It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:9, ESV
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Psalm 146:3
We live in a place and time where the general assumption is made that if a person holds to a conservative perspective of the Christian faith, they also hold a conservative political view. It’s quite an interesting study to get into the details of how that happened, and there’s a lot of disagreement over the origins of that view. What I have discovered, from personal experience, is that 1.) that is an assumption that isn’t necessarily true and that 2.) most people who are conservative, Evangelical Christians have a rather eclectic political perspective that is not nearly as monolithic as might be assumed, especially if they are under 40 years of age.
Some conservative political views have been derived from conservative theology, including the position that is opposed to abortion as a “choice,” and the belief that life begins at conception. But I hesitate to categorize that view as “pro-life,” based on that position alone. Being pro-life involves a lot more than just a belief about the practice of abortion. The sanctity of human life has a much broader application than just that. The concept of right to life also extends to quality of life issues, such as poverty, the right to medical care, war, violence in the culture, and anything else that has something to do with human survival and existence.
Accountability is important, and I believe it is a major failing of conservative Christians who are active politically. The issue of abortion is a great illustration. It looms large in importance to conservative Christians, at least, they say that it does. But they do not hold politicians accountable for their lack of action on it. Through three Presidential administration since 1980 who all claimed to be committed to changing the Roe V. Wade decision, none did. But they all got a pass. That’s why there’s so little political movement now on the conservative Christian social agenda. Conservative politicians don’t believe they have to do anything to get conservative Christians to show up at the polls and vote for them, regardless.
Younger Christians are increasingly thinking out of the partisan political box. Health care is a good example. The younger Christians I know are universally displeased at the way the health care system works in this country, and believe that access to health care of the highest quality available is a basic human right, not a privilege of wealth. The younger Christians I know also happen to be quite involved in a Christian faith that is much more than just sitting in a large crowd in a big church enjoying the worship and soaking it all in. They want to serve, and they are discovering that, through Christian service, their faith grows and becomes more real to them. They see the unfairness and injustices of a broken, profit-centered, health care “industry” that operates in a way that doesn’t consider all human life as sacred. And their Biblically centered values are what takes them there. I’d like to think that my generation taught them to apply what they find in scripture to all aspects of life, and what has resulted is a generation of critical thinkers, not partisan robots.
Though it’s anecdotal, I just spent some time with some younger Christians who have a pretty clear picture of the current political situation in this country. They see the Republican house as obstructionist, with no clear political objective except to frustrate any possible accomplishment of the current President. And they see this as destructive to the progress of the country, faulting a partisan Congress for the problems, rightly so. They are also realistic and fair in their analysis of the President’s policies and actions, giving credit where credit is due, understanding that give and take is necessary for a democratic republic to function, and pointing out where his policies are inconsistent with their values. These are kids who vote, and they are also committed believers in Jesus, with a sound, conservative, Biblical worldview. They haven’t checked their brains at the door, though, and perhaps that’s an indication that there is hope for the future.
The politics of today, the result of a level of hatred and bigotry introduced into it by the likes of demagogues like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, who are more interested in how much money they can earn by stirring up trouble than they are in any real resolution to the nation’s problems, aren’t working. And there’s no place in the Bible where I can see that Christians are responsible for changing their culture through the ballot box. I think the church has turned to politics because it is failing in evangelism and waning in influence as a result. And I think the turn toward involvement in conservative politics is directly behind the decline in membership, participation and evangelism. It’s polarized the church, made it more difficult to reach people, and it shows a lack of faith in our belief in what God can do. We’ve got it backward. We should be able to preach and teach the gospel in any environment, and what we preach and teach should be salt and light, reflected in the culture at large. We should never have to rely on princes to carry out the mission and purpose of the church.