Nancy Pearcey makes some insightful comments about the increasing evangelical fascination with politics in recent years.
In recent years, Evangelicals began to think of Christianity as a worldview that calls us to reorder everything in our lives, obliterating the sacred/secular divide that has characterized and plagued Christianity since the Enlightenment. That’s a positive development. The emergence of worldview as a concept combined with a growing emphasis on evangelical social and cultural engagement championed by Carl Henry and others, caused many Evangelicals to pay more attention to the deterioration of the culture around them.
As a result, many evangelicals turned to politics as the vehicle through which to redeem and reform a culture on the skids.
There is a long list of Christian agencies and organizations whose primary aim is to influence public policy, and a longer list of those for whom such activity is a strong component of what they do (e.g. Focus on the Family). In recent years evangelicals have indeed begun to flex their political muscle and many politicians are climbing on board (witness “Justice Sunday”).
Pearcey warns us, however, of the danger of putting all of our proverbial eggs in one basket.
She observes that many evangelicals have made a key miscalculation: “They leaped into political activism as the quickest, surest way to make a difference in the public arena – failing to realize that politics tends to reflect culture, not the other way around.” (Total Truth, 18)
That’s great insight. The desire to change the culture through the vehicle of politics is, for Pearcey, often a case of putting the cart before the horse (to use yet another cliche). I think that what she calls the evangelical “infatuation with politics” may actually serve as a distraction from the broader mission of living out God’s kingdom before the world.
What can we do?
Pearcey’s prescription seems correct: “The most effective work… is done by ordinary Christians fulfilling God’s calling to reform culture within their local spheres of influence – their families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces…”
Doing so requires that we develop and genuinely live out of a Christian worldview. While that won’t garner headlines and contributions, that’s how you work for real change and genuine impact.