Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Restoring Honesty: A Couple of Good Responses to Glenn Beck's Rally

If you want to know where the Evangelical church is in America, then just check out the recent Restoring Honor rally led by Glenn Beck this past weekend.  Regardless of one's personal perspective on Glenn Beck's politics, his combination of politics and religion is not to be recommended or embraced.  You would think that one of the key ingredients in "restoring honor" would be honesty.  But apparently honesty concerning God and religion is not important as long as one's political agenda is furthered by the promotion of false gods and false religion.

But regardless of Beck's fusion of the sacred and the secular, what is more disconcerting is the Evangelicals who believe that it is something to drink in to the very last drop.  The danger is not just in fusing religion and politics (that's bad enough), but embracing and endorsing a non-Evangelical religion, yay even a non-Christian religion, yay a "generically theistic civil religion" with politics that consists of Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Mormons, Jews and even Muslims. This is not to say that these different groups shouldn't participate and help one another in political engagement, but that said political engagement should remain political and not be religious. 

Darryl Hart has already addressed this issue quite well (see here and here).  But for a shorter, Baptist version, Russ Moore has provided an excellent reflection on Beck's god and country rally (the lower case "g" is not a grammatical error just in case you were wondering).  I highly recommend you read his analysis and seriously think about his rebuttal:
The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim. It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Moore is correct in saying that we don't need to retreat into our enclaves; however, we do need to engage politically in light of our particular religious enclaves and not fall into the trap of thinking any movement based upon a confession of "god" is something worthy of our participation.  We must ask what "god" we are confessing; which "god" we are serving; and whose will are we are doing--is it the will of the God of heaven who came to earth to die and be raised for sinners who prayed for his Father's heavenly kingdom and will to come to this world, or the god of this world who knows he cannot rule heaven and so seeks to bring many with him to his doom through a counterfeit religion.

In another response, John Sampson over at Reformation Theology provides a biblical response looking at the participation of Evangelicals at Beck's rally from an Old Testament perspective:
Have you ever seen something like this in the Bible - God saying, "Go meet with the Baal worshippers' and arrange a huge rally, an ecumenical inter-faith service - talk about honor and integrity and family values.. and you can pray to Me, of course, and they can pray to Baal - in fact, hold the priest of Baal's hand as he prays.. that will be such a nice touch.. and its quite ok with me.. I, the Lord your God, the holy One, really don't mind.. that's because it will show so much love to people and it will open hearts to My religion and everyone will so appreciate you not being closed minded elitist bigots. It will do wonders for people's view both of you and of Me. Go do this in My Name."?

Ever seen that? Even a hint of it? No? Me neither.
We need more than honor, we need honesty in our political and religious commitments.  This can't be done by promoting a false god and false religion, or in confessing someone else's false god or by participating in that god's sham.

6 comments:

  1. Well put, Friend. I am grateful for your addressing this in a most timely manner.

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  2. You nailed it, Dave. It's hard for me to listen to/watch Glenn Beck any more without feeling very queasy.

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  3. That last part is awesome. "...in fact, hold the priest of Baal's hand as he prays.. that will be such a nice touch.."

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  4. I appreciate the critical analysis, but may I respectfully disagree? I, too, have been wary of Mr. Beck's mixed theological message, but I think we find a more accurate parallel in the "good kings" of Judah who tore down the Baals and the Asherahs, but unfaithfully allowed the high places to remain. The difference between "Baal worship" and "worship on the high places" is the name of the God being worshipped. Both miss the mark, but one is definitely worse than the other. Like the worship on the high places, I think Mr. Beck is proclaiming the right "name"; it's the understanding of that name that's being confused. I think just as we wish Josiah's faithfulness had preceded Manasseh's damning blasphemies - thus, restoring Judah before it was too late - so too might we hope that faithful representatives of orthodoxy will intervene in the present movement in such a way as to restore the true divine image behind the name being proclaimed. God was patient with the good kings of Judah - even to the point of declaring them "righteous - despite their failure to obediently and faithfully remove the high places. Perhaps He is doing the same with this movement. Let's just hope we don't wait as long as Judah did to fully return to Yahweh.

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  5. Matthew, thank you for your comments, I would simply direct your attention to the first three commandments of the Decalogue in Exodus 20.1-7:

    20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying,

    2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

    3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

    4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

    God is not honored when his people worship another god or worship him in a false manner or take his name in vain (which means to be a follower of Yahweh and then chase after other gods).

    God is not honored when Glenn Beck worships the false god of Mormonism. As bad as it is one for an unbeliever to chase after false gods, it is especially dishonoring for Evangelical Christians to participate in his idolatry.

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  6. David, I hear what you are saying and I certainly agree with the necessity of our walking after the exact same God described in Scripture, according to the exact same manner in which Scripture explains we follow Him. Furthermore, I agree with the cautions against Mormon theology. When laid out for all to see, there is no question that Mormonism presents a different god and christ than that of Scripture, à la the interpretive lens of Joseph Smith. And there is no question that is to be rebuked and corrected wherever it arises.

    All of that being acknowledged, I watched Mr. Beck's rally and I've heard many of his radio broadcasts. Neither in the rally, nor on his radio show have I ever heard anything specifically Mormon (though, I confess, there may be something I'm missing). In fact, at the rally, besides a mixed theological message that seemed to have nothing to do with Mormonism, the worst I heard was a repeatedly undefined "Lord Jesus Christ." The lack of definition, itself, is dangerous. It certainly leaves the door open for the insertion of all types of ideas regarding who the Christ actually is. And this is where my hope would become that a faithful presenter of orthodox Christianity (i.e. a "Josiah") would step in and lead this country into a faithful covenant with Yahweh (2 Kings 23.1-3), via the true Christ of Scripture. Unless and until that happens, there is certainly the danger that many could be led into the open arms of the false gods of Mormonism, if the movement should progress in that manner. For now, however, it seems that the movement is attended by more of a widespread biblical ignorance and theological indifference than it is by any real commitments to heresy. Coupled with what I said above, I hope my position now appears a bit more biblically faithful and logically coherent. I enjoy your edifying comments. Thank you for taking the time to respond to these things.

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