A Sinful Silence: When Christians Abandon Their Civic Duty
- Friday, October 29, 2004
As the hours count down to Nov. 2, Ken Connor is concerned about the election.
But he's even more concerned about The Elect.
Connor, a Washington D.C. attorney who has served as president of the Family Research Council, thinks Christians in the United States have come dangerously close to abandoning their civic duty. In fact, the American church and its members have become so lax in addressing civil involvement -- and understanding what God expects -- that the U.S. can fairly be compared to some uncivil nations of Old Testament times.
"I don't think there's any question about that,'' said Connor, who has co-authored with John Revell a book on the subject, Sinful Silence - When Christians Neglect their Civic Duty. "We hope to point people to parallels that exist between our times today and Judah during the time when Isaiah wrote."
And what the Old Testament prophet has to say in Isaiah 1:17 is: "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."
Connor argues that the United States, like Judah, is not doing the best job in any of those four areas. The fallout is nearly unfathomable. God will ignore the prayers of those who do not flesh out justice through relieving the oppressed and defending the helpless.
"I think we should examine very carefully whether civil injustices are causing us to waste our worship,'' Connor said, explaining that the Bible is clear in both Isaiah and Zechariah that God turns from those who ignore his commands. "When I called, they would not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,'' says the Lord Almighty. (Zech. 7:13).
"It's easy to be dismissive altogether of what happened a few thousand years ago," Connor said. "It's easy to say it's a time of little or no application, that these were uncivilized people. Yet what strikes me is that human nature has remained pretty much the same.''
In Judah, people began sacrificing children to the god Molech. "I would maintain that today we're sacrificing our children on the altar of the false god, Choice, in the name of convenience," Connor said. "How different is that?"
Then there is the similarity between the affordability of justice between then and now. "The thing Isaiah decries is cash register justice," Connor said. "And today, especially with campaign money, it's all about a money chase."
It's a sobering and even scary comparison -- the United States to Judah -- but one that needs to be examined if Christians are to awake from their civic slumber and please God, said Connor, whose heart is for believers to begin affecting government rather than reacting to it.
It's easy to poke fun and take potshots at the presidential candidates from the sidelines, but far tougher to effect change by becoming informed enough on the issues to vote the right candidate in - or out - of office. Emphasis on the word vote.
Connor says it is the duty of Christians to vote. He backs up his stewardship stance by pointing out that a sovereign God exercises His will in such a way that holds man accountable for his decisions. And one of those decisions in a democratic society is, "Who to vote for?"
Too often, American Christians are hesitant to enter the political fray, either because of "evangelical withdrawal," whereby believers want no part of potential sin issues, or because they think God will make everything all right in the end by arriving on the "wings of Air Force One," Connor said.
Connor takes both of those attitudes to task, not to mention members of both political parties. If God's word is like a sword that separates bone from marrow, then Connor is a knife that cuts cleanly between Republican and Democrat. While his views tend more toward the conservative side, he is not afraid to hold the GOP's feet to the fire.
"The Republicans in my judgment have to engage in some self-examination, of whether the system is tilted in favor of the rich,'' he said. “You really don't hear them talking about eliminating medical malpractice.''
What you do hear is discussion on stripping the victims' ability to be fairly compensated.
“I represent a lot of victims of nursing home neglect, and I'm telling you that no group suffers more,” he said. “Are the attempts to limit liability ... is that tipping the system against the poor and disadvantaged? If we look for parallels (to Isaiah 17), then you have to say that's a parallel.”
Connor also chafes when discussing the church's man-pleasing approach to softening the truth to protect itself, specifically to guard against losing its non-profit status. When that happens, it only serves to gain a non-prophet status.
“I will say unequivocally that the sharp prophetic edge of the gospel has been blunted by our concern about the 501 (c) 3 tax status of the church,” he said. “When Paul and other New Testament writers wrote, I don't think they thought the gospel should be filtered through the Internal Revenue code. I think pastors labor through a misapprehension of what is legal.
“The truth is that as long a pastor doesn't endorse a particular candidate or party, they're not going to get in trouble. As long as your pastor doesn't say, ‘I endorse George Bush and you should vote for him,' they're not going to be in jeopardy.''
Connor doesn't just question the American Christian and church. He provides an answer. How are Christians supposed to change the injustice they see happening around them? Connor lays out a four-prong plan: (1.) Pray, (2.) become informed on the issues, (3.) vote, and then (4.) hold elected officials accountable.
“In the process of doing those things, some people will be called to be engaged in campaigns, some will feel a calling to run for office themselves. Many will feel a calling to educate their congregations or Sunday school classes about the issues, as they discern the Lord's priorities,” Connor explained. “It's like when you buy a red car. Until then, you never noticed how many red cars were on the road. Well, start examining scripture and you'll start seeing where the Lord laments about injustice. You will be sensitized in ways you weren't before.”
And you will avoid the unsettling news of Isaiah 10.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help?”
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