But God, for His purposes, has given us in most of the Bible not a detailed instruction manual but a narrative history of particular actions at particular times. The book of Joshua reports wars of extermination: Are we to go and do likewise? The storytelling in Judges 17—after a mother enables her thieving son, he sets up a cult and hires an unethical Levite—is masterful, but the teaching is not as direct as "Thus saith the Lord."
Furthermore, we may not always know how to apply God's clear commands, maybe because of our own sin but also because the rules for living in Israel do not always apply to life within modern American pluralism. After all, those rules didn't always apply even in Babylon 2,600 years ago: God commanded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:9-13 not to tolerate enchanters, sorcerers, or wizards, but Daniel had to hang out with them.
The apostle Paul did not follow the example of Gideon, who within Israel destroyed an altar of Baal (Judges 6). Paul did not take a hammer to the numerous altars he saw during his walk through Athens (Acts 17). That did not make him a wimp: He reasoned "in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there." He debated the city's philosophical elite. He was fully a Christian but also fully a Roman citizen, and never hesitated to demand his rights as a citizen.
Christian writers David Kuo in 2006 and James Davison Hunter earlier this year—see "Silent treatment," WORLD, June 5, 2010—examined evangelical political involvement and then suggested that Christians should "be silent for a season."
If they mean that people should not walk under a church banner at a Tea Party demonstration, OK. But if they mean putting aside our rights as citizens: No. We should join with others in defending religious, political, and economic liberty.