My sense is that the balance between political activism and personal evangelism among American evangelical leaders is often out-of-whack. A perfect example is the fight over FCC regulation of decency in the media.
A huge cadre of evangelical leaders seem to rely primarily on political intervention and lobbying to fight indecency. This puts the cart before the horse.
“Indecency” nearly always means some perceived illicit sexual content, so let’s look at how evangelical Christians are fighting pornography as a prime example. There’s been a lot of hubbub over proposed “.xxx” domain registration for adult Internet sites (here’s a good critical review from CEI).
The politically activist evangelical model views government coercive force as the primary means of achieving the desired end, in this case media decency. In extreme cases, what might otherwise be viewed as a secondary means, such as personal evangelism and conversion, can be completely overshadowed and even explicitly denounced.
So in the case of X3Church, a Christian pornography ministry aimed at consumers and producers of pornography, evangelical leaders criticize or distance themselves from the effort. At the same time Pat Robertson is busy pontificating on US foreign policy, he is rebuking X3Church. According to Robertson, while Jesus would not go to a porn convention, he might be in favor of assassination of a foreign political leader.
A scheduled appearance by X3Church leaders at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University has apparently been cancelled because of concern about the propriety of the ministry (as reported in the X3Church newsletter. The relevant blog post at the x3blog has been removed).
Christians should not refrain from making their moral judgments heard in public debates about policy issues. But political means should be viewed as secondary means to achieving desired ends and they should certainly never displace evangelism as the primary means of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom (see the Great Commission).
As I’ve said before, a far better way than coercing others to adhere to objective standards of morality is to convert them to those standards. It is ultimately only through proclamation of the Gospel that the culture and the nation will be redeemed. For the church is to engage the world not with the sword of the government, but with “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).
For a rather different view on this, especially with respect to the FCC, and more relevant reading, see yesterday’s BreakPoint commentary from Charles Colson, “Shaking in their Boots.”