Sunday, October 24, 2004
The clueless (aspiring to) leading the clueless ...
> The infamous reference, made by Kerry during the last debate, to the sexual orientation of the Vice President's daughter.
> The appearance of John Kerry, with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson at his side, during services as a Missionary Baptist church in MIami recently -- with Kerry delivering an address from the pulpit, during the service.
> Ron Suskind's NYT Magazine article, which described President Bush in terms that invite comparison of him to such pillars of the faith as David Koresh and Jim Jones.
These three events share a common thread -- the abject cluelessness of America's political Left when it comes to the faith of the evangelical Christian.
Being a lifelong evangelical myself, who has thrived in the world of the so-called "reality-based community", it is quite amazing to witness the misunderstanding of my faith by those who supposedly are so much more intelligent than I -- and I believe I am quite qualified to set things straight.
There has been much discussion about the reasons for the Senator's reference to Ms. Cheney's lifestyle choice ... and a recurring idea within this discussion has been that this was an attempt to drive a wedge between the President, and the evangelicals who make up much of the President's support base.
If Senator Kerry ... or his campaign staff ... thought that this reference would drive that wedge, they were way off base, for two reasons.
First, the practical -- given a choice between a President whose VP has an adult daughter that has chosen this path (a path different from both her parents, and her father's running mate) on her own volition -- and a candidate whose party would not only codify that choice into law (and by extension, into our educational system) as morally equivalent to heterosexual monogamy, but would also support many other things evangelicals consider repugnant (like, say, expanded abortion rights) -- I don't see many evangelicals cutting off their noses to spite their faces. We recognize the difference between GOP tolerance and Democratic advocacy.
Second, evangelicals do realize that individuals do have freedom of choice -- and that you do have to keep loving them when they do things you consider wrong, even as you express your disdain for the act. We have seen too many of our own children choose the wrong paths at some point in our lives, and then come back older and wiser, to simply throw them away. Therefore, to the probable chagrin of the Kerry campaign, they do not consider it hypocritical to love and respect others, even when they do things you view with much disdain.
The political Left, who prides themselves on open minds, is guilty of black-and-white thinking here ... it appears that they believe that there are only two kinds of straight people when it comes to dealing with homosexuality: members of PFLAG, and members of Fred Phelps' church.
Next, we come to the Senator's sermon, where he implicitly admonishes the President and his supporters for being "hearers of the Word", and not "doers" -- because the President does not support the plethora of social programs, or the taxation of the wealthy, that Kerry supports.
The Senator needs to read more of his Bible, though -- because the kinds of "deeds" these Scriptures refer to are PERSONAL ACTIONS, not government actions. Whenever the New Testament mentions taking care of the less fortunate, if I recall correctly, it is done in the context of direct, personal action by the rest of us, or the delegation of that duty to local church leaders, like the deacons in the Book of Acts -- NOT the government. (Even in the Old Testament, most of the charity was direct and personal ... though there may have been some aid directed through the "government" of the priesthood.)
One principle I do hold strongly, is that God has not only good reasons for what he said in Scripture, but in nearly all cases, it is within our capability to figure out those reasons. IMO, there are very good reasons for keeping this aid direct and personal -- it maintains the feedback loop between personal liberty (a value discussed extensively in the New Testament, despite the stereotypes of evangelicals by the Left) and consequence. As a result, in the New Testament, poverty among the able-bodied was not perpetuated by indiscriminate, ongoing aid ... in fact, Paul specifically said that those who do not work, should not eat! Widows who received church support also had responsibilities regarding their own conduct. This, of course, also meant that the amount of aid available for those who truly needed it was maximized.
And, despite the "interpretation" of the Leftists, Scripture does not sanction the earning of an honest profit -- or even becoming wealthy. Proverbs 31 exalts the virtuous woman -- a businesswoman and working mother of her day. Jesus, in the Parable of the Talents, taught that making a profit (or helping your employer do so) was virtuous, using that virtue to in turn instruct us on how we should "work" for Him in terms of winning others over to His leadership.
While the Book of Acts is often cited by Leftists as support for socialism (and wrongly so, for the communalism of the early Church did not involve secular government), there are no indications that this communalism lasted forever, or was adopted to anywhere the same degree by other early congregations. In fact, such communalism did have its own set of problems ... Paul, in 1 Corinthians, cites problems surrounding the communal meal that often preceeded the ordinance of Communion.
The biggest problem the Left has when it comes to the Social Gospel, however, is that their Bibles seem to have only two verses: "Where much is given, much is required" ... and "we, the intellectually enlightened, have the authority to set the requirements".
(btw, the green is for envy ...)
Finally, we come to Suskind's article.
In it, he paints a picture of a Messianic President, who is so self-confident -- not only in his decision-making ability, but in the view of his "placement" into the office by his God -- that he is impervious to reason ... even as he acknowledges that this self-confidence has been a driving force behind the moving of mountains that has been done by this Administration.
The implication is that decisions are being made and held, not by reason ... but by a blind, superstitious faith that is as much in the man making those decisions as is it is in God ... and that evangelicals support him because they share that two-head/no-eyes faith.
This is where cluelessness really rears its head -- it assumes that, as I stated above, that both the President and his evangelical supporters view him with the same mindless deference as that given to Jim Jones and David Koresh. This is a common fallacy of those who think they know how we evangelicals think ... but have never darkened the doorway of more than one or two churches to really find out.
Let me point out to you why this is not true, for either the President or his supporters ...
A major tenet of most evangelicals is the doctrine of "the priesthood of the believer". This doctrine holds that the ultimate human responsiblity for accurately interpreting Scripture and following God's leading -- in short, determining right and wrong, as God leads -- lies with the individual believer -- not the pastor, not the seminarians, not the national association leaders ... and certainly must not be delegated to a secular President.
The most fervent evangelicals that make up the President's support base hold this doctrine with fierce determination -- to the point that their churches have sometimes split when it is properly applied. In fact, do a phone-book search for Baptist churches in your typical Midwestern or Southern city -- not only will you find many churches, but many different affiliations (Southern, North American, American, Free Will, Missionary, Baptist Bible Fellowship, Regular ... and more). This is the result of that doctrine ... while all these churches proclaim Christ as a personal Lord and Savior, they have significant operational and doctrinal differences that could not be reconciled with their spiritual "neighbors".
That does not mean that we can't get along ... even in the face of inter-denominational differences in doctrine. We are far, far more tolerant than the MSM gives us credit for!
I can personally attest to the tolerance of the Left's "most feared theocrat" ... John Ashcroft. I grew up in Springfield, MO -- John Ashcroft's home (in fact, my mother debated him once -- in junior high; she lost). During my college years, John Ashcroft (then a local official) would occasionally come to our Baptist church to do something he still does well -- sing gospel music. Often he would perform as one half a duet -- the other half being another local official, Max Bacon.
John, as you know, was and is a Republican .... Max was a Democrat. John, as you know, was and is affiliated with the Assemblies of God ... Max was affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship. These two groups had (and still have) significant doctrinal differences.
As further evidence of such tolerance, consider that affiliation with the United Methodist Church has been claimed by both George W. Bush ... and Hillary Clinton.(The doctrine above is also why, unlike the "High Church" environments that the MSM is most familiar with, churches in many evangelical denominations are autonomous -- the ultimate decision-making authority rests within the local congregation, not a national or global authority. Leadership is highly distributed and diversified among evangelicals, as a result.)
The "priesthood of the believer" is what separates our "fundamentalism" from the virulent fundamentalism of Islamofascism. It is a potent countermeasure against blind faith in a leader. It is our greatest defense against the imposition of theocracy. Yet, the Left still keeps yammering about how Bush and Ashcroft want to impose just that! If they ever tried -- their support base would rip them to shreds ... for they have done that to others for less.
Understand this (and I think I speak for millions of evangelicals here) -- the only way I would accept a theocracy is if God Himself PERSONALLY and PHYSICALLY showed up to lead it -- and as for me, I'd still check His ID first!!
Believe me, we know that theocracy soon degnerates to a flawed impersonation of God by its human leaders -- and we know the faults of our church leaders well enough to never entrust anyone with that kind of power.
This knowledge also breeds a healthy, respectful skeptcism concerning those who are entrusted with lesser power -- like, say, the Presidency of a checked-and-balanced government. That is what I see in the President's evangelical support base -- it is not just his statements of faith that win them over, but the soundness of his reason ... and the strength of his resolve.
This knowledge, in those who are entrusted with power, breeds a humility that, for lesser men, can be overwhelming ... but acts as a balance against irrationality for men who know that good intentions must be followed through with action. That is what I see in President Bush -- not the haughty arrogance of a Koresh or a Jones, but the confidence of a man who knows both his limitations and his responsibilities ... and has the resolve to fufill those responsibilities with all he's got.
However, the Left not only fails to understand this regarding our support of leaders ... the Left itself seeks to impose its own "theocracy".
Their Pharasaical insistence on a "wall of separation" betwen church and state is in fact, for many of them, an attempt to eradicate "superstition" from the public square ... replacing it exclusively with a "rationalism" that is more "faith-based" (in the ability of mankind to COMPLETELY and ACCURATELY perceive the universe) than anything George W. Bush or Jerry Fawell believes (or "almost" anything Pat Robertson does, for that matter).
Couple that with their continued reliance on government as the primary force for social change, and the threat of a secular "theocracy" is much more significant than that of the Christian variety.
Actually, there is an explanation for what Suskind is seeing ... look at the list of people he cites. To a man, all of these are "old hands" in the government ... people who have made their living as, guess what ... analysts. They have been trained, by both education and experience, that you should not act until every possible scenario has been studied, every negative outcome defined and completely resolved -- and since this approach can never be completely implemented, your confidence in decisions derived from this process should be limited.
Good intentions ... and it worked fairly well, during the Cold War. However, these people -- even the Republicans among them -- have adopted the philosophy of the hard Left, that prioritizes the prevention of American mistakes over the prevention of enemy intent.
This no longer is sufficient to preserve American lives when brutal 8th Century fanaticism is being combined with lethal 21st Century technology ... fortunately, this President, unlike those quoted by Suskind, knows that the old saying "the best is often the enemy of the good" applies here.
A favorite author of mine (which may come as a suprise to you) is Richard Marcinko ... the founding commander of SEAL Team Six, who not only dealt intimately with terrorism way before 911, but had to deal with some of the same kinds of people as those quoted by Suskind. Here is a quote from his Rogue Warrior's Leadership Code:
I will not be afraid to take action, because I know that almost any action is better than inaction. And I know that sometimes not acting is the boldest action of all.
The President understands this ... as do the vast majority of those who support him.
It is the lack of such understanding, on the part of leaders such as the ones quoted by Suskind, that made us vulnerable, well before 11 September 2001.
Continue to follow the example of Joshua, Mr. President -- be strong, and courageous -- for both God and reason give you cause to do so.
As a fellow Christian (non-denominationa Evangelical)I appreciate your analysis. Actually, you have explained quite a bit to ME let alone the lefties on this subject. It seems so odd to me that people of faith are so reviled and feared by non-believers in this age. Christians are evil. What a strange turn of events as when I grew up, Christians, in society's view, were a force for good. It does seem to me today that up is down and down is up.
Thanks much for this post.
The problem is that these are the only ones we see.
I'm familiar with this problem however. The gay or lesbian people you see tend to be those stand out the most. Pictures of drag queens & nude men sell newspapers. Vast crowds of men and women in weekend casual wear do not. (Not that I'm not proud of drag queens, as they have often show a courage that I could never match)
Incidentally, I would never mistake Phelps for a mainstream Christian group. It would be difficult to mistake him for anything but a lunatic. Yet he does have a church where he preaches "God's perfect hate" as he calls it.
And to say that most Christians are prejudiced against gay and lesbian people is still an accurate statement. In practice, in the way they behave toward gay and lesbian people, they do not "love the sinner, but hate the sin". And they haven't done so for hundreds of years. So when a Christian comes up to me today to try and convince me that I'm really not gay and just need Jesus, they have no moral authority that I can respect, no matter how the message is phrased. If a known thief came up to you and said that God had said that you should give him all your money, would you believe in his moral authority as something you could trust?
If Christians were to actually treat gay and lesbian people with courtesy and respect for a few hundred years, then I might be willing to listen to what they have to say, until then...