Thursday, January 11, 2007

Are Christians Wrong to "Moralize" Culture? [SK]

Note: What follows was published earlier on the LTI blog. However, because the blog was accidently deleted on December 22, we are reposting important entries that are foundational for future posts.

Steve Hays has point by point replies to the oft-heard claims that 1) "Making abortion a crime won’t make America a more ‘Christian’ country," and 2) "Evangelicals should stop trying to moralize the culture through political involvement." In this case, Hays responds specifically to statements made by Samuel Ross:

(Replies from Hays are in italics.)

“During the early 1940s the Nazis were fond of saying, “Deutschland uber alles!” which translated means “Germany over all!” There is a striking similarity of this popular Nazi chant and the desire that many evangelicals possess today to make the rest of American culture conform to their moral template of success for America.”
This is a breathtaking comparison. At the risk of stating the obvious, someone’s moral template is going to govern public policy. And in a republic, why shouldn’t evangelicals use the democratic process to promote their moral template? I certainly prefer that moral template to George Soros and the New York Times. For his own part, Ross thinks that we should conform to an Anabaptist template. Brother, can you pass the template?

“As a Christian, I oppose abortion too, but ironically, making abortion a crime again won’t make America a more ‘Christian’ country.”
No, it won’t make America more Christian. It will simply save innocent babies from the dumpster. Isn’t that reason enough?

“What it will do, however, is broadcast to the culture at large that Christians in general and evangelicals in particular are more interested in law than grace.”
What it will broadcast to the culture at large is that murder is murder, that adults should defend the young, not murder the young. I rather like that message myself. Also, it’s very sloppy to introduce a law/grace antithesis at this point. The Pauline law/grace antithesis has nothing to do with crime or civil law. It isn’t about the social function of the law. Rather, the antithesis is about the inability of sinners to by justified before God by law-keeping. Ross is intoning the traditional slogan after having forgotten, if he ever knew, what the slogan stood for.

“Civil laws may change behavior, but only God can truly change people’s desire, their motivation, or why they believe what they believe.”
How is that an argument against banning abortion? The fact that sinners are ill-motivated is a presupposition of civil law, not an argument against it. Since we can’t appeal to their conscience, we resort to the force of law to restrain immorality. If it’s all right to have laws against murder in general, what’s wrong with having laws against murder in particular?

“Most Christians are very comfortable with their pro-life position, but they are often guilty of making it the ONLY issue. They are not unlike single-issue politicians.”
Given a choice, I’d rather that Christians focus on at least one great moral issue than abdicate the public square entirely. Of course, there is an alternative to single-issue politics. You can go the theonomic route. But I rather doubt that Ross would favor that alternative.

“His real goal, and that of many evangelical Christians, is to attain a Christian majority and overthrow Roe v. Wade once and for all.”
This is a gross oversimplification of the culture wars, but even if it were accurate, defeating Roe v. Wade would be a great cultural achievement. You might as well blame single issue politicians like Churchill and FDR for the “inordinate amount of time, money, and energy, and manpower” they threw into defeating the Nazis, to the neglect of “all other issues.”

“Christianity works better as a minority movement than a monolithic majority.”
When Christianity is a minority movement, it should do what it can as a minority movement, and when Christianity is a majority movement, it should do what it can as a majority movement.

“If evangelical Christians in America want to have a voice in the culture, they must accept their minority role…”
Minority relative to what, exactly? We may be in the minority of the total adult population, but we outnumber the liberal elite.

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