Christian Engagement In Secular Society: Politics, The Gospel, And Moral Influence -- By: K. T. Magnuson

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 11:4 (Winter 2007)
Article: Christian Engagement In Secular Society: Politics, The Gospel, And Moral Influence
Author: K. T. Magnuson

Christian Engagement In Secular Society: Politics, The Gospel, And Moral Influence

K. T. Magnuson


Political solutions that entail bringing Christian moral convictions to bear on public policy and legislation may at times be described as the art of the impossible. This seems particularly true in our “post” culture—what is said to be postmodern, post-Christian, and perhaps generally post-past. One of the features of the contemporary moral landscape in the West is to consider many moral issues, which were once thought to be in the public domain, to be matters of private choice (call it “post-public” morality). Curiously, despite an emphasis on community in the postmodern era, the privatization of morality has only increased. This has had a profound effect on political and legal judgments on issues such as contraception, sex, abortion, marriage and divorce, homosexuality, euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning, and assisted reproductive technologies, to name a few. Though such issues are increasingly relegated to a supposed private sphere, it is clear that they involve very public consequences. Given that this is the case, the question that is pressed upon Christians—and all citizens—is this: How should we seek to engage with and influence our culture, if we should at all, when it comes to matters of morality? If, for instance, we believe that a certain type of reproductive technology is immoral, should we seek to prohibit it in the law? There are a variety of options by which we may have influence, each of which may have a place. However, the first and most significant way in which Christians ought to influence the surrounding culture is by the witness of proclamation, personal influence, and example, and not first and foremost by the political process.

Proposals For Influencing Culture

United States politics has always had a strong presence of Christian individuals, many of whom have exerted significant influence. What has been remarkable over the last several decades is the growth of Christian political groups involved in the political process.1 By most any measure, such groups have had a significant impact on the political landscape, largely by focusing attention on important moral issues. Yet, one danger of that success could be the temptation to seek political solutions as the primary mode of influence in society. Even worse, churches may be attracted to the power and influence of political groups, and focus attention primarily on the political process.

Political organization on the part of Christians does not simply stem from a desire for political power. Rather, it is often driven by a sense of desperation over changes in the moral landscap...

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