Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reflections on an Election Part II

I am already regretting walking into the shallow waters of this topic, primarily because I'm not any kind of political historian nor claim to be.  I am someone who is naturally interested in culture and in finding the ultimate truth through humble means (not meaning that I'm humble but that I am open to the idea that I am wrong some of the time if not all).

So here is the point I was trying to make.  Pure Christianity is simple and bare. I think of Micah 6:8 where it says, in my paraphrase, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God."  That's it.  But because we are human, around any nugget of orientation grows a huge quagmire of  convoluted culture.  The humble part of Micah says that you are open to being wrong on which parts of your culture are good, which are bad and which are simply amoral.

So, my argument is that the American version of evangelicalism has this complex culture and at this point in history part of that culture is being a Republican.  I want to try and cut between the bone and marrow and try to point out why the results of this past election are seen by the evangelicals as the part of the Apocalypse . . . or at least another sign that America is in decline.

I am not sure about this, and at this point it would be nice to have an expert in political science or history chime in, but the political shape of the present evangelical seemed to be formed starting in the early eighties if not the seventies.

I will have to say that my idol Francis Schaeffer has something to do with it (and his son Frank thinks that his dad was the cornerstone to this political movement).  But at the same time, I think that Francis is turning over in his grave when he sees what this has become.

Francis was the first to bring attention to the face that abortion was one great travesties of the de-christianization of the west.  Through his movies and public appearances (not to mention his writings) he pushed for the Christians to stand up and to resist (as salt preserving fish) these immoral directions of our nation as a whole.

You would have to read Frank's book "Crazy for God" to see the historical account how this anti-abortion along with concerns about euthanasia was adopted by the Republican party. But they saw an opportunity to connect with, what was at that time and as Jerry Falwell described it, the Silent Majority.  So the Republican party sided with the pro-life movement of the Christian right.

Now, there is no harm in what I've described.  I will also state at this juncture that I'm not anti-Republican.  I could vote Republican if the right candidate was nominated. But what happened next is what I find discouraging.

As the Republican party became the bulwark of the religious right, there was a cross-pollination between the two.  The Republican ideals of freedom of market forces, strong defense and etc. became evangelical ideals.  But they will argue until the cows come home that these ideals are Biblical and that's why they believe them ( remember Jesus taught social and economic communism more than any other political view).

Moving along, after a couple of decades into this, two major things have happened. For one, what Francis Schaeffer saw the process of de-Christianization of the West is now past-tense.  The West has been dechristianized.  It is finished. Not to say that Christians don't have an influence or a voice. But take America for example. For one, it was never a so-called "Christian country."  It had a strong Christian culture influence in the past. But that is now passed.  So this changes our stance on issues.  The silent majority is more likely to be those who are the totally unchurched fighting for same-sex marriage and the legalization of pop and the evangelicals, like it or not, are the loud minority.  The American culture as a whole has just a memory of a Christian culture (still celebrating Christmas and Easter).  So the ideas that Schaeffer promoted, the purification of the country or acting as salt, is no longer relevant.  I've heard close personal friends of Schaeffer say this same thing.

Things haven't always been this way.  Franklin Graham remarked during his interview (mentioned in the last post) that his father, who turned 94 yesterday, has been a life-long democrat. Now, in the 50s and 60s, it was more common to be a democrat as a deeply convicted Christian, because of the democrat's emphasis on social and economic justice (see LBJ).  Evangelicals now believe in a imaginary narrative that the Republicans have always been "Christian" since Lincoln.

But if this were a theocracy and a Christian was elected Christian King, then he or she could mandate the banning of abortion.  But it is a democracy.  So the majority view should lead and us with a minority view cannot dictate our moral views on the majority.  This does not weaken what I do think is a Biblical concept of the value of human life and I'm not talking about moral relativism. But we lost the culture wars and now cannot be the deciders on those issues.  We can speak against them in the same way that Bonhoeffer did against the Nazis.

But I have really digressed now.

Here is my main point.  The vast majority of evangelicals now believe that the Republicans are God's party and the Democrats are the part of Satan.  But the bad part, evangelicals have adopted other Republican philosophies as part of their faith, or Christian culture including America having a strong defense and continue to dominate world, free-markets and less government . . . to name a few. Now, I can't say that these are bad ideals (meaning ideals not ideas).  I don't agree with them but I can respect those who do.

So, to not adopt all the Republican platform and to be a Christian seems contradictory in the evangelical culture.  So for us who are not Republicans, like my friend Carl, you have to swim against the current to keep a humble and open mind about issues.

Romney lost the election because the majority of Americans are 1. war weary and don't like the Republican saber rattling,  2. don't trust unregulated market forces, because the very rich will stack the deck, as they did in the great economic downturn 4 years ago, 3. aren't against same-sex marriage, 4. do see a role for the government in serving social and economic justice.

But I want to add one last point of why the evangelicals did adopt Romney as their personal choice and this is where I will find myself most vulnerable.  It is my humble opinion that evangelicals are always concerned more about appearance than reality.  They would never admit this.  I would never admit it when I was an evangelical.  So, while historically evangelicals have seen Mormons as a cult and despised them . . . in another way, they are deeply envious of the Mormons.  The Mormons are much better at the charade than even the evangelicals. They have their perfect little (actually big) families of tie-wearing, clean cut boys and girls who are the epitome of "goodness."  I'm sure it is a farce. Every perfect little family I've ever met . . . I ended up finding some real dragons in their closet.  It is human nature. But evangelicalism is all about pretending and the Mormons are real professionals at it.

So now the Evangelicals are dining with the devil  . . . or in bed with their arch enemies. Parts of me want to break out in laughter. I'm sure that it would make some great satire if it weren't so complicated.

So, what is the conclusion to all of this political rambling?  It is taking Christianity as its simple essence . . . seeing justice and kindness and walking humbling with God. Then, as a human, enjoying the freedom to have different political views based on your personality, your personal philosophy and experiences but never declaring your complex narrative as the "Christian way" and certainly not the Republicans as the "Christian party." So, I'm optimistic.  Obama is a decent man and not the usher of the end-times as my Facebook friends are proclaiming.

I will be silent now.  I do want to move on and talk about something I know much more about. It is the faith of the doubters. So I will do a series about that next.

3 comments:

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

So, while historically evangelicals have seen Mormons as a cult and despised them . . . in another way, they are deeply envious of the Mormons. The Mormons are much better at the charade than even the evangelicals. They have their perfect little (actually big) families of tie-wearing, clean cut boys and girls who are the epitome of "goodness." I'm sure it is a farce. Every perfect little family I've ever met . . . I ended up finding some real dragons in their closet. It is human nature. But evangelicalism is all about pretending and the Mormons are real professionals at it.

Here's an article on that exact subject:
Mormons = Southern Baptist Zombies?
How in every indicator of being a Real True Born-Again Christian (appearance, clean-cut, short hair, focusing on familes, Republican), the Mormons "out-Christian the Christians".

P.S. Now that Romney lost, will the Mormons go back to being a CULT CULT CULT?

jmj said...

Great article. It is interesting at the end about the "lie." The SB have always taught that correct doctrine = spiritual success, but here incorrect doctrine = greater spiritual success, which turns things on its head.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, and I appreciate you having the courage to write it.