty claim and trying to save the HHS contraception mandate at the same time. This is not the court’s job. It was supposed to objectively analyze a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim, which it not only rejected in an attempt to set religious liberty back in time, but then jumped through hoops to justify the government’s contraception and abortion-related services scheme which wasn’t even passed by Congress and instead was imposed by executive fiat.

In its opinion, the 11th Circuit recognized:

We accept that the plaintiffs truly believe that triggering contraceptive coverage or being complicit in a system providing contraceptive coverage violates their religious beliefs.”

However, the court then amazingly concluded:

But our objective inquiry leads us to conclude that the government has not put plaintiffs to the choice of violating their religious beliefs or facing a significant penalty. We hold there is no substantial burden.”

The court now looks foolish. It already admitted religious liberty was violated in this case, and is now left trying to claim there is no “significant penalty” when the government threatens religious actors with thousands of dollars in fines if they don’t violate their consciences.

The court continues:

The ACA and the HRSA guidelines—not the opt out—are … the “linchpins” of the contraceptive mandate because they entitle women who are plan participants and beneficiaries covered by group health insurance plans to contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. In other words, women are entitled to contraceptive coverage regardless of their employers’ action (or lack of action) with respect to seeking an accommodation.”

If this is so true, why the need to involve EWTN in this scheme? Why not just provide the coverage directly? The government seems to need (or want) EWTN and others to be involved themselves.

In sum, the court acknowledged that the HHS contraception mandate “accommodation” forces EWTN to violate its religious beliefs or pay government penalties, but still found no substantial burden on religious freedom. This is nonsense. Surrendering your religious beliefs in order to avoid government penalties is the definition of “substantial burden” if there ever was one. Hopefully the Supreme Court will get these cases right when it considers them in the next few months, and settle once and for all that the government is substantially burdening religious exercise by threatening thousands of dollars in fines against religious actors if they don’t violate their consciences, and has no need to even involve them at all in providing drugs and services they believe cause abortions, but can leave religious groups out of the process entirely as it already does for other types of organizations.

It Is Not the Political Critic That Counts

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 11, 2016

Many politicians are some combination of the following: hypocritical, venal, self-interested, provincial, demagogic, too ideologically rigid, too easily manipulated, not close enough to the people, too susceptible to public whims, immoral, ignorant and arrogant. And so are many of the people they represent.

Many activists, Right and Left, are motivated by a confection of fear, outrage, anger, insensitivity, a sense of loss, and intellectual myopia, not to mention political unsophistication and a pattern of oversimplifying the complex.

Combined with the fact that the sun rises in the east and that water runs downhill, the above statements should be obvious to any reasonably close observer of the American political scene.

In other words: So what? Human moral and emotional frailties are not new, and that they are evident in the 240 year-long American effort to demonstrate that representative self-governance is not a farce should come neither as a surprise nor a source of contempt.

I am not talking about the excesses of human sin that blot the American political landscape. From marital infidelity to subsidization of abortion, the personal and public wrongs of those we allow to rule us stain the body politic, sometimes hidden beneath the heavy cloth of secrecy, at others as obvious as a rash on one’s cheek.

Yet painting all office holders as contemptible because some fall greatly or because all are imperfect amounts to little more than snide carping and usually is the result of personal non-participation in the arena of public life. Armchair critics enjoy the comfort of indolence and the luxury of indecision. This is not to say their criticisms are always wrong. Rather, it’s to note that their observations are made in the arid vacuum of passivity, preventing a fuller, deeper understanding of the tensions and difficulties found in writing a bill, taking a vote, electing a candidate, or marshalling a movement.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure,” said Theodore Roosevelt in 1899, “than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

A bit melodramatically stated, perhaps, but nonetheless a substantively accurate account of life generally and of politics in particular. Public action need not be perfect to be noble, permanent to be valuable, or complete to be worthy.

Cynicism is often tempered by engaging in the very activity condescending detachment sees as humorous or stupid. Tempered because in such engagement one comes to know the moral courage of one’s fellow participants. Even if some of those who act are ill-informed or driven as much by pain as principle, working alongside them shears-off the coat of patronization whose thickness prevents experiencing the empathy, joy, and sadness—the richness—political life can produce.

Those are things worth knowing, and can only be known by those whose intellectual knowledge is augmented by human experience. That combination, founded upon a bedrock of moral conviction, can make involvement in the public life of one’s country invigorating, honorable, and beneficial.

Christians know (or should) that until Christ’s return, political success will always be partial, transient, and pock-marked by sin. They should also know that justice and human dignity call for their faithfulness not only in private endeavors but appropriate public ones, as well.

Armed with that knowledge and stirred by that duty, let the redeemed of the Lord seek to protect the innocent, defend the fatherless, strengthen families, and do justice to the poor and oppressed, at home and abroad. People of the Gospel must do no less.

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