Marvin Olasky posts these thoughts by Jordon Bailor regarding the disturbing trend among evangelicals to "use political power to impose external standards of morality." I think they are definitely worth a read.
Christian activists need to be wary of falling prey to the temptation
to use political power to impose external standards of morality for a
number of interconnected reasons. The first concern relates to a sort
of Christianity that places great emphasis on the importance of public
behavior and conduct, very often to the detriment of private reflection
There is a disturbing trend among American evangelicals that places
a great value on displays of public virtue. The furor over the public
displays of the 10 Commandments is one example, but the fight over
broadcast decency has taken on a similar flavor.
For Christians, the significance of the new covenant means that is
more important for the law to be written on our hearts than for it to
be displayed in our courtrooms. For our concern to be otherwise brings
us under Jesus’ condemnation of Pharisaical hypocrisy.
This truth flows into a second and closely related problem.
Overzealous political activism poses a threat to the fundamental task
of the church: proclamation of the Gospel. Many might be aware of the
relief efforts of nominally Christian groups, such as the National
Council of Churches, who seek to divorce evangelism and charitable
work. But where we rightly decry such inconsistency in other quarters,
we should also beware the temptation elsewhere to confuse or obscure
the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
The Gospel is simply not reducible to the institution of laws
amenable to Christian morality. And a disproportionate emphasis on such
laws tends toward a position that is inimical to Christianity. Yet the
perception often remains that the way the church is to “engage culture”
is primarily, if not solely, through public policy.
Beyond these theological problems lies a prudential question of the
wise use of political power. In the broad area of decency standards,
this third problem flows out of the coercive nature of governmental
While Christians maintain the influence to form policy in a certain
area, the laws are likely to remain in accord with Christian morality.
The danger is that once the power of such regulation of speech and free
expression has been ceded to the government, it is nearly impossible to
get it back. And it is almost certain that the current season of
Christian political influence will eventually wane.
Today perhaps the antics of a Howard Stern will be outlawed by
increased governmental regulation. But tomorrow it may well be that
simply reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans will be prohibited as
hate speech, indecent, or otherwise intolerant. We have already seen
threats of this in other countries. In the words of Jesus, “All who
draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 NIV).
Zealous Christian activism in the area of speech limitation thus
carries within it the possibility for governmental incursion into the
realm of the church itself. This is simply unacceptable.
Evangelical Christians as individuals and voluntary associations can
function as important voices in public debates. But the role of
politically-active Christian groups should never obscure the task of
the church. Still less should the proclamation of the Gospel be reduced
to political activism.
In the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The true church of
Christ, however, which lives solely from the Gospel and realizes the
character of the state’s actions, will never intervene in the state in
such a way as to criticize its history-making actions, from the
standpoint of some humanitarian ideal.”
Instead, the church, as Bonhoeffer said,“can and should, precisely
because it does not moralize in individual instances, continually ask
the state whether its action can be justified as legitimate action of
the state, i.e. as action which leads to law and order, and not to
lawlessness and disorder.”
A far better way than coercing others to adhere to objective
standards of morality is to convert them to those standards. It is
ultimately only through proclamation of the Gospel that the culture and
the nation will be redeemed. For the church is to engage the world not
with the sword of the government, but with “sword of the Spirit, which
is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).