Another Call to Arms?

Well, here we go again. Nothing like a good controversy to spur a backsliding blogger back into action.

And oh, what a controversy we have, courtesy of the White House, from whence it was announced earlier this week that the fifteen year run of the Defense of Marriage Act will no longer be defended itself. Predictably, a host of conservative watchdogs has been busily rallying the troops for an all-out frontal attack on the decision and on those responsible for it. Anyone associated with evangelical causes of any kind can expect a mailbox flooded with appeal letters pointing out the evils of homosexuality, the callousness of the current administration toward what its citizens truly believe, the necessity of overturning the decision, and–oh, by the way–the need to send a check to make sure all of this happens. (Last time I checked, I did not need to pay someone else to cast a ballot for me. Just saying.)

Let’s make no mistake about it. There is plenty to find disconcerting in the announcement. For starters, there is the hubris of justifying the decision by pronouncing that it violates the constitution. Clearly, that sort of declaration does not come from the Oval Office; but apparently the body charged with making that declaration failed in its duty to so rule and needs to be corrected by the White House. Technical foul. If that were not enough, the administration also presumes itself to be the appropriate arbiter of what marriage is and is not. Flagrant foul. Then there is the flip dismissal of the moral traditions which have been woven into the fabric of this culture as though they cannot speak into the whole question. Just plain foul from the start.

The concern in this corner is not over whether or not to agree with President Obama’s decision; rather, it with what we are to do about it. I cringe almost as much over the coming rantings and deluge of promo materials as I do over the decision itself. Does that mean I am indifferent? Not at all, though interpret it as you must. But I do wonder whether it is time for Christians to evaluate what they have to show for the strategies of the past forty years or so, strategies which have included the giving of untold millions of dollars which have yielded virtually nothing by way of actual policy reform. At the same time, there has been far too much vitriolic language targeting “the opposition.” Unlike the funding, this has produced a yield, albeit of a negative sort; it has created further defensive barriers and animosity, not only toward the attitudes on the issues, but toward the faith supposedly represented. So what do we do? Below are several options, not exhaustively stated by any means.

1. Fight the good fight as before, trusting that the Lord will do mighty things to bring victories which we may not see immediately. Write the letters, send the contributions, and join the marches.

2. Pray for those who represent our views and for those who do not, yet have influence in the decisions.

3. Recognize that the arena of the mind, from which ideas flow, was conceded a long time ago when we preached a private faith, untouched and unaffected by reason. We then must do the hard work of recovering the believing mind, and maybe the even harder work of gaining a hearing, all the while displaying a respectful attitude.

4. Let the world do what it will. It is unredeemed and we cannot expect redemptive behavior from it. After all, no one is forcing believers to engage in homosexual marriages, have abortions, gamble, etc. When they have had enough, we’ll be there to help the lost to see a better way.

It’s just the start of a list, but I’d like to hear where you find yourself and why. Since some of my readers cannot refrain from posing their own nuanced options, you have my permission.

14 thoughts on “Another Call to Arms?

  1. I like this approach. Since we in Maryland are facing a situation where same sex marraige is before our legislature and the governor is pledged to sign it into law if it passes, we need to look at the appropriate strategy. I had never thought about the concept that the church will be there when the error of their ways will no longer be deniable. May we always be agents of God’s grace, no matter where we are in the struggle against the wrecking influence of sin.

  2. I would have to agree with suggestion (2) as the front runner. The rest of the suggestions could be placed in a blender and the result would be a strong second.

    I have had this thought before, but this most recent issue has brought it back stronger than before. That is the harsh reality that our path is to closely related to Rome, and perhaps we are nearing the end of us, not the world as many would argue.

  3. I rather doubt that prayer is the answer, but it is the US evangelical way…to continue it’s complete sweep of the board in failure. Being a person of certain mathematical bent and a bit of a market gambler. I would like to buy a “put” on all the evangelical church real estate for say 30 years from now, is it a 70% decrease or a 100% decrease?

    I remember reading “The Church Before a Watching World” back in the 70’s, Schaeffer’s third point as I remember it was that God spoke in history, to effect a whole bunch of things, but it certainly made Himself apprehendable. Prayer (only) is the silencing of God.

    “Since the transition from the state of promise to that of fulfillment is obigatory, so too is the mission of the Church (as progressive radiation of salvation into the consciousness of mankind) and the Christian’s responsibility for the world: the Christian has a duty of collaboration rather than evasion.” – Hans Urs von Balthasar

    • So what IS the answer, Marty? (And please don’t tell me armed rebellion. I haven’t fired a gun since the .22 rifles used in summer camp a rather long time ago.) Tom is right in at least one respect–folks too often think of “the end” only in terms of the ultimate climax of history, Armageddon and the whole scenario. More temporally bound ends could also happen between now and then, as have so many before.

      • My captain, my captain,

        you got this backwards I pays my money to ETS and you are supposed to have the answers! I much prefer deconstruction then reassembly but the engineer in me wants to reassemble the pieces. So I would provide some preliminary thoughts:

        Don’t play by their rules, don’t let their categories rule, the marriage to Constaniople was fun, the US constitution was funner in the context of the communion of saints. As Aristotle said (and our forbears embraced) from Politics: “Every State is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good.”

        It is now over, AND IT WAS NEVER THE REAL GAME, you all know what the game is, it is the Gospel Dream, it is not what we collectively think is good, it is what the other think’s is good. Send them your taxes (maybe you’ll find it in a fish’s mouth), let them believe that it is the game, it will be overthrown (whether by the neo-Babylonians, neo-Assyrians or by the neo-Romans).

        If it means we ultimately end up in prisons and shackles, or our spiritual children do, then there will be a reward, but no whining along the way, I don’t want to see you on television complaining about the state this, the state that. OF COURSE they are going to wreck everything is Good/True/Beautiful, what’s new about that.

        Meanwhile we walk humbly (or at least you will), act justly, love mercy and talk and live the good news.

        Tillich would probably say you/we/i are working against deep seated psychological patterns, I would frame this as our commitment to our national creed and believe in same so… (1) the US did good things in the past and certain strategy’s worked so keep on keeping on, In Decisions/Behavioural Analysis this is a mixture of confirmation bias, and illusion of control. (2) The US still does good things so I’m going to work with it, I think in Decision/Behavioural analysis this is called “attentinoal bias”

        Yoder was right, Christ’s statements were and are revolutionary

        [Lastly, I assume the armed rebellion comes from our continued discussion and disagreement concerning Bonhoeffer, how did he go from being a pacifist
        to an assassin? He went through a meatgrinder, I respect his decision. I hope
        not to go through his meatgrinder, but I’ve had mine, and you’ve had yours. These grinders are essentially about theodicy, and I don’t know how to explain God’s behaviour, you and Bonhoeffer went in as Christians and came out as Christians, me not so much, that is about all I know, save this, somewhere just before an embrace of nihilism I felt love, and I remembered love, it was sufficient to take another step].

    • I’m having trouble deciphering my post to read prayer (only). Rather the most important step, to not rely on self for all steps that follow.

      • Tom. I wasn’t responding to your posting, or so I thought. I was responding to #2.

        Sorry for the confusion.

        love you

  4. I agree with your point on the amount of contributions given for so many conservative causes. Has any candidate who got into office by winning the Christian vote proven an ability (or a true desire backed up by actions)to reverse RoeVWade? How many Christians vote and support a candidate just on that one issue? Still, 40 years of this and what is the result? We know, as Christians, what our assignment is. It is point #4. Help the lost see a better way with Grace, Love, and sharing with others the reason why we have hope. Giving is also part of our assignment. However,it is not “causes” we are to give our wealth to. It is the poor and less fortunate.

    • A common denominator among responses might be that we need to focus on who we are as Christ’s representatives; and, yes, Marty, we have indeed often mistaken to direction of America for the way to the kingdom. What I like (almost) about decisions such as the one that precipitated this post is that it should further assist us in breaking such an (idolatrous) illusion. Come what may, we embrace a different purpose. It’s time to stop fighting for the American way of life, perhaps including all of its nice, comfy middle-class benefits, and commit to the kingdom, regardless of the direction of that american way. Karen, your distinction between giving to causes and giving to people is well taken; causes have no hearts, faces, hopes, disappointments, etc.

      • I’m frightened that this distinction isn’t so clear! in 1982 I had to do a battery of questions for four hours using lie detector technology by three agents of the
        government to pass into the maul of the three letter agencies. Last question was

        “Is there anything that would lead you to betray your country?”

        My answer was “yes, if you come into conflict with my Christian Beliefs.” my boss was apalled, he told me the right answer was “no”. regardless I got in. Maybe someone should assign readings like Bonhoffer, Vinns, or the Gulag, instead of Amish romance novels.

        There is no need for armed rebellion, there is just need for (for now) free speech. We have something better than “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, geez, my grandmother who finished school in the ninth grade taught me this stuff ala “There is God’s LAW and then there is men’s law, and they are not the same.”

  5. I am not what you would call a frequent contributor to this blog I frequently read, however, I could not let this one go by. The Christian right has assumed that ChristianDOM still exists, and it does not, and as most any historian might point out – how often was Christiandom Christian anyhoo. For me, in the Gospels, Jesus gave four commandments – be tolerant here :0).

    The first and always the first is to love God, heart, mind, and soul, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The second is the great commission to spread the good news suggested in the first commandment – that we have a God that loves and saves us and wants us to be obedient to his laws – I like Marty’s Grandmother. The third is found in Math 25:35ff – the great sheep and goats discourse where not only we but nations will be judged by our treatment of the least – Yoder’s revolution and the prophets’ major cry after idol worship. Finally, in the last chapter of John, Jesus exhorts Peter to feed his sheep for by doing so we fulfill the first commandment to love God: “Peter, do you love me?”

    My point in bringing this list to the fore is to place some opposition to the statement attributed to Schaeffer that prayer silences God. Where do we Christians obtain the spiritual, moral, and intellectual guts to live out Jesus’ commandments if not by being in direct communion with the God who loves us but also wants us to be his hands and feet to the world. That direct communion with God is prayer – it enlivens our minds and our too human souls with grace. To my mind, without prayer, we become Christiandom Christians who seem to only know how to condemn even all the while reading (not knowing, just reading)that Jesus ate with sinners and condemned only those hypocrites that placed an impossible burden on his people.

    So I guess I will go in large part with #2, remembering that the cross was one giant intercessory prayer that worked, and remembering Jesus’ priestly prayer in John – another stunning intercessory prayer, and knowing that even now Jesus, our model, continually intercedes for us – how powerful is that. I also like #4 with the caveat that caring for the poor and the sinner (even, oops, public activism grounded in grace on behalf of the suffering) is one of the best ways to reveal God’s love to an ungraced world. And with a second caveat, that the first caveat is impossible with prayer.

    Sorry for all of this – hit some of my sacred hobby horses :) Blessings

    • Nice to hear from you, Val! Glad for your thoughts, even if you’re not a regular (whatever that is)–always good to expand the circle. Honestly, I’m not sure about the reference to nations in Matthew; not sure they are gathered as nations or from all the nations. Have to ask my colleague about that. But it doesn’t change your overall point one way or the other; doing the things in #4 is not idly standing by waiting for God to work.

  6. I agree with Val and go with door numbers 2&4.
    As I read scriptures, God’s people are called to keep from being polluted by the world, not to conform etc. In other words God expects His people, His Church to be pure, to not tolerate evil WITHIN the Church. Those outside are going to continue in their slavery to sin. Our lights will shine in this darkness. Of course we should vote as long as we have a voice. But protests and signs do not change the hearts of man.

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