We’re in uncharted territory as we head into an increasingly post-Christian environment. Assume the best of your brothers and sisters trying to figure out what faithfulness looks like. And trust that God is going to make the most of all our bungling attempts at truthful witness, that he will fulfill his plan and build his church. Negative world or not, no weapon formed against his people will stand.
This is the last in a series on the rise of the neo–Religious Right, in which I’ve sought to explain and describe some of the historical and contemporary features of this movement, as well as some cautions and concerns I have for younger evangelicals going forward. (A full list of the previous columns is provided below.) In this final installment, I’d like to offer a potpourri of additional thoughts that may aid us in a time when we need truthful witness in the public square.
1. Don’t overestimate the power of politics.
First, let’s make sure that in all the talk about culture warring and culture engaging we do not prioritize the political sphere of life to the exclusion of other important parts of the good life. Government is important, but it is not god. As gospel-centered evangelicals, we must “dethrone” politics. We must value the political sphere but put it in its proper place. Indeed, politics is not ultimate. This recognition is essential for truthful witness in the public square.
In this way, let’s make sure we don’t so focus on Washington, DC, and the drama glowing on our social media apps that we forget our callings. We are called to be members of communities, and we must serve those communities and be exemplary citizens. We are called to marriages and families, and we must cultivate healthy relationships within them. We are called to local churches, and we must exercise faithful and meaningful membership. We are called to workplaces (located in various spheres of culture like business, education, science, technology, art, law, politics, or hospitality), and we must fulfill our vocations in ways that honor Christ.
In other words, we must not shy away from truthful witness in the political sphere, but our political witness must not outmatch or be overshadowed by our witness in all these other spheres, and the impact of these other areas should not be underestimated.
2. Play the political “long game.”
It can take years for political change to happen. I’m reading the new book from Matthew Continetti, The Right, which traces the modern conservative movement from its origins a century ago to the present. One of the takeaways is just how much time it takes for ideas to move forward in society, and how networks and think tanks and finding the right messenger are all vital in seeing political change take place.
Amid today’s culture wars, we must beware the temptation to compromise our convictions in order to attain a short-term win for our chosen political party. We can so convince ourselves that now is the crucial moment, and this is the most important election in our lifetime (something I’ve heard every four years my entire life) that we hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.