The Book of Nehemiah is particularly pertinent to America because it is the only book in the Bible which shows how to take something once great, which since has been torn down, and then shows how to rebuild it,"the situation America finds itself in today. Therefore, what guidance for involvement does Nehemiah offer to the American Christian citizen?
Nehemiah sets forth three lessons to enhance our understanding of how to be involved in reforming society: (1) understanding the differing types of calling, (2) understanding the differing levels of involvement, and (3) understanding the differing spheres of involvement.
1. Differing types of calling: the book of Nehemiah, "to the surprise of many,"does not have a distinct hero; rather it has two co-heroes: Nehemiah and Ezra. These co-heroes have different ministries: Nehemiah is an activist involved in "cutting-edge" activities in the social/public arena; and Ezra is an intercessor, spending his time at the temple emphasizing spiritual activities; however, both are invaluable to the restoration effort. In recent years, these two types of Christians often confront each other, with the activists (the "Nehemiahs') demanding that the intercessors (the "Ezras") get involved in public arenas, or vice versa. Such demands are inappropriate, for both are needed: activists need intercessors and intercessors need to find activists for whom they can pray.
2. Differing levels of involvement: in Nehemiah, the men of Tekoa rebuilt two large sections of the wall, while others rebuilt only the section adjoining their own homes. In other words, not all will commit the same amount of energy to rebuilding. The standard of measurement should not be the quantity, but involvement; only then did the rebuilding effort succeed.
3. Differing spheres of involvement: in Nehemiah, there was much latitude for involvement. Individuals were assigned different locations to rebuild different sections. Today, some workers may labor on pro-family issues, pro-life issues, anti-porn issues, educational issues, or anti-sodomy issues, etc. It is improper for one to expect all others to join him at his location or "issue"; there is too much to rebuild for all to work on the same section or "issue."
Understanding these principles will enhance cooperation among workers. The suggestions for involvement offered below are general because involvement will vary significantly depending upon the available time one has, and upon the particular arena into which he/she may feel "called." However, before suggesting any activities, several correct attitudes should first be embraced.
All correct actions are proceeded by correct attitudes, and there are four correct attitudes which help prepare individuals for either as "Nehemiahs" or "Ezras."
1. Learn to examine governmental actions in light of the Biblical principle of national accountability. (Deuteronomy 28; I Chronicles 21; I Kings 18) Our Founding Fathers recognized that not only does God cause nations to account for their actions, He causes them to account immediately, "not in the future:
As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, so they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities. GEORGE MASON
Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever. THOMAS JEFFERSON
ABRAHAM LINCOLN once rebuffed a man who had expressed his hope that "the Lord was on our side" in the Civil War. As Lincoln correctly pointed out:
I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side.
When we understand that not only does God hold America accountable for its leaders, but that His judgment on a nation affects everyone, "whether righteous or unrighteous,"we then find motivation to monitor the positions of our leaders and to become involved in national affairs.
2. We must learn about the values on which our nation was established, being convinced that this nation's institutions must return to their Biblical foundations if we are to remain a world leader (see principles in Deuteronomy 28; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3 for keeping God's precepts as the foundation).
3. We must recognize that national reform occurs over a long-term period (see Deuteronomy 7:22 and Exodus 23:29-30). The current negative philosophies were introduced and strengthened across a period of decades; reversal of those changes may also require decades; and we must therefore remain faithful in our labors, not becoming impatient or discouraged. As nineteenth century historian, Elbridge Brooks stated, "Duty is ours; results are God's."
4. We must understand that any positive changes in national policies must be led by the church. 2 Chronicles 7:14 makes it clear that if healing comes to a nation, it comes only through the actions of God's people. Charles Finney, "a famous American minister and revivalist of the Second Great Awakening,"stated:
The Church must take right ground in regard to politics. . . . The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them. . . . God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. . . . [God] will bless or curse this nation, according to the course [Christians] take [in politics].
Actions for "Nehemiahs" and "Ezras"
Beyond the development of positive attitudes, here are some simple activities which can help facilitate change and should be engaged in by all Christian citizens:
Read the Constitution. Most Christian citizens are unaware and unfamiliar with the scope of the Constitution and need to see for themselves what it contains and what it doesn't (e.g., the total lack of the phrase "separation of church and state," the lack of any specific or implied "right of privacy" which "protects" abortions and homosexual activities, impeachment as a control on the judiciary, etc.). Develop the attitude the Bereans demonstrated in Acts 17:11: when you hear something the Constitution supposedly says or means, investigate for yourself to see if it is true.
Educate yourself on the intent of our Founders to maintain Biblical principles as the basis for public policy. Our WallBuilders website contains a wealth of information on this topic, specifically the "Resources" section. In addition, the book Original Intent, our DVDs, and CDs are excellent tools for this purpose. For those who want to study primary sources, our CD-Roms and our Helpful Links page will assit you. Once you begin to learn this information, share it with others. Song of Solomon 8:13 reminds us that our friends do hear our voice, and that we are therefore to speak. Educate others and pass on the information, either in one-on-one conversation or by using other methods like the letters-to-the-editor section in your local newspaper.
Stay informed about current issues of importance to Christians. Subscribe to one or more magazines/newsletters/email alerts which report on issues pertinent to Christians (e.g., Citizen Magazine, Education Reporter, American Family Journal, Washington Update, World Magazine, National Right to Life Hot List etc.). Many of these publications give in a step-by-step and timely manner what a citizen can do to make a difference on an issue or bill. You may find it productive to recruit several of your friends or members of your Sunday School class, etc., to each sign up for a different newsletter in order to keep abreast of current issues (the abundance of legislation often makes it necessary to subscribe to more than one publication – 170,000 bills were introduced across the nation last session). If several individuals subscribe to different newsletters, each can glean the items of importance and report back to the group either for action or prayer.
*In addition to tithing to your local church, financially support a Christian action group, even if you are able to only give a small gift. Many Christian legal groups,"because of the financial support they receive from the Christian community-at-large,"provide their services free to Christians who stand and fight in the legal system for Christian values. Examples include: Alliance Defense Fund, American Center
for Law and Justice, National Legal Foundation, Liberty Counsel, Pacific Justice Institute, Liberty Legal Institute etc. These groups argue cases at the U. S. Supreme Court for the Christian community,"very expensive cases. This is why a financial gift is so important. When a Christian issue wins in the Courts, the entire American Christian community wins.
Become an active and informed voter.
An effective Christian citizen must investigate beyond the secular information which is generally broadcast to the public about an issue or a candidate. Many organizations provide voter's guides with the candidates' stands on issues (e.g., voter's guides are provided by Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, etc.). Sites like Project Vote Smart and iVoteValues provide a wealth of non-partisan information on voting and candidates,"including biographies, issue positions, voting records, campaign finances and interest group ratings. (Another way to access voter information for your state is to use a search engine like google or yahoo and type in "voter guide" or "voter information" along with key words like "pro-family" or "Christian" and the name of your state.) When there are no Biblical candidates on the ballot for a specific position, determine which candidate would do the most damage, then vote against him/her. Additionally, being diligent in examining candidates will eventually improve the composition of the federal courts since federal representatives and senators first recommend and then confirm the appointment
of federal judges.
Actions for "Nehemiahs"
Join one or more pro-family groups (e.g., Family Policy Councils, American Family
Association, Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, Concerned Women for America, etc.) and become an active member, participating in their state and local activities.
Become active in helping good, quality candidates for public office. Although the candidate who stands for Godly values is often belittled, attacked, or ignored by the mainstream media, this is not an insurmountable problem. A candidate can overcome the media with a strong grass-roots effort. When you find a good candidate, get involved: offer whatever financial support you can, and call his/her office to volunteer some of your time, even if it is only an hour or two.
Become involved in political movements at the grass-roots level. However, recognize two things about a political party: (1) Although we may dislike them, they are necessary, for they are the mechanisms by which potential candidates are selected and offered to the public; (2) a political party is value-neutral," it has no value of its own, but simply reflects the values of those who are involved in it and thus can change as its members change. Understanding this, choose a political party and become involved: attend the precinct meetings, become a worker, and advance in the party structure. It is the active party workers who determine the party's platform and who select, recruit, and provide funding for candidates. If Christians are not active at this level, then they only have the option of voting for those on the general ballot (often a case of the ungodly running against the more ungodly). By first helping recruit candidates for the party, and then by voting in the party primaries, Biblical candidates are able to advance to the general ballot, thus providing a clear choice. However, when working for a political party, never develop a loyalty for the party itself; maintain a loyalty to proper principles, no matter in which party they appear. Benjamin Rush," a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most influential Founding Fathers," worked for several different political parties, but held a loyalty to none. As he explained:
I have alternately been called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat. I believe that all power will fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.
Become involved as an active worker within a party structure, but always labor for the proper principles.
Become a resource person for an elected official. Apply yourself to the study and mastery of information on an issue which an elected official may face (e.g., the effectiveness of abstinence based sex-education, the ineffectiveness of comprehensive sex-education and condom distribution, the positive benefits of obscenity enforcement, the health risks associated with homosexual behavior, etc.) and then develop a friendship with an elected official (whether on the city council, school board, state or federal legislature) so that you may become a resource for that official. This is a position of positive influence, much as Mordecai exercised with Esther. Always be patient in such a relationship; just because you may have "seen the light" on an issue, don't expect that official to always agree with you, even if you provided him/her with clear statistics. Always remember how much you studied, how many sermons you heard, and the number of tapes you listened to before arriving at your convictions. We often forget how long it took God to help us arrive at and form our own convictions and we unreasonably expect others to change their positions more rapidly than we ourselves changed.
Write your elected officials. Unfortunately, too few Christians communicate directly with those elected to represent them. A well-written letter can have more impact than you would imagine, and letter writing is easy and often takes much less time than imagined. Most elected officials indicate that they prefer a letter of three or so paragraphs: begin with a short, friendly greeting, then explain why you are writing and what you would like him/her to do, then offer a statement of appreciation (for his/her service, for his/her consideration of your request, etc.), and then close and ask for a response to your letter. When writing a letter, don't be long-winded or wordy, don't get preachy, don't threaten, and don't be antagonistic, provoking, rude, or abusive. A personal letter has much more impact than a petition, form letter, or mass mailing (most Congressmen,"including those who embrace our views,"indicate that typically they discard petitions and form letters, but immediately open personal letters); for this reason, many are organizing letter writing groups (Sunday School classes, civic groups, friends, etc.).
Once you have become active as an individual, then become active in leading community change. Gather others who believe as you do and start a local group in your community. Effective change most often comes through well-organized and well-led groups representing a body of the electorate who show the ability to muster that collective strength for or against an issue or a candidate. As one Christian statesman in Washington explained, "If you want politicians to 'see the light' on an issue, let them feel the heat." Well organized, reputable groups can produce a lot of heat and help many "see the light."
Actions for "Ezras"
Pray! (see I Thessalonians 5:17, Proverbs 15:8, Colossians 4:2)
Become active in praying for leaders and officials at all levels as instructed in I Timothy 2:1-4. The first Friday of each month is a nationally designated day of prayer and fasting; on that day, groups meet together in churches across the country to intercede for the nation. Intercessors for America publishes a monthly newsletter listing specific prayer focuses involving the nation and its leaders, and this newsletter is used by many groups.
Become active in praying together as a family. In previous generations, children were exposed to prayer almost every day, not only at home, but at school. Today, students are exposed to much less prayer, and there is less impression upon them of the importance of prayer. Take time to reinforce its importance, both by example and by instruction on prayer from the Scriptures. Pray with them daily, or if you have no children or if they have already left home, develop the daily habit of praying together with the immediate family.
Pray regularly for issues, elected officials, potential candidates, court cases, the "Nehemiahs" in public arenas, pastors, spiritual leaders, other "Ezras," etc. Much information for prayer may be gleaned from subscriptions to the newsletters/magazines suggested under "Actions for 'Nehemiahs' and 'Ezras,'" and groups like Concerned Women for America even list specific prayer requests in their newsletter.
Become active in praying with others. Enlarge your sphere of influence by organizing small groups for prayer. For example, our WallBuilders' prayer coordinator has organized and coordinated on-site prayer coverage during state legislative sessions,"prayer efforts involving scores of churches and intercessory prayer groups. She has also coordinated on-site prayer at the Supreme Court during periods when significant cases involving Christian issues were being argued. While this may be more ambitious than many intercessors may desire to undertake, the same concept of prayer coordination can be applied on a local level: arrange for prayer with others to focus on or to occur during school board meetings, city council meetings, etc. The "Ezras" can be as creative in prayer as the "Nehemiahs" in action.
Further information on specific areas of action may be obtained from the article "Ten Steps To Change America" and Chapter 18 of the book Original Intent by David Barton.