Rob Schwarzwalder

A response to Evangelical calls to disengage from the political fight

Rob Schwarzwalder
By Rob Schwarzwalder

As explained by my friends Tim Dalrymple and Mark Tooley, it has become fashionable among some young evangelicals to call upon social conservatives to disengage from the political fight. Instead, they urge their peers to serve our neighbors with Christian affection and anonymous quietude. Matt Anderson, Jon Shields and John Mark Reynolds have commented on essentially the same phenomenon.

The disaffection of some younger believers toward political action seems animated by two factors: the reality that more has not been accomplished, despite decades of evangelical political activism, and the perception that evangelical social conservatives are an angry and bumptious lot characterized more by enflamed rhetoric than compassion or effectiveness.

The first issue reflects more a naiveté about politics than anything else. Political change is incremental. Only on rare occasions (e.g., the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s) does massive social change occur. The great majority of the time, it is a matter of slow, deliberate and prudential action.

For example, the ruling legalizing unrestricted access to abortion, Roe v. Wade, remains the law of the land nearly 40 years after it was issued by the Supreme Court. Those who look with despair on the failure of conservatives to correct Roe say that we should admit legal and political defeat and simply concentrate on pro-life and pro-adoption ministries.

Those ministries are essential, but incomplete: As long as Roe is the law, however generous and effective Christian efforts to save the unborn and help their mothers might be, they will fail adequately to end abortion’s culture of death.

Since 1973, myriad pro-life measures have been passed at both the federal and state levels (See examples here and here). Abortion is being restrained, gradually, through these partial victories.

In addition, the ground has shifted beneath the feet of those who believe in “a woman’s right to choose” an abortion above the right of the unborn child to live - according to a recent Gallup Poll, more Americans than ever before identify as pro-life (50-41 percent). Changes in public opinion usually lead to political action. In this case, that action will (continue to) be pro-life.

Progress can be slow. That does not mean it is unimportant or that noble efforts should be discarded. It means thinking tactically and strategically, persuading and voting and running for office and putting up yard signs and a thousand other large and small political tasks. It means taking what victories are possible now and laying the foundation for more victories in the future. That’s the very nature of politics. I believe these younger evangelicals may very well come to grasp this concept as they mature and gain experience.

Insofar as the stereotypes of “the Christian Right:” it is easy to caricature, much harder to evaluate honestly. Those younger believers who have accepted the narrative offered by critics of Christian conservatives often will win the accolades of the “elites” who insist that evangelicals are uninformed, frightened and reactionary.

The rare flippant remark, the episodic rhetorical overreach, the infrequent but stinging criticism: yes, evangelical leaders in political and social action have occasionally made them. Yet they reflect neither the Gospel nor the remarkable, even historic work of those same leaders - men and women who, sporadically, say things they regret (and, unlike most of their critics, for which they often and quickly apologize).

That such verbal mots are used by those who denigrate Christian activists to generalize about the social conservative movement is intellectually disingenuous; such generalizations are inaccurate and unfair.

To reiterate: Socially conservative evangelicals are fallen, like everyone else. Sometimes we overstate, say things in the heat of the moment, etc. But these isolated comments are not characteristic of the generally irenic language or compassionate actions we seek to bring to the public arena. Verbal gaffes are noticeable - citable - because of their relative rarity.

Undeniably, political triumphalism is an idol. We will never inaugurate the Kingdom of God until the King Himself rules on earth. The battle will never be fully won; as long as our culture is occupied by sons and daughters of Adam (that would be all of us), social evil will exist and merit resistance. Wrong ideas never die but only lapse into episodic somnolence. Agendas of power, slaughter and cruelty wait calmly in the wings of human affairs.

Yet secession from political engagement because it is hard, its success impermanent and its achievements incomplete, is more a form of self-comfort than moral conviction. As Carl Henry wrote me in a personal letter years ago, “not to oppose a Hitler, a Stalin or a Mao would have been an act of Christian lovelessness” - in other words, passivity in the face of evil is acquiescence to it and, in some cases, even partnership with it.

Paul enjoins us to not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:13) for a reason: It is hard to persist in doing good when the results of our labor seem modest. Battles are wearing, and trenches are discomfiting. The overconfidence of some conservative Christians in politics as the means by which to “change the world” was misplaced.

But abandonment is a poor substitute for uninformed striving. Enthusiasm for an immodest aim produces frustration, or even bitterness, since that aim can never be reached. Withdrawal is a welcome alternative, surely, in the short term: It is always easier to rest than fight.

It is then that the faithful Christian remembers we are citizens of an eternal commonwealth, that doing right in all spheres of life is pleasing to - and required by - God, and that small, incremental victories can build momentum such that substantial and more climactic victory becomes possible. For example, Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, but it took another 26 years to end British slavery itself.

Evangelicals should stand for justice and righteousness (our English terms both stem from a common Hebrew word, tsehdek) wherever such a stance is needed. This means defending marriage, the unborn and religious liberty wherever they are endangered.

There is nothing more important than sharing the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave. Yet as central as this is to the church’s proclamation and ministry, it cannot stand in isolation from works of compassion and working for social structures and political initiatives that protect the unborn and their mothers, bolster marriage and the family, and supporting religious liberty.

To herald the Gospel without actions commensurate with it is insufficient. These actions include works of charity and works of public initiative. To jettison either facet of our witness and work would be, to use Dr. Henry’s phrase, “loveless.”

May the church resist such a self-satisfying and thoroughly unbiblical practice and such a dangerous temptation.

Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Vice President at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Christian Post

Help us expose Planned Parenthood

$5 helps us reach 1,000 more people with the truth!


Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

,

Pope Francis eases forgiveness of abortion for Jubilee Year of Mercy

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
By John-Henry Westen

ROME, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- In an announcement today, Pope Francis said that he is enacting an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy from December 8, 2015 through November 2016. As part of the Jubilee, the pope has allowed priests to forgive the sin of abortion, which St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 58) is “murder.”

The statement marks the most extensive remarks on abortion that Pope Francis has made during his pontificate. Rather than downplaying the seriousness of abortion, as some media contend, in the statement the pope encourages the millions of women who have aborted their children to go to confession and seek God’s forgiveness.

In the Catechism, the Church calls abortion a “criminal” practice, and imposes the penalty of excommunication on those who do it -- essentially, removing those who commit abortions from the Church. In the past, typically re-entry into the Church for those who have separated themselves from it by excommunication can only be undertaken by a bishop. However in much of North America priests have already been given standing permission by their bishops to forgive abortion.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput explained in an email sent to LifeSiteNews today, “For many years now, parish priests have been given permission to absolve the sin of abortion here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia archbishop, who will play host to Pope Francis during the pontiff’s visit later this month added, “But the practice has not been common in various other regions of the world.”

“This action in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion,” concluded Chaput. “What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart.”

The pope declared that all priests may forgive the sin of abortion for “those who have procured it and who with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.'"

The pope says in his letter that abortion is a “tragedy” wherein “extreme harm” takes place, and calls it “profoundly unjust.”  He admits however, as does the pro-life movement, that it is an “agonizing and painful decision” and many women “believe that they have no other option.”

In order to be forgiven by God of such a serious offence, the pope says the one who has procured the abortion must be made aware of the “gravity of the sin committed” and be truly repentant. They must come, says Francis, with a “contrite heart, seek forgiveness for” the abortion and hoping for “reconciliation with the Father.”

The full statement from the Pope on the matter of abortion follows:

One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured itand who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

Share this article

Advertisement
Featured Image
TLC stars Kody Brown and his four "wives"
Fr. Mark Hodges

, ,

Surprise, surprise: New suit says gay ‘marriage’ ruling laid ground for legal polygamy

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – When "The Pill" was made available to the public in 1964, Christians warned it could lead to promiscuity and disassociation of sex with marriage and children.  They were ridiculed as religious fanatics.

When abortion was made legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy in 1973, Christians warned that it would not save women's lives, but would instead lead to devaluing all human life, especially children's lives. They were dismissed as moral-legislating hate-mongers.

When euthanasia was legalized in Oregon and other states, Christians warned that the non-terminally ill and eventually the mentally handicapped, or simply the unwanted, would be killed in the name of mercy. They were mocked as right-wing crazies.

When sodomy laws in Texas and elsewhere were stricken from the books in 2003, Christians warned that societal approval of that harmful practice would lead to an increase in disease and further perversion. They were ignored and vilified.

When DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) rules for the military were reversed, Christians warned that the epidemic of rapes in the armed services would increase, not decrease, and that combat readiness would continue to diminish. They were called bigots, their words "hate speech."

And so on. Recent history is rife with examples of conservatives warning against societal degradation being vilified as "slippery slope" straw man creators, who want only to legislate morality.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

That's how those who warned that the Supreme Court's same-sex "marriage" decision would lead to legalization of any and all kinds of "marriage," such as a man and several wives or vice versa.

And, as in every case cited above, what Christian conservatives warned is exactly what has now happened.

In a U.S. 10th Circuit court filing, reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives point to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage to buttress their pro-polygamy case.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, summarized to LifeSiteNews, "The left's chaotic cultural agenda knows no boundaries. Once 'marriage' could be redefined to accommodate sexual perversion, it would be impossible to stop other perversions from being recognized." 

The American Family Association's Ed Vitagliano told LifeSiteNews, "It has been clear for decades that sexual radicals in America have been targeting the God-ordained institution of marriage for destruction. Toss in a handful of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, beginning in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas), and ending with this summer's debacle (Obergefell v. Hodges), and we are on the verge of seeing the secularists succeed." 

The AFA executive vice president concluded to LifeSiteNews, "We have no doubt that the polygamists will be next to step into the federal courts."

Indeed. Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, have asked the court to uphold a judge's ruling striking down part of Utah's law against polygamy. To prove their case, they cite precedents involving same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges), and a case that struck down a ban on sodomy (Lawrence v. Texas).

"From the rejection of morality legislation in Lawrence, to the expansion of the protections of liberty interests in Obergefell, it is clear that states can no longer use criminal codes to ... punish those who choose to live in consensual but unpopular unions," Brown's filing states. "This case is about the criminalization of consensual relations."

LaBarbera told LifeSiteNews that the move to legalize polygamy is no surprise. "Once the argument for homosexual so-called 'marriage' became 'Love Is Love,' it was only a matter of time before multiple-partner activists would start defending the 'right' to have THEIR [perversion of] 'love' legitimized by state-recognized 'marriage.'"

The Browns, who appear on the television show "Sister Wives," sued the state of Utah over its ban on polygamy, which Brown calls "plural relationships." They argue that the law violates their right to freely practice their religion and their right to equal protection under the law.

Specifically, Brown is challenging the state's assertion that polygamy is harmful to societies that condone it.

Brown argues that the state should not have "the right to impose criminal morality codes on citizens, compelling them to live their lives in accordance with the religious or social values of the majority of citizens."

LaBarbera concluded, "Social conservatives and Christians must work to overturn Obergefell, just like homosexual activists worked to overturn the Supreme Court's Bowers v. Hardwick decision in 1986 that allowed anti-sodomy laws. Otherwise, we are guaranteed to lose more and more freedoms as 'gay' power grows, using legalized 'marriage' as leverage."

Arguments in the Brown polygamy case could take place before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver before the end of the year.

Advertisement
Featured Image
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, MD, on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

,

Sen. McConnell: GOP won’t push Obama on Planned Parenthood defunding

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Planned Parenthood won't lose its funding for at least 18 months, says America's top senator.

Speaking on WYMT TV, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said, "The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood, so that’s another issue that awaits a new president, hopefully with a different point of view about Planned Parenthood."

“We just don’t have the votes to get the outcome that we’d like,” he said. “Again, the president has the pen to sign it. If he doesn’t sign it, it doesn’t happen. But, yeah, we voted on that already in the Senate, we’ll vote on it again, but I would remind all of your viewers the way you make a law in this country, the Congress has to pass it and the president has to sign it.”

McConnell's comments came despite pressure from Senators and Representatives alike, as well as pro-life groups, who want Republicans to make defunding a priority.

"If the president of the United States and Harry Reid think it's more important that Planned Parenthood get your tax dollars than to pay our troops, then they are shutting down the government,” Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan, R-OH, told CNN last week.

Jordan and others have pushed GOP leaders to attach defunding efforts to must-pass pieces of legislation, such as a highway bill earlier this summer and the upcoming Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government running. GOP leaders have generally opposed this strategy, which has created a schism within the party.

Conversely, Democrats have been largely united. Leaders and rank-and-file members in both parties have generally supported taxpayer funding of the abortion giant, despite the possibility of illegal abortions being done to illegally harvest fetal organs and other body parts.

Advertisement

Customize your experience.

Login with Facebook