By Mark A. Taylor
Ben Cachiaras’s “Let Me Tell You How You Should Vote” continues to challenge readers to place their hope in God, not in the promises of politicians. It has garnered much positive response at our site and in personal correspondence to him and to our office. One preacher wrote to say he was making 800 copies of it to distribute as widely as he could.
But one reader wrote Ben to debate a couple of his arguments. Ben’s response was so helpful I felt compelled to share at least one of his points here. He has given me permission to reprint some snippets from his e-mail.
In his article, Ben challenged us to place ultimate trust in God, not political activism or partisan power. He pointed out that the success of the religious right in the 1980s failed to “save the country.” Having Christians in charge “didn’t change the hearts of people,” he wrote. And “it severely damaged the witness of the church, because the message of Jesus got lost in the shuffle.”
Did Ben mean to say, then, that Christian involvement in politics, government, or legislative efforts is wrong, or at least a misplaced priority? That’s the conclusion his reader drew, and Ben responded with an apology.
“I left out an important point that really does need to be made as a positive counterpart to my critique,” Ben wrote in response to his critic. “That is the importance of engagement on the part of Christians in society, the public square . . . whether political or other realms. This is such a big part of what I feel strongly about, I can only look at this as a glaring omission.”
Ben went on to describe one of his congregation’s members who has served as a member of Congress. “She has been involved deeply for causes that are totally driven by her Christian commitment, and I’ve been a huge supporter of her.”
But this doesn’t negate Ben’s point. The issue, as he sees it, is, “Where do we put our hope?” Do we believe the “right” president or senator or mayor or sheriff will at last make our nation or town Christian? Then we’re placing our hope in man’s devices rather than God’s transforming power. “But this does not at all mean,” Ben wrote, “that we should therefore shrink back from engaging society at the deepest levels as salt and light and especially in significant policy level ways.”
But we need not wait for elections or petitions or high-profile opportunities to influence the society around us. This can happen “in small, mustard-seed ways,” he suggested—as we discuss the Bible among unbelievers in a small group or as Christians serve needs in Jesus’ name without waiting for government to act.
This is what every Christian can do, Ben said: “schoolteachers . . . and firefighters. And politicians. Even pastors!”
As Christians like those in Ben’s congregation engage their communities with Christian love and truth at every level, the kingdom of God will be proclaimed, regardless of who wins next month’s election. Ben said that well—two times!