Our media-centric society is often awash in a sea of opinions; recent events have intensified the commentary on matters of race, marriage and public engagement. The volume and intensity make for choppy and crowded waters, but I will wade in anyway.

Christian Participation in Public Life

Some have called for Christians to emphasize church identity and practices and resist the urge to participate in the structures of public life; it is either too messy or destined for compromise or disappointment because Caesar only desires assimilation or surrender. While there are many good reasons for this response, public disengagement is not a luxury the church can afford, particularly in this time.

The responses to the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage dominate the current conversation about public engagement. This is a very important concern, but our country’s older problem with race relations is at least as important. We can see this from the horror in Charleston and the recent church burnings as well as in other events of the last year. Our lingering challenges on race are quite sufficient to show why it is important for Christians to keep thinking about various strategies for participation in the political process and in social and cultural transformation.

Our society has a history of public policies connected to race, from the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow to the various attempts at legal remedies to the problems of race. While public policy is not the only aspect of addressing questions of race, it is part of it; there should be Christian attention to this aspect of managing our public life instead of leaving it to others.

While I have a theological perspective connected to the legacy of Abraham Kuyper, this current moment is not the time for theological disputations about what is the most precise proposal for Christian public engagement. There are ways faithful presence, two kingdoms, neocalvinist and other views can catalyze public engagement. We can discuss the various ways we move from belief to practice but this discourse should not distract us from seeking to do the public works that bring glory to God (Matt. 5:16).

Seize the Moment

Let’s try this:

First, look inward: let us examine our own idolatries and cultural assumptions that could thwart attention to this unique moment and these important issues, especially race.

Second, look upward: respond in humility when God discloses our failures and weaknesses and then pursue the path of repentance and renewal. This is a hard but necessary task.  Failure to seize the moment will soon lead to excuses for why we ultimately do nothing.

Third, look outward: what opportunities for witness do we have in this moment? What public opportunities are available to us? Can we create new possibilities?

Fourth, take action beyond Sunday: What will we put into practice after we hear the benediction? What can Christians do as a community and as individual Christians in our various spheres of influence and interest?

Though there is legitimate reason for disappointment and distress, the day of opportunity remains for us. Will we seize this opportunity for transformative witness or leave it to others?