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Last weekend, I participated in a very animated conversation about the role the church and church leaders should play in the public square and political arena. The urgency of our discussion became more evident Wednesday when Los Angeles County officials caved into the ACLU demand that a small cross be removed from the county seal while the predominate figure, the pagan goddess Pamona, remains.
Generically, our discussion centered on whether church leaders should discuss and advocate action in politics and cultural issues such as prayer in school, pornography and same-sex marriage.
Immediately, a number of people sounded-off with reasons why they should not participate in either. The unifying objection was: “The church should focus solely on the gospel message and the saving of lost souls.”
As I listened to the advocates of this position go on at length, I felt my knuckles tighten around my Bible and whispered to my husband from the side of my mouth, “say something.” “Before you explode,” he replied. It was too late. I exploded:
“The church and its leaders surely should focus on the gospel message of Christ – that is the Great Commission, but that is only half the story. The second half is discipleship, which is teaching Christians how to live in a fallen world and that requires participation in the public square.
“Who can convincingly argue that the state of our nation and its current moral depravity is not intimately linked to the secular mantra that ‘Christians should practice their religion in a closet, i.e. STAY OUT of the public square?’
“If church leaders don’t provide the rudder and the motor on these issues, who will? We are all so busy running our every-day lives, few have time for plugging into information and action groups outside the church.”
My statement was taken as an affront. One woman responded that her time and sacrifice to the Lord was made in the laundry room, making dinner and wiping snotty noses. Well, I applaud her. No, really I do. There is no more valuable place for women then with their children. Far too many homes have absent parents, and the fallout of a broken home is often devastating. But for this generation to do nothing more than focus on the family means passing a morally bankrupt nation onto our children with clean noses.
Isn’t it clear that beyond our duties at home, both the church and its leaders have a place in the public square? Consider the scripture in Jude verses 3 and 4.
“I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Contend means to fight, dispute, struggle for and strive. In this context, it means not only for the faith but against the immorality of godless men. It is here the church is failing. According to this and other scripture, we have a duty to fight. Because God made the rules and endowed us with our rights, we are obliged to obey and defend them.
The final response to my argument was that people “appreciate contenders of the ‘Christian right’ even if they don’t think the church has a role to play in the public square.” To which I would say, “Sure you do.”
That is why the ACLU and other liberal groups frequently go unchallenged by Christians as in L.A. when the ACLU demanded the cross be removed from the county seal. These secular groups rouse great support and raise millions of dollars while Christian groups struggle to stay afloat and conservative contenders plead for backing. (Need further proof? How many weekly readers of this column have sent in a Voluntary Subscription to WND where many commentators/contenders work for little or nothing, me included?)
At the end of the day, I don’t think church leaders should tell us how to cast our vote, but it is undeniably appropriate to address election issues and platforms as well as any other culturally critical issue impacting our nation. Issues such as presidential elections, Christian symbols, human cloning, abortion, gay marriage, pornography, public education, prayer in school and the Ten Commandments in government buildings are not trivial controversies, but controversies with far-reaching consequences to our way of life.
It is tragic when well-meaning people decide that Christians and their leaders have no role to play in the public square, because when we surrender on issues that are the Name, Person and standards of God we cannot maintain the life and freedoms intended by God in America. Worse, there is a deliberate and methodical movement under way to eradicate the Christian influence and presence from every vestige of life in our nation.
That means the battle to instruct, educate and contend for the faith belongs to the church and its leaders. Leaving the battle for others to fight with nothing but criticism from the complacent means we lose.