The recent elections have emboldened many of the faith. Victories by evangelicals and those who claim to believe in defending religious freedoms have refocused many efforts regarding abortion, gay marriage, homeschooling, bathroom laws, and other political issues that are important to people with a Judeo-Christian worldview. It also creates a challenge.
This focus has brought many at every level to take on a political mindset as a valid way to fight for the faith. We see it in the writings and hear it in the videos/podcasts of religious leaders around the country. It’s not universal, but there is a clear shift in the majority towards participating in more political battlegrounds. This shift comes with risks. If people allow the political battles over religion to replace the personal, familial, and cultural battles that must all be fought as well, we will lose ground in the more important arena for the sake of winning higher-profile victories in the political one.
We’ve always maintained that the separation of church and state is an essential barrier to maintain. It’s not a fear of religion creeping into government. Our concern is that government will have too much influence over the church. Just as America’s founders fought to maintain religious freedoms that could not be taken away from people by the government, so too do we believe that today’s circumstances warrant the same fight.
The forces mounted against us would love to see the faithful become engrossed in political battles. The world of politics ebbs and flows. Victories can be reversed very quickly and political sentiment is fleeting. Just look at what happened with Obamacare. This was a gigantic undertaking that took countless man-hours to create, hundreds of millions of dollars to establish and “sell” to the American people, and directly affected hundreds of millions of people in multiple ways. Now, it’s on the verge of being wiped from existence in less than a decade. That’s politics.
As for fleeting political sentiment, we need only to look at the ease in which our foes shifted sentiment on gay marriage. Lest we forget, a large majority (some polls showed over 70%) of Americans were against same-sex marriage in 2007… including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In less than two presidential terms, America’s sentiment was reversed. Now, nearly 70% of Americans support same-sex marriage.
The point is this: battles fought for the faith on the political front yield temporary results. That’s not to say that they’re not important or that we shouldn’t fight them, but it seems as if laws and government have become the focal point. This should not be. Political solutions are band-aids. If we do not win the cultural battles and shift the mindsets of Americans, particularly young Americans, to embrace a Biblical worldview, every political victory will eventually be overturned. In fact, political victories are often used as rallying cries to galvanize the opposition.
The real fight
There was a time not too long ago when the church was the cultural center of everyday life. Scores of people within every community participated in outreach, helped the needy, and most importantly shared the Gospel with those who need to hear it the most. We were a nation that embraced the Biblical worldview.
Today, this is not really the case. The church is something that some people go to on Sundays. It’s losing its cultural sway. We’ve seen in the last couple of years a slight shift back in the right direction. This was a reaction to the cultural shift to the left. When those opposing a Biblical worldview started winning more political victories, the church started pushing back.
The victories we’ve seen on the political front have a predictable and unfortunate side-effect. Too much attention is being put back onto the political front because we feel we have a way to make a difference there. Again, there’s nothing wrong with waging political warfare for the faith as long as it doesn’t diminish the efforts on the cultural front, but unfortunately we’re seeing it do just that.
It’s understandable. Political victories are tangible. They make us feel good. They make headlines. It’s rare to see a story written about an atheist who is brought to the faith by someone ministering to them, but if a law is passed restricting abortions, it’s big news. The cultural battle for the faith will not get much attention, but it’s the more important battle in the whole scheme of things.
This cannot be stressed enough: We will lose in the long-term battle if we do not reinvigorate our efforts. Just as we must maintain a separation of church and state, we must also maintain a separation between fighting for the faith politically and fighting for the faith culturally. Of the two, the cultural aspect must be our primary fight.
Let politicians do political things. Victories on the religious freedom front cannot be used to replace the imperative of sharing the Gospel and doing the Lord’s work. Now is not the time to get complacent. Our political victories must become a rallying cry to double-down on the cultural battles we face.