Last month the American Enterprise Institute hosted an event “Is the Good Book Good Enough? Evangelical Perspectives on Public Policy” As a student on the verge of entering the “real world,” I hadn’t previously questioned whether the Bible is good enough for shaping policy- of course it is! But the event helped me to think through my assumptions of faith in public policy and to focus on the core concerns that my generation faces as we approach the task of “doing justice” in our political community.
Directed towards students like me preparing to graduate and enter into the public square, whether through government, school, church, etc., an overarching question emerged from the panel discussions: How can Christians stay connected and committed to a biblical faith in all areas of life while upholding responsibility, dignity, and justice in public policy?
Each panel discussed various public policy issues, including topics on domestic policy, global issues, and evangelical views on engaging culture. Even though each speaker advocated for a different policy issue, I found myself in the middle of a unique situation: a discussion with a group of passionate people seeking to involve faith in both private and public life. What connected these professors, students, and CEO’s was a shared commitment to live as loyal citizens, to serve justly, and to reflect who they live for in the political arena. The event highlighted the ongoing conversation that has been buzzing around Capitol Hill as more people of faith step out into policy debates in hopes of making progress towards a more just society. But how do we do this, and why is it important?
Panelist Steve Monsma, a Research Fellow at the Paul Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College, points us in the right direction for finding out the answer to these questions. In his book Healing for a Broken World, Monsma describes God’s story of creation, sin, and redemption and argues that it is still very present today. “The continuing presence and power of sin in our broken world means we should not expect that government and public policies will usher in a society or a world of perfect Shalom. That day awaits the return of our Lord,” he wrote. (Monsma 44). Monsma argues that we are called to be God’s agents of reconciliation and redemption, and I would argue the same. We are created to be agents of redemption in all areas of our lives, through both family and vocation.
Before arriving in Washington, D.C. for the semester, it was hard for me to believe that there could be any significant redemption in politics, government, and public policy. However, I’ve been convicted that Christians have a significant and vitally important responsibility to no longer fall into the trap of belittling efforts made by our current leaders on Capitol Hill. Instead, as citizens, we must uplift our current legislators and help our nation approach a greater and more just society. If lawmakers are working to respond to what God has called them to redeem—that is significant. Monsma challenges Christians to consider what our call to this world means for our personal lives and fields of vocation.
Fellow panelist Michael Cromartie, Vice President at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, encouraged leaders to “strive to build a world where the strong are just and the weak find mercy” and to “encourage and develop a public language to be understood across different traditions”. For Evangelicals working in public policy or those watching on the sidelines, our call to this world will be enhanced when we stop advocating for our own “Christian policies” but rather focus on promoting human flourishing and redemption for all of America.
It is true- we all live and share in this time of great transition and as Steven Garber, author of The Fabric of Faithfulness asked, “How will your life be different knowing what you know now?” and “What will you do with what you know?” For me, these questions are at the foundation of what my generation should consider applying to all areas of life. So I ask my peers: What are you going to do about what you know? What are you called to redeem?
-Sara Bissig is a senior at Asbury University pursuing a Bachelor of Communication Arts in Public Relations and Photojournalism.
Photos by Sara Bissig