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Friday, September 03, 2010

Under God: Obama, Beck: Who is Christian? Who decides? - Elizabeth Tenety

Let me state first of all that I really like the WAPO pointing out the sloppy thinking of evangelicals here. In the midst of culture wars, it is a wise thing to actually listen to detractors from both sides. It is fairly clear to me that the POST considers itself (and is considered) on the "other side" of the bible totin', church going, working class people who listen to talk radio hosts and watch Fox News. They RIGHTFULLY point out that there is hypocrisy in rejecting Obama's claims to be Christian (I reject them, too, by the way), and then falling in line behind a man whose church teaches that all other churches are apostate and that one must be rebaptized into an entity which rejects many of the core tenets of historical Christianity. I think this is an accurate criticism and a shot at the heart of the major failing of the religious right. That is, it is a cultural RATHER than a religious movement, and its goals are primarily cultural and political. This is why there is such a swooning over the vague talk about "returning to religious values" and "respect for absolute standards" and "recognizing the right of private property in 'thou shalt not steal'" and such. All these values are things are true, and it is also true that their collapse is the cause of our social, political and economic ills. "God is not mocked" as the old book puts it. But it is a falsehood that a "return to these values" will save our culture. God really doesn't care much about cultures. Rather, He saves PEOPLE. Cultural blessings are what I call a "happy accident" of a pot boiling, bible waving, excess producing, excitement engendering gospel awakening. There is simply no substitute for this kind of event. All the cultural analysis and biblical critique of culture and apostasy are like a Ferrari with no gasoline. Beautiful but powerless. Rather, we desperately need God's power blowing through His people like a thunderclap or a cat5 hurricane. It disrupts, reorganizes, energizes, and changes EVERYTHING. The cultural blessings so longed for by the religious right are a natural result of a people who have been radically remade from the inside out. All the Washington rallies we can plan will not substitute for it.

Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world." His kingdom does have immense impact on this world, and that is the point, here. But the weird thing about Biblical Christianity is the claim that cultures are saved when you no longer care about them as the end result. Societies are transformed NOT when we get "godly leaders" up there in whatever halls of power pretend to run things, but when millions of little people are so selfless, guileless, and passionate that they care far less about houses, mortgages, retirement accounts, good colleges for kids, etc than the gospel message of salvation. For that message, they live sacrificially and selflessly and do a million heroic deeds that cause the pagan world to say "behold how they love one another" and "they care not only for their own poor, but ours also." This kind of stuff comes ONLY when God sends His Spirit on His own church. The primary object of reformation is never the culture. Again, that is an aftereffect. In fact, I believe that much Christian effort towards culture is misdirected and counterproductive toward what should be our true goal.

That (true Christian awakening/revival) is certainly not the goal of the Post critics, but it should be our goal.

PS. If you want to know what I am talking about when I say we should long for renewal, rather than a cultural transformation, read the two volume bio of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. It used to be published by Banner of Truth, and it is an amazing recount of what happens when God "shows up" in His church.

Under God: Obama, Beck: Who is Christian? Who decides? - Elizabeth Tenety

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