Reconciled to Trash World

Jon Harris

Christianity Today recently ran a piece by former Fuller Theological president Richard Mouw entitled “Theocracy Is Not the Enemy of Pluralism.” In it, one of Tim Keller’s major influences laid out his case for Christian involvement in cultural matters.

According to Mouw, evangelicals have vacillated between two erroneous approaches for far too long. In one approach, which Mouw admits he grew up in, evangelicals were largely patriotic and passive. They accepted things as they were, and accomplished their civic duties. But they failed to push for social change. Another approach, represented by Jerry Falwell and the Religious Right of the 1980s, was aggressive in its imposition of Christianity in the public square through legislation and political campaigns. Neither approach, according to Mouw, reflects a good example of Christian duty to the world around them.

Evangelical Cultural Engagement

But Mouw leaves out the cultural changes that provoked evangelical engagement. Indeed, there had been none before. That is, except for Mouw and his group of progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Ron Sider who formed “Evangelicals for McGovern” in 1972. This group drafted the left-leaning “The Chicago Declaration” in 1973. Meanwhile, right-leaning evangelicals enjoyed what Aaron Renn calls “positive world” and did not see the need for overtly Christian political action. However, throughout the 1960s and 70s, seismic shifts from Warren Court decisions to loosening sexual morals inspired backlash. Evangelicals began to think they were losing their country’s Christian character.

The “Third Option”

It is this character Mouw seeks to undermine with his third cultural engagement option. At the beginning of the article, Mouw makes it clear he not only wants a religiously neutral society but one bereft of many Christian values. Forcing what he calls a “theocratic understanding of reality on others” violates their ability to choose obedience to God. This translates concretely into his opposition to censoring foul language on television.

Though he does not directly address pornography, drag queen story hour, or self-described transgender athletes, it would be interesting to find out if his logic is consistent. Why not discourage Christians from opposing these examples of public indecency as well?

Counterfeit Kumbaya

Mouw describes his approach as “desperately needed today in our increasingly polarized society.” Evangelicals, he said, need to “labor patiently alongside others—persons of other faiths and of no faiths at all—in seeking workable solutions to the complex challenges we face as a nation.” Of course, this is vague enough to conjure up images of hippies singing kumbaya with no practical policy plan. Isn’t it enough to be united together in peace? As one “crunchy” woman I met recently said: “That gives me the feels.”

Mouw’s Version of Cultural Engagement

Feels or not, Mouw certainly does have a plan. He just doesn’t spell it out for the readers of his Christianity Today article. In 2007, Mouw signed a statement on Christianity and Islam called “A Common Word,” which highlighted similarities between the Quran and the New Testament regarding love for God and neighbor. In 2012, he signed on to the Evangelical Immigration Table, which many have pointed out is tied to the Soros-backed National Immigration Forum. In 2017, he signed a statement in the Washington Post that urged “President Trump to Reconsider Reduction in Refugee Resettlement.” In 2020, Mouw signed the AND Campaign’s “2020 Presidential Election Statement” to “promote social justice and moral order.” He also signed the Asian American Christian Collaborative’s “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.” Finally, later that year Mouw also signed a statement urging pro-life evangelicals to vote for Joe Biden.

Christian Faithfulness: Embracing Pluralism

Mouw ends his article by stating: “We live in times when our fellow human beings desperately need to encounter evangelicals for whom being theocratic means actively serving the cause of a loving Savior.”

Apparently, loving Christ means backing ecumenicism and supporting Democrat Party priorities. Mouw is right to say he supports a “pluralistic society”, but wrong to frame it as if this is somehow part of his Christian duty and the only faithful option for Christians who wish to be involved.

For Christians disgusted by the trash world their children are inheriting, maybe it’s time to ditch pluralism and affirm publicly that Christ is King once again.

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