The Call came last week, as it's come from someone every two or four years during the past two decades. The voice on the line was urgent: We need to do something to stop America's slide. Which candidates should we support? How much should we put into advertising? Etc. Etc.
The Call always bows to the tyranny of the present: The situation is so dire that we must focus on what's happening right now. We can't worry about investing in the future, because if we lose now the future will be lost. There's some truth in that. The situation is dire. The 2012 election is crucial.
And yet, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey players all learn that not every defender should go right to the ball or puck. Some athletes have to stay at their spots both for defense and to start the next play. So it is this year: Christians need to support candidates in their current battles, but also support Christian education and media, which is where the long war will be won and lost.
Think: What if more Christians in 1981 had invested in what would be making a huge difference in 2011? Some people did work to create Christian schools and colleges and magazines, but what if tens of millions had done so? Would we have so many voters looking for human saviors? Would those who had learned about man's sin vote for politicians who centralize power and push for economic panaceas?
Historical analogy: We had a Civil War in 1861 because not enough American Christians in 1831 followed what William Wilberforce was doing in England. Emancipation begun that year, with partial compensation for slave owners like what the British Empire offered, might have been gradual, but African-Americans would have had freedom by 1865. Freedom would have come without the loss of 600,000 lives and the residue of bitterness that held down blacks for a century thereafter.
I'm not blaming Americans of that earlier period or now. The present always makes demands. But we need some far-sighted people who will work and give to make a difference not only in 2012 but 30 years down the road.