A classic challenge to Christian involvement in the political realm is “Why waste time with politics when we ought to be focused on proclaiming the Gospel?” Or, more recently, the question seems to be, “How can we defend marriage legally when Christian marriages are in such bad condition?” Rather than fighting the so-called culture wars, some Christian leaders say we need to focus our energies on living as healthy examples of the values we claim to hold dear. Should Christians disengage from politics in order to focus on Gospel proclamation and living as examples to the world?
Last week, I exhorted our readers to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being heavily persecuted in Egypt and Syria. As I’ve been reading about the atrocities committed throughout Egypt this week, I’ve been struck by a few simple reasons why political engagement and Gospel proclamation ought not to be an either/or proposition.
1. It’s better for churches to not be fire-bombed than it is to be fire-bombed. Priest Selwanes Lotfy of the Virgin Mary in Minya, Egypt sadly reported earlier this week, “We did not hold prayers in the monastery on Sunday for the first time in 1,600 years.” The reason services were canceled? Mohammed Morsi supporters destroyed the monastery which included three churches. Weekly preaching within the walls of a church building may not be the only form of Gospel proclamation available to us but it’s a pretty good one. Preserving the freedom to do so requires political engagement, no?
I’m sure many of these Christians lived decent, godly lives serving as examples and witnesses to their community but their church was still set on fire. Is it worth the effort to preserve political and cultural environments where Christians have the liberty to exercise religion without fear of being fire-bombed? Or is that fighting a culture war?
2. It’s better for Christian teachers to not be seized and sexually assaulted than it is to be seized and assaulted. Sisters Manal, Abeer, Demiana, and other school employees suffered through a six-hour rampage of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef where they “saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida.” According to the AP, the nuns were taken from the school and paraded through the streets like “prisoners of war.” In what Sister Manal called a “very nasty” incident, two female employees of the school “had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists.”
Sister Manal had previously been warned that her school was being targeted by Muslim extremists because “it was giving an inappropriate education to Muslim children” despite the fact that the school educated an equal number of Christian and Muslim students. Preserving the freedom to operate Christian schools requires political engagement, no?
Those who are calling Christians to withdraw from the culture wars would probably applaud alternative efforts such as operating schools to provide a high-quality education to children of all races and religions. Don’t we want the rule of law, religious liberty, and freedoms of association and conscience to be preserved in order for Christians to offer such an education? Or would that be culture warring?