On Tuesday, Americans cast their ballots for the next president of their nation. While the election and the vote counting were ongoing, two things happened that left some impressions on my mind.
First, I was listening to a section by Jeremy Boreing on the Daily Wire Election Updates. The title was “How Conservatives Can Retake the Culture.” In the video, Jeremy outlined the plans of Daily Wire to retake entertainment from the leftists.
On the same day, I spoke with a friend in California. He lamented how the conservatives have been docile for a long time while the leftists took over the schools, entertainment, and media. He used California as an example of a state where conservatives don’t even attempt to win. Conservatives, he said, “give up on everything easily.”
Those two events left me thinking about the relationship between politics and culture. Last week, I wrote a piece on Christians and Politics, where I argued that the command to love our neighbor and the Lordship of Christ demands that believers engage in politics.
After reflecting on these two events, I believe there is a need for a follow-up article that puts the former in perspective.
Politics as the culmination of culture
The previous article argues that politics define culture. The civil government’s actions and decisions affect every other thing in society – education, religion, economy, media, entertainment, etc.
For example, education in a socialist regime differs from education in a capitalist regime. The presence and extent of religious liberty differ in the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia. The freedom of the press differs in Britain, North Korea, and Russia.
Therefore, it’s essential to repeat the point that politics is a sub-structure that impacts the superstructures.
However, recent events have also shown that culture impacts politics. As culture images politics, the latter also images the former. This assertion is especially true in a democratic government.
To illustrate, suppose you desire to change a nation’s government from functional republicanism to a socialist regime. One way to do this is the direct approach – take over the civil government. But what if you don’t have the power or votes to upturn the civil government?
You can embrace a long-term approach by transforming the people who vote. If you can’t win the election, it is because the people still largely hold to values that are sympathetic to republicanism and antithetical to socialism.
Therefore, a good way to upturn the civil government is to change people’s minds.
When you change the culture, you can then change the politics and civil government through the people’s votes.
How then do you transform the people’s minds? Easy Peasy! Focus on the avenues to the mind or the mind shapers in society. Students go to school where they learn most of the things that stick with them in adulthood. The school is where the mind shaping begins.
When parents return from work and parents from school, they sit down before the television to consume news and documentaries (media) or entertainment (music, movies, and video games). Some of them will go to church on Sundays and have their minds formed.
So if you can control the education, media, entertainment, and religion, you have the culture in your hands. Once you have invested the culture with your socialist ideals, their choices, likes, dislikes, and values begin to change. And that will include their political choices.
When the next election arrives, you can take over the civil governments now even when you could not previously. You don’t need arms, political machinations, or sophisticated leadership abilities. All you need is to transform the culture via the minds of the electorate.
To gain better traction, you can focus on the young population. Because they are young, they are more open to novel ideas than their parents – who they think are outdated and ignorant. The parents may offer more resistance so you can start (or at least concentrate efforts) on the young. Once they are in place, the old buddies will either fall in line or will be too small to make any impact.
For the churches, you can start at the seminaries – where the preachers are taught and groomed. If you can’t persuade them intellectually, you can offer some money – that’s a big deal in churches today.
Anyway, the civil government is a reflection of the people. When Israel asked God for a King, he chose one from amongst them (1 Samuel 8). When the Israelites rebelled in idolatry, they made Aaron carve a golden calf (Exodus 32). When the people follow their lusts and develop itching ears, they heap to themselves teachers that will say what they want (2 Timothy 4:3). The leaders they choose will end up reflecting them. When people’s hearts are evil, the prophets follow suit (Jeremiah 6, 23, 27, 29).
The point of the above is to show that cultural transformation, for ill or for good- extends beyond politics. You can win the sub-structure by winning the superstructures.
The leftists have shown us that this can be done. Why we may cry over what they have done, we should learn from it. The strategy is not evil; it is the cause they have used it to serve that is.
The Lordship of Christ over culture
Therefore, if believers will love their neighbors and proclaim the Lordship of Christ, they must go beyond political choices and involvement.
One, we need to engage in cultural transformation so that even when the civil government is evil (and we can’t change it directly), we can change the culture to the extent that they begin to demand righteousness government.
Second, we need to engage in cultural transformation so that when a righteous government exists, the people will not be won over to unrighteousness (and from there, the government won over to unrighteousness).
As used above, righteousness and unrighteousness refer to a civil government’s faithfulness to its duties to punish the evil, reward the good, ensure religious and other God-give liberties, ensure peace and security, and rule with justice in accordance to God’s moral laws and principles.
A government that fulfills those duties in conformity to God’s moral laws and principles is righteous, vice versa.
So what’s the basis for this cultural transformation?
Again, it is the Lordship of Christ. When Christ commissioned the apostles, he commanded them to disciple the nations and teach them “everything I have commanded you” (Mathew 28:19-20). This commission is predicated on the truth that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mathew 28:18).
We must win souls and teach them to live in obedience to everything Christ has commanded. This duty is in keeping with the Lordship of Christ over the earth. As he taught us to pray, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mathew 6:9).
As the creator of the world, he is worthy “to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11).
The comprehensive obedience to the will of Christ on earth is the task of cultural transformation. Didn’t Paul admonish that “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Whatever you do encompasses every area of culture. Believers should conduct their businesses and discharge their employment to the glory of God and in obedience to Christ (Colossians 3:22-25). Christian employers and employees are to do their duties to God’s glory and in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Christians are to educate their children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Everywhere we find ourselves, we aim to ensure that the will of God is being done there as it is in heaven.
The road to cultural transformation
How does this cultural transformation take place?
One, it takes place through the expansion of the gospel. As we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and more people in the culture turn to Christ, the stage is set for transformation. The more people become believers, the more they extend the realities of the Lordship of Christ everywhere; the more his will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Second, the transformation takes place as unbelievers recognize the goodness of godliness and righteousness in the culture. We don’t need to convert everyone to Christianity to transform the culture. As we seek to obey Christ, glorify God, and seek his will everywhere, unbelievers will see what that looks like and desire it.
How is this possible?
Unbelievers are created in the image of God. Even though their hearts rebel against God and they suppress the truth in righteousness (Romans 1:18-23), they know there is a God (Romans 1:19, 20), they know his laws in their conscience (Romans 2:14), and they know his righteous judgment (Romans 1:32).
Therefore, when the believers affirm and establish God’s moral laws and principles in the culture, it resonates with the unbelievers. In Paul’s words, “their consciences also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15).
The Bible everywhere teaches that our lives can influence unbelievers. When our lights shine before men, and they see our good deeds, they will praise our Father in heaven (Mathew 5:16). Peter expects that our good works will cause unbelievers (even though they don’t like us) to glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12). The way a believer lives in the world can make Christ’s teaching attractive (Titus 2:12).
God expected that when Israel diligently obeys his laws, the other pagan nations will acknowledge the wisdom and understanding of those laws. They will say, “what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today” (Deuteronomy 4:8).
The impact will make in this manner may not necessarily lead to the salvation of the unbelievers. However, it will lead to cultural obedience to the Lordship of Christ.
Another reason why this works is that God is the creator of the universe. He alone knows what is best for the people and the universe he created. Therefore, the more a culture obeys him, the greater the human flourishing. Psalms 119 talks a lot about the human flourishing that results from obedience to God’s commandments.
Deuteronomy 28 is a primer on the blessings, prosperity, and human flourishing that results when a nation obeys God, vice versa.
Therefore, when cultures obey Christ, they flourish; when they don’t, they decline. The history of western civilization bears witness to both. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
When believers bring everything in obedience to Christ’s will, unbelievers will see the goodness, wisdom, and understanding in it and the human flourishing that proceeds from it. When they do, the entire culture experiences transformation.
Sometimes, however, God judges a nation and gives them over to their sins (Romans 1:24-32). In such cases, despite believers’ best efforts, the culture declines until it falls under God’s judgment.
However, God does have mercy. A nation can experience Christ-centered cultural transformation as they see the goodness of God’s moral laws and principles for the ordering of every area of cultural life.
Unbelievers may not want God, but they want the human flourishing that a godly culture brings. Millions of people enjoy the human flourishing in the United States who are unaware of its Christina history or the Christian source of the good things in that culture.
Christians and their callings
What then is our duty?
God has called every Christian to a station in life. One of Luther and the protestant reformers’ geniuses is the teaching that every believer has received a call from God. Unlike the medieval period, where only the priests and those in the monasteries were doing sacred work (and everyone else was doing secular work), the reformers taught that every work a believer does is sacred.
Whether you are a cake baker or the Pastor of a 10,000-member mega-church, your work is valuable to God. God is in it; it is sacred. God uses our vocations and calling as the means by which he rules over this world in his providence. God supplies every man’s needs (Psalms 104, 136, 147), but he does that through us.
The task of cultural transformation also takes place within our vocations and calling.
Has God called you to be an accountant? In your job and your accounting associations, you should ensure that God’s will is being done on earth. Are you a teacher? Do your duty in obedience to Christ. Are you an actor or actress? Ensure what whatever takes place in your work is to the glory of God.
Whatever work you do, ensure that God’s moral laws and principles are being obeyed, and his Lordship is being exercised.
Notice that this is beyond doing your job well. Of course, you should do your job well (Colossians 3:25). But cultural transformation involves cultural engagement. As you engage your fellow workers and people within your sphere of influence, do it in a way that brings glory to God and expand the realities of his Lordship.
If they are cooking the books, condemn that sin. If your company is not pursuing the clients’ best interests or are using false weight and measures, stand against it. Pursue media and entertainment that honors God and his word and stand against the opposite. Forbid to teach falsehoods to your students, and with God-given boldness, teach the truth in obedience to Christ.
Christians can never be retreatists. We cannot live in our cocoon and be oblivious to everything out there. We must not live a privatized faith that does not extend beyond the walls of our house. Scriptures must inform our views on politics, economics, entertainment, education, and everything else. Then we must go out into the real world and seek to ensure that God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Everywhere we are, we must seek a culture that is transformed through the power of Christ and his gospel. For the Christian, there is no secular/sacred divide. Our commitment to Christ follows us everywhere.
It’s not enough to make political choices for the glory of God. All of life must be to the glory of God. As we seek to make the right political choice, we must also be transforming every area of culture – education, arts, entertainment, media, etc.
Christ is Lord over all things; therefore, all things must submit to his Lordship. We must do all things to his glory and teach everyone to obey what he has commanded. The will of God must be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Bible-believing Christians must realize that our faith is all-encompassing. We can never be retreatists or pietists who hide away from the “sinful” world. This sinful world is still the arena God has chosen to display his glory. So let’s go into those sinful cultures and transform them for Christ.