NAE Misses The Point
© 4.12.05 By D. Eric Williams
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), recently issued a paper titled For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility and I find that I'm not too crazy about the document.
There are some good points: the paper says that the NAE "resists the definition of religion becoming either radically individualized or flattened out to mean anything that passes for a serious conviction. Thus, while the First Amendment protects religiously informed conscience, it does not protect all matters of sincere concern." That's good. And if you try real hard you might even believe that the NAE scribes understand that the Founding Father's viewed religion as Christianity. But the document also says that "good government preserves the God-ordained responsibilities of society's other institutions, such as churches, other faith-centered organizations, schools, families, labor unions, and businesses" (Family, Church and State are God ordained institutions, but labor unions schools and businesses?). Now, I know that we are meant to think the intent here is to say that "good government" doesn't meddle with the Family and Church; but I for one see through the NAE charade.
Basically the tone and tenor of the paper is one of support for the current state of affairs. Along with the sloppy definition of God ordained institutions, the underlying assumption is that the State (meaning civil government as a whole), is doing fine: we just need a few "what would Jesus do if He had a fine representative democracy to work through" adjustments to get our nation back on the straight and narrow. This isn't to say that An Evangelical Call ignores the responsibility of the individual to get his hands dirty in the service of Christ. But always lurking in the background is the idea that we best dirty our hands in a State approved way. This is a call to exercise the dominion mandate with no real understanding of the kingdom of God.
For instance, one disappointing line (of many), in the paper called on Christians to "urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats." Someone should tell Ted Haggard et al that the State does not encourage it enforces. State abuses of power in the name of the environment are legoin and the NAE leadership should know that. Or perhaps they do and they don't care (why in the world would the NAE think that the State is the institution responsible for the stewardship of creation in the first place?). As I said, the entire document reads like a fundamentalist affirmation of the status quo. No, I take that back; it reads like a liberation gospel tract - at least that's what it feels like to me. It's a document that presses for activity and involvement in the name of Christ but provides little information as to what the NAE believes the Bible says that activity should be and how it should be implemented. It may seem like I'm splitting hairs, but in this day and age, it is important to do more than say the Bible enjoins action.
The kingdom of God is not a future reality. It is the rule and reign of Christ here and now; first in the lives of His people and outward from there. As Smith brings his life into conformity to the Word of God, the way he treats his wife and children will change. He will work at his job as unto the Lord and will be active in the political realm as a representative of the kingdom. He will see to it that his children are educated in a manner that recognizes the crown rights of Jesus Christ. He will understand the principle of self government under God and work to limit the power of the State with his vote and through other legal means. In short, Smith as a citizen of the kingdom of God is no friend to the Leviathan State.
The NAE needs to answer questions like these: should we volunteer to help local welfare moms with the paperwork involved in claiming medicaid services for their children or should we labor to establish a Church based clinic that will offer the same medical care free of government involvement? Should we volunteer to help out at our child's public school, or should we pull Johnny out and place him in a solid Christian school or home-school him? Should we push for more government zoning control in order to preserve wildlife habitat or should we uphold the right of individuals to make decisions concerning their own property free of State coercion. The absence of this sort of detail is a tacit acceptance of State control in each of these issues. The bottom line is that the NAE's Call To Evangelicals assumes the prerogative of the State over against the authority of Christ.
Frankly its my sense that the NAE is feeling a bit like yesterday's doughnuts. It's as if they are searching for ways to be relevant in a world where things like self government under God and radical commitment to Christ are out of fashion. So, rather than urge Christians to abandon the public school system, or exhort the Church to reclaim its ministry to the poor (and demand the State leave the field altogether), the NAE has decided to publish a document that provides support for a public endorsment of the Kyoto treaty1. The decision to do so has moved the NAE one step further along the raod to insignificance.
Note added 4.14.05: "...Historically, religion always represented a threat to government because it competes for the loyalties of the people. In modern America, however, most religious institutions abandoned their independence long ago, and now serve as cheerleaders for state policies like social services, faith-based welfare, and military aggression in the name of democracy. Few American churches challenge state actions at all, provided their tax-exempt status is maintained. This is why Washington politicians ostensibly celebrate religion – it no longer threatens their supremacy. Government has co-opted religion and family as the primary organizing principle of our society. The federal government is boss, and everybody knows it..." Dr. Ron Paul Congressman from Texas at http://www.lewrockwell.com/paul/paul244.html