When Christians Oppose the State
How to properly live out one’s Christian faith in a secular society remains a topic of considerable controversy in evangelical circles. Some of my very best friends and acquaintances, for example, have little or no interest in societal involvement beyond, say, reading the daily newspaper or possibly voting in an election. Many Christians—from the average church member to the church leadership—experience a radical disconnect between Sunday services and Monday’s activities. These two worlds never seem to touch each other. The church talks past the society, and vice versa. Christians tend to be fuzzy-minded about societal issues such as abortion or war or government assaults upon civil liberties or other issues that are literally life-or-death. Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer once referred to this kind of apathy as a “dull, dusty, introverted orthodoxy given only to pounding out well-known clichés.”
On the other hand, I know several Christians whose faith has made a big difference in their entire orientation toward society and culture. They have the idea that their purpose in life is not only to witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ (which they seem to do very effectively) but also to speak out on issues of family and freedom and to do what they can to apply their faith in everyday life. They see their involvement in society as “salt and light” to be part of the discipline of their faith and their accountability to God.
We must never forget that Christianity began as a religious movement in a time of grave political oppression. Jesus Himself was put to death as an innocent victim of the state, and His followers suffered for three centuries at the hands of governmental officials who demanded conformity to the state. Thus history has given the Christian movement a deep suspicion of power, especially power exercised by states that believe themselves to be unencumbered by any law higher than themselves. Of course, the Christian will never use the state as a tool of conversion, but at the same time he will always resist the efforts of people to purge public life of Christian influence. Christian values still have a contribution to make to American society, especially in defining the proper (i.e., limited and constitutional) role of government.
It is the sincere desire of this writer that the essays and links on his website will motivate Christians in a wide variety of interdisciplinary contexts to stand up for the proper role of civil government, which is never to manage society as if the state were omnipotent, but to allow greater freedoms for individuals, families, and civic institutions so that they can flourish without unnecessary restraint from secular authority.
February 11, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book, Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon, will be released this year.