Is There a Wilberforce Out There?

obamaI in no way style myself a political pundit, and for good reason.  If you’re interested in coverage of the historic election of Barack Obama as president, check out the New York Times’s front-page article.   Justin Taylor is soliciting feedback from some fine Christian thinkers; I would encourage you to read Randy Alcorn’s hope-filled piece, and I loved Eric Redmond’s essay on voting pro-life as an African-American.  Al Mohler has some characteristically incisive and strong words on how Christians should proceed from here.

All of these commentators have helpful words for Christians.  I have little else to contribute.  I would say, though, that this election reminded me of the need for politically minded Christians.  I’m not talking about bloggers and book-readers.  I’m thinking specifically of bright young Christian people who will go to good colleges, get political experience, work their way through the system, and run for office.  Once elected, they will withstand the temptations of secular public life and stand as a force for righteousness and justice.

Don’t get me wrong.  I see no lasting future for politics.  One day, this process will end.  Then, we’ll have a one-party system for sure, a righteous reign that never ends, that never causes weeping, that never breaks a home, that never oppresses people of color, that never kills an innocent.  Until that day, the church, not the political system or the social justice world, is the repository of hope in this world.  The church bears the evangel, the gospel, and this is the only hope of any person.  Many of us would do well to invest far less in things that fade, including politics, and far more in things that last, including the local church and the ministry of the gospel.

But we cannot turn our back on this world, can we?  We must channel our energy into our local churches, and live “missionally,” and do all we can to send missionaries to the lost.  These are our first priorities as believers, whether in vocational ministry or not.  Beyond these things, though, we should encourage the development of young Christian political talent.  We should do so not to pass silly laws or to puff ourselves up, but to work for the spread of righteousness and justice in this darkened place.

Let us give priority, then, to raising up Christ-centered believers who live and work for the spread of the faith, whether from the home, the corner office, the academy, or the ministry.  But let us also seek to raise up a generation of evangelical politicians who spread the faith, yes, but who also work with great diligence in state, national, and global politics.  We can over-spiritualize our movement.  We live in this world, after all.  People suffer in this world.  Babies get murdered in this world.  Marriages crumble in this world.  Sex trafficking happens in this world.  How important, then, that we nurture a small movement of Christians who are gifted in the political realm.  We would not seek to exalt these people, but neither would we teach them that their calling has small significance.  It certainly does not.  We would teach them that they have a great responsibility, and that as congresspeople and judges and lobbyists and political appointees they must work to spread justice and righteousness, to defend the oppressed, to loose the captive, to share the faith from their unique position in the world.

Is there a Wilberforce out there, a person whom God may use to do something titanic like overturn Roe v. Wade or end sex-trafficking?  Are there bright young Christians who are not called to the ministry but who can use their gifts in the political realm in service to Christ?  Do we sometimes teach young Christians that only lesser believers enter the political realm?  We must not.  We must celebrate the ministry, but we must also recognize that many–most–are not called to it, and that there is a tremendous need in America and many other countries for courageous Christian statesmanship.  Politicians can be self-serving, and politics cannot inaugurate the salvation of the world, but so too can a righteous person accomplish tremendous good in the public square.  We must not forget this, and we must not fail to teach it to our children.

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