Saturday, November 11, 2017

Where's your faith?

I'm going to comment on a recent post by David French:

Centuries before the birth of Christ, the tiny and vulnerable kingdom of Judah faced an existential threat from the Assyrian empire. The prophet Isaiah’s message to the Judean king, Hezekiah, was clear: Trust God for your salvation. He alone can and will protect his people. The demand for trust was so absolute that Isaiah unequivocally condemned any quest for a military alliance for protection...Consider the challenge here: A king is told to shun a military alliance with a pagan power and to face death and destruction alone, trusting solely in God’s deliverance. I never forgot the lesson. I remembered the admonitions of Sunday-school teachers, my Bible professors at college, and my pastors: Christians, never forget, our ultimate hope is in the Lord. Be wary of an alliance with evil, even when the need seems overwhelming.

i) I'm puzzled by French's selective scrupulosity. He's a former Marine. During WWII and the Cold War, our foreign policy involved military alliances with evil men. Or consider Bush's "coalition of the willing" in the "war on terror". That involved military alliances with evil men. And French was a voluntary combatant. 

ii) I'm also puzzled by how the same man can pen a paean to the Rock:

What makes Dwayne Johnson morally superior to Roy Moore? French's own moral compass is rather unsteady. 

iii) Perhaps more to the point, he rips the Bible passage out of context and turns it on its head. Isaiah promised Hezekiah that God would protect Israel from military invasion if Hezekiah resisted the temptation to form a military alliance with Egypt. By contrast, God hasn't promised evangelical Americans that he will protect them, their dependents, or their neighbors from the social agenda of secular progressives if they decline to vote for Trump or Roy Moore. Not putting your faith in a nonexistent promise isn't faithless. God has given them no comparable promise to trust. 

Fact is, we can't count on God to protect the innocent in this life. Sometimes God intervenes, but sometimes not. Divine intercession is unpredictable. To some degree we're on our own. It's up to us to protect the defenseless and innocent from foreseeable harm. 

There's a passive quietism to French's position. Like well-meaning charismatics who refuse to take a sick child to the doctor. "Where's your faith"? 

We’ve got no choice but to ally with a dangerous, unfit man — a man who proclaims Christianity while systematically violating the law…

Is that alluding to Moore's refusal to knuckle under to the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling? If so, Moore finds himself in honorable company. Robert George has taken the position that we should simply disregard that lawless decision. So did the late Justice Scalia:

In the evening’s most important comment, he declared that though Supreme Court rulings should generally be obeyed, officials had no Constitutional obligation to treat as binding beyond the parties to a case rulings that lack a warrant in the text or original understanding of the Constitution. Without prompting from me, he cited Lincoln’s treatment of Dred Scott.

Back to French:

seeks to deny the most basic civil rights to his fellow citizens…

i) Again, I don't know what French has in mind. Is he alluding to Moore's position on homosexuals? Keep in mind that if elected, Moore will be one of one hundred senators. Senators don't single-handedly pass laws. If Moore has an extreme position, that will assuredly be diluted by his colleagues. 

ii) Another problem with French's argument is that he's judging Moore's position on these two issues by French's own standards, then condemning Moore's supporters–but of course, they don't share French's standards on these two issues, so French's objection begs the question. If French wishes to be persuasive, rather than just venting, he needs to make a case for his position–otherwise, he's given Moore's supporters no reason to agree with him.

I keep hearing these words from Evangelicals: We’ve got no choice. The Democrats are after our liberties. They’re seeking to destroy our way of life. 

I’m sorry Evangelicals, but your lack of faith is far more dangerous to the Church than any senator, any president, or any justice of the Supreme Court. Do you really have so little trust in God that you believe it’s justifiable — no, necessary — to ally with, defend, and even embrace corrupt men if it you think it will save the Church?

That's hardly the only way to frame the issue. Is it just about saving the Church? What about protecting our neighbor? Consider "the war against boys" in public schools. What about the farmer who was banned from selling blueberries at the farmer's market because he refuses to host gay weddings on his farm? 

What about the push to mainstream pedophilia? What about the pressure to euthanize the elderly and the developmentally disabled? 

What about increasing numbers of foolish, brainwashed parents who are now treating their brainwashed kids for gender identity disorder. In some cases that involves puberty blockers. That will probably do irreparable damage to their health. In the nature of the case, puberty blockers interfere with the natural process of maturation. But you're only an adolescent once. That's an unrepeatable and irreversible stage in the lifecycle. If you change your mind you can't step into the time machine and fix it. Not to mention sex-change operations. Or the organ damage that sex hormones for males may do to females and vice versa. 

Don't Christians have duty, where possible, to protect our neighbors from the onslaught of the secular progressive agenda? From the immense harm that does to the innocent and defenseless? Unlike Hezekiah, we have no promise that God will step in to take up the slack if we stand back and wait to be overtaken by events. 

Though I didn’t agree with the decision to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, I also didn’t doubt the sincerity of Evangelicals who expressed real worry about putting the awesome power of the presidency in Clinton’s hands. But what now? There’s no defensible argument for choosing the “lesser of two evils” in Alabama.

On the face of it, I'd say the choice is more clearcut. In the case of Trump v. Hillary, Trump was a wildcard whereas Hillary was a known quantity. Policy-wise, we knew what to expect from Hillary, but we didn't know what to expect from Trump. By contrast, Moore's policy intentions are far clearer in advance than Trump's were. 

I’m beginning to realize that countless older Christians misled their kids and grandkids. They said that moral character matters in politicians. They said they were building a movement based around ideas and principles, not power and party. They said those things right up until the moment when holding firm to their convictions risked handing Hillary Clinton the presidency, and at that point the dam broke. Now, they’re willing to sell out for a lousy Alabama Senate seat.

i) If French is alluding to the Lewinsky scandal, I never thought the "character matters" slogan was the best way to cast the issue. Jimmy Carter may pass the character test, but his social policies are abysmal. 

ii) I agree with French that some evangelical "leaders" are craven. Robert Jeffress is an abject bootlicker. 

Yet in general, this isn't about capitulating to the cultural elite–but resisting the cultural elite. 

Yes, I know there are many instances in which godless kings did good things for God’s people. God can turn the heart of any man. But there is a vast difference between seeking favor from an unrighteous ruler and choosing, defending, and embracing the same unrighteous ruler from the start. 

This isn't a clearcut choice between good and evil, because there's more than one evil to avoid, and any choice in this situation involves unavoidable evils. If Moore's opponent wins, that's an evil outcome, too. We don't avoid evil by urging Moore to drop out or by not voting for him. There will be evil results either way. There will be complicity in the outcome either way. 

Evangelicals, you’re putting people like Donald Trump and Roy Moore in office. You’re declaring to the world, “He’s our man.” 

That's become a popular trope for spokesmen like Russell Moore. They scold evangelicals who voted for Trump in the general election for squandering their moral witness. They brought the evangelical cause into disrepute.

But while some evangelical leaders like Robert Jeffress are guilty of that, the problem with this trope is that it makes no effort to engage the rationale of people who support Roy Moore or Donald Trump. It presumes the viewpoint of critics like French and Russell Moore, but of course, that's unconvincing to people who don't already share their viewpoint. If you wish to reach them, you should try rational persuasion rather than denunciation. It just begs the question to castigate people because they don't measure up to your standards. You need to be able to argue with them on their own grounds. 

1 comment:

  1. David French also pens articles extolling the TV show Games of Thrones.

    Leaving aside the question of whether or not Christians should watch Game of Thrones, is he French unaware of how the same arguments he uses against Christians who vote for Trump or Moore could be deployed against him?