Several years ago, I saw an episode of a fictional, political satire TV series that follows a female Vice President as she tries to navigate the idiosyncrasies of American politics. In this instance, she is preparing to run for the office of President and is asked to provide a statement on her abortion stance. The request frustrates her because she doesn’t know how to answer the question without alienating a large segment of the voting public. Despite being a career politician, she doesn’t care about the morality of abortion; she just wants votes. Throughout the episode, she comically fumbles through the preparation of a statement that straddles both sides of the issue.
As it often does, satire rings true and presents some insight into real life. In this example, we see emphasized the frustrating disorder between culture, personal morality, and political gain. What few fail to realize is that politics is a wagging tail on the dog of morality. As esteemed theologian and worldview expert Francis Schaffer, taught, politics always runs downstream of culture. This confusion in the order of causality seems to be something Christians have lost sight of in recent years. We mistakenly think our votes for President, Congress, Senate, and consequently who gets selected to the Supreme Court will be the primary force that moves the needle of back to biblical morality. Politics will never fix our culture’s morality.
The truth is politicians (I am speaking in generalities) are echo chambers and instruments for a culture’s desires. On their own, they have almost zero influence to change the moral issues that our country faces today. Whatever policy and chatter is popular in the political sphere is so because the culture has already deemed it desirable and worthy of the platform. Regardless of your feelings on the organization, the recent surge in the Black Lives Matter movement into the political atmosphere is evidence of this. Despite being an organization since 2013, it was not until the very public death of George Floyd that they became a household name. Public outrage spurred millions to vocally support the cause, and now, politicians everywhere have jumped aboard and built political platforms supporting BLM and similar organizations.
We saw similar patterns plat out during the legalization of abortive practice in the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973. At the time, the world was heavily under the new influence of liberalism and consequence-free sexual promiscuity. The general public outcry demanded abortive rights for women and the Supreme Court acquiesced. It might surprise you that the most vocal for the ruling in favor of abortive rights was Justice Harry Blackmun, an outspoken Republican. I point this out not to make a political statement, but rather to emphasize how political and government figures often respond when faced with the pressure of the culture’s demands; no political party is immune to this cause and effect. Had Roe v. Wade come before the Supreme Court 30 years earlier, I suspect the result would have been different. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Roe v. Wade existed because the culture wanted legalized abortion.
Therefore, as we enter this election season, Christians need to recognize that the front-line battle for our culture’s morality is not in the voting booth or in Washington. Politicians make terrible cultural saviors, because fundamentally, our problem is not a political one or even a moral one – it’s a spiritual one. We need our hearts turned back to Christ more than we need Donald Trump reelected and a conservatively weighted Supreme Court. Executive Orders can be overturned, and laws can be changed, but the spiritual reality of a heart transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal. More than that, the gospel has a multi-generational effect, meaning it multiplies and grows among the children of believers. My friends, this is how you change a culture. You redeem it by conforming the people within it to the likeness of Jesus. While the results are not immediate, they are powerful.
A brief case study of William Wilberforce’s efforts to abolish salve trade might be helpful here. Inspired by his recent conversion to Christianity, Wilberforce sought humanitarian work and put an end to the horrors of English slave trade. For 18 years, he unsuccessfully proposed legislation after legislation aimed at abolishing slave trade. Yet, this was not all he did. During this time, he also partnered with other like-minded groups and Christians. Together, they gradually raised public awareness, made pamphlets, books, and held rallies aimed at educating the people about the immoral issues with slave trading. Motivated by the gospel of Jesus, he orchestrated a public ground-game with a tireless political attack. in 1807, slave trade was finally abolished within parliament. While our current situation is not a mirror of Wilberforce’s, a few parallels can be drawn. Namely, the importance of the gospel driving Christian behavior with local communities and the gathering the general public’s support to drive government legislation.
Unlike nineteenth-century England, which contained a healthy backdrop of Christian ideals, biblical Christianity and its morals are despised among today’s culture; our hill, I fear, is much steeper than Wilberforce’s. From the education system to the government elite, Christianity is systematically being removed. This is the result of 50+ years of passive evangelicals allowing liberal ideologies and philosophies to seep into the church and schools. Like a wolf waiting on its prey, real, physical, and intense persecution is sitting on our doorstep. Yet, despite every adversary the pits of hell and secularism can throw at Christendom, the gospel of Jesus Christ is more powerful. In God, we have a stronghold that shall never be compromised. Therefore, let us go boldly into the world with the gospel – it is the driving force of change.
If you want to restore biblical morality to our culture, you must start with your community. Talk to your neighbor, your coworker, and family members. Share with them the love and glory of Christ. The gospel is the only power strong enough to redeem our dying culture. We would do well to remember some words from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. He said, “Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.” The laws of our country will reflect God’s morality only when Christians take the gospel seriously. It has conquered nations and can do so again.
In closing, I want to clarify a point. Someone may read this and think I am saying that Christian activism in politics is a waste of time right now. I am not saying that. Many Christian-minded politicians are laboring for the gospel and kingdom of Christ and this is wonderful God-honoring behavior. Surely, their reward will be great in heaven. My main point is their political goals will be achieved when the culture wants the same thing they want. Politics will always echo the culture. Therefore, we must go into a broken world with the love of Christ and redeem the culture.