Conservatism: The false hope for Christians

In the Western world, many Christians have been conditioned to presume that the post-modern culture’s rejection of faith is equivalent to the persecution of believers. Although seemingly anti-Christian and far-left ideas may have become mainstream, holding firm to the true Gospel isn’t a mandate for political conservatism.

Christians no longer hold a respected position in society partly due to the wrongdoings of the Church over many years but also as a result of believers’ failure to cohesively articulate the Gospel in a post-Christendom culture. The timeless Gospel needs to be communicated in ways that show inclusiveness, rather than what has been traditionally done to separate believers and non-believers.

It is essential for churches to grasp that only the Gospel is sacred but not the methodology of evangelism and outreach. Our Godly theology doesn’t have to change, but the way we build relationships with the wider world must be responsive to our current society.

Know the times

The quick pace of progressive politics that has seen in the legalisation of same-sex marriage, decriminalisation of late-term abortions and forced acceptance of transgenderism across a growing list of places around the world, has been a rude awakening for many Christians. But before Christians should join the outrage culture and be shocked at the reality, maybe it would be wise to examine what Christian culture has become in recent decades.

For too long Christians have taken the conservative approach of assuming that children, young people and non-believers will hold the church’s teachings with regard without having to present merit-based reasoning. Often in Sunday School, children have been taught that individual books and games are evil, more than how the relevance of how Jesus saves.

We cannot continue being ignorant of the narratives that progressive politics has been teaching the next generation, whether it be the ideas of self and the non-existence of a higher being or the value of socialism. However, we must remember that Christianity isn’t a battleground between left-wing and right-wing, but a struggle of good and evil in which Jesus has already won.

Misplaced faith

The success of modern Western civilisation is built on Judeo-Christian values, and despite many attempts to disregard this reality, Jesus is still the most influential person that ever lived. Judeo-Christian ideals stipulate that God-given absolute truths are vital to a moral civilisation, for example that each individual’s life is infinitely valuable as we are all created in the image of God.

As mainstream society continues to reject God and such truth, it seems that only conservative political parties are the last line of defence of Judeo-Christian values in many Western countries. Conservatives have generally tended to more pro-liberty, pro-religion and pro-life, but do they reflect the Gospel?

Many Christians voted for conservatives in recent elections to push back against the “culture wars” and political correctness. But in Australia, was it not supposedly a conservative government that implemented same-sex marriage and was it not the same party that has achieved what is arguably the most permissive abortion laws in the world?

Mirage of the culture wars

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s election win has drawn comparisons to US President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory in being a significant milestone for the conservative fightback in the “culture war”. But often we forget that ‘culture is downstream from politics, which in turn is downstream from religion’. So, as Christians, it is important to be engaging at the root of the cultural issues, which is a question of faith and belief.

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney, nearly every speaker had praise for Judeo-Christian values. Conservative politicians have presented themselves as the ‘godly’ alternative to the progressive and left-wing political agenda. But this isn’t a question of how should a Christian vote but rather a test for believers in discerning false prophets from among many prophets.

Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew chapter 7 verses 15 to 20 are a timely reminder for Christians to show discernment: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Just because conservatives may be slightly more tolerant to Christianity, doesn’t mean conservatism can displace Jesus as our saviour. It is saddening that some Christians have jumped to defend everything that US President Trump has done because he is supposedly a stalwart ally of the conservative movement or is willing to overlook the treatment of asylum seekers by Australian Prime Minister’s Scott Morrison’s government.

Too quickly do we retreat to our tribalistic instincts and presume that a position of defending Christianity against persecution can only be done through conservative politics. As we know well, even the most seasoned politician will fall short of expectations – so we cannot be placing our trust in human politics to resolve our cultural issues, but instead, we must be looking to Jesus.

In Christ alone

The words of the famous hymn “My hope is built on nothing less” is a positive reminder for Christians to take heart that Jesus has won the victory.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

One of the most inspiring passages in Scripture is found in Isiah chapter 61 verse 1 to 2 as the prophet reminds us that the Spirit will deliver comfort, deliverance and freedom: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

This passage written to the Israelites while in exile is equally relevant to Christians feeling marginalised by mainstream society. We have the assurance of victory only through Jesus because He came to end the exile, to bring true restoration and deliverance. Luke chapter 4 verse 21 recalls Jesus’ declaration that “today this scripture is fulfilled”, hence the words of Isaiah are a foreshadowing of the ministry of Jesus.

So, by placing our faith in Jesus and in earthly politics – we can be truly saved. Besides there is really nothing in this ‘world’ worth “conserving”, let’s await the blessed hope of the new heaven and new earth that believers can access only through Jesus because it is in Christ alone that our hope is found.

This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Wednesday 28 August 2019