Saturday, August 27, 2011

What’s Good For The Donkey Is Good For The Elephant

Time was when women were not allowed to vote in the United States. Then, time was that women could marry at age 18 without parental consent but men not until age 21. I came to the age of “majority” in that latter period and thus the first election of national scope in which I could vote was 1960. Richard Nixon was seeking to follow Dwight Eisenhower as president. A young Irish Catholic Senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy opposed him.

Since it was my first opportunity to vote I was keenly aware of the campaigns of both candidates. And since my position as pastor of a small Pentecostal/Evangelical church brought me into contact with the community of Evangelical Christians associated with conservative politics I was the recipient of much of the propaganda leveled against John Kennedy’s candidacy. There were many scurrilous and unfounded stories circulated to discourage “Christians” from supporting Kennedy but the primary objection to his candidacy, from the viewpoint of conservative Christians, was the oft asserted claim that he would allow – or perhaps more likely, promote – Catholic influences in government that were a violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state. The more radical claim was that he would “move the Vatican” into the United States.

So great was the outcry against this alien Catholic candidate that Kennedy was compelled to go before an assemblage of Baptists ministers and disavow any intentions of using his office, if elected President, to support or promote his Catholic faith. As we know, Kennedy did become the nation’s first Catholic President and the dire predictions failed to materialize.

But, forty-eight years later another “minority” candidate sought the office of President, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama again raised the fears of the now enlarged and much better organized Christian Conservative movement. Another barrage of unfounded and incredible claims were marketed against the Obama candidacy: he was Muslim, he was not an American citizen, he was a politically radical socialist-communist. He was politically aligned with former (and present?) terrorists. Beneath the surface, but evident in the choice of language, imagery, and innuendo, was the fact that he was the son of a black alien father. In other words, he was a black man.

But the clincher, for conservative Christians, came when it was revealed that the pastor of the church in which Mr. Obama came to faith in Christ, and which he continued to call his home church; indeed the pastor that had performed the marriage ceremony for Barack and Michelle Obama, had connections to, and an affinity for Liberation Theology. A video of Rev. Wright’s sermon, in which he used the phrase, “God damn America,” went viral on the Internet and candidate Obama was forced to either repudiate his pastor or be associated with the alleged slur against “America”. (Never, mind that the offending phrase was wildly taken out of context and that, in context, it was not any more radical than statements made by other preachers of my acquaintance who regularly cried out against the sins of the nation and called upon God to judge the U. S. for its sins.) The upshot of the whole affair was that candidate Obama was forced to sever a life-long relationship with a man who had been instrumental in bringing him to faith in Jesus Christ.

But now, in 2011-12 the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian Conservative movement is promoting a group of candidates with strong and overt ties to a religious philosophy – the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) – that is at least as alien to the American principal of separation of church and state as that which it alleged for either Kennedy or Obama. Of course, the Christian Conservatives have now abandoned their insistence upon any separation of church and state and argue, consistent with the beliefs of the NAR, that the founding Fathers did not intend to erect any such barrier. So, in their view, they are only promoting a restoration of the intentions of the founders.

The beliefs of the NAR are varied and not consistent across the board but the doctrine that should be of concern to Americans is their belief that Christians of their stripe are commissioned and destined to take over the kingdoms of this world so that they can present them to Christ upon his return to earth. The means to accomplish that goal are both spiritual (removing the spiritual strongholds of Satan in government, culture, and the church), and political (gaining control of government through the election of NAR friendly candidates. Two of the organizers of Rick Perry’s Texas Rally were leaders of the NAR, Lou Engle of The Call, and Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer. A prominent NAR prophet, Thomas Muthee, from Kenya anointed Sarah Palin in 2008, praying that she would be protected from the spirit of witchcraft.

The United States has been committed to the belief that its citizens should be free to believe and worship as they please, free from government interference or coercion. It appears that a new breed of Christian activists, associated with the right wing of the Republican Party. has decided that such toleration violates the plan of God for our nation and they have an obligation to eliminate “spiritual dominions”, speaking to the “spiritual mountains” of the arts and entertainment, business community, family, government, media, religion and education, casting out the demonic spirits that currently control those domains, and taking control of them for the coming Christ. Whether Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, or Michelle Bachman subscribe to the doctrinal precepts of the NAR is unclear. They may just be opportunistic politicians using the NAR organizations and their leaders as a means to gain the votes they can deliver. But in any case, it is time to demand that they declare themselves on the issue of separation of church and state.

The shoe is on the other foot. What was good for Kennedy and Obama should now be good for Perry, Bachmann, and Palin. We need to know what their commitment is to the principles and goals of the NAR, and how their commitment to it would affect their governance if they were elected.

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