The National Pulse

When Ivory Towers Crumble: A Christian Call for Political Action

It’s a sad day when practice is held hostage to theory, when goodness is crippled by perfection. In our ivory towers, presbyteries, and libraries, we parse truth and dream of the good life. We paint pictures of a world as it was intended to be, driven by faith and true love, and subject to a higher Order within which we flourish according to the fullness of our nature.

But life is not lived in an ivory tower. What happens when our ability to act is jeopardized?

This past year, a renewed discussion of Christian church history and community practice has sparked debate over the role of the Christian in public life. Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option has renewed Western imagination of monks practicing their faith in cloistered shelter away from the temptations of the world. Looking around at the state of our schools, politics, vagrant churches, technological distractions, and general chaos of modernity, many 21st-century Christians have found solace in the promise of calm in the storm, eagerly grasping for the sense that there is something deeper and more meaningful to be had here on Earth. Too many have found that solace in retreat.

According to research done by the American Principles Project Foundation, “In 2016 just three socially liberal organizations…out-spent the entire PAC and super PAC spending by social conservatives by 7 to 1.” Donors are stepping into the shadows, and principled conservatives are backing away from the political fight, leaving liberal Republicans and radical progressives to craft our nation’s policy. Meanwhile, the Left is becoming emboldened and has accomplished in the past few years what Americans a decade ago couldn’t have imagined in a lifetime. And while conservatives and Christians alike flee for shelter, the liberal elites shape their message and issue their marching orders, and their movement grows.

Leftist dogma and its step-brother, gender ideology, are slashing at the very roots of Western thought, Christian principles, and conservative practice. It seeks to redefine what it means to be human, make truth subject to personal preference, and tyrannize the consciences of dissenters by wielding the sword of state. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) legislation hides under the shroud of “anti-discrimination” policy while forcing itself upon the practices of religious institutions across the country. Curriculum changes and educational reforms, crafted by elites and placing children in charge of their own destinies absent parental guidance, seek to shape a future so altered from history and so “liberated” from biological and moral moorings as to be dystopian.

Most recently, the City of Philadelphia cut off its relations with Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services because these agencies refused to place foster children with same-sex couples. This came only days after an SOS from the city calling for 300 families to step up and care for the juvenile victims of the opioid crisis. The truth is that our most vulnerable have become the collateral damage in the far Left’s fight for social justice and gender deconstruction. And now, fueled by support from Tim Gill (the same mega donor who wants to “punish the wicked” who oppose the LGBT agenda), the Republican frontrunner for the gubernatorial primary wants to take these SOGI laws statewide in Pennsylvania.

Where are the dark corners that Christians see to retreat to? What fortress remains impermeable to the radical Left? Moreover, where is the Christian sense of duty, of commission, of compassion? The Catechism of the Catholic Church insists:

Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.

Is today’s society in such shambles that we can throw aside 2,000 years of fighting for truth? Do we have such a right? Out of love for God and love for our fellow humans created in the image of God, the Christian church has always carried a responsibility for societal preservation and protection of principles. To back away now and retreat into ourselves would be a betrayal of a legacy as old as our Faith itself.

More broadly, now is not the time for social conservatives to back down. Ideas are not good enough: religious freedom is under attack. The scholarly search for utopia lies crumbling in the shadow of reality, and we cannot adequately cultivate our own institutions without shepherding and renewing the larger structure within which we operate. For the “Benedict Option” to be an option at all, it must be legal; and we need conservatives working inside the system in defense of those outside.

It’s time to be vulnerable. It’s time to be generous. It’s time to act. And it’s time to get out and vote, for consciences’ sake.

May we act worthy of ourselves and our place in history.

Ross Hougham

Ross Hougham works for the American Principles Project.

  • “wielding the sword of state”

    Yes conservatives wield the sword of state over religious liberty. Bigots like Hougham try to use the brute force of government to deny Christian Churches the right to perform legal same-sex marriages. Why does he despise religious liberty so much? No one is denying gay hating churches the right to perform legal opposite sex marriages.

    Hougham’s “Christian Call for Political Action” is really a call for his dogma getting forced down the throats of Christians who don’t share his politics. He wants a state religion.

  • Hougham is free to believe in a sinister force that hates gay people. That’s his free religious right. That same religious freedom applies to me, a Christian, who firmly believes God blesses same-sex marriage. Indeed many Christian churches perform same-sex marriage. Yes, as a Christian I must love Hougham while also hating his sin of anti-gay bigotry. What I won’t silently suffer is Hougham applying his deeply immoral hate into a perverted political action that would deny Christian churches the religious freedom to perform legal same-sex marriage.

  • I find Ross’s willingness to “side with God” in a culture that by and large does not refreshing and needful. Even though this piece was not primarily theological – Hougham did reveal some theological convictions. And I find it interesting that these theological convictions are what is being address in many of the comments.

    As a Christian, I sit under the authority of God’s written Word – the Bible. If the Bible is not my authority as a Christian, I’m left with a great measure of ambiguity as to what I should believe and how I should live. Biblical conviction throughout history has not always been popular. However, it is possible to hold to biblical conviction and authentically love someone at the same time. Throughout the Bible we see both truth and love – not compromising truth, but yet still genuinely loving. Truth is loving – even when it is not popular.

    Most agree that Jesus was the most loving individual to ever live, yet he strongly disagreed with certain people (even on moral issues). But he loved them even when he spoke truth to them. All that to say – I think it is possible to “side with God,” say hard things, and still accept and love all people.

    • So you support the Bible when it sanctions slavery. According to your logic, you can love the slaves, but tough, the institution of slavery needs to exist because the Bible tells you so.

    • “I think it is possible to “side with God, say hard things, and still accept and love all people.”

      Yes Justin, it is possible to side with God who blesses same-sex marriage, say hard things about bigots, and still accept and love all people–including those right wing religionists who hate gay people.
      Thanks for pointing that out.

    • “Side with God?” Justin sides with a sinister force that would have society maliciously mistreat LGBTQ citizens. The Christian God who made me gay approves of my same sex marriage and demands society treat me with respect. Justin is certainly free to worship brazen bigotry, but that same freedom gives me the right to tell him he willfully chooses the wrong side. That side is evil.

    • ” I sit under the authority of God’s written Word – the Bible.”

      I take it that you believe in every literal word that humans wrote in the Bible. The Bible sanctions slavery, it commands us to kill those who work on the Sabbath, it tells women to marry their rapists, it demands we kill disobedient children.

      Do you believe all this, or do you butcher the Bible, toss aside the bits that sanction slavery etc., but embrace the few lines that disrespect LGBTQ people? I’m guessing Justin and Ross cherrypick it for ways they can harm people they hate.

    • carl…

      A few years ago, the SBC voted to renounce its advocacy of slavery. The resolution passed by a very, very narrow margin. So I would assume that Justin and Ross oppose slavery. After all, it is clearly endorsed in the Bible.

  • “May we act worthy of ourselves and our place in history.’

    Yes Ross, we Christians continue to act worthy of ourselves and secure a moral place in history. After all, it was Christians who stood up to religious bigots who used the Bible to support slavery. It was Christians who marched against religous bigots who brandished the Bible to support Jim Crow. It was Christians who stood up to religious bigots who used the Bible to discriminate against blacks. And we Christians continue to now stand up against religous bigots who use the Bible to demean and defame the LBGTQ community.

    Our place in history is secure, but it won’t look so kindly on Ross’s political movement.

  • This piece is nothing but mind-rotting tripe. It is the latest unappetizing politcal bots trying to manipulate people to vote for depravity. I am not fooled. I normally vote Republican…normally.

  • Christianity is doing just fine! Many churches now legally marry same sex couples. Polls show most Christians support equal rights for LGBTQ people. Jesus lives in the hearts of those who treat gay kids with dignity and respect.

    What is “crumbling” is the false sense of superiority of white evangelicals–a minority of Christians–as Jesus’s message of loving one’s neighbor is getting heard over their shouts of hate. The curtain has been lifted and we no longer silently suffer those who project their immoral politics onto God.

  • Denigrating minorites may be your religion, but my Christian God calls on us to love and respect. I see none of Christ in Hougham’s hateful political action.

  • Christians are not in retreat. Rather, Christians are increasingly rejecting Ross Hougham’s reactionary ideology and rightfully embracing all God’s children, including His gay ones. The most vulnerable children in society are the collateral damage of his bigotry. He should be ashamed.

  • I am a Chrustian who is morally repelled by Hougham’s brutal bigotry. He speaks for right wing religionists–not Christianity.