'City on a hill' implies choice, not coercion

I am certain that as a Christian, I am called to let my light shine before all men, and I am equally certain that belief led our founders – and Ronald Reagan for that matter – to conclude that we are to participate in our civic duty toward a "shining city upon a hill." I am very much less convinced that such a city is to be a "Christian society," which has recently seemed to imply a "moral majority" imposing some kind of theocracy. Background: My two posts here so far have centered on living Christianly. The degree to which this affects one’s political philosophy is a deep question, and one to which I am certain that I cannot provide a complete answer. But I ended my last post by saying that you cannot simply enact laws that impose morality on others -- rather you must argue persuasively and convince others of the truth.

A city upon a hill that has a thousand individual lights burning brightly is far different, but brighter, than a city that mandates folks turn their lights on. As a Christian, I don’t believe you can make another turn on a light they do not possess anyway.

So I’ve come to this conclusion: It is my duty to shine my light and to persuade others of what I believe. It is the right and responsibility of others to do the same, whatever they may believe. As a society then our primary civic responsibility is to create and protect a public dialogue where ideas and visions can be reasoned, and debated and the Truth made clear.

So what is my individual responsibility? I think John Andrews recent column on “Element R,” an American responsibility movement, was a step in a similar direction. Although we have different starting points, both John and I have come to believe that the responsibility of the individual must temper and inform – and perhaps even preempt – the rights of the individual.

I’d like to make a bold statement. I believe that Jesus was primarily concerned about the individual. Throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus Christ addressed individuals in their particular circumstances. I do not feel I am overstretching or reaching when I say that Jesus was far more concerned about bringing individuals to his Father, and to mending the broken hearts of those He met, than He was about establishing a Christian society. Surely Jesus was aware of the political and social implications of his teachings, but He was far more aware of the needs of people around him, aware of the condition of their spirits -- and he addressed himself to healing them, not the ills of their culture.

As I have thought about this I am led to the conclusion that Jesus is not primarily concerned with the political ramifications of his words, and that His call to us is to live our lives as examples, as lights within a city so that we may persuade others to seek to live righteously as well.