July 01, 2004

The NAE and Civic Engagement

I promised this yesterday, but I've been mulling over what I want to say. Some of the things in the document, I don't agree with. Some things in the document, conservatives won't agree with. But I think that there is a lot that is worthwhile here, no matter what nation you live in.

One thing to remember is that this document encompasses all evangelicals -- or is meant to. Not all evangelicals are politically conservative, and their influence can be seen in the document.

One thing that the document makes clear is that "disengagement is not an option". We have to remain engaged with our nation as much as we can be, to try to make the changes to our society that government can make. This is something that I think people have misunderstood about things that I have said -- I don't believe that we should just go away and let the nation go; we have to be engaged. The isue that I have is that many Christians seem to think that if we can get the politics straightened out, everything will be OK. The government cannot fix everything, and we shouldn't expect it to.

One thing that conservatives will disagree on is the ammount of government. The NAE does not advocate a small government; in fact, it sees a role for government in welfare (and welfare reform), protection of the sanctity of life, international peacemaking, and many other areas. It also calls for improved access to health care for all citizens.

The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal about the wellbeing of marriage, the family, the sanctity of human life, justice for the poor, care for creation, peace, freedom, and racial justice. While individual persons and organizations may rightly concentrate on one or two issues, faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda.
In other words, don't ignore the poor. Don't ignore environmental issues. Don't ignore racism. If we are truely going to bring a Christian worldview to our politics, we have to make sure that it is consistant.

We will differ with other Christians and with non-Christians over the best policies. Thus we must practice humility and cooperation to achieve modest and attainable goals for the good of society. We must take care to employ the language of civility and to avoid demonizing those with whom we disagree. Because political work requires persuasion and cooperation with those who do not share our Christian commitment, we must offer a reasoned and easy-to-grasp defense of our goals.
In other words, no name-calling, from either side.

I especially like this quote:
Christians engaged in political activity must maintain their integrity and keep their biblical values intact. While they may frequently settle for "half-a-loaf," they must never compromise principle by engaging in unethical behavior or endorsing or fostering sin. Evangelicals should join political parties and fully express their biblical values. In doing so, they must be careful not to equate Christian faith with partisan politics.
The emphasis there, of course, is mine. The whole Republican=Christian thing is not only untrue, it's unbiblical, as is Christian=Republican. Party politics are not tied to faith in Christ, as I tried to illustrate elsewhere. All we can do, and what we need to do, is make sure that our political views reflect our Christian beliefs. That may involve supporting (gasp) a Democrat. Or an Independant. Or Libertarian, or Constitutional, or Green. Political parties will take us for granted, unless we make sure they know we vote issues, not party.

There is a large section on protecting liberty of conscience, which should relieve the folks who think we're a bunch of Reconstructionists. Then again, they probably won't listen to us at all.
Because human beings are responsible to God, these guarantees are crucial to the exercise of their Godgiven freedom. As God allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the harvest, and as God sends the rain on the just and on the unjust, so those who obey and those who disobey God coexist in society and share in its blessings (Matt. 5:45; 13:24-30). This "gospel pluralism" is foundational to the religious liberty of all.
THIS is where our call to evangelism comes into play. Government MUST allow all faiths to practice their beliefs, including those faiths who are called to proseletyze. We must be about the Lord's business, and government cannot interfere. At the same time, we must realize that other faiths are allowed to exist in our society, and not strive for laws that restrict their practice.

We commit ourselves to work for laws that protect and foster family life, and against government attempts to interfere with the integrity of the family. We also oppose innovations such as same-sex "marriage." We will work for measures that strengthen the economic viability of marriages and families, especially among the poor. We likewise commit ourselves to work within the church and society to strengthen marriages, to reduce the rate of divorce, and to prepare young adults for healthy family life.
I'm curious about how many people who are in favor of the Marriage Ammendment are divorced. Do they not realize that divorce is interfering with the integrity of the institution of marriage as much as the whole 'same-sex marriage' issue? There are more heterosexuals who get divorced every day than there are homosexuals who want to get married. Consistancy. We should oppose divorce with the vigor we oppose gay marriage.
We further believe that care for the vulnerable should extend beyond our national borders. We link arms with Christians everywhere in calling on individuals, churches and governments to do more to reduce the scandal of widespread poverty in a time of abundance.
Kinda puts a damper on the Constitutional Party's foreign policy platform, doesn't it?

The paper goes on to discuss government's role in providing for the poor, and taking responsibility for the economic well being of it's citizens. I think that they give government too big of a role in this area. I think that the church should be the primary provider of welfare for the poor, with the government stepping in only when they church cannot, or does not.
Restoring people to wholeness means that public social welfare must aim to restore people to self-sufficiency. While basic standards of support must be put in place to provide for those who cannot care for their families and themselves, incentives and training in marketable skills must be part of any well-rounded program.
Sound familiar??

They also call for sound environmental stewardship. God gave us the earth to care for -- to have dominion over, true, but also to care for and take care of.
Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human suffering
caused by bad environmental practice and the responsibility to use foresight in egulating
the use of land and resources to minimize the effects on the poor and others who are less
able to protect themselves. Because natural systems are extremely complex, human actions can have unexpected side effects. We must therefore approach our stewardship of creation with humility and caution.

I really think that this paper, if adopted with anywhere close to the language it contains in this draft, will change the way evangelicals are perceived by the secular world. It will also result in our modern fundamental brethren deciding that we have compromised. Oh, well -- they'd do that anyway.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 09:22 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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