Are Social Conservatives Sinking the GOP Ship?

Social conservatism is a loser says Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Last Sunday, Paul told CNN's interviewer Candy Crowley that campaigns taking a conservative stance on issues like sexuality and abortion put the GOP in a "losing position."

In a heart-breaking way, Paul is probably right.

The electorate sails along tides of consensus on issues. Those rolling currents are set in motion by the hefty gusts from the information-entertainment-academic-political establishment elites. They form the consensus, propagate it, and preserve it by silencing opposition through ridicule, marginalization, and, increasingly, legal restrictions.

Politicians who want the support of voters bobbing along in the consensus-currents have to steer their campaigns away from the shoals of perceived "extremism" and find that politically safe "middle" that has been set by the winds of vogue.

So candidate Obama had to temper his leftism when he was running initially for the presidency. When George Wallace stepped into presidential politics in 1972 he had to steer away from his rabidly segregationist position, showing that the consensus can sometimes have a positive effect.

Now, however, the American social consensus is ripping the moral hull out of the ship of state. If a candidate urging restraint and repentance cannot win in a general election, then where's the hope for a nation looking more and more like the Costa Concordia, capsized and foundering off the coast of an Italian island?

The answer is the same as in all eras of history: the covenant community, the body of Christ. She is made of people in relationship to God and one another. They are committed to hold on to His absolute truth no matter what the cultural consensus of a given moment. Further, this church is under Jesus' mandate to love and serve its "neighbors" in the broader community, and to take the transforming gospel into all the world.

Amos is a prime example for the contemporary church. When the prophet's message became too stinging for the royal establishment, Amaziah, the court priest, ordered him not to prophecy at Bethel, the seat of power. Amos wouldn't bend.

The church in our time must not yield to the cultural demands that it soften its biblically framed positions. Neither should she cast her hope on the establishments reversing their positions and embracing the Bible's view. Rather, the real church must live midst the shifting social seas firmly anchored, as a prophetic community, a remnant people.

Every time the church, or some form of it, tries to catch the wave, she winds up a sunken ship. Protestant liberals in the early 20th century tried to catch the cultural wave but their craft was swamped by the social gospel. Some emergent evangelical movements today in their admirable desire to communicate the gospel in a culturally relevant style have allowed that style to shape their theology. Shipwreck is ahead. When the church sinks, the nation it serves is in peril because there is no longer a prophetic "holdout," like Amos, no one to warn it of danger ahead, and no one to guide it into the current of truth.

Jesus' church – His body – is the real hope of all the nations, not the political movements who can only be elected by catching the wave, then sink the nation.

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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