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Os Guinness on What Politics Can’t Do

The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends On It (HarperCollins: 2008), pp. 100, 101.

Put differently, there are two equal but opposite errors into which Christians have fallen in the modern world. One error is to "privatize" faith, interpreting and applying it to the personal and spiritual realm only. That way faith loses its integrity and becomes "privately engaging and publicly irrelevant." ¶ The other error, represented by the Religious Left in the 1960s and the Religious Right since the late 1970s, is to "politicize" faith, using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth. That way faith loses its independence, the church becomes "the regime at prayer," Christians become the "useful idiots" or "biddable foot soldiers" for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form: Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests. In short, out of anxiety about a vanishing culture or in a foolish exchange for an illusory promise of power, Christians are cheated into bartering away their identity, motives, language, passions, and votes.

… Christians have already lost their independence when they attempt to find political solutions for problems that are essentially cultural and prepolitical — in other words, when they ask politics to do what politics cannot do.

When there has been a profound sea change in culture, as the United States has experienced since the 1960s, it is both foolish and futile to think that it can be reversed and restored by politics alone. That approach will always fail, and can only fail. Politics is downstream from the deep and important changes in American culture, and what lies upstream is mostly beyond the reach of political action. Thus overreaching political activism is bound not only to fail, but to leave the cultural changes more deeply entrenched than ever and those fighting them weaker than ever.