Enduring Norms to Guide Millennials
Editors' Note: This article is part of a Public Square conversation on Political Engagement. Read other perspectives here.
In recent weeks, the public reflections by three leading Christian spokesmen—each at different stations in life and with differing proximities to political power from a decade ago—have prompted good reason to reconsider how as Christian citizens we ought to engage with the public square. What norms should guide this engagement?
Consider their reflections. Billy Graham reports that, if there were one thing he could go back and do differently, "I ... would have steered clear of politics." Pope Francis has suggested that, in today's contentious cultural climate, the Catholic Church must find a "new balance" between its spiritual and political missions, lest its moral foundation "fall like a house of cards." And Russell Moore says today's church leaders should focus on being "winsome, kind, and empathetic," realizing that although "we are involved in the political process, we must always be wary of being co-opted by it."
There are insights in each of these claims, each coming from leaders of tremendous influence. But what enduring norms should guide Millennials who want to be Christians first and citizens second—and yet take seriously the amazing privilege of shaping our nation's future? The question is often about how hard to strive, how to tilt public policy or an election in one direction rather than another.
Today's college grads should think in terms of a decades-long engagement with civic and political life, even if it often seems broken. What principles can guide the way?
Here are five suggestions:
1) It depends in part upon your calling. If God gives you a passion for public life, elections, and policymaking, this is a clue. We sorely need wise, godly public engagement—especially when so many people in the policy arena fail to see value in life beyond politics (family, church, and civil society), or fail to perceive the reality of the future kingdom, as Rev. Graham reminds us.
2) To vote well, we need to be informed about the issues shaping our future. In America today we face unprecedented federal debt and entitlement liabilities. A fundamental divide exists between statist and civil society approaches to poverty. Millions of Americans differ on the social issues—especially life, marriage, and religious liberty. Christians need to think through these issues carefully, and consider how their vote impacts real people over time.
Josh Good is the program manager for the Values & Capitalism initiative at AEI. Josh previously spent four years as a consultant at ICF International, where he worked on responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage initiatives, in partnership with TANF welfare officials. He also worked on a national public-private partnership that served ex-prisoners, in collaboration with congregations and businesses.
Josh holds a bachelor's degree in history from Covenant College and a master's in Christianity and Culture from Harvard University, and he lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children. His publications have appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, Patheos, and Capital Commentary, and you can follow Josh on Twitter at @josh_good_.