- For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical
Call to Civic Responsibility
- Ed Vitagliano, Agape Press - Almost 90 evangelical leaders
have given their approval to a document that calls conservative
Christians to go beyond their usual issues, like abortion and
homosexual rights, and involve themselves in such matters as
poverty, justice and human rights.
- Titled For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call
to Civic Responsibility, the tome was crafted under the auspices
of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The
project was commissioned by the NAE at its 2001 convention, and
nearly two dozen leading scholars drafted the document.
- The document could carry substantial weight in the evangelical
community. The NAE says it represents 30 million people in 45,000
churches and 52 denominations in the U.S.
- Giving their assent were evangelical leaders such as Richard
Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; James Dobson
of Focus on the Family; Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship;
the late Diane Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion
and Democracy; and author Ravi Zacharias. The American
Family Association is examining the document, but chairman Don
Wildmon said the ministry was already in agreement with the general
sentiments of For the Health of the Nation.
- "Evangelical Christians in America face a historic opportunity.
We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful
nation in history," the document states. "Never before
has God given American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity
to shape public policy in ways that could contribute to the
well-being of the entire world. Disengagement is not an option."
- While the statement admits that "American evangelicals
continue to be ambivalent about civic engagement," it establishes
a framework for understanding Christians' responsibility for
the culture around them.
- For the Health of the Nation lays out seven principles it
says should guide Christian political engagement.
- The principles below are followed by excerpts only, and supporting
biblical references have been deleted due to space considerations.
The full text is available on the National Association of Evangelicals
- (1) We work to protect religious freedom and liberty of conscience.
"God has ordained the two co-existing institutions of church
and state as distinct and independent of each other with each
having its own areas of responsibility .... Participating in
the public square does not require people to put aside their
beliefs or suspend the practice of their religion ...."
- (2) We work to nurture family life and protect children.
"[T]he family is central to God's vision for human society
.... The mutuality and service of family life contrast strongly
with the hypermodern emphasis on individual freedom and rights.
... Government does not have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing
wholesome family life. That is the job of families themselves
and of other institutions, especially churches. ... [G]overnments
should promote laws and policies that strengthen the well-being
of families. ... [Issues such as] alcohol, drug, gambling, or
credit-card abuse; pornography, sexual libertinism, spousal or
child sexual abuse, easy divorce, abortion on demand ... seriously
impair the ability of family members to function in society.
... Similarly, employment, labor, housing, health care, and educational
policies concern not only individuals but seriously affect families
.... Good fam
- (3) We work to protect the sanctity of human life and to
safeguard its nature. "Because God created human beings
in His image, all people share in the divine dignity. And because
the Bible reveals God's calling and care of persons before they
are born, the preborn share in this dignity .... We believe that
abortion, euthanasia, and unethical human experimentation violate
the God-given dignity of human beings. ... Human dignity is indivisible.
A threat to the aged, to the very young, to the unborn, to those
with disabilities, or to those with genetic diseases is a threat
- (4) We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable.
"Jesus summed up God's law by commanding us to love God
with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves ....
By deed and parable, he taught us that anyone in need is our
neighbor .... God measures societies by how they treat the people
at the bottom. ... God's prophets call his people to create just
and righteous societies .... Restoring people to wholeness means
that governmental social welfare must aim to provide opportunity
and restore people to self-sufficiency. ... We further believe
that care for the vulnerable should extend beyond our national
- (5) We work to protect human rights. "Because God created
human beings in his image, we are endowed with rights and responsibilities.
... While it is not the primary role of government to provide
everything that humans need for their well-being, governments
are obligated to ensure that people are not unjustly deprived
of them .... Governments should be constitutionally obligated
to protect basic human rights. ... [W]e believe that religious
liberty, including the right to change one's religion, is a foundational
right that must be respected by governments .... We also oppose
the expansion of 'rights talk' to encompass so-called rights
such as 'same-sex marriage' or 'the right to die.' ... Our churches
have a special responsibility to model good race relations ...."
- (6) We seek peace and work to restrain violence. "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."
- (7) We labor to protect God's creation. "As we embrace
our responsibility to care for God's earth, we reaffirm the important
truth that we worship only the Creator and not the creation.
... We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility
to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation
of which we are a part."
- BELOW IS THE STATEMENT IN ITS
- For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic
- PREAMBLE Evangelical Christians in America face a historic
opportunity. We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the
most powerful nation in history. Never before has God given American
evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public policy
in ways that could contribute to the well-being of the entire
world. Disengagement is not an option. We must seek Gods
face for biblical faithfulness and abundant wisdom to rise to
this unique challenge.
- The special circumstances of this historic moment underline
both the opportunity and the challenge.
- Although we have the privilege to help shape the actions
of the worlds lone superpower, only half of all evangelical
Christians bother to vote.
- The presence and role of religion in public life is
attacked more fiercely now than ever, making the bias of aggressive
secularism the last acceptable prejudice in America.
- Since the atrocities of September 11, 2001, the spiritual
and religious dimensions of global conflict have been sharpened.
- Secular media outlets have long acknowledged evangelical
involvement in pro- life and family issues, but are taking belated
notice of evangelicals global involvement in activities
such as disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and the fights
against AIDS/HIV, human rights abuses, slavery, sexual trafficking,
and prison rape.
- Some key American political leaders now conceive of
their roles in moral terms. And they see themselves as stewards
of the blessings of representative democracy, religious freedom,
and human rights in a world where many nations are endangered
by the forces of authoritarianism or radical secularism. Evangelicals
may not always agree 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. While these issues do not
exhaust the concerns of good government, they provide the platform
for evangelicals to engage in common action.
- Despite our common commitments and this moment of opportunity,
American evangelicals continue to be ambivalent about civic engagement.
- In 1947, Carl F. H. Henry pricked our uneasy consciences
and spurred us toward responsible social and political engagement.
In the years since, the National Association of Evangelicals
has routinely engaged our political leaders through its Office
of Governmental Affairs and worked to educate member churches
on current issues. In recent decades, a variety of evangelical
political voices have emerged. Yet evangelicals have failed to
engage with the breadth, depth, and consistency to which we are
called. Scholars and leaders have inspired us by drawing attention
to historical exemplars of evangelical public responsibility
from Wilberforce and the Booths in England to Edwards, Backus,
Garnet, Finney, and Palmer in America. Our spiritual ancestors
did not always agree on the specifics of governance and the best
roads to social reform. Yet their passion and sacrifice inspire
us to creative engagement, even when we cannot fully agree on
- Against this historical background and in view of these common
commitments, we offer the following principled framework for
evangelical public engagement.
- THE BASIS FOR CHRISTIAN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
- We engage in public life because God created our first parents
in his image and gave them dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:27-28).
The responsibilities that emerge from that mandate are many,
and in a modern society those responsibilities rightly flow to
many different institutions, including governments, families,
churches, schools, businesses, and labor unions. Just governance
is part of our calling in creation.
- We also engage in public life because Jesus is Lord over
every area of life. Through him all things were created (Col.
1:16-17), and by him all things will be brought to fullness (Rom.
8:19-21). To restrict our stewardship to the private sphere would
be to deny an important part of his dominion and to functionally
abandon it to the Evil One. To restrict our political concerns
to matters that touch only on the private and the domestic spheres
is to deny the all-encompassing Lordship of Jesus (Rev. 19:16).
- Following in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus
announced the arrival of Gods kingdom (Gods 'reign'
or 'rule') (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). This kingdom would be marked
by justice, peace, forgiveness, restoration, and healing for
all. Jesus followers have come to understand the time between
his first and second comings as a period of 'already, but not
yet,' in which we experience many of the blessings of Gods
reign and see initial signs of restoration, while we continue
to suffer many of the results of the Fall.
- We know that we must wait for God to bring about the fullness
of the kingdom at Christs return. But in this interim,
the Lord calls the church to speak prophetically to society and
work for the renewal and reform of its structures. The Lord also
calls the church to practice the righteous deeds of the kingdom
and point to the kingdom by the wholeness and integrity of the
churchs common life. This example will require us to demonstrate
Gods love for all, by crossing racial, ethnic, economic,
and national boundaries. It will also often involve following
Jesus example by suffering and living sacrificially for
- As Christian citizens, we believe it is our calling to help
government live up to its divine mandate to render justice (Rom.
13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). From the teachings of the Bible and
our experience of salvation, we Christians bring a unique vision
to our participation in the political order and a conviction
that changed people and transformed communities are possible.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, we are compelled outward in
service to God and neighbor.
- Jesus calls us as his followers to love our neighbors as
ourselves. Our goal in civic engagement is to bless our neighbors
by making good laws. Because we have been called to do justice
to our neighbors, we foster a free press, participate in open
debate, vote, and hold public office. When Christians do justice,
it speaks loudly about God. And it can show those who are not
believers how the Christian vision can contribute to the common
good and help alleviate the ills of society.
- THE METHOD OF CHRISTIAN CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
- Every political judgment requires both a normative vision
and factual analysis. The more carefully and precisely we Christians
think about the complex details of both, the more clearly we
will be able to explain our views to others and understandand
perhaps overcomedisagreements with others.
- Every normative vision has some understanding of persons,
creation, history, justice, life, family, and peace. As Christians
committed to the full authority of Scripture, our normative vision
must flow from the Bible and from the moral order that God has
embedded in his creation.
- Evangelical Christians seek in every area of life to submit
to the authority of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor.
10:11). Nevertheless, many contemporary political decisions "whether
about environmental science, HIV/AIDS, or international trade"
deal with complex sociological or technological issues not discussed
explicitly in the Bible. As Christians engaged in public policy,
we must do detailed social, economic, historical, jurisprudential,
and political analysis if we are to understand our society and
wisely apply our normative vision to political questions. Only
if we deepen our Christian vision and also study our contemporary
world can we engage in politics faithfully and wisely.
- From the Bible, experience, and social analysis, we learn
that social problems arise and can be substantially corrected
by both personal decisions and structural changes. On the one
hand, personal sinful choices contribute significantly to destructive
social problems (Prov. 6:9-11), and personal conversion through
faith in Christ can transform broken persons into wholesome,
productive citizens. On the other hand, unjust systems also help
create social problems (Amos 5:10-15; Isa. 10:1-2) and wise structural
change (for example legislation to strengthen marriage or increase
economic opportunity for all) can improve society.
- Thus Christian civic engagement must seek to transform both
individuals and institutions. While individuals transformed by
the gospel change surrounding society, social institutions also
shape individuals. While good laws encourage good behavior, bad
laws and systems foster destructive action. Lasting social change
requires both personal conversion and institutional renewal and
reform. The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal
about the well-being of marriage, the family, the sanctity of
human life, justice for the poor, care for creation, peace, freedom,
and racial justice. While individual persons and organizations
are at times called by God to concentrate on one or two issues,
faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically
- Humility and civility
- As sinners who are thankful for Gods grace, we know
that we do not always live up to our civic responsibility. Christians
must approach political engagement with humility and with earnest
prayer for divine guidance and wisdom. Because power structures
are often entrenched, perfect solutions are unobtainable. Because
cultural changes produce problems that are often not amenable
to legislative solutions, we must not expect political activity
to achieve more than it can. Because social systems are complex
and our knowledge is incomplete, we cannot predict all the effects
of laws, policies, and regulations. As a result, we must match
our high ideals with careful social analysis and critical reflection
on our experience in order to avoid supporting policies that
produce unintended and unfortunate consequences.
- We will differ with other Christians and with non-Christians
over the best policies. Thus we must practice humility and cooperation
to achieve modest and attainable goals for the good of society.
We must take care to employ the language of civility and to avoid
denigrating those with whom we disagree. Because political work
requires persuasion and cooperation with those who do not share
our Christian commitment, we must offer a reasoned and easy-to-grasp
defense of our goals.
- When we as Christians engage in political activity, we must
maintain our integrity and keep our biblical values intact. While
we may frequently settle for half-a-loaf, we must
never compromise principle by engaging in unethical behavior
or endorsing or fostering sin. As we rightly engage in supporting
legislation, candidates and political parties, we must be clear
that biblical faith is vastly larger and richer than every limited,
inevitably imperfect political agenda and that commitment to
the Lordship of Christ and his one body far transcends all political
- THE STRUCTURES OF PUBLIC LIFE
- In the beginning, God called human beings to govern and to
care for the creation. Faithfulness to this call has taken different
forms as human beings have lived in family groups, in tribes
and clans, in kingdoms and empires, and now in modern nation-states
in an increasingly interconnected global community. Today we
live in a complex society in which few people are directly involved
in governing and in which complicated problems do not readily
yield straightforward solutions.
- God has ordered human society with various institutions and
set in place forms of government to maintain public order, to
restrain human evil, and to promote the common good. God has
called all people to share responsibility for creating a healthy
society. Human beings work out their different ways of obeying
Gods call as spouses, parents, workers, and participants
in the wide variety of human networks. Some, however, are called
to particular roles of governance. We must support and pray for
all those who shoulder the burdens of government (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
- Representative democracy
- We thank God for the blessings of representative democracy,
which allow all citizens to participate in government by electing
their representatives, helping to set the priorities for government,
and by sharing publicly the insights derived from their experience.
We are grateful that we live in a society in which citizens can
hold government responsible for fulfilling its responsibilities
to God and abiding by the norms of justice.
- We support the democratic process in part because people
continue to be sufficiently blessed by Gods common grace
that they can seek not only their own betterment, but also the
welfare of others. We also support democracy because we know
that since the Fall, people often abuse power for selfish purposes.
As Lord Acton noted, power tends to corrupt and absolute power
corrupts absolutely. Thus we thank God for a constitutional system
that decentralizes power through the separation of powers, fair
elections, limited terms of office, and division among national,
state, and local authorities.
- As Christians we confess that our primary allegiance is to
Christ, his kingdom, and Christs worldwide body of believers,
not to any nation. God has blessed America with bounty and with
strength, but unless these blessings are used for the good of
all, they will turn to our destruction. As Christian citizens
of the United States, we must keep our 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
- We invite Christians outside the United States to aid us
in broadening our perspectives on American life and action. Just
government and fundamental liberty God is the source of all true
law and genuine liberty. He both legitimates and limits the states
authority. Thus, while we owe Caesar his due (Matt. 22:15-22;
Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26), we regard only Jesus as Lord.
As King of Kings, Jesus authority extends over Caesar.
As followers of Jesus, we obey government authorities when they
act in accord with Gods justice and his laws (Titus 3:1).
But we also resist government when it exercises its power in
an unjust manner (Acts 5:27-32) or tries to dominate other institutions
in society. A good government preserves the God-ordained responsibilities
of societys other institutions, such as churches, other
faith-centered organizations, schools, families, labor unions,
- PRINCIPLES OF CHRISTIAN POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
- We work to protect religious freedom and liberty of conscience
God has ordained the two co-existing institutions of church and
state as distinct and independent of each other with each having
its own areas of responsibility (Rom. 13:1-7; Mark 12:13-17;
Eph. 4:15-16, 5:23-32). We affirm the principles of religious
freedom and liberty of conscience, which are both historically
and logically at the foundation of the American experiment. They
are properly called the First Freedom and are now vested in the
First Amendment. The First Amendments guarantees of freedom
of speech, association, and religion provide the political space
in which we can carry out our differing responsibilities. Because
human beings are responsible to God, these guarantees are crucial
to the exercise of their God-given freedom. As God allows the
wheat and tares to grow together until the harvest, and as God
sends the rain on the just and on the unjust, so those who obey
and those who disobey God coexist in society and share in its
blessings (Matt. 5:45, 13:24-30). This gospel pluralism
is foundational to the religious liberty of all.
- Participating in the public square does not require people
to put aside their beliefs or suspend the practice of their religion.
All persons should have equal access to public forums, regardless
of the religious content or viewpoint of their speech. Likewise,
judicial standards should protect and respect not only religiously
compelled practices, but also religiously motivated behavior.
- The First Amendments Establishment Clause is directed
only at government and restrains its power. Thus, for example,
the clause was never intended to shield individuals from exposure
to the religious views of nongovernmental speakers. Exemptions
from regulations or tax burdens do not violate the Establishment
Clause, for government does not establish religion by leaving
it alone. When government assists nongovernmental organizations
as part of an evenhanded educational, social service, or health
care program, religious organizations receiving such aid do not
become state actors with constitutional duties. Courts
should respect church autonomy in matters relating to doctrine,
polity, the application of its governing documents, church discipline,
clergy and staff employment practices, and other matters within
the province of the church (Acts 18:12-17).
- Religion is not just an individual matter, but also refers
to rich communal traditions of ultimate belief and practice.
We resist the definition of religion becoming either radically
individualized or flattened out to mean anything that passes
for a serious conviction. Thus, while the First Amendment protects
religiously informed conscience, it does not protect all matters
of sincere concern.
- We work to nurture family life and protect children From
Genesis onward, the Bible tells us that the family is central
to Gods vision for human society. God has revealed himself
to us in the language of family, adopting us as his children
(Rom. 8:23, Gal. 4:5) and teaching us by the Holy Spirit to call
him Abba Father (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6). Marriage, which is a lifetime
relationship between one man and one woman, is the predominant
biblical icon of Gods relationship with his people (Isa.
54:5; Jer. 3:20, 31:32; Ezek. 16:32; Eph. 5:23, 31-32). In turn,
family life reveals something to us about God, as human families
mirror, however faintly, the inner life of the Trinity.
- The mutuality and service of family life contrast strongly
with the hypermodern emphasis on individual freedom and rights.
Marriage, sexuality, and family life are fundamental to society.
Whether we are married or single, it is in the family that we
learn mutual responsibility, we learn to live in an ordered society
with complementary and distinct roles, we learn to submit and
to obey, we learn to love and to trust, we learn both justice
and mercy, and we learn to deny ourselves for the well-being
of others. Thus the family is at the heart of the organic functioning
- Government does not have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing
wholesome family life. That is the job of families themselves
and of other institutions, especially churches. But governments
should understand that people are more than autonomous individuals;
they live in families and many are married. While providing individuals
with ways to remedy or escape abusive relationships, governments
should promote laws and policies that strengthen the well-being
- Many social evils, such as alcohol, drug, gambling, or credit-card
abuse, pornography, sexual libertinism, spousal or child sexual
abuse, easy divorce, abortion on demand, represent the abandonment
of responsibility or the violation of trust by family members,
and they seriously impair the ability of family members to function
in society. These evils must be viewed not only as matters of
individual sin and dysfunction, but also as violations of family
integrity. Because the family is so important to society, violations
of its integrity threaten public order. Similarly, employment,
labor, housing, health care, and educational policies concern
not only individuals but seriously affect families. In order
to strengthen the family, we must promote biblical moral principles,
responsible personal choices, and good public policies on marriage
and divorce law, shelter, food, health care, education, and a
family wage (Jas. 5:1-6).
- Good family life is so important to healthy human functioning
that we oppose government efforts to trespass on its territory:
whether by encroaching on parental responsibilities to educate
their children, by treating other kinds of households as the
familys social and legal equivalent, or by creating economic
disincentives to marriage. We commit ourselves to work for laws
that protect and foster family life, and against government attempts
to interfere with the integrity of the family. We also oppose
innovations such as same-sex 'marriage.'
- We will work for measures that strengthen the economic viability
of marriages and families, especially among the poor. We likewise
commit ourselves to work within the church and society to strengthen
marriages, to reduce the rate of divorce, and to prepare young
adults for healthy family life. We work to protect the sanctity
of human life and to safeguard its nature Because God created
human beings in his image, all people share in the divine dignity.
And because the Bible reveals Gods calling and care of
persons before they are born, the preborn share in this dignity
- We believe that abortion, euthanasia, and unethical human
experimentation violate the God-given dignity of human beings.
As these practices gain social approval and become legitimized
in law, they undermine the legal and cultural protections that
our society has provided for vulnerable persons. Human dignity
is indivisible. A threat to the aged, to the very young, to the
unborn, to those with disabilities, or to those with genetic
diseases is a threat to all.
- The book of Genesis portrays human attempts to transcend
creaturely humility before God as rebellion against God. Christians
must witness in the political sphere to the limits of our creatureliness
and warn against the dangers of dissatisfaction with human limits.
As many others in the West, we have had such faith in science
and its doctrine of progress that we are unprepared for the choices
biotechnology now brings us. We urge evangelicals with specialized
scientific knowledge to help Christians and policymakers to think
through these issues. As technologies related to cloning and
creating inheritable genetic modifications are being refined,
society is less able to create a consensus on what is good and
what limits we should place on human modification. The uniqueness
of human nature is at stake.
- Where the negative implications of biotechnology are unknown,
government ought to err on the side of caution. Christians must
welcome and support medical research that uses stem cells from
adult donors and other ethical avenues of research. But we must
work toward complete bans on human cloning and embryonic stem-cell
research, as well as for laws against discrimination based on
- We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable
Jesus summed up Gods law by commanding us to love God with
all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt.
22:35-40). By deed and parable, he taught us that anyone in need
is our neighbor (Luke 10:29-37). Because all people are created
in the image of God, we owe each other help in time of need.
- God identifies with the poor (Ps. 146:5-9), and says that
those who are kind to the poor lend to the Lord (Prov.
19:17), while those who oppress the poor show contempt
for their Maker (Prov. 14:31). Jesus said that those who
do not care for the needy and the imprisoned will depart eternally
from the living God (Matt. 25:31-46). The vulnerable may include
not only the poor, but women, children, the aged, persons with
disabilities, immigrants, refugees, minorities, the persecuted,
and prisoners. God measures societies by how they treat the people
at the bottom.
- Gods prophets call his people to create just and righteous
societies (Isa. 10:1-4, 58:3-12; Jer. 5:26-29, 22:13-19; Amos
2:6-7; Amos 4:1-3, 5:10-15). 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). Though the Bible does not call for economic
equality, it condemns gross disparities in opportunity and outcome
that cause suffering and perpetuate poverty, and it calls us
to work toward equality of opportunity. 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. Christians reach out
to help others in various ways: through personal charity, effective
faith-based ministries, and other nongovernmental associations,
and by advocating for effective government programs and structural
- Economic justice includes both the mitigation of suffering
and also the restoration of wholeness. Wholeness includes full
participation in the life of the community. Health care, nutrition,
and education are important ingredients in helping people transcend
the stigma and agony of poverty and re-enter community. Since
healthy family systems are important for nurturing healthy individuals
and overcoming poverty, public policy should encourage marriage
and sexual abstinence outside marriage, while discouraging early
onset of sexual activity, out-of-wedlock births, and easy divorce.
Government should also hold fathers and mothers responsible for
the maintenance of their families, enforcing where necessary
the collection of child-support payments.
- Restoring people to wholeness means that governmental social
welfare must aim to provide opportunity and restore people to
self-sufficiency. While basic standards of support must be put
in place to provide for those who cannot care for their families
and themselves, incentives and training in marketable skills
must be part of any well-rounded program. We urge Christians
who work in the political realm to shape wise laws pertaining
to the creation of wealth, wages, education, taxation, immigration,
health care, and social welfare that will protect those trapped
in poverty and empower the poor to improve their circumstances.
- We further believe that care for the vulnerable should extend
beyond our national borders. American foreign policy and trade
policies often have an impact on the poor. We should try to persuade
our leaders to change patterns of trade that harm the poor and
to make the reduction of global poverty a central concern of
American foreign policy. We must support policies that encourage
honesty in government, correct unfair socioeconomic structures,
generously support effective programs that empower the poor,
and foster economic development and prosperity. Christians should
also encourage continued government support of international
aid agencies, including those that are faith based.
- Especially in the developing world, extreme poverty, lack
of health care, the spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate nutrition,
unjust and unstable economies, slavery and sexual trafficking,
the use of rape as a tool of terror and oppression, civil war,
and government cronyism and graft create the conditions in which
large populations become vulnerable. We support Christian agencies
and American foreign policy that effectively correct these political
problems and promote just, democratic structures.
- We work to protect human rights Because God created human
beings in his image, we are endowed with rights and responsibilities.
In order to carry out these responsibilities, human beings need
the freedom to form associations, formulate and express beliefs,
and act on conscientiously held commitments.
- As recipients of Gods gift of embodied life, people
need food, nurture, shelter, and care. In order to fulfill their
God-given tasks, all people have a right to private property.
Gods design for human existence also implies a right to
marry, enjoy family life, and raise and educate children. While
it is not the primary role of government to provide everything
that humans need for their well-being, governments are obligated
to ensure that people are not unjustly deprived of them and to
strengthen families, schools, businesses, hospitals, social-service
organizations, and other institutions so they can contribute
to human welfare. At the same time, government must fulfill its
responsibilities to provide for the general welfare and promote
the common good.
- Governments should be constitutionally obligated to protect
basic human rights. Documents like the UNs Universal Declaration
of Human Rights are attempts to articulate the kind of treatment
that every person deserves from the government under which they
live. Insofar as a person has a human right, that person should
be able to appeal to an executive, legislative, or judicial authority
to enforce or adjudicate that right. We believe that American
foreign policy should reward those countries that respect human
rights and should not reward (and prudently employ certain sanctions
against) those countries that abuse or deny such rights. We urge
the United States to increase its commitments to developing democracy
and civil society in former colonial lands, Muslim nations, and
countries emerging from Communism. Because the Creator gave human
beings liberty, we believe that religious liberty, including
the right to change ones religion, is a foundational right
that must be respected by governments (Article 18, Universal
Declaration of Human Rights).
- Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are closely
related to religious liberty, and people must be free to express
their vision for a just social order without fear of torture
or other reprisal.
- We also oppose the expansion of 'rights talk' to encompass
so-called rights such as 'same-sex marriage' or 'the right to
die.' Inappropriately expanded rights language has begun to function
as a trump card in American discourse that unfairly shuts down
- America has a tragic history of mistreating Native Americans,
the cruel practice of slavery, and the subsequent segregation
and exploitation of the descendants of slaves. While the United
States has achieved legal and social equality in principle, the
legacy of racism still makes many African Americans, Hispanics,
and other ethnic minorities particularly vulnerable to a variety
of social ills. Our churches have a special responsibility to
model good race relations (Rom. 10:12). To correct the lingering
effects of our racist history, Christians should support well-conceived
efforts that foster dignity and responsibility.
- We seek peace and work to restrain violence Jesus and the
prophets looked forward to the time when Gods reign would
bring about just and peaceful societies in which people would
enjoy the fruits of their labor without interference from foreign
oppressors or unjust rulers. But from the beginning, Christians
have recognized that God did not call them to bring in Gods
kingdom by force. While all Christians have agreed that governments
should protect and restore just and peaceful social orders, we
have long differed on when governments may use force and whether
we may participate in government-authorized force to defend our
homelands, rescue others from attack, or liberate other people
- 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 believe that if
governments are going to use military force, they must use it
in the service of peace and not merely in their national interest.
Military force must be guided by the classical just-war principles,
which are designed to restrain violence by establishing the right
conditions for and right conduct in fighting a war. In an age
of nuclear and biological terrorism, such principles are more
important than ever.
- We urge followers of Jesus to engage in practical peacemaking
locally, nationally, and internationally. As followers of Jesus,
we should, in our civic capacity, work to reduce conflict by
promoting international understanding and engaging in non-violent
- We labor to protect Gods creation As we embrace our
responsibility to care for Gods earth, we reaffirm the
important truth that we worship only the Creator and not the
creation. God gave the care of his earth and its species to our
first parents. That responsibility has passed into our hands.
We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility
to steward the earth and not a license to 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'
(Gen. 2:15). This implies the principle of sustainability: our
uses of the Earth must be designed to conserve and renew the
Earth rather than to deplete or destroy it.
- The Bible teaches us that God is not only redeeming his people,
but is also restoring the whole creation (Rom. 8:18-23). Just
as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out to the lost,
we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for
his creation. Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources
are crucial to public health and civic order, government has
an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental
degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human
suffering caused by bad environmental practice. Because natural
systems are extremely complex, human actions can have unexpected
side effects. We must therefore approach our stewardship of creation
with humility and caution.
- Human beings have responsibility for creation in a variety
of ways. We urge Christians to shape their personal lives in
creation-friendly ways: practicing effective recycling, conserving
resources, and experiencing the joy of contact with nature. We
urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution,
encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for
the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats.
- OUR COMMITMENT
- We commit ourselves to support Christians who engage in political
and social action in a manner consistent with biblical teachings.
We call on Christian leaders in public office or with expertise
in public policy and political life, to help us deepen our perspective
on public policy and political life so that we might better fulfill
our civic responsibility. We call on all Christians to become
informed and then to vote, as well as to regularly communicate
biblical values to their government representatives. We urge
all Christians to take their civic responsibility seriously even
when they are not fulltime political activists so that they might
more adequately call those in government to their task. We also
encourage our children to consider vocations in public service.
- We call churches and transdenominational agencies to cultivate
an understanding of civic responsibility and public justice among
their members. Seminaries and Christian colleges have a special
responsibility to imbue future leaders with a sense of civic
responsibility. We call all Christians to a renewed political
engagement that aims to protect the vulnerable and poor, to guard
the sanctity of human life, to further racial reconciliation
and justice, to renew the family, to care for creation, and to
promote justice, freedom, and peace for all.
- Above all, we commit ourselves to regular prayer for those
who govern, that God may prosper their efforts to nurture life,
justice, freedom, and peace.