Monday, September 6, 2010

Response to Jack

Jack's comments to my last post are important enough to warrant a new post.


Thanks so much for your comments. I do appreciate them. It appears that you are a devout Christian so I will frame my response with that in mind. On the face of it, your arguments seem so reasonable. How could anyone disagree? I’m sure your motives are pure. You want the best for our country. You want Christian people to participate in a political/spiritual revolution that you hope will save America from its precipitous slide toward destruction. And Mr. Beck seems to offer the right attitudes, information and leadership. While he is a talented individual and while much (though certainly not all) that he says is correct, I contend that with him comes a huge amount of baggage that no thinking Christian will want to carry. I believe that accepting his leadership will bring very powerful unintended consequences that will not make things better, but far worse. I hope you won’t be offended if I analyze your comments. I fear they prove that what I said in my original post is correct. Let’s take them one by one:

1.“When Glenn Beck calls our country back to God, each person comes back to God in the way that is consistent with their faith - it's not a syncretistic move.”

I have to be honest. In my opinion this is a very disturbing statement coming from a Christian. On the face of it it sounds wonderful. But let’s be rigorous in asking logical questions. As you know, Glenn Beck casts the widest possible net in calling people back to “God.” Always he uses “God” singular, doesn’t he? So we have to ask, what God? Only the Judeo/Christian God? I doubt that he would want to limit his call to that. After all, there are Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus in this country who are loyal citizens. Is he leaving them out? I’m sure he would say no.

So is he calling Mormons and Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims and Christians and Jews all back to the same God? That’s the implication of your statement. “Each person comes back to God in the way that is consistent with their faith.” Do you mean that Jesus and Allah and Buddha and Krishna and Yahweh and the Mormon “father god” who physically copulated with Mary to produce Jesus, et al. are all just different names for the same Supreme Being? Is there just one God and many ways to reach Him? If that’s what he’s saying, I’m sure you would disagree, as would thinking people of most faiths. People really do worship different gods. Trying to make them all into one Being simply doesn’t work.

Does that mean that Mr. Beck is calling devout people of all religions back to their particular god? And are all of them equal? As a Mormon he isn’t a Universalist. If Mormons believed in Universalism, why send out thousands upon thousands of young missionaries to convert people? Then why does he use the language and inclusiveness of Universalism? The only answer can be that for him the end justifies the means. He is doing it to build a spiritual/political constituency to accomplish what he considers to be righteous goals.

But is this legitimate?

Should a Christian buy into that agenda with him, accepting his statements of Universalism in order save the country? God forbid. There is spiritual destruction built into it. It’s clear that Mr. Beck isn’t presenting himself simply as a political leader and philosopher. On that basis I wouldn’t waste my time writing about him. He is presenting himself as a spiritual religious leader. Accepting him in that role and the baggage that comes with it is precisely what I mean by syncretism.

The heart of religious syncretism is the subtle redefinition of words and having the new definitions accepted without serious thought. There are many ways to accomplish this agenda. To get Christians to agree even on a tacit level that we are all worshipping the same god and accepting the spiritual leadership of a cultist to boot is the ultimate in religious syncretism. That leaven will permeate the whole loaf. At the very least, Mormonism is accomplishing through him one of its most cherished goals, to be considered nothing more than another Christian denomination. And polls tell us that is exactly what is happening. You may be sophisticated enough in your faith to make all the subtle distinctions necessary to accept Mr. Beck’s political call without accepting his spiritual agenda. How about the millions of people who aren’t? Where does the New Testament Law of the Weaker Brother come into this?

2.“Our theological beliefs are not the same, but we are co-belligerents with those calling us back to a the belief that America was founded on the morality of the Christian faith, and the belief in a Creator who gave us these rights as listed in the Declaration of Independence.”

You have stated well a popular belief that Mr. Beck speaks about constantly. But is it true? Or more explicitly is he telling the whole truth? Was America founded simply on the “common morality of the Christian faith?” Mr. Beck and many others love to quote what I call the statements of Civic Religion made by our Founding Fathers.

What was the true religious foundation of America? Where was America spiritually born? It wasn’t in Philadelphia in 1776. It was in that amazing period called the Great Awakening. Mr. Beck has talked about this event in glowing terms, but he never gets to the heart of it. And there is a reason why. To do so would get far too specific for his religious agenda. Like everything else having to do with religion, he chooses to present the Great Awakening in vague terms about “coming back to God.”

But look at the history of it. For years in the early part of the 18th century, the Great Awakening swept through the colonies. It was based on the powerful preaching of George Whitefield, the Wesleys and others. That preaching was anything but a general call to “come back to God.” It was a specific call for sinful people to repent to escape the Judgment of God. It was a call to place their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. And untold thousands heeded it. In large part, it was out of a new freedom from sin and guilt found in Christ by so many people that the desire for political and governmental freedom was born. So, if you want to find the Christian foundation of America go back to the preaching about sin and repentance and salvation only in Christ that transformed this country so long ago. This foundation meant all the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. The French Revolution was a blood-bath based largely on the “values” of the so-called Enlightenment totally apart from true Christianity.

The Great Awakening translated into an understanding among our Founding Fathers that they had to speak the religious language of the masses. Were there true Christians in their number? Absolutely! But also there were Deists, agnostics, Unitarians and Freemasons. At that period, even many of the non-Christians felt that Christianity was an important element in the foundation of a civil society. In their writings they chose a common religious language that would build consensus and be as inoffensive as possible. This became what was handed down to us over the past centuries, a Civic Religion that talked about God and prayer, etc., but rarely mentioned Jesus Christ. Christians could read into it whatever they wanted. Like sheep that’s exactly what we have done. For a long time it worked.

This social contract held until the 20th century when attacks on religion became rampant. Now it has completely fallen apart. In my opinion, that was inevitable. The amazing thing is that it held as long as it did for there is no lasting power in Civic Religion because it cannot redeem the soul. In the past, Civic Religion depended for its existence on agreement about the value and purpose of America, common morality and a strong work ethic. All of that is gone and will not return without another TRUE Great Awakening. Even in our Christian churches common morality has vanished. Glenn Beck is calling us back to a Civic Religion that is utterly powerless except to build dissension. All of his words about faith, hope and charity are nothing more than pretty ideals without individual and collective repentance for sin and redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ God’s only Son. So if you are a “co-belligerent,” fighting under Mr. Beck’s banner, you are fighting for a losing cause. Not only will it prove futile, there is something far worse than our current crisis that it could bring.

Here is an interesting thought. As much as Mr. Beck talks about faith, in Mormonism salvation is gained through works. In a slightly different form salvation by works is the heart of Liberation Theology, the faith of Barack Obama.

3.“There is no pure theologian who is going to take this leadership. No one is without their own particular slant on faith. Are we not going to rally to a cause we think is in the right direction until we find a person who thinks exactly like we do? We have to learn how to live as saints in an imperfect place… We have to make decisions and move ahead without everyone involved being the purist we want them to be. Too much is at stake for us to not act.”

I know you don’t mean this as a statement of lack of faith, but certainly it can come off that way. I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean by a “pure theologian.” I don’t think a single one of the prophets or apostles of the Bible would have considered himself a “pure theologian” not even St. Paul. Do you mean by pure theologian someone pure in his beliefs about Jesus, someone raised up by God to speak the truth and call people to repentance in Jesus Christ as the foundation for a just and compassionate society?

So, because we are frightened and impatient and no one like that seems to have appeared (or at least no one who has the platform of Fox News) are you saying that we should follow the next best thing – someone raised up by Rupert Murdoch? Somehow this reminds me of King Saul in First Samuel 13 who couldn’t wait for God’s anointed, took things into his own hands and destroyed his kingdom.

Following our own natural desires (so many of which are based on fear) is much easier than prayer and waiting on God. We like the spiritual feeling that comes with being part of a great movement. It is an actual physical high to be surrounded by huge masses of like-minded people. That’s why we have mega-churches and rock concerts. But this is a delusion. All through the Bible it was the lone voice crying out truth in the wilderness that made all the difference. The first measure of learning to be a saint in a fallen world is that we learn to be true to the Bible and let that, no matter how uncomfortable, be the guide of our decisions. Has God lost His Power to raise up a Whitefield or a Wesley or are we so weak, miserable, fearful and faithless that we will settle for what we consider the next best thing?

4.“Glenn Beck's call to return to God is no different than Benjamin Franklin's. Should the Christians of Franklin's day have refused to vote in favor of America becoming an independent nation because Benjamin Franklin wasn't a real Christian? Should they have refused to offer up the prayer that Franklin called them to, because not everyone in the room had the same theology?”

Okay, I hope you will forgive me if my fallen shark-like nature rises to this blood. I would never put Glenn Beck on the level of a Benjamin Franklin. He’s far too moral. Think about it this way. Imagine that old Ben were living in our day. He’d have his own reality show. He would be a kind of fat, gray, intellectual male version of the Kardashians. Each week we would watch him gleefully fornicate his way through France and England dropping pearls of wisdom in every bed. (Did I just write that?) I could imagine half a season on the Hellfire Club alone. He would be a regular at the Playboy Mansion and on Letterman. He and Bill Clinton would share a cigar. (It’s getting worse, I’ve got to stop.) Let’s face it, if all the devout Christians of Ben’s day had known the truth about his hidden life, when he gave a call to prayer he would have been laughed from the room. I hope those Christians didn’t make their decision to vote for America based on his spiritual leadership.

The great evangelist George Whitefield wrote about several contacts that he had with Benjamin Franklin. In those meetings Whitefield implored him to repent of his sins and give his life to Jesus Christ. Ben politely refused. Franklin attended Whitefield’s mass outdoor meetings in Philadelphia where Jesus Christ was faithfully preached. His only interest was in measuring the amazing distance that Whitefield’s voice carried in the open air (over a mile) and how powerful he was in taking offerings for the poor. A look at Franklin brings an important point. As Christians we can appreciate his intellect, follow his great political and governmental wisdom, like him personally and find him endlessly entertaining, all without accepting him as a spiritual leader. Though he may have offered an occasional prayer, thank God Franklin was not interested in that role.

5.“And why aren't you registered with a political party? You are letting down the country. You can't vote in primary elections in California. If every Christian did that because he was a "Christian" and therefore too pure to be involved in the political process, the world would be handed to Satan just as Hollywood was handed to Satan in the 1920s.”

Jack, forgive me if I expel an evil chuckle. I’m letting down the country if I don’t vote in California primaries? Really? We do know how effective and important California primaries are, don’t we? But I assure you my decisions are not based on any conception that I am too Christian and “pure.” I’m afraid my attitude toward elections was presented brilliantly in an hilarious episode of South Park. I can’t quote from it, it’s too obscene, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils is still evil. And almost always the lesser of two evils is our only choice. I refuse to be forced into voting for the lesser of two evils because if I don’t the country will go down the rat hole. We have been voting for the lesser of two evils for decade upon decade and look where it’s gotten us. That doesn’t mean that the person I vote for has to agree with me on every issue. And certainly the person doesn’t have to be a Christian. I’m at the place where if a candidate makes stirring claims to be a Christian I probably won’t vote for him because very likely he is either a fool or corrupt or both. How sad is that? Unfortunately, based upon past experience it’s realistic.

And as far as Hollywood is concerned, I know something about the history of my industry. Don’t be so certain that Hollywood was handed to Satan in the 1920’s because of a lack of Christian involvement. And a side point: I dread to think of the kinds of films that Hollywood would have been making if so-called “Christian moguls” had been in control. All we’d be getting are Christian “dog movies” where our little spiritual canine buddies folded their paws and said “grace” before every meal.

A last thought about Glenn Beck. One of the clearest indicators that something is deeply wrong is the way Christian guests on his programs fawn over him, showering him with ego-fattening flattery for his “spiritual leadership.” Is there not one person who is willing to confront him gently and lovingly about the lost state of his soul? Or are we so self-centered that we don’t care?

Once again, thanks so much for your comments.