So are you tired of all the political talk yet? Does it exhaust you to see pundit after pundit talk about the various candidates running for presidential office? As much as I love my work in Public Policy, I will confess that I’m glad to “leave” it each evening and every weekend.
I think it’s easy to have that view when it comes to social engagement: I’ll do what I’m supposed to do (vote, believe the right things, stand for what is true, etc.) but nothing more.
It’s not hard to assume that “politics” and “social issues” are disconnected from our everyday lives or that they only matter when elections roll around every couple years. After all, life is busy, and politics can seem unappealing, futile or too messy for Christians to be involved.
But that’s not what our Christian heritage bears witness to. The issues might be different today —genocide, sex trafficking, abortion — but the challenges we face are the same. Are we willing to step up and defend God’s image in the public square? Are we willing to sacrifice time and energy for the sake of being a witness to God’s Truth?
I think a bit of a history lesson is in order — if only to refresh your memory about what the early church, and faithful Christians throughout history, were willing to stand up for.
What ended the Roman Empire’s vicious — and wildly popular — blood sport, the gladiatorial games? In large part, it was the Christians. More precisely, one single Christian.
Tom Minnery tells the story in Why You Can’t Stay Silent: A Biblical Mandate to Shape Our Culture.
The spectacles came to an end at the turn of the fifth century, when an eastern monk named Telemachus journeyed to the mighty city of Rome. He was determined to put a stop to the madness, armed only with faith in God and the belief that human beings made in His image should not tear each other to pieces like wild animals. Entering the Coliseum one day as a spectator, he bided his time in the stands until the fighting had raised the crowd to a frenzy. Then he leaped into the arena and separated the combatants. He was cut to pieces, but he won the day. The spectacles ceased when the emperor Honorius abolished them, moved by what had happened in the arena that day. The end of the gladiatorial contests was a significant victory for the emerging church against an entrenched pagan custom.
That’s an especially dramatic example of how early Christians in the Roman Empire took action to change the culture and the laws of their society. But it’s far from the only example.
In Roman society, fathers wielded tyrannical power and women had the status of virtual household slaves. Children could be abused, sold or murdered: Unwanted infants (usually girls) were commonly “exposed” — abandoned in the streets, to be used in pagan sacrifices, raised as beggars or sold into slavery.
Christians campaigned relentlessly against these horrors and — after decades, and in some cases centuries, of pressure — got results. For the first time, rape became a crime with severe penalties. Women gained unprecedented property rights, and divorce laws were tightened to protect them against serial divorce. Abandoned children sold as slaves were freed.
In these and many other ways — the treatment of slaves, the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the imprisoned — Christians radically reformed the ancient world. They did it without anything close to the freedoms we enjoy, and sometimes at great personal risk.
So I ask you today, are you willing to get your hands dirty for the sake of Christ? Are you willing to fight unflinchingly for the things that you believe are important in today’s society?
Copyright 2012 Dawn McBane. All rights reserved.