Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Abomination of Desolation?

Time to Try 
Something Different?

Thad Cochran

Last week Mississippi United States Senator Thad Cochran won a hard fought and sometimes dirty primary campaign over State Senator Chris McDaniel. It was something of surprise since McDaniel had a small lead after the first primary and seemed to have the momentum. However, "the establishment" marshaled its considerable resources, and Cochran won by about 6500 votes.  If elected in November and if the Republicans win a majority in the Senate, Cochran, the third most senior member of the Senate and second most senior Republican, is in line to become the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.

From some of the reactions among
Chris McDaniel
Republicans you might think that in the person of Cochran the Abomination of Desolation has appeared and that the Man of Lawlessness has taken his seat in the temple. What I mean is that some Republicans, among them Christians, cast this election in stark terms as a battle between good and evil. Now they seem to think that Cochran's win is the defeat of good by evil, that it means doom, that entrenched powers bent on the destruction of the country have triumphed (perhaps by nefarious manipulation of the system) over those who would save the country. For Christians it is tempting to see things this way given fellow-believer Sarah Palin's campaigning for McDaniel and the perception of McDaniel as the Christian candidate. (World Magazine in a profile of Tea Party-supported candidates says of McDaniel: 
"Chris McDaniel, challenging six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran from Mississippi, has attended the same Baptist church in Ellisville, Miss., for more than 30 years. His conservative roots, he says, came from his faith and his father.")

Christians are by no means the only Republican "conservatives" who are upset. (It should be noted that it would be very difficult to find a Republican in MS who is not a conservative and professing Christian.) But for Christians who supported McDaniel the election was seen in moral, hence religious-spiritual terms. To put it another way, though few would so articulate it, it was a matter of a Christian worldview. McDaniel shared their worldview (budget, immigration, healthcare, guns, abortion, all related to faith and what is right). As they saw it, Cochran did not. Or, at least Cochran did not hold to their Christian principles with the same purity and tenacity as McDaniel. That is why the outcome was seen moral terms.

I have always been a conservative. When I was in college, I was from Muskogee. I didn't smoke marijuana; I didn't make a party out of lovin' like the hippies out in San Francisco; I didn't wear beads or sandals;  I respected the college dean. When I first registered to vote, I registered as a Republican (not smart as it cut me out of primary voting in FL).

When I went to seminary I learned about a Christian world-and-life view. I was most influenced by a paper written by Dr. Palmer Robertson that combined Kuyperian sphere sovereignty with Southern Presbyterian spirituality of the church. It seemed near perfect - the church in its own sphere with its spiritual mission and individuals and groups of Christians bringing to bear Christ's Lordship in every sphere. I went on to teach a world-and-life view to RUF students and for awhile was asked to teach it for summer student conferences and to ministers and interns for staff training.

But there were nagging questions of which
two nagged most: (1) I could not find this world view stuff in the New Testament in the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. It just was not there. (2) I could not, and no one else could to my satisfaction articulate a peculiarly Christian/Biblical view of many things. I could state the Christian's duty to the state, but I could not describe the Christian state. I could talk about work, wages, debt, payment of bills, but not about a Christian economy.

I came to see that my political views were based mostly on "natural law" and common sense, not Biblical precepts. Some of my political views were based on preferences and even prejudices. I came to see that politics is not only about what one thinks should be done but about what one finds can be done. Politics involves negotiation, alliances, compromises. Politics requires legislating and governing. There is very little purity in politics, and, if there were, it would not be the unmixed blessing some think.

Be that as it may, I wonder if the time has come for conservatives, and especially for Christians, to look at the results of the efforts to make the country more conservative and Christian. There have Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Rousas Rushdoony, James Dobson, James Kennedy, et al. 

There is talk radio, dominated by conservatives and especially by Rush Limbaugh.
There is cable television news  with the hegemony of Fox. The  Moral Majority, Reclaiming  America for Christ, the Family  Research Council, the Tea Party,  the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, et al. As some ask in other contexts, How's that working for you? What do you have to show for all that?

It seems to me the answers are, "Not so well and less than not very much." Yet people keep doing the same thing. 

Why has so much come to naught? Some few Christian conservatives will think it is because the United States does not constitutionally recognize Christ as King, while others will think it is because Christians are not committed to the whole of the Law of God as the agenda. Some think the American people agree with them on conservative and Christian principles but are manipulated by the mainstream media, out-maneuvered by the secular left, and betrayed by impure politicians like Cochran. Some think that if pragmatists and "moderates" like Cochran were replaced with consistently conservative politicans all would be well. Perhaps. But I don't think so.

Christians would do well to focus less on politics and more on the church. Don't invest so much in the outcomes of elections, court decisions, and legislative victories and defeats. The NT church did pretty well apart from any power to influence government or political pocesses. Minister the Word and sacraments. Pray. Live together as a community called out of the world and into the church. Love the brethren and care for the needy among us. Practice Christian liberty in politics. Be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession. Live as a colony whose citizenship is in heaven. Pray that we may have freedom to live peaceful, quiet, dignified, and holy lives. 

It was Chris McDaniel who lost. Not Christ Jesus.

1 comment:

Eutychus said...

Great stuff! Amen and amen!!