Last week FBI director James Comey announced the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. He charged her with being “extremely careless” but stopped short of seeking an indictment.
No indictment, after the FBI discovered Clinton had used her private server repeatedly to discuss classified national security issues. No indictment, after the FBI proved Clinton had done the very things she so emphatically denied ever having done. After she called the investigation a right-wing conspiracy and a witch hunt. Hillary Clinton is the former Secretary of State. How can she get away with breaking the law, endangering national security, and telling pants-on-fire lies to the American people?
It appears that the American system is rigged. That our country’s laws are only for the “little people,” but not for blue-blood political royalty. So why should everyday Americans bother to be involved in the political process, if it’s so obviously corrupt? Why should we even care anymore?
Donald Trump’s campaign inspires similar questions and feelings of disillusionment. With Trump and Clinton center stage, evangelical political engagement seems almost pointless. For the past several decades, many of us have worked diligently to cultivate presidential nominees firmly committed to evangelical causes like human dignity, the value of life in the womb, and the democratic necessity of religious liberty. We’ve worked within the primary nomination processes to support the candidates who seem to value Christian virtues like trustworthiness, love, and humility.
We actually believed we could influence the major political parties, and the parties could in turn influence our nation. But our hopes have been dashed. At this point, why should evangelicals even care anymore? Why shouldn’t we just withdraw from politics and public life?
5 Reasons to Remain Involved
Evangelicals should remain involved in politics and public life for at least five reasons.
1. Our involvement in politics and public life should not be determined by whether or not we are “winning.”
Jesus never asked us to win. He asked us to be witnesses. He asked us to faithfully bear witness to the good news that he is Savior, that he will return to rule the universe, and that his rule will be characterized by peace, justice, and righteousness. Our political engagement in the here-and-now should preview that future kingdom, a public striving for peace, justice, and righteousness. Even when we aren’t getting our way on policy issues or presidential nominees, we can choose to engage with peace, justice, and righteousness. Political loss must never keep us from being gospel witnesses.
2. Times like these deepen our understanding of the Bible’s teaching about sin.
One distinctive Christian belief is that all of us are sinners by nature, and that none of us will be free from sin until the day Jesus returns. This is, in a sense, political realism. As Christians, why should we be shocked or crestfallen when politicians turn out to be sinners just like us, or when political systems turn out to be corrupt?
3. Our current situation provides a gift-wrapped opportunity for evangelicals to love their neighbors.
Or, as the prophet Jeremiah puts it, to “seek the good of the city” (Jer. 29:7). We, as Christians, should never look out for our own interests alone, but for the interests of all citizens. So it is precisely when American public discourse is at its most toxic and mean-spirited that we can proclaim Christ by loving our neighbors well. We can choose to speak and act with conviction and with kindness.
4. The current political polarization provides a glittering opportunity to show how the Christian gospel reframes political issues.
Instead of allowing the presidential nominees and party platforms to determine the shape of our discourse, we can speak in distinctively Christ-honoring ways. When we do so, we undermine our critics’ ability to classify or dismiss evangelicals as a special interest group or the religious arm of the Republican Party. Then we have a shot at bringing unity to a deeply divided country.
5. The darkest days bring the best opportunities to shine the light of hope.
As Christians, our hope is not found in the 2016 election cycle. It’s not even found in the United States of America. Our hope is anchored in a future kingdom in which, as the prophet Amos says, justice will roll down like the waters. For that reason, we can engage in political activity with humble confidence. The realm of politics, as dark as it may seem, will one day be resurrected and made to bow in submission to Christ the King. He will renew the earth, but it will be his victory rather than ours. So even in the darkest moments, we confidently yet humbly proclaim gospel hope.
Our God-Given Moment
Evangelicals, this is the era of American history into which we were born. This is when the Lord determined would be best for us to serve him. Will we waste it by walking away in despair? Will we squander it by engaging out of fear and anger? Or will we embrace the opportunity—remembering whom we serve and where our hope resides?
We must choose the latter. We can’t let our losses and disappointments drive us to apathy, resignation, and withdrawal. But at the same time, we can’t discredit our witness by living in the kind of self-righteous outrage and perpetual hatred that political activism often fosters.
We must engage in politics and public life with a renewed sense of purpose, acting out of grace and joy rather than anger and fear. We must pray for wisdom and courage to speak faithfully in our own era, just as other Christians have done in theirs. And if we choose this path, the path of Christian witness, we might even see it eventuate in the social, cultural, and political renewal we so fervently seek. This is our God-given moment. Let’s not waste it.