Whence now ‘religious’ politics?
October 4, 2010
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
<![CDATA[After Glenn Beck (a Mormon Fox News commentator) organised and led a massive rally in Washington DC recently, calling on the need for reviving America, many discerning Christian commentators were disconcerted — to say the least — to discover that evangelical Christians seemed able to embrace Beck as one of their own. Justin Taylor has since posted a repeat of the ESV Study Bible’s teaching about what is different between Mormonism and Christianity (1), and Russell Moore has opined successfully that the problem is not that Beck is an effective leader, nor that he is allowed to speak his mind in religiously free America, but that some evangelical Christians are so undiscerning (2). What has caused a situation where genuine Christians can embrace rank heresy with excitement about its positive effect on their country? Of course, putting the question like that is not perhaps entirely fair, for the feeling is that, given Beck’s conservative credentials, his movement calling the country back to moral values can only be a ‘good thing’. But that is very far from feeling, as some evangelicals seem to have done, that they heard the gospel from Beck in the nation’s capital.
God and politicsAmerica has long had a tendency of espousing a connection between God and politics, for various historical reasons obvious to anyone familiar with the founding and early development of the American state. It has long been a historical irony of modern historians that European countries — like Britain, supposedly with an ‘established religion’ — are allergic to ‘god talk’ of any kind, while America — apparently embracing the separation of church and state — has the God word dropped by certain politicians with a fair degree of regularity. Certainly, no Christian can object to the ability to be able to speak of moral values or ‘God’ in the public sphere with freedom, and commitment, and it is in defence of this freedom that people like Beck, and others, gain their credence, their ‘cash value’, and their popularistic power.
Support for WWI?But, but, but, in the same comparison of European and American histories, a really good first rate religious/political history should be done of the impact of the apparent support of the churches for what most people would agree was the utterly disastrous First World War. What does it do to a sense of the prophetic credibility of a faith that can support trench warfare? Answer: look at church attendance figures in Britain ever since. The downslide. Perhaps there is a good history that establishes this, and if there is I am not at this point familiar with it, and would like to be made aware. But my sense is that Lloyd-Jones’s advice to a budding — and later rather well-known evangelical Christian who went into politics — that he must embrace all the values of God and morality in his role, and serve in politics with absolute freedom as an expression of his Christian faith, but never, never tie Christian faith specifically to his party politics. That clear advice, and very different sensibility from the standard feeling across the Atlantic, is worth a fresh consideration. Without abandoning the ability to pressure politicians on moral issues. The legacy of Wilberforce must not be abandoned. But we can do that without tying ourselves so closely to a party machine that we are left so undiscriminating that we can embrace as one of our own someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ is God. Which, last time I checked, is a pretty important part of being a Christian. (1) http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/page/2/ (2) http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/08/29/god-the-gospel-and-glenn-beck/]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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