Public Policy and Spiritual Warfare?

Recent events – the brouhaha in Houston as attorneys for the city subpoena written communications from prominent pastors; the city of Coeur D’Alene challenging a wedding chapel run by an evangelical couple to require them to perform same-sex weddings – illustrate the conflict that may become more common as our society slides further into secularization.
Of course as a pastor I immediately get riled up when I read these kind of news stories. I respond from the gut and speak before I truly think through the issues involved. I often suffer from the common malady of foot-in-mouth disease.
But on further reflection what I see in these events is a new level of spiritual warfare. Or perhaps I am more aware of the spiritual dimensions of the conflict. Recent reading of 1 and 2 Kings and the struggle of a few lonely prophets (Elijah; Elisha; the school of prophets gathered around Elisha) against the kings of both Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) causes me to look a little more deeply into the events recorded in these Old Testament texts.
Doing some additional reading I came across this perspective:
First Kings 18 illustrates our point that during times of apostasy God aided his prophets over against the king. Second Kings 6:8–23 specifically shows Yahweh as divine warrior protecting his prophets against danger. As the episode opens, the Arameans have declared war against Israel. God, though, enlightened Elijah concerning the enemy’s strategy, and the prophet kept the king informed of Aramean movements. The king of Aram suspected a spy, but one of his officers knew the real source of the trouble–Elisha, the man of God. Thus, the Aramean king moved against the unarmed prophet by attacking his home in Dothan, situated in the plain just below the imposing Mount Carmel. One morning the prophet and his band woke up to discover a huge army around the city. Elisha’s servant panicked on seeing the army, realizing that they were not equipped to defend themselves. Elisha remained calm, apparently because he understood the spiritual reality of the situation. He asked God to open his servant’s eyes, and when he did, the servant saw “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire” (v. 17). This army was obviously the celestial army of God, ready to fight on behalf of the prophet. (Longman III, Tremper; Reid, Daniel G. (2010-06-29). God Is a Warrior (Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology) (Kindle Locations 697-705). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. Special thanks for Dr. Chuck Lawless for pointing me to this resource).
So, what does this have to do with public policy in the 21st century? Several things come to mind. First, without much debate and without much public awareness the government (state and federal levels) has shifted towards a very activist position furthering very liberal social policies (i.e. abortion rights; same-sex marriage; and government created jobs vs. privately owned business generated job growth).
Second, evangelical churches have been marginalized by the existing power structures. Yes, there is a White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, but the voice of historic, evangelical Christianity has lost its primacy in what is often called the post-Christian era. Yes, believers still have a voice on editorial pages, but the local paper where I live refuses to print editorials that they regard as inflammatory (i.e. abortion, same-sex marriage are off-limits). Other local media outlets are also very guarded in what kind of material they will air.
Third, in my rural part of the world church attendance is declining overall. Certainly there are a few churches with growing attendance but they tend to be the exception. This decline creates a discouragement among local pastors and church leaders about the effectiveness of their ministry.
So, what does spiritual warfare have to do with public policy? Several answers come to mind. First, the culture in which we live has certainly been impacted by the Fall. Sinful people – well meaning and well intentioned – create systems that are sinful. All systems are subject to decay and the longer a system operates the more decay occurs. In our state the governor and legislature have enacted new laws creating (or re-creating) health care systems, the systems providing support and services to at-risk children and their families, and so on. Even these new systems – as innovative and encouraging as they might seem – are already beginning to show signs of decay.
Second, the only cure for sin is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and that is where the spiritual warfare is most prominent. Prayer is our greatest tool. John Piper describes prayer as “war-time walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world.” (Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, 2nd Ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 45). We need to pray for opportunities to share the gospel in person and we need prayer warriors who will support those who work in legislative affairs that those who are believers might have wisdom to apply biblical principles to legislation and regulations applying the legislation.
Finally, there is a need for more warriors. My generation by and large and refused to participate in the structures of government and social policy. My prayer is that a new generation of believers will engage more effectively with the social systems that exist and that these younger believers will engage with thoughtfulness and energy knowing that the battle is never in vain.


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