Speaking on “A Christian Citizen’s Responsibility in 2012” were: Bob Bergen, professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages, Hannibal LaGrange University; Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research and director of the Research Institute of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Michael Whitehead, a trial lawyer in Kansas City since graduating from the University of Missouri Law School in 1975; and John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Bergen traced the history of Israel’s king/prophet model of government under God and explained that God expected Israel to maintain a society that conformed to His will. God created the rules. Those rules were and are holy.
He then detailed 2 Chronicles, which is often cited as a revival and spiritual awakening passage by American Christians. Bergen went through its covenant warnings connected to disobedience, sobering as they are, before he unpacked the wonderful promise of the covenant reminder in verses 14-15. “God never gives up, even though we don’t deserve it,” Bergen said.
Obedience is the hope of these verses. “Do His thing,” the professor said.
When God’s people abandoned the Lord, bad things happened. Non-covenant nations like the United States who disobey Him can suffer the same fate, but Bergen noted that Christians can still be a blessing in the midst of decay.
“Christians have a biblical mandate for civic involvement,” he said.
Duke said Christians used to think they could hide from that responsibility, but not now. Culture has invaded the church, he said, and the church must get re-engaged in the struggle for the soul of our nation before it all slips away.
“God has a moral standard, and He expects all people to live by it,” he said.
Later on, after explaining the perils of the Obamacare health law, he paused and said, “It’s now. The time is now. There’s no tomorrow.”
The Great Cultural Mandate (Matthew 5:13-16) calls on Christians to act in love. Spirit-filled Christians are this way. We illuminate the culture and give it flavor. The text teaches that to not do so would be absurd, Duke said.
Whitehead, who once argued a landmark religious liberty case before the U.S. Supreme Court, gave a practical lecture on what churches can and cannot do concerning Internal Revenue Code 26 USC 501(c)(3). There are two basic rules on political activity. Lobbying is permitted with some limitations. Candidate campaigns are prohibited.
Calling this “preventive law” and using the labels “safe” and “risky” to determine tax exemption law compliance, Whitehead administered a 12-question quiz to attendees on the various “speed limits” that are posted to help people face this terror. During this segment he assigned values to certain situations. For example, in a risky area, a church may be going 65 miles an hour when the speed limit may actually be set at 40. Informed drivers will know how to avoid a ticket.
Whitehead said the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is involved with a pulpit initiative to help them grow bolder in these areas. The ADF is convinced it would win a test case if it ever went to court, so in 2010, a Pulpit Freedom Sunday was held, with pastors exercising reasonable judgment on certain “speed limits” within the ambiguity of the current law. There were no lawsuits filed against those men.
“We urge you – don’t get tax exemption terror,” Whitehead said.
Yeats urged attendees to not compartmentalize their lives.
“Jesus is Lord,” Yeats said. That holds true for politics. Jesus is Lord over politics in 2012.
Yeats said he holds all politicians to three principles. Those are: 1) The family is ordained of God; 2) Every human life is sacred; and 3) Let the church be the church.
“Jesus is Lord,” Yeats said. “Pronounce and practice Jesus is Lord.”
Duke returned for the conference’s final session. In addressing our motivation for Christian engagement, he spoke about a Washington D.C. that is filled right now with “a liberal, radical element” that he has never seen before.
Yet Christians are to help government fulfill its purpose. Despite our current malaise, we must help our politicians promote good and oppose evil. This is the will of God for our beleaguered country. Duke was crystal clear in his teaching.
We are to be agents of redemption and at the very least slow down the moral decay to give the church more time in a land that is not the realm of the devil.
“There is a certain moral standard that is good for everyone,” Duke said. “God designed it that way.”
The conference was sponsored by the Christian Life Commission of the MBC, The Pathway, and the MBC.