Throughout Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes a handful of comments on Christians and social engagement, with particular reference to political matters at times. In this post, I’d like to draw attention to a few of these.
First, without condoning any sort of complacency with regards to political involvement, Lewis admonishes us to keep things in perspective. Is politics the answer to the dilemma which humanity faces?
I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society. That is why we must go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual.
Second–and I rather enjoyed this section—Lewis talks about the role of “the Church” in political activism.
People say, “The Church ought to give us a lead.” That is true if they mean … that some Christians–those who happen to have the right talents- should be economists and statesmen … and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to putting “Do as you would be done by” into action. If that happened, and if we others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution for our own social problems pretty quickly. But, of course, when they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to put out a political programme. That is silly. The clergy are those particular people within the whole Church who have been specially trained…. [W]e are asking them to do a quite different job for which they have not been trained. The job is really on us, on the laymen.
See this article entitled, The 15 Best Colleges for Studying the Bible.
Two statements about my school, Trinity International University, that I found interesting:
(1) “The student body and professoriate are intentionally diverse, allowing for an international flavor, and a heightened sense of ‘global missions.'”
— Absolutely true. And I love this!
(2) “Some students will find the political leanings of the school to be too liberal, with notable tones of ‘social justice’ and ‘globalism.'”
— That some would find TIU too political liberal is probably somewhat true as well. And I tend to think this reality relates to the first statement (directly above). However, this perception isn’t the same thing as TIU actual being politically liberal. That’d be a tough case to make given our incredible diversity. Nonetheless, I believe our diversity and international composition resists a narrow-minded approach to politics, whatever that approach might be. And I appreciate this about Trinity as well.
Just a shameless plug for my school.
The following is a modified manuscript/outline from a sermon I preached on 1 Peter 2:11-25 at Lake Drive Baptist Church in December 2013.
I’ve entitled my sermon, “Christian Living in a Post-Christendom America.” What do I mean by “christendom”? “Christendom” refers to the “Christian Empire,” where Christianity is associated with the state, promoted by the state, or the dominant religion within the state.
In a sense, one could have previously referred to America as a form of this Christendom. But now days, it’s quite clear that we live in a post-Christendom America. –Not only non-Christian, but even increasingly anti-Christian.
A mere casual awareness of the news makes one aware of the rapid pace of secularization in our country. For example, only 17 years after President Clinton signed DOMA into law, President Obama successfully pushed for its repeal. And keep in mind, he entered office opposed to gay marriage. And the rapidness of this shift only mirrors trends in the general population. Or again, it only takes a brief glance at recent headlines to demonstrate this:
- “Starbucks Enters Same-Sex Marriage Boycott Wars.”
- “Supreme Court Will Consider Hobby Lobby Contraception Mandate Case.”
- Referring to Chick-Fil-A: “‘Eat More Ignorance’ Is More Like It.”
- “Southern Baptists Convention Fighting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal.”“Should the Boy Scouts of America Lift Its Ban on Gay Members?”
- “New Mexico Supreme Court Unanimously Rules Against Discriminating Anti-Gay Photographer.”
- “Judge Orders Colorado Bakery to Cater for Same-Sex Weddings.”
- “‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Suspended for Anti-Gay Remarks.”
And without necessarily endorsing any of the parties in these conflicts– And no matter what you think about these controversies on a political level, they nonetheless indicate an increasing hostility and threat to Christian thought and values. … We live in an ever-increasingly secular culture.
So, how are we as Christians to respond? What does Christian living look like in a post-Christendom America? 1 Peter has much to say about how Christians should live within a non-Christian and even anti-Christian society.
I would like to recommend to you a lecture I was privileged to hear at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School via the Carl F.H. Henry Center. The lecture was presented by Dr. Paul Metzger and was entitled Downward Mobility and Trickle-Up Economics: A Trinitarian Reflection on Money and Power. In this lecture Metzger presented a critique and examination of the typical American evangelical-fundamentalist view of economics, namely capitalism, and calls for a “capitalism of a higher order.” For example, he states, “While evangelicals are engaging increasingly [in] enterprises towards the poor, they’re not advocating for political policies that would fight against the structures that make and keep people poor.” And he points out what he sees as an inconsistency between the Fundamentalist-Evangelical rejection of evolution and its survival of the fittest but acceptance of capitalism and its survival of the economic fittest.”But would it not be difficult to challenge genetic determinism and natural selection if the [evangelical-fundamentalist] movement is conflicted, promoting an equally deterministic and naturalistic [economic] system.” “Evangelicals as a movement could not be an outspoken opponent because it often assumes the free and unregulated market economic narratives as gospel truth and embraces it with blind faith. . . . Evangelicals don’t simply assume the the market’s gospel-truthfulness, they champion it.”
Is Americanism Christian?
Was America founded on Christian principles? This is a question of much debate today, and in Christian circles we often run to our answer “yes” as if it will work as some sort of trump card, winning all moral issues in politics.
When the Articles of Confederation were tossed aside and the Constitution was being formed, our founding fathers established for us a Democratic Republic. In addition, America has tended to be very capitalistic. Our founding fathers also established for our nation various rights such as the right to bear arms and religious freedom.
Are any of these things inherently Christian? No. They are not. They are political ideologies. Our founding fathers may have been influence by Christianity, may have been Christians, and/or may have had Christian values, but that doesn’t make the political system Christian any more than Tony Dungy’s (a Christian NFL coach) football playbook a “Christian” playbook. Capitalism is no more Christian than Marxism, or vice versa; republic is no more Christian than a dictatorship, etc. So, when we say that out nation was founded on Christian principles, we cannot be speaking anything of government or political ideologies, for God does not describe any type of Christian government. He only describes one type of government—the God-given type (Rom 13:1).