Tom DeLay, the former House majority whip and leader, wasn't called "The Hammer" for nothing. In recent months he's been the best book publicist an author could want, asking me repeatedly to read his friend Norm Mason's The Political Imperative: An Assignment from God (Jebaire, 2011). I finally did, and will argue that its analysis is solid but its final prescription is wrong.
Mason, former chairman of the Texas Christian Coalition, rightly emphasizes the clearest current issue, abortion, and the importance of Christians fighting it politically as well as in other ways. He rightly notes that when an airplane seems headed toward a crash, we'd much rather have a pilot intent on trying to land it than reading a pamphlet picked up at an airport booth, "God's Will for Your Life in an Airline Disaster."
It seems to me that Mason goes awry in his concluding chapter, though, when he calls for establishment of "a church-wide Great Commission Citizens Corps in each church." This church body should "develop and communicate to the membership reliable sources of data" and "provide specific information to the church body as applicable."
That sounds reasonable, but in practice many evangelical churches would become known as Republican churches (some already are), others would become known as Democratic churches, and people of other persuasions would be less likely to come. I don't believe that is Mason's intent, yet these days we should acknowledge, sadly, that one person's reliable source is another's propaganda.
Overall, it's not the task of the church as church to take political stands or provide political information. The 450-year-old Belgic Confession states it well: "The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults."
That's a lot to do, and if more American churches had handled those three areas well we wouldn't have many of the social problems we have today. Good and true preaching, along with the sacraments' weekly reminder of Christ's mercy toward us, leads church members to be active in mercy and in many areas of life—but wise pastors also prompt them to form associations outside the church, and leave the church to its central tasks from which so many blessings flow.
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