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Cal Thomas & Ed Dobson respond

National

Issue: "School vouchers debate," May 15, 1999

Cal Thomas & Ed Dobson respond Of the several definitions of politics, the two that seem to have the most bearing on the discussion we're having in these pages are: "The art or science concerned with winning and holding control over government" and "political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices." Yes, Christians should participate in politics. Good citizenship is part of what we "render unto Caesar." But when we are preoccupied with winning control over temporal government, and especially when our leadership engages in artful and often dishonest practices, our primary message of a kingdom not of this world is corrupted. We agree with Senator Brownback, who properly calls on Christians not to retreat from the playing field, but also acknowledges that politics is the lesser power which "no matter how wise, strategic or principled, cannot transform a society from rude to civil, from violent to peaceable, or from vicious to virtuous." That is a role which God reserves for Himself. Our current moral predicament is not the result of insufficient organization or underparticipation by Christians in politics. If there were more of us, would the cultural climate be more to our liking? The failure of politics to improve our moral life should not be blamed on "silent pulpits." Many preachers address moral issues but avoid politics. Jesus and Paul and the prophets prophesied that things would get worse before Jesus came again and made them better. Then, the government would be upon His shoulders. The arrogance of sinful man believing in his own power to reform humanity through human institutions is astounding. It is arrogant when liberal Christians try it. And it is especially arrogant when conservative Christians try it, because they claim a better understanding of the Bible. 0We are not calling for believers to withdraw from politics. 0We are not calling for pastors to stop preaching on moral issues so long as they are closely tied to the Bible (the national defense budget and tax reform are not such issues). 0We are not saying that people of faith should not form lobbying groups and press for change. We are saying:

  • The ultimate solution to our moral problems is not politics, but the gospel-lived and taught.
  • Pastors should stay out of partisan politics. Neither should they speak for or against candidates or elected officials.
  • Churches should not be a place for political organization and action. They should not pass out, or allow to be passed out, "voter guides" or petitions, or march for or against anything. Individuals may do all of these things, but the church should not be the sponsor or host.
  • Christians should not affix the name of Jesus to any political lobbying group. Jesus is not white, middle class, Republican, or American. Believers should focus first on their own communities by visiting prisoners, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, loving people with HIV, and demonstrating their love in ways that seem radical to the world. Believers should cease sending money to high-profile "national ministries" that promise to change America. Their time, talent, and treasure should first be invested locally where, among other things, they can make sure it is effectively spent. Paul writes in Romans 8 that God has built futility into his creation "in hope" that the creation will turn to Him. After decades of attempts to change things from the top down-first by liberals, now by conservatives-let's try changing things from the bottom up. In the process, we will find that more than culture will be transformed. We will be changed, too.

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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