Cultural Engagement in the CREC

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It is commonly known that people who worship together over an extended period of time tend to view the outside world in similar ways, and this is also true of CREC churches. Given the important role that political and cultural issues have in our era, it may be helpful to make a few comments. Cultural and political engagement on the part of Christian churches is a good thing (conservative as opposed to progressive), but that should not be mistaken for partisanship (Republican as opposed to Democrat, etc.). The first reason for this distinction is principled—the role of the church is to be prophetic, and not to be “a constituency” to be flattered, cajoled, or manipulated by any political party. The second reason is that a number of our churches are located in places like Poland, Russia, Japan, and Canada, and the partisan issues there are quite different than they are here in America. For example, commitment to the dignity of human life is a constant among us while commitment to a particular political party would have to vary according to the circumstances on the ground.

That said, this is the sort of thing you can expect to find in our churches. On a string of basic social issues (abortion, homosexual marriage, women in combat) you will find CREC churches uniformly hostile to the leftist agenda. For these reasons (and a number of others) finding a CREC elder who voted for a leftist candidate for president would be as rare as a comet. With regard to economic issues, there is a broad antipathy toward socialism in all its forms and guises. Statist collectivism is one of the great idols of our age, and our churches are overwhelmingly opposed to it. On questions related to American foreign policy (e.g. the war in Iraq), you will find a diverse range of opinions, but they will generally vary between support based on conservative Christian principles as distinguished from concern or opposition based on conservative Christian principles.

Voting practices will generally follow a conservative/libertarian pattern, and when our people don’t vote it is generally because the available options don’t go far enough (e.g. if God had wanted us to vote, He would have given us candidates). So if your Volvo has a COEXIST bumper sticker right next to the Hope & Change sticker, it will probably be pretty lonely out there in the church parking lot.

At the same time, if you grew up in a conservative evangelical or fundamentalist home, you can expect to find a good deal more liberty on questions of alcohol or pipes and cigars than you are perhaps used to seeing from conservatives. This should not be understood as an exception to our commitment to liberty, but rather an expression of it.

Whenever words like “conservative” or “progressive” are used, it is always worthwhile to ask what we think we are conserving, and what we think we are progressing toward. In our churches we are trying to conserve the cultural gains made by the Holy Spirit in the development of the first Christendom. Because those gains were real, we are real conservatives. Where our concerns overlap with those of more secular conservatives, this is a function of them receiving the gift without acknowledging the Giver—but the gift was real, for all that. There is a completely different sense in which we do look forward to what the Holy Spirit will do to our culture as we progress toward the future (and so someone could call us “progressives” in that sense). But leftist progressives are utopians, and their vision for the future largely consists of chasing their little pink dinosaurs. Their vision is unreal, and what the Holy Spirit will actually do is nothing like what they are describing. And this is why it would be misleading to call us progressives of any stripe.

We are real conservatives because we really are conserving something. We are not progressives . . . because we are actually going somewhere.



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