As I record this, it’s still hours before the results from Super Tuesday are in, and that’s intentional. I’m more convinced than ever that as we think about this election season, there are some pre-political Christian convictions that we need to remember.
Many evangelical leaders have publicly endorsed candidates, even earlier than usual, but the Colson Center will maintain Chuck’s practice of not doing so, as tempting as it is. But that ought not be confused with disinterest. Trust me—I’m very interested in this election, even more about what it’s revealing about the character of our nation than who will actually reach office.
But I’m also interested because, like each and every area of culture, Christ cries “Mine!” over politics and government, too. The question, as Chuck once said, is not whether Christians should be involved in politics, but how.
Because Americans are able to participate in a process that decides who governs us, it’s essential we do so. Simply put, Christians should vote because we can. This falls into the “whatever your hand finds to do…” category of Christian action.
But we ought not participate in order to gain political power. Christians are not, as Chuck used to say, a special interest group. And the only way to avoid becoming one is by being clear on the God-given purpose of the state. God intended government to preserve order and ensure justice. Obviously, it doesn’t always do so, especially after the fall. And so government has the additional purpose of restraining evil.
But we must not think that the state is the only institution, or even the most important institution, that shapes culture and impacts our lives. There are other divinely appointed institutions with their own scopes of authority. The family, churches, private associations, and local government structures also have “legitimate roles to play in a justly ordered society.”
Chuck Colson championed the importance of these other institutions, which Edmund Burke referred to as “little platoons.” Chuck believed deeply in the Reformers’ idea of “Sphere Sovereignty,” the idea that God has ordained each institution to operate within certain boundaries of authority. And clearly, of all the institutions, the state is most prone these days to overstep its boundaries. In a BreakPoint commentary from 2010, Chuck declared, “Government has no legitimate interest in running car companies, the healthcare industry, or taking over student loans.”
Why? Well, in addition to exceeding authority, there’s also the issue of ability for each institution. The state’s tools are blunt and generalized, not precise and personal. Frankly, the state cannot solve all problems, and it oversteps its bounds when it tries to do so.
Here we have a clear window to look at our candidates and their grandiose promises. Pay close attention to what they say is broken and who they say is responsible for fixing it! Beware of any candidate promising to “fix” everything. They can’t—and it’s a problem if they try. Utopian thinking always fails, and very often results in tyranny.
And so, one of the best things Christians can do in this election cycle is to spend ample energy on rebuilding those “little platoons” that are upstream from politics and that strengthen civil society. After all, the best way to have a healthy state is to have a healthy culture. And the church and family are best suited for that.
And a final note. While there’s no religious test for office, there is a character test for leadership: integrity, honesty, and care for others. And ultimately, God decides elections. We ought pray that He’s gracious to us, and that He’ll give us better than we deserve.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: March 2,2016