Why Jim Daly and Daniel Weiss Are Wrong About Christian Engagement in Politics
I accepted Christ as my Savior in July of 1984. Within weeks of my conversion I was introduced to a man named Dr. James Dobson and a ministry he directed called "Focus on the Family." For the next twenty plus years I was challenged, convicted, encouraged, and informed by Dr. Dobson's books and daily radio program.
Dr. Dobson was and continues to be a courageous warrior in the culture war. He is willing to step up to the plate and speak the truth while enduring vicious attacks from those who oppose him. During the time James Dobson led Focus on the Family I never heard him speak a single word out of malice or evil intent. When he expressed anger it was the righteous anger of someone who was thoroughly disgusted with the attacks being waged daily against the biblical values that have served as a hedge around our culture for over two hundred years. He spoke and continues to speak the truth in love to a culture that needs both truth and love if we are going to survive. For that, he has and will always have my utmost respect and sincere gratitude.
Since February of 2009, Jim Daly has led Focus on the Family. I don't know him personally but everything I have read by or about him speaks of a godly man who is carrying on the tradition of defending the truth in a culture that has largely abandoned a belief in absolute truth. He has a new book coming out later this month that I intend to read. Refocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart will be released on October 16 and I am sure it will reflect the heart of a servant of God who is genuinely concerned about how Christians are to engage the culture.
In a September 12 preview of the book, Daly listed six myths about cultural engagement that he gleaned from former Focus on the Family employee Daniel Weiss. While I believe both of these men are sincere in their assessment and while I agree with some of their points I respectfully offer the following critique of their list of myths.
Myth 1: Nothing can be done.
I certainly agree that this is a myth. Many believers become discouraged and disgusted with the tenor of the culture war and they simply give up and retreat into the relative safety of the Church and the home. Many Christians see the spreading of darkness throughout the culture and believe the battle is already lost. They decide to take care of their own and wait for Jesus to come.
But God has not given us a spirit of fear but a sound mind. Paul reminded the Ephesians to "take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13 ESV). Before Charles Colson went home to be with the Lord he called for Christian leaders to "stay at your post." Much can be done when believers stand firm on the Word of God in the face of the world.
Myth 2: We must be loud, vocal and visible.
Weiss says if we want people to hear us we must be humble, personable and subtle. While that is true we must also be sure our voice isn't drowned out by the cacophony of voices being raised against us. Being loud is optional but being vocal and visible is required. There is nothing wrong with speaking up in the marketplace of ideas and there certainly is nothing wrong with making ourselves visible to a lost world. When Peter and John were forbidden by the Sanhedrin to speak or teach in the name of Jesus they answered, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:18 ESV). Knowing it could lead to his imprisonment or even to his death John the Baptist spoke out against Herod's adultery. We should never look for a fight but we have to stop stepping aside when the fight comes to us.
Myth 3: Getting angry is the path to success.
I don't know anyone engaged in the culture war who believes that anger is the path to success. However, righteous anger in response to the blasphemy that is raised up against everything that is right and good is a reasonable response as long as our anger is focused and does not make us bitter. Anger can work as a primer to shake us out of our lethargy but it must never be a platform for action.
Myth 4: We must fight the darkness.
Weiss is right to point out that we must increase the light by presenting the good but we must also realize we are in a war. When we shine the light the darkness will try to snuff it out. Atheism is no longer the belief system of the passive. It is now being used like a battering ram to shatter and scatter the light. Shinning the light in a dark world is the equivalent of fighting the darkness. To do less is to cover our light under a bushel.
Myth 5: Success comes from the top down.
It is true that the battle is the Lord's and real change begins with right relationships. But in a Constitutional Republic our leaders are chosen by "we the people." If we avoid the political system because we view it as a top down solution we are actually abandoning the only bottom up strategy we possess.
Myth 6: We must change others.
Again, I agree this is a myth but I also never hear anyone engaged in the culture war saying we must change another person through the political process. Change begins in our own heart but it must then make us into God's agents of change. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus so that we might be equipped to bring transformation to our culture. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us we are salt and light. As salt we preserve what is good and as light we roll back the darkness by shinning and by standing against every argument that is raised against the truth.
Jim Daly is right when he says we can engage the culture in a "winsome way" but we must remember that cultural engagement will mean conflict. May God grant us the courage to stand and the wisdom to depend on His Word.