I once heard a Christian luminary asked how a Christian can have an impact on society though social involvement. He replied “join your P&C or join a political party”. I have done neither although I have been involved in school governance one way or another for decades. With an election upon us in just a few weeks it is important to reflect on the scriptures and political involvement. My reading is that it is not the responsibility of a church or denomination to engage in direct political action. But Christian individuals and groups should be doing so.
The late Christian leader John Stott noted that Christians should avoid two opposite mistakes of making no Christian contribution to a nation’s political wellbeing on the one hand and on the other trying to enforce minority views on an unwilling majority. Instead we remember that democracy means government with the consent of the governed, that ‘consent’ means majority public opinion, and that public opinion is a volatile thing, which is open to Christian influence. Pessimists will respond that human nature is depraved (which it is) that Utopia is unattainable (which it is) and that socio-political activity is therefore a waste of time (which it is not). History tells us that helpful social influence by Christians is possible. Wherever the Christian Gospel has gone and triumphed, it has brought in its concern for education, a new willingness to listen to dissidents, new standards of impartiality in the administration of justice, a new stewardship of the natural environment, new attitudes to marriage and sex, a new respect for women and children and a new compassionate resolve to relieve the poor, heal the sick , rehabilitate prisoners and care for the aged and dying. Moreover these new values become expressed, as Christians influence grows, not only in philanthropic enterprise but also in humane legislation. An excellent illustration of this is _The book that made your world_ by Vishal Mangalwadi Publ Thomas Nelson 2011. It is in part a reflection on how the Bible created the soul of the Western world and in particular its judicial systems based on the understanding of human nature as intrinsically flawed and sinful. It is also a lament on how post colonialism in India is ushering in corruption and associated dysfunction.
May it be that as we head toward our election we would reflect that our own society has benefitted more from these Christian rooted structures than from the wealth of the land. And may we also reflect that in spite of good judicial structures the heart of man is still essentially depraved and only the Gospel can truly restrain the human sin that we still see in terms of inequality and racism.