by Mark Penninga (printed in Reformed Perspective, Nov 2007)
In the past few years Christians have had good reason to be disappointed with our governments and the courts – Canada has condoned everything from swinger’s clubs, to homosexual marriage, to having three legal parents for one child. Our disappointments are causing many Christians to become cynical about the whole realm of politics and that is unfortunate. We aren’t allowed to just give up; the Bible tells us to be a salt and a light in this world, regardless of how dark it is.
Our cynicism isn’t limited to the government and the courts – we also know that any time Christians speak, the media will portray us as ignorant and intolerant. The media has pigeon-holed Christian political action as “right-winged fundamentalism.” Unless we take the United Church approach of only getting involved with politically correct issues like poverty and sexual rights, religion is seen as interfering with everything that is good about this country.
CPJ, ECP or the CFAC?
So how do we respond? How do we go beyond cynicism? Do we change our message to get on the good side of our secular society? Or should we ditch the conservatism altogether and emphasize only compassion and care?
This last approach seems to be the option that groups like Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) have adopted. This, primarily Christian Reformed, political action group has focussed on issues such as homelessness, refugees, and the environment. All of these issues are important and we would agree with much of CPJ’s perspective on them. But why is there little discussion about abortion, the breakdown of marriage, and other issues that bring a foul odour to our secular society? How can we be silent about these injustices, which our Parliament and courts celebrate?
Another option is to be bold about our beliefs and confront our government and culture with its mistakes. This response is generally associated with the “Christian Right” or “Social Conservatism.” Groups like Equipping Christians for the Public-square (ECP) and the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC) make no apologies about challenging secularism. This perspective is a refreshing change in our politically correct culture. Most members of Reformed churches in Canada admire the courage that these groups demonstrate when standing up against the evils in society. After all, nobody else seems willing to do it.
Unfortunately, many social conservative groups never get past complaining about the problems of society. Instead of defining the Christian perspective by stating what our vision is for Canada, these groups define who we are simply by stating our opposition to everything else. This type of political action can get tiresome, as it seems to be a never-ending rant about the problems of this world. If even we get tired of this approach, surely our country will refuse to listen to this “doom and gloom” message.
It does not help that we seem to be fixated on issues that relate to sexuality, homosexual marriage, and civil liberties (our rights and freedoms). We’ve begun to sound like just another lobby group that wants to assert its rights. Don’t Christians have a message for our country that goes beyond sexuality and religious freedom?
Holding out a message of hope
I am not suggesting that we ignore issues that deal with sexuality or civil liberties. That would be tantamount to condoning the lies and immorality that are so widespread. But social conservatives need to stop being fixated with so few issues and need to start applying the Biblical message as a whole to our society. The Bible is not a book of doom and gloom. It is a message of hope, even for our political lives. We must remember the Apostle Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 2: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…”
Shining like stars requires that we be an encouragement, a voice of hope, to our country. What example are we setting when we only talk about the gloom and doom of our society? Instead we must explain to our Christian community and society at large how the Bible is an answer to all of our lives, including the political/legal dimensions of life. For example, if we want to be pro-life our message should not be restricted to fighting abortion or euthanasia. We must go beyond that and explain why a Biblical perspective teaches that life is valuable at all stages. We are being hypocrites if we fight abortion in the name of being pro-life but then treat the homeless and refugees as if their lives do not matter. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan speaks loudly to this.
Going further than gloom
Both the so-called Christian Right and Left need to stop defining themselves according to the political paradigm of this world – we need to start measuring ourselves up against the Bible. Politics should be another avenue of spreading the good news of the Gospel, no less so than other social actions that we are involved with (such as evangelism committees, Christian relief efforts to third world countries, etc,). This means that we should be doing our politics the same way we are called to approach all of life. We have to apply the entire Gospel message to our political action.
We will have to talk about sin. We have to be honest about the evil of abortion, perverted sexuality, and any political issue that our world does not want to hear about. But the key is, we can’t stop there! The Gospel goes beyond that and offers a message of hope. So our political message to society also has to go beyond pointing out evil. We need to be shining stars and we need to explain to our society what a blessing it is to live God’s way. God has made his will clear on things like family structure and how to live in relation to others (even in a multicultural society). When we promote this message we are setting an example for our society to follow. What a refreshing contrast to simply condemning our country’s political and legal decisions!
Being a political witness is no simple task. We need to go beyond the doom and gloom message, and beyond topics like homosexuality and religious freedom. Let us look beyond the traditional norms of the “Christian Right” and apply the good news of the Bible to our society. This does not require a major lobby campaign or a revival in our Parliament or Supreme Court. Rather, it is about how you and I interact with our society one-on-one. Our political witness to this world should be simply another part of being a Christian light in a dark country. The Lord willing, this will make others realize not just that they are wrong but that there is a right way that can be found in God’s Word.
Ways that We Can Be a Positive Political Witness
- · Get active with a local Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) group, or start a new one if there isn’t one in your city.
- · Convey a positive attitude about politics to your families and friends. Cynicism spreads quickly and will only turn more Christians away from fulfilling their political calling.
- · Call your elected representative just to thank him or her for the work they do to represent your riding/constituency. Let them know that you are praying for them.
- · When writing a letter or email to our Members of Parliament, try to go beyond just disagreeing with an issue. Also explain what you think is a good (i.e. Biblical) solution to the problem.
- · Be proactive – don’t let the secular media control the agenda of what matters politically. If we are always reacting to the news we end up often having a negative message because we disagree with many decisions by our governments and courts. We need to think proactively and talk about the issues that we want our governments to be dealing with. This gives us an opportunity to explain some encouraging Biblical ideas.
- · When financially supporting social conservative political groups, encourage them to think broader than some of the issues that they have traditionally been active with.
- · Pray that our leader’s eyes are opened to the sin and injustice of this world. But also pray that they discover the answer and truth in Jesus Christ.