Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of this “third party” as well – although not in those terms – saying that it “must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”
King was speaking of a group of multiplied millions of Americans whose ultimate “citizenship is in heaven” (to use the expression of Paul in the New Testament), a people who are called to go against the grain and challenge the status quo, to be champions of justice and compassion, to lead the way in societal change.
He was (and I am) speaking about followers of Jesus who take their faith seriously and live it out holistically, those who make up the Church from a biblical standpoint (as opposed to Christians in name only). It is this entity that King believed “must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
For the most part, though, we have fallen short of this lofty calling (and I say “we” because I count myself among this company of Jesus People, for better or worse), becoming pawns of the political system more than pioneers of political reform, puppets more than prophets.
Rather than us changing the society (note: I did not say taking over the society), society has changed us. The things that would have outraged our grandparents now entertain us, and for a supposedly “heavenly-minded” people, we are as bogged down in materialistic hedonism as almost anybody else. Even among evangelical Christians, recent surveys indicate that 80% of our young people are having sex out of wedlock while our divorce rates mirror those of the secular world.
How can we be “the conscience of the state” when we have lost our own conscience? How can we call ourselves pro-family and pro-life with so much immorality (including addiction to pornography), no-fault divorce, and even abortion in our ranks?
What’s interesting is that many skeptics, scoffers, atheists, and agnostics – those who are rolling their eyes as they read this article – actually affirm what I am writing, albeit in a backhanded way.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.