Voices

Gone fishing?

Competition in the political arena is a calling, too

Issue: "Tools of a tyrant," Aug. 10, 2002

I've been wondering whether Simon Peter wasn't almost the first postmodernist. It's a little thing he said just days after Jesus' resurrection: "I am going fishing," he told his buddies, and not mistaking it as a poetic call to evangelize the nations, the scraggly band hauled their nets out of storage and headed back for the good old days by the Sea of Tiberias.

Postmodernists are people who amuse themselves the best they can for the duration (good deeds, bad deeds, getting rich, hip-hopping), seeing as they're going to die and everything is so confusing.

This is not my problem. Confusion with a capital "C" has been dealt with in Christ, so I know that there is something meaningful to do until He comes. But lately, I can't figure out what. Strident voices are contending, some tolling the bell for Christian political involvement, saying it was all a dream-people who've been there and done that. Others, equally godly folk, demur. The effect on this pilgrim is to plunge me into a lower-order confusion, tempting my soul to say: "Hang it all, l'm goin' fishing."

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Would that the confusion were only in the issue itself and not in the books.

Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson tell us repeatedly in Blinded by Might: "We no longer believe that our individual or collective cultural problems can be altered exclusively, or even mainly, through the political process." But no one ever believed that. And if anyone did, he should repent.

Blinded argues for page after page that only grace changes hearts (good point), persuading the unwary reader that it has thereby proved something against the validity of Christian political activity (bad corollary).

Blinded says social issues are not as important as knowing Jesus. Granted. But the Lord loves justice (Psalm 11:7); who dares pit the two against each other?

Blinded says we were wrong to expect the government to reflect our religious values, when "it was not instituted by God to do so [but] was instituted to restrain evil and promote good." How about when it's not restraining evil, do we do something then? How far does government have to falter in its Romans 13 mandate to "restrain evil" before we step in? Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The Bible says God's kingdom in "Babylon" is to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" (Jeremiah 29:7). Would that entail exercising one's civic prerogatives toward the enacting of just laws-not a theocracy, to be sure, but at least a more livable approximation of the "general equity" thereof (Westminster Confession, ch. 19)?

Blinded says the "salt" analogy is misappropriated, that "salt only slows down the spoilage process; it does not preserve forever." I say, what's wrong with that? Better than nothing. Are we not, in that endeavor, fellow workers with the Holy Spirit, of whom we read: "The mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way" (2 Thessalonians 2:7)?

Blinded has given up on the political approach. But what exactly is "politics" (the book never defines)? Is it not, as Merriam Webster's says, "the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy" (do we really want to give that up?), and more broadly, "the total complex of relations between people living in society" (can any citizen opt out of that?)? Whence comes Blinded's arbitrary line between voting (approved) and organizing (not approved) on this continuum?

Let not those who have laid down the baton weaken the hands of those who take it up. Let not those who have lately decided to ply their talents in other fields now discourage those to whom God has bequeathed peculiar gifts. I personally have no taste for politics, but am grateful that others do-men like William Wilberforce and Jonathan Blanchard, who, in the political arena, fought the dragons of slave trade and won. (Let Messrs. Thomas and Dobson tell them that politics hasn't worked!)

Nor, on the other hand, should those who prevail in the political skirmishes of their hour have their heads turned by success. (Once there was a man named Abraham Kuyper, preacher of the Word and prime minister of the Netherlands-but look at Holland today.)

Here is what the Lord calls success: "I send you to ... rebels.... And whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that a prophet has been among them" (Ezekiel 2:3-5).

Giving a testimony is the thing. Obedience, and not the rolling back of Roe vs. Wade. "Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5).

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