Christians who neglect to vote share the guilt of leaders who don’t uphold God’s standards of justice and morality, says a book featured over the weekend in Baptist Press.
Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty focuses on the first chapter of Isaiah, where the Old Testament prophet describes corporate responsibility for leaders’ sins. Authors Ken Connor and John Revell draw parallels between ancient <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Judah and the United States to argue that Christians who shun political activity are guilty of corporate sin.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“When the citizens have a voice in the selection and direction of their civil leaders, God holds both the leaders and the citizens accountable for the civil sins of the government,” the authors say.
Further, they suggest that such neglect may even hinder revival. They note that while most Americans consider themselves religious, there is little evidence that Christians are having a positive spiritual impact on the land.
“For some reason, God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayers for national revival,” they say.
Citing a Bible passage saying that God doesn’t listen to prayers from those that “cherish” sin in their hearts, Connor and Revell question whether much religious activity is “wasted worship.”
“Consider this option: What if our failure as God’s people to recognize and address blatant violations of God’s civil standards has somehow hindered our prayer and worship?” they ask.
“The majority of Americans pray, contribute to the church and view themselves as having a relationship with God. But if those same folks understand God’s heart on these matters, yet refuse to vote for candidates who will maintain God’s civil standards, all of these activities may be wasted.”
“And if these same people realize God’s deep passion on these issues, but do not contact their elected representatives on the policies that defy God’s priorities, God may reject their prayers, offerings and attendance at church services.
“This may seem harsh, but what other viable conclusions can we draw?”
Moreover, they suggest electing a president who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t maintain God’s civil standards could even place the nation at risk.
“Now, what if that person serves in nationally strategic position and faces an international crisis that could threaten the security of the United States as well as the entire world? If that individual goes to God in prayer, pleading for wisdom, direction and protection for the nation, there is no reason to expect God to answer that prayer.”
Connor is a civil trial lawyer and former president of the Family Research Council. Revell is a former pastor and associate editor of SBC Life, a denominational newspaper published by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
Connor and Revell published the book through their own company, Ginosko Press. SBC leaders Morris Chapman, Richard Land, Al Mohler and Bobby Welch wrote endorsements, along with Sen. Sam Brownback, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and religious leaders Charles Colson and D. James Kennedy.
The book is being sold in LifeWay Christian Stores, which are operated by the SBC’s publishing house.
It comes out as Southern Baptists launched a first-ever voter-registration drive and amid reports of unprecedented outreach to evangelical voters by the Bush campaign, including dispatching Republican Party leader Ralph Reed to Indianapolis to meet with pastors at the SBC annual meeting in June.
Evangelicals who are social liberals often turn to the prophets to argue for issues like peace, justice and poverty. Connor and Revell, however, emphasize a more limited social agenda.
They see God’s demand for justice being violated by disregard for the sanctity of life in the form of legalized abortion, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia and abuse of elderly in nursing homes.
Pornography and homosexuality undermine the sanctity of marriage, they argue. They view Isaiah’s demand to relieve the oppressed as paralleled in America’s judicial system, which they say favors the wealthy and doesn’t punish all criminals, and in the welfare system, which often creates dependency on the system instead of helping the poor.
“By taking away incentives to work and by immunizing people from the consequences of their own indolence or lack of responsibility, in many cases the welfare system has actually increased the number of people who are dependent on government for their survival,” they write.
“In addition, by providing insidious economic incentives to have children out of wedlock, the welfare system has been one of the biggest contributors to the breakdown of the two-parent family in America.”
While acknowledging that unlike America, Judah in Old Testament times was a theocracy in a unique covenant with God, Connor and Revell contend that God also has civil expectations for the U.S. today.
God is the ultimate source of all justice, all governments fall under God’s rule, and God expects earthly kingdoms to follow certain standards of justice, they say. They also point out to multiple times in the Bible when God’s judgment was exercised on nations defying divine standards.
In fact, they suggest the U.S. might even already be experiencing judgment in natural catastrophes like earthquakes, diseases like new drug-resistant bacteria and decline of the family.
“None of us are in a position to definitely conclude that these are evidence of God’s judgment on our nation,” they write. “We cannot presume to know with certainty the mind of God on such issues. We live in a fallen world, and such things happen in a fallen world. But it certainly seems we are poised to receive His judgment.”
They identify other manifestations of civil sin including materialism, such as the rise of two-income families when both parents don’t have to work, and the pursuit of sexual pleasure through pornography.
What does God expect from Christians in the coming election? The authors include a list of suggestions, such as prayer and becoming informed about candidates’ views and record on issues like abortion, gay marriage and sex education.
They also recommend taking a candidate’s personal lifestyle into account. “If a candidate has a history of sexual infidelity or immorality, is it likely that candidate will value the sanctity of marriage and family in the public arena?” they ask, for example.
Finally, they say, “Christians must exercise their right to vote” and continue to monitor government and contact officials after they are elected.
Connor and Revell insist their study does not suggest that the call to civic engagement has higher priority to preaching the gospel, or that revival will come through civil leaders.
A further misconception the authors seek to avoid is that they are calling for a Christian nation, where all leaders and government policy must be tied directly to a religious structure. “We are not advocating what some have called ‘reconstructionism,'” they say, or the notion of a “Christian” political party.
They also call for avoiding both a “legalistic and harsh” application of their principles and “bullying or intimidation of our leaders as they relate to the issues under discussion.”
“What will happen in the coming election?” the book closes. “The answer may rest in the hands of God’s people in the United States of America. If we will pray, become informed and follow up with elected officials, the results may be spectacular.
“Perhaps the more critical question is, ‘Will God’s people in America recognize His passion for justice and choose to reflect that passion in the polls?'”
If they do not, the book answers, “we may well behold God’s heavy hand of judgment crashing down upon our nation in ways we have never imagined before.”
“If this happens because of the sinful silence of Christians in the civil arena, the Christian community will face the prospect of experiencing that national judgment along with the rest of the nation. The nation’s future may, indeed, rest in the hands of God’s people.
“It most certainly rests in the hands of God.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.