I described my personal political views in this post a few days ago. Being a Christian, a conservative, and a registered Republican, it's easy for people to pigeon-hole me as a supporter of the Religious Right and it's various agendas. Fact is, there are few of the RR's agendas I agree with - in substance or in practice - and I really don't pay any mind to them. I believe most of their agendas lack substance, and the carrying out of these agendas renders them very unChristian (with the term "Christian" meaning "Christ-like").
The "culture war", in my estimation, isn't something that should be a high priority for a believer. Why? Because Christ is to be our standard, and the only culture he was openly "at war" with was the poisonous religious culture which spiritually oppressed His people. He couldn't have cared less about anything political, didn't talk about it, wanted nothing to do with it. This, largely, led to His betrayal and execution. The Jews of that time were expecting and hoping for a political Messiah, and would've wholeheartedly supported Jesus had he been willing to chase out the Romans and re-establish Israel as a sovereign nation and political power. Christ had no interest in a political revolution. His mission was a spiritual revolution - genuine reconciliation to our Father, changed hearts, obedience rather than sacrifice, substantive, relational living rather than ceremony. Some, including Judas Iscariot, just didn't get it. He, and some other political zealots, probably thought he was doing a good thing in bringing the authorities to Jesus, figuring that would force His hand and then, finally, He'd step up as the ruler they hoped He'd be. Judas had spent all of that time living intimately with the Son of God, had heard his messages, had seen the miracles and changed lives, and he barely even knew who He was at heart.
I fear the RR is getting dangerously close to that same territory, if not residing in it. I want to look at a couple of issues that have been passionately and pointedly debated in sociopolitical circles in the last couple of decades, looking at how I believe they completely miss the heart of Christ, how the RR has become almost a cult in it's own right, and how it's more about winning the argument, Right-ness, than anything else.
First, prayer in school.
"They won't even allow our children to pray in school! They're persecuting Christians and trying to take away our rights!"
Who hasn't heard those sentiments? And there's not an ounce of truth or reality in them. What they don't allow is a public prayer, which ironically, makes the RR's opposition more like Christ than the RR is. Christ wasn't a big fan of public prayers, drawing attention to our religiosity, making social statements through prayer, instructing His followers not to pray as the religious leaders did.
The fact is, I prayed in school anytime I wanted. I still pray anytime I want, anywhere I want. Nothing, short of unconsciousness, can stop me. Prayer doesn't have to be a public spectacle. I don't have to speak in tongues, dance, prophecy, or heal a leper, and not a single soul this side of eternity even needs to know I've uttered a prayer. So I ask you, when a group of students (usually at their parents' or church leadership's prodding) think that the way they need to pray is to gather, en masse, around the school flagpole, drawing attention to themselves and intentionally creating controversy, are they really doing it to communicate with the Lord and reap the spiritual benefit, or are they making a sociopolitical statement and attempting to win a small battle and argument in the broader spectrum of the sociopolitical culture war? Are their actions more like Christ or more like the Pharisees?
Second, the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall in public schools and being displayed in prominent public places.
"Why won't they let us honor God by displaying the Ten Commandments?!"
You could tattoo the Ten Commandments on your scalp. Does that honor God? What honor does God receive until people actually have them displayed in their hearts? Until people actually begin to obey His commands? None.
Half of the homes in this country have a picture of Christ Himself hanging on the wall somewhere, and underneath it, families are dysfunctional and in disarray, abusive fathers, abusive mothers, alcohol, drugs, sexual deviance, and all kinds of nasty stuff going on. So, is God being honored by this picture of His Son? Or will God be honored when His Son is invited into those dysfunctional hearts and brings His healing and reconciliation?
It seems to be yet another example of winning the argument and making a statement in the sociopolitical cultural war rather than something that makes a real difference in the hearts of men.
Symbolism. Reducing God to propaganda. It's reminiscent of the Nazis and the way they used their flag as a visual prop to forward the agenda. It seemed as if every other person at the parades and rallies the Nazis held had a flag stuck in their nostrils and earholes, and a trained monkey sitting on their head with one in each hand. Flags everywhere. Much like the politicians of today with the American flag. I remember after the 2000 Bush vs. Gore election, in the madness of the weeks immediately after the election with all of the recounts and legal proceedings, that each successive press conference from the Bush or Gore camps was like a competition to see who could get the most American flags in the shot. By January, I had to adjust the color on my TV, as the red, white, and blue glare was killing me. Somehow, I guess this proved how "American" each was. It said nothing about the caliber of President and leader either would be, but they hoped, in the battle for hearts and minds in the cultural war, it would make a symbolic, persuasive statement.
It's very cultic.
In 2006, the artist I was touring with was invited to perform at the Southern Baptist Convention, held that year in Greensboro, NC. We performed roughly 30 minutes before Condaleeza Rice gave her speech, and we had very good floor seats to stick around and hear her speak. I knew what to expect, more or less. A political speech - that translated into a religious experience for the audience. I've nothing against Secretary Rice by any means, and she rendered a very good, eloquent, persuasive speech (even though I remember few of the details - I guess it's obvious how much passion I have for politics). But the fact is, she could've made armpit noises or belched and still received repeated standing ovations. Up and down almost continually. I wasn't sure if we were listening to a speech or doing the wave. The people with me were just blown away, almost emotional about it all. "Wasn't that an incredible address? It does my heart so much good to know what a devout Christian lady we have in the administration. What a wonderful woman of God!"
Well, like I said, it was a good speech, and Secretary Rice may be a wonderful, devout woman of God - but nothing about the speech demonstrated as much. It was a cultural/sociopolitical speech that demonstrated tremendous devotion to Bush Administration initiatives. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but it's sad to see it confused with or translated into something spiritual.
I look at the overwhelming support in the Christian community for it's new favorite poster people for Christian political causes, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Both have ties to Baal Gothard's "Character First!" proof-texting, with Huckabee being big buddies with Mr. Gothard. It only takes a minimal amount of research to discover it, but sadly, politics, in the church community, is like allegiance to your favorite team. Whether a Cowboys fan or a Redskins fan, you pull for your guys and hate the others with all your might, and it doesn't matter if the son of perdition himself is quarterbacking your team, by God, it's still your team. It's all an emotional investment. No logic. No discernment. All emotional. Some of my associates recently had Mr. Huckabee deliver a speech at a function of theirs, and some others will be having Mrs. Palin as key-note speaker at theirs in September. It would do little good for me to say anything to them. There's too much of an emotional investment, and Palin and Huckabee are wearing the right jerseys. Blind allegiance to the cause.
It's almost like the opposition that those devoted to the patriocentric/fundamentalist way of life offer. Blind allegiance, not to God, but to a way of living.
Symbolism over substance. Ceremony over relationship. And sadly, in many ways, sacrifice over obedience. It's all about Religious Right-ness.