Perhaps the most eggregious error being made by conservative Christians, with regard to our present attempts to promote morality and Christian witness in the public sphere, is the false notion that politics can actually change culture. Make no mistake about it, politics is important in a culture. But it is not primary in importance. The long absence of evangelicals in the realm of politics, for many decades, had tragic effects. I am personally grateful for the good men and women, both Democrats and Republicans, who feel it is a divine calling to pursue service through elected office. But if given the choice I would much rather teach and make disciples through the ministry of the church personally.
My reasons for this preference are not what you might think. I do not see ordained Christian ministry as a "higher calling" at all. We need Christian lawyers, Christian artists, Christian teachers, Christian shop owners, Christian government workers, and Christian servants in general in all capacities of life. Work is itself a vocation of God and thus a good thing.
The problem here is that conservatives are quite confused about the way culture is actually changed. The late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan understood this far better than many modern conservative Christians. He wrote: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society."
I am persuaded that the most important thing Christians can bring to society, whether in politics or anything else, is the place of ultimate questions and how these shape a culture. We are able to understand the "purpose" for which all of life exists and thus we can humbly inform every decision and public act with Christ-centered input. If we keep our faith private and inward we will fail society. If we invest in culture, with meaningful public service for the glory of God, using all our various gifts in private and public ways, we will impact culture accordingly. Christians need to engage this culture, aggressively and actively. They need to also learn that partisan politcs is not the primary way to alter culture and bring about true success in society.