Time has an interesting interview with Chuck Colson this week. For some time I have thought that he has the proper priorities with respect to how Christians should approach political involvement.
In recent years, religious leaders have often preached about how to apply a Christian worldview to, say, making a political decision to vote for a certain kind of candidate.The occasion for the interview was the establishing of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview online. He describes the effort as "An Initiative Inspired by William Wilberforce." I've only explored the site briefly but almost immediately came across the Wilberforce Library - a searchable collection of materials on many subjects. I looked at the "education/development" category and found, in addition to columns by Colson himself, material authored by Chesterton, Roger Scruton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many others. I will be returning to the site.
We made a big mistake in the '80s by politicizing the Gospel. We ought to be engaged in politics, we ought to be good citizens, we ought to care about justice. But we have to be careful not to get into partisan alignment. We [thought] that we could solve the deteriorating moral state of our culture by electing good guys. That's nonsense. Now people are kind of realizing it was a mistake. A lot of people are going back and saying, "Let's just take care of the church and tend to our knitting."
Both positions are wrong. There's an intelligent way to engage the culture in every area, including politics. But you can't fix politics or culture unless you fix the church. What we're seeing in society today is a direct consequence of the church failing to be the church.
Has there ever been a time when you think religious people got the balance right by engaging without becoming entangled?
Yes. What happened in 18th and 19th century England, with the Wesley Movement and with William Wilberforce, was ideal. Wilberforce and others formed hundreds of small societies for improving human welfare, preventing cruelty to animals, reforming poorhouses and prisons. And there were great Christian leaders in politics as well. In that period, Christians were not divided by political parties.
Earlier in the Time interview, Colson explained why he thinks the site is needed:
...[M]ost of your resources are for pastors and others in the church who could have been teaching another kind of worldview all along. Why do you think they have failed to do that?Thanks to Mollie Hemingway at GetReligion for the reference.
The church has fallen into a therapeutic model. It believes its job is to make people happy and take care of their problems. It's a feel-good kind of Christianity. I don't think the job of the church is to make people happy. I think it's to make them holy. ....
But what you're advocating is a tougher form of Christianity. Is that too much of a challenge for many people?
A lot of people don't want to bother with it. [Many] people have reduced the whole Christian faith to just a relationship with Jesus. That strips the faith of its doctrine, its sovereign nature. The biggest problem is getting people to be serious about what they profess to believe.
Interview: Religious-Right Leader Chuck Colson - TIME