Christians in the Kettle, Part 2: Engaging public policy in self-defense
Last week, I posted the introduction to this series. You can find that entry here. In the coming weeks, I will explain various reasons the ERLC, and Christians in general, engage in public policy advocacy. The six I will discuss are not exhaustive of the reasons, nor are they arranged in any particular order of importance. Each by itself is its own argument for Christian engagement in public policy. Taken together, they create a robustly compelling mandate for principled, gospel-centered Christian involvement in the public square. Some Christians will disagree with the examples I use, but I believe most can agree with the reasons I will present.
This installment describes Christian engagement in public policy as an act of self-defense. Given the condition of our culture today, a posture of self-defense makes sense. Much of society is growing increasingly hostile to the Christian message and more resistant to the biblical worldview. This hostility has now come to the point that some are attempting to force Christians to violate their own convictions in order to accommodate their values and worldviews.
This shouldn’t surprise serious Christians. Jesus warned his disciples that the world would hate them (John 15:18). Jesus also told us why this would be the case. In commenting to his at-that-time unbelieving family members, he said the world hated him because he testified “that its deeds were evil” (John 7:7). This testimony continues through Jesus’ disciples. The Spirit who resides in us continues to convict the world of “sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8). Through our words, deeds and faithful presence, we remind a lost world of a holy God and his call to righteousness and repentance.
At times this hostility toward Christians is a natural result of an interest in silencing our witness because of its offense. The Apostle Paul noted the effect the gospel would have on those without Christ (2 Cor. 2:14-16). People do not like being told they are sinners. They want to be affirmed. But the gospel of Jesus must first expose the problem of human sin before it can apply the remedy of forgiveness through faith in Jesus.
Examples of resistance to the gospel witness are numerous. Today, there are people actively working to prevent men and women in our armed forces from sharing their faith with their fellow service members. They argue that sharing one’s faith might offend another service member and adversely impact unit effectiveness. Every time and place in military life isn’t appropriate for witnessing. However, that is much different from prohibiting a person of faith from fulfilling his or her calling as a witness of Christ with fellow service members at any time or place while in the military.
In another bizarre attempt at silencing the Christian witness, some are trying to advance anti-bullying legislation and rules that instruct children not to share their faith with their classmates at school because they believe it causes other children to feel pressured. The ERLC and other Christian groups advocate for appropriate prevention of bullying in our schools, but we oppose every effort to prevent children from sharing their faith with their classmates in a loving manner and at the appropriate time. Those who support local anti-bullying efforts must also make sure that regulations guiding school officials on prevention of bullying don’t prevent student witnessing as part of this effort.
At other times, Christians must defend themselves in the public arena from those who do not understand or adequately appreciate our faith-informed values. This is nothing new, of course. Peter noted that Christians in his day were maligned for their lifestyle choices as well (1 Pet. 4:3-6). Some just don’t understand how we can believe the things we believe or they consider our positions to be simply in error. The current effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force religious employers to provide contraceptives, sterilization and abortion causing drugs and devices in their employee’s insurance plans is a good example of this failure to appreciate the depth of pro-life convictions held by many Christians. Many of us who are pro-life take our faith-informed belief about the sanctity of every human life very seriously. We cannot imagine assisting in the destruction of an innocent human life. We certainly can’t imagine being forced by the government to do this.
We resist this effort by HHS for numerous reasons. For one, we resist it because we refuse to facilitate the destruction of an innocent human being. For another, we resist because we do not believe that government has the authority to dictate when our faith is valid and when it is not. Not only is this an attack on our pro-life convictions, it is also an attack on our religious freedom. The offense is contraception and/or abortion. The issue is religious freedom—the freedom to live out our faith in our daily lives.
Additionally, challenges to Christians come from those who are in rebellion against God’s design for humanity. Paul described such people, which before our salvation included us, as “alienated and hostile in mind” (Col. 1:21). Perhaps no issue reveals the threat to Christian faith posed by this rebellion more than the current debate about same-sex marriage. Scripture is clear that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman. Nothing else, by God’s design, is marriage. Yet, today, Christians are being successfully sued and others are being relentlessly harassed because they cannot with clear conscience participate in affirming same-sex marriage. We cannot allow this to occur without doing all we can to come to the aid of those who seek to live out their biblically informed values and to express those values through their livelihood.
Christians have not sought out these and other conflicts. They have been brought to us for the reasons I have stated and for other reasons as well. To simply stand aside and capitulate is to risk sending the message that there really aren’t any absolutes to which God holds all men accountable, especially the household of faith. God expects his people to call sin what it is, and he expects us to stand for his truth in the world and in our own lives. We must defend the faithful who are being pressured to conform to worldly standards with every appropriate spiritual, legal, moral, and intellectual tool at our disposal in a loving but resolute manner. Turning the cheek has its place, as Jesus made clear, but not when the things of God are at stake. The early church understood the difference. They would not obey men at the expense of their obedience to God (Acts 5:29). We must not either.
Other articles in this series:
Part 1: The role of Christians in public policy
Part 3: Engaging public policy for the sake of others
Part 4: Engaging for morality
Part 5: Public policy as stewards
Part 6: Citizens of Heaven and Earth
Part 7: Averting God’s judgment