Politics Is Not A Cure-All
When it comes to engaging and influencing culture too many Christians think too highly of political activism. As Vern Poythress has pointed out, the political arena is not the most strategic arena for cultural influence:
Bible-believing Christians have not achieved much in politics because they have not devoted themselves to the larger arena of cultural conflict. Politics mostly follows culture rather than leading it. A temporary victory in the voting booth does not reverse a downward moral trend driven by cultural gatekeepers in news media, entertainment, art, and education. Politics is not a cure-all.
After decades of political activism on the part of Evangelical Christians (so much so that the average person in our country now thinks Evangelicalism is primarily a social and moral movement with no connection to the Evangel–good news) we’re beginning to understand that the dynamics and complexities of cultural change differ radically from political mobilization. Even political insiders recognize that years of political effort on behalf of Evangelical Christians have generated little cultural gain. In an article entitled “Religious Right, R.I.P.,” columnist Cal Thomas, himself an Evangelical Christian, wrote, “Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed.” American culture continues its steep moral and cultural decline into hedonism and materialism. Why? As Richard John Neuhaus once observed, “Christianity in America is not challenging the ‘habits of the heart’ and ‘habits of the mind’ that dominate American culture.”
Virtually every social scientist that I’ve ever talked to agrees that what happens in New York (finance), Hollywood (entertainment), Silicon Valley (technology), and Miami (fashion) has a far greater impact on how our culture thinks about reality than what happens in Washington, DC (politics). It’s important for us to understand that politics are reflective, not directive. That is, the political arena is the place where policies are made which reflect the values of our culture—the habits of heart and mind—that are being shaped by these other, more strategic arenas. As the Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, “Let me write the songs of a nation; I don’t care who writes its laws.”
One poignant example of this fact is that Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Brittany Spears, Oprah Winfrey, Shakira, Kim Kardashian, and Nicki Minaj combine for just over 200,000,000 twitter followers compared to Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s combined 23,000,000. Haha! Funny…not really. Interesting and telling, though.
So, as important as this political season is, and as important as it is to be interested and involved as a citizen of this country, let’s keep some perspective. “Politics is not a cure all.”