An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility

Third Quarter 2004

Editor's Watch

by James W. Skillen

Throughout the Bible, God's prophets call God's people to create just societies.... The prophetic teaching insists on both a fair legal system (which does not favor either the rich or the poor) and a fair economic system (which does not tolerate perpetual poverty). The Bible makes clear that a just social order will do more than simply reward those with superior ability, who work harder, or who have fortunate connections.... God wants every person and family to have access to productive resources so that if they act responsibly they can care for their economic needs and be dignified members of their community."

This call to economic and legal justice is just one of many challenges articulated in a twelve-page declaration from the National Association of Evangelicals titled "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." The document is still in draft form and is being circulated with an invitation to readers to submit comments. (The declaration can be downloaded.)  I encourage readers of the Public Justice Report to study the document and to send comments to the NAE office at 701 G Street SW, Washington, DC 20024.

At a time when American citizens, including evangelical Christians, are inundated with so much partisan and simplistic political rhetoric, a document of this kind can be a valuable educational tool. Here are some additional excerpts to whet your appetite:

"Evangelicals will inevitably disagree about policy, but we realize that we have many callings and commitments in common: commitments to the protection and well-being of families and children, of the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unborn, of the persecuted and oppressed, and of the rest of the created order."

"As Christian citizens, we believe it is our calling to help government live up to its divine mandate to render justice."

"Christian citizens of the United States must keep their eyes open to the potentially self-destructive tendencies of our society and our government. We must also balance our natural affection for our country with a love for people of all nations and an active desire to see them prosper. We invite Christians outside the United States to aid us in broadening our perspectives on American life and action."

"We affirm the principles of religious freedom and liberty of conscience, which are both historically and logically at the foundation of the American experiment."

"We work to nurture family life and protect children.... We work to protect the sanctity of human life and to safeguard its nature."

"We seek justice and compassion for the poor and the vulnerable.... We work to protect human rights."

"The peaceful settling of disputes is a gift of common grace. We urge governments to pursue thoroughly nonviolent paths to peace before resorting to military force."

"We affirm that God-given dominion [over the earth] is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to exploit or abuse the creation of which we are a part. We are not the owners of creation, but its stewards, summoned by God to 'watch over and care for it.'"