Wake Up, Religious Conservatives: A Summons to Outrage
Observers of the religious and political scenes in America should have taken notice when President Obama deemed Christian religious symbols too offensive to be seen during his economics speech at Catholic Georgetown University in April of 2009. The offending symbols, including the ancient monogram IHS representing Christ's name, were covered with a dark cloth.
Looking back, the funereal covering was a pivotal sign that the Obama administration was openly hostile to Catholics and would attempt to diminish the Church's influence in America while asserting the supremacy of the president and the leftist secular state.
One of the most egregious examples of persecutory behavior toward faith-based institutions on the part of our left-leaning administration has been the attempt to jettison constitutionally guaranteed protection of religious freedom by insisting that church-run institutions, Catholic and Protestant alike, provide access to abortifacients and sterilization in health insurance plans for their employees. If the order is observed, the funeral of the Church is assured, as the Church would be completely absorbed by the State, totally subject to the State's mores.
To their credit, since the egregious assault by the current administration on the Church's first amendment rights, Catholic leaders have reacted vigorously, sowing distinct signs of life.
As of the writing of this article, some 43 Catholic institutions have filed lawsuits against the government. Catholic bishops have united in opposition to the intrusion of the state into religious affairs. They realize that for the first time in American history, an administration has egregiously violated the line between church and state by advancing what is essentially a government takeover of private religious institutions. They now see that the Obama administration is intransigently pro-abortion, as well as firmly against traditional marriage.
Unfortunately, the response of the conservative Protestant community of faith to the multiple attacks by the left on religious institutions and mores often has been weak, characterized by retreat and subsequent marginalization.
For a long time, evangelicals and fundamentalists, along with adherents to the Reformed faith, have gone underground. While admirably seeking to establish institutions of their own, including charities, hospitals, and institutions of learning, religious conservatives committed themselves to mostly defensive maneuvers and retreat, rather than employing more aggressive, militant tactics against the assaults of the left.
Why are so many people of faith allowing their guaranteed constitutional freedom to exercise their faith in the public square to be jeopardized? Why is there so little genuine outrage? Why are religious conservatives so meek and mild when assaulted by the left -- so meek and mild that millions don't even vote?
Perhaps it is because to a large degree, many evangelicals and Catholics seem to have accepted the marginalized, hostage-like role the left has defined for them. Quiescently accepting a reduced status, people of faith sometimes appear to be victims of a variety of the Stockholm syndrome, showing an eagerness to please persecutors by compromising core theological and ethical principles so they are liked and accepted. They are like captives who perceive small kindnesses from the left as favors to be sought, even though the left's worldview is so diametrically opposed to the religious weltanschauung that it openly attempts to extinguish it.
The syndrome is further compounded by the reality that even though a healthy underground media has sprung up in contradistinction to the prevailing worldview, people of faith generally remain in isolation from perspectives other than those of the left. The fact is that progressives are in charge of major institutions such as academia, public schools, the media, and Hollywood. Mainline denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in the USA and the Episcopal Church are in thrall to the ideology of the left, so they are of no help. The situation intensifies the isolation of conservative believers.
The tendency among conservative believers to embrace a sort of survivalist, person-centered theology has been reinforced by the acceptance and promulgation of theological doctrines which separate faith from involvement with the world. Among many conservative Protestants, the theological concept of the Kingdom of God permeating, confronting, and informing earthly institutions has been sidelined in favor of a narrowly defined concept of salvation as personal only. The prophetic voices of Old and New Testament are sometimes considered as relevant only to their own times, not to our own times.
Failure to understand and embrace the prophetic mission to confront societal ills head-on is partly due to replacement theology, which sees a split between the theology of the Old and New Testaments, complete with the elimination of the Jews and Israel as significant players in God's plan for humanity.
What might be termed Protestant monasticism reviles "dirty" politics and engagement with earthly institutions as inevitably polluting, so many have retreated into self-sufficient enclaves unperturbed by worldly involvement. They instead have concentrated almost exclusively on personal piety, with some embracing a prosperity gospel which eschews hardships of confrontation with evil in favor of personal well-being.
The theological mess is further complicated by a view of Jesus which bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the gospels and other books of the New Testament, including Revelation.
Tim Chaddick, head pastor of a burgeoning congregation which goes by the name of Reality, LA, has characterized the tendency among many conservative Christians to think of Jesus as only a meek and mild pacifist as misplaced belief in a "tie-dyed Jesus" whose reactions to evildoing do not include rage against evil. Certainly the "tie-dyed Jesus" bears little resemblance to the Christ of Revelation or Isaiah, whose robes are soaked with blood as he fights against the powers and principalities of evil.
The tendency to see only the gentler, pacifist aspects of Christ has meant that some conservative Christians hesitate to be confrontational, citing "Hate the sin but love the sinner" -- as if the one can be separated from the other.
Thus, they remain committed to polite, civil dialogue as defined by the left, dedicated to purely defensive and exquisitely civil maneuvers while the left observes no such restraints. Responding politely to the most egregious attacks on their morality, their faith, and their persons, many people of faith seem to have forgotten the Christ-like obligation to expose and call out moral deformity for what it is. Righteous indignation and severe condemnation are in short supply as religious people remain committed to "loving the sinner" in a way that calls for total acceptance of the person, no matter how heinous or repulsive his or her morality or behavior may be.
Conservative timidity amounts to an acceptance of the premise that "fair and balanced" discussion includes giving the legitimacy of debate to moral outrages that should be repudiated outright. Why accede to a "fair and balanced" debate about partial-birth abortion or sex-select abortion? Tell the supporters of such barbarities that they are moral monsters. Why politely discuss the right to infanticide or the sexual exploitation and/or enslavement of children? Call the persons what they are: murderers and perverts. Why talk over the right or wrong of sucking out the brains of unborn babies during so-called "partial birth" abortions? Tell the doctors performing such "operations" and their supporters that they are the equivalent of Joseph Mengele.
Moral monstrosities are not matters deserving polite talk, but evidence of societal pathologies and deformation of moral character so horrific that they deserve to be scorned, repudiated, and outlawed outright. Why encourage so-called "civil" debate on such issues and thus give some credence to pure evil?
The reaction to moral horrors should be similar to that of Sir Charles Napier, commander-in-chief in India, who responded to Hindu priests offering a defense of the practice of sati (suttee) thusly:
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.
It was the moral indignation of British evangelicals like William Carey and William Wilberforce who demanded not dialogue and endless discussion, but the total elimination of the hideous practice of sati.
Even more pertinently, conservative Christians should take a page of instruction from the person of Christ, who repudiated sin while offering repentance and salvation to the sinner; who excoriated moral degeneracy; and who verbally fire-bombed the religious leaders of his day, describing them as whitewashed tombs, lying hypocrites, and self-serving theological charlatans.
In brief, there are enormous evils within American society which demand righteous indignation and outrage -- not passivity, "love," and "understanding."
Now is the time for conservative churches to heed the wakeup calls and join the Catholic Church in protests before it is too late to do so.
But it will require both leaders and laity to awake from their lethargy, refuse to be intimidated, shrug off ridicule, and above all, refuse to participate in their own funerals.
A frequent contributor to American Thinker, Fay Voshell holds a M. Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, which awarded her the Charles Hodge Prize for excellence in systematic theology. Selected as one of the Delaware GOP's "Winning women" of 2008, she seeks to apply theological principles to politics and culture. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.