Posted by: gmscan | September 4, 2012

The Patriot Church?

As most of the readers of this blog know, I am intensely political. I was a Republican precinct captain in Whittier, California at age 12. My mother was in the Republican Women’s Club along with Hannah Nixon (Dick’s mother). I volunteered for and knew my own member of Congress back then.

As a young adult I was prompted by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War to become a Democrat. That lasted until I went into business for myself and discovered what a drag all of the nit-picky regulations were on individual effort. I started half-a-dozen businesses over the years, most of them mildly successful.

It has only been in the past few years that Jesus woke me up, and now I am pursuing Christianity with the same verve I put into business and politics in the past.

This week a Tea Party group I have worked with in the past (UNITEPA) has announced it is starting what they call the Patriot Church movement.  It defines a Patriot Church as –

A Patriot Church is a 21st century remnant of God’s sovereign people
boldly united, in one accord, at the forefront of proclaiming liberty, resisting tyranny, and standing in the gap, in spirit and in truth, against the forces of evil at work in our churches, our government and our society.

It adds –

Our mission is to support and encourage church leaders who are bold and fearless in the cause of liberty and steadfast in the protection of our God-given rights and freedoms.

You might think that being a long-time political activist and a new Christian, I would welcome more involvement in politics by the church. But the opposite is true. As much as I respect the commitment and dedication of the folks who are doing this, the idea of a “patriot church” makes me cringe.

There are a bunch of reasons. Let me list them in no particular order.

First, I want the church to serve only one master, the Lord God. The United States is not God. God may have had a hand in our founding, and I think it is indisputable that we were founded on Christian principles – even if some of the founders were not themselves particularly Christian. But the United States is a man-made entity and as such it is and will always be flawed. The church must – MUST – be a witness to the word of God no matter who is violating it.

The corporate church has its hands full with the sacraments, preaching, missions, and providing a sanctuary for the faithful. It doesn’t always do a particularly good job of these responsibilities. It hardly needs to take on more.

A church that endorses any political view cuts itself off from a large number of people who need to hear the Gospel. I don’t want my church to be politically liberal (that is why I left the PCUSA), but I don’t want it to be politically conservative, either. I want it to focus on the Word of God.

Individual Christians can and should be active in civic life and the church should be our refueling station to keep us energized for our work.  It can remind us constantly of Christ’s commandments and commission and it can help us don the armor of the Lord. These Christians can (and do) organize themselves to bring a Christian perspective to the “public square” and Christian consciousness to policy disputes, but that is not the work of the corporate church.

Also, the very words “patriot church” reminds me a bit too much of the “German Church” under Hitler. Hitler was intent on having the Church serve the Reich – be “patriotic” to the state. Barth and Bonhoeffer, and many other faithful Christians were willing to sacrifice their lives to keep the church true to Christ and no other. I pray we will honor those martyrs by following their example.

Now, I agree with the organizers of this movement that Christianity is under attack in this country. And I agree that we need to support Christians and churches that are persecuted. The most immediate threat is to our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters who are being coerced into violating their faith by the current Administration. This is shameful and all Christians should stand with them to protect their ability to practice their faith – not only in their houses of worship, but in all their activities.

 

Beyond that, much of the United States has become an idolatrous nation, worshipping at the alters of wealth, sex, and pride. But these gods are empty vessels and their followers are ultimately sad and pathetic shells. They need to mock and belittle Christians because their own lives are so hollow. Like addicts everywhere, they rage at those who threaten their addictions.

How should Christians respond? How do we treat other addicts? We know that their addiction will be their downfall. They keep looking for a bigger bang – more money, more fame, more sex – but are never satisfied. Eventually it all catches up to them and they crash. Sadly that crash is sometimes fatal, but not usually. Usually they find their bottom – lost, without hope, without friends. That is when they finally allow God into their lives. And that is when Christians need to be there to welcome them into the family as another adopted child of God.

So we can weep for the lost. We can pray for their restoration. We can be there when they are ready. But we cannot short circuit the process, and we must never enable them in their addictions. That only prolongs the pain.

So it is with our country. We can and must protect our brethren from persecution and abuse. That is a given. But our nation is going through a period of apostasy and idolatry. I happen to think that Satan is pretty active here and encouraging all this. But the nation has been through this before – periods of arrogance and pride, and they are always followed by a fall.

Things in this country move very fast. I am reading Russ Douthat’s “Bad Religion” and will write about it soon. But I am struck by his history of how quickly religious focus in the U.S. moved from liberalism and “modernity” before the Depression, to a robust “neo-orthodoxy” in the post War years, to a near-complete collapse in the 1960s and 1970s.

I believe the current idolatry is already burning itself out to be replaced with a rediscovery of the timeless truths of Scripture. Americans are hungry for meaning and understanding. They will come back to churches that focus on proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, not on those that get distracted by passing political fads.

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Responses

  1. Thanks Greg, I think you are right about all of your reasons. Many people don’t realize that Germany had become very decadent before Hitler. Some Christians thought he was the answer to that–we need to be exceedingly careful.

  2. Greg,

    I probably do not agree with most of your politics, but I completely agree with your view of the higher calling of the Church. This post is a very eloquent defense of that calling. I love it.

    The temptation to get distracted by passing fads is indeed overwhelming, even when those fads are in a good cause.

    I don’t know if I agree with your perception of how the Church in America is being attacked. But I agree that it is under attack. I think it has been under a vicious assault by the right wing plutocracy ever since the publication of the Powell Manifesto. But the “left” wing has never really acknowledged the attack. Perhaps more out of denial than anything else. The “left” in America just couldn’t conceive of such extremism in its own backyard, and doesn’t want to sound like a bunch of wacky conspiracy theorists. But the right wing sure has no problem playing that card. Is it perhaps a case of ‘it takes one to know one’?

    (I say “left” in quotes because in today’s environment, even Ronald Reagan comes across as a liberal. The Tea Party movement makes Rush Limbaugh look like a moderate. The Republicans took over Congress and devoted the last two years to doing anything and everything they could think of to get rid of Obama, and did nothing else. It’s been devastating to the middle class and the economic recovery we needed)

    I think all secular political movements are jealous of the Church and its reach into the hearts and minds of people everywhere. They instinctively want to either co-opt its support, or else destroy its cohesion and effectiveness. It is essential for the Church to be wise to this fact, and to steer clear of the attempts to tame it. Up until the American Revolution, long passages in each of our confessions were about setting up the proper fences between Church and State. We think that because the separation of Church and State is built into our Constitution we don’t have to worry about that anymore, but we would be wrong. If the State can’t have the Church, then its instinct is to tame or break it. And the Church must never be broken or tamed.

    To that end I would firmly advocate giving up the tax-exempt status of the Church and all special favors Church owned enterprises get from the State.

    If the Apostle Paul called on the church in Corinth to get past its ethnic divisions in favor of unity under Christ (in a time and place where ethnicity was everything), he would call on us today to get past our political divisions in favor of unity under Christ. I don’t know what that would look like exactly, but perhaps it would start with a whistle blow and a general call for everybody to just shut the hell up. To start with, at least, I hereby look past your affiliation with all things Tea Party, and I pray you look past my lack of affiliation with all things Republican.

    Soli Deo Gloria.

    (I bet it was times like these that led to the invention of the Quaker style of worship.)

    • Jodi,

      I don’t want to turn this blog into a political free for all, so I won’t respond to your rant, other than to point out that the Powell memo, 1. Didn’t focus on the church at all, and 2. Was a pretty bland call for business owners to do more to make the intellectual case for capitalism. Pretty benign.

      • And yet you call it a “rant”. Sounds like a response to me.
        I am disappointed you see it that way. I’ve seen you use that word before when you don’t agree with somebody. I think of it as a form of name calling.

        But I agree and feel no comfort in agreeing that by today’s standards, the Powell manifesto is indeed benign. Still, you should read it more carefully. Because it really led to a lot of grief in the Church.

  3. […] Christian Persecution News- Christian Bias SOURCE: https://gmscan.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/the-patriot-church/ […]

  4. Jodie,

    I called it a rant because of all the over-the-top rhetoric — “right wing plutocracy,” “wacky conspiracy theorists,” “The Tea Party movement makes Rush Limbaugh look like a moderate,” and so on. None of this invites conversation.

    I did read the Powell document and it has nothing to do with the church, other than listing “the pulpit” as one of the sources of progressive ideas — which was certainly undeniable in 1971, don’t you think?

    If you have some information on how this led to “grief in the church” I would be interested in hearing about it. But I would also be surprised that you would object to bringing grief to the church. Haven’t progressives been doing that for half a century?

  5. Greg,

    It was not meant as rhetoric so much, as an honest assessment of how I feel, to underscore my commitment to checking my political feelings at the door for the sake of Christian community. No matter how we feel about the politics of our Nation, they don’t hold a candle to the higher calling and priority we have as brothers and disciples of Jesus.

    For a second there I thought I might have lost you.

    The second point regarding the Powell manifesto is longer and hard to prove. Some of the evidence that I once found has been deleted and rewritten, and I don’t have the time and patience to dig it all up again. But the Powell memorandum called upon rich donors to pay for developing conservative (read that “right wing”) media (TV, Newspapers, etc) and University Chairs, and scholarships for conservative students. It also implicitly called for establishing conservative pulpits and neutralizing liberal ones.

    It was almost overnight that big donations from oil executives created the Layman tract and sent it for free to all the elders in the UPCUSA. Its operating budget was something like 2 Million dollars a year, and they paid its chief editor Rev Parker Williamson more than the highest paid pastors in the denomination (according to open IRS records for non-profits). His job was simple. Go around the country and find all the left wing things he could find anybody doing, and report it in such a way as to make it look like it was happening everywhere all the time and in everybody’s own back yard. Basically to create a Red Scare in the church.

    As you know, the nature of a good lie in propaganda is to keep the facts mostly true. It’s the spin that is the lie. The PCUSA has always had fringes on both sides of the Theological spectrum. But the center 95% of the Church, pew sitters, Elders and Pastors were not, and still are not at either extreme – either theologically or politically. The message that the Layman has spent anywhere from 50 to 100 million dollars over the last 40 years to proclaim is that there can be no middle ground. We must make a choice between the two extremes and divide. Again and again.

    It’s an anti Scriptural lie with an anti Christ purpose: to divide and destroy the Church. And let me be clear: There are extreme Liberals in the Church. Just as there are extreme Fundamentalists. But like the wasps in my backyard, they are both harmless if you don’t try to swat at them.

    One of the early victories of the Layman was the killing of the missionary movement the PCUSA and the Southern Presbyterian Churches had world wide. I was a child of that movement. The missionaries were mostly quite conservative in their faiths, and made lifelong, signed commitments to serve in the field and be buried in the field. When my parents arrived in Brazil they were given assigned burial plots.

    But the Layman made it look like all the money to missions – money that was building churches, hospitals, schools – some of the best in the world – was instead being spent on communists and communist sympathizers. Somebody somewhere loaned some money to the defense of a falsely accused communist college professor and the Layman spun it so hard that all the money for missions dried up over night.

    Did Powell have anything to do with it? It think he did. He galvanized wealthy businessmen to react in absurd ways to a false premise, and they financed the tearing down of a good and beautiful thing.

    They didn’t stop there of course.

    It’s also no coincidence that shortly thereafter we had the rise of the Moral Majority movement. Oil money again. But was that movement a religious movement or a political one? It’s the prototype for your “patriot church”, isn’t it?

    I apologize. This is WAY too long for a post and I am just getting started. So I will arbitrarily stop. In summary the thesis is this: Wealthy businessmen with at best a marginal affiliation to the Church, maybe honestly, but mistakenly, believed the Church had been overrun by Left wing and Communist sympathizers. Powell either convinced them it was all part of a bigger plot, or galvanized their pre-existing belief. So they provided the resources for a fringe group of anti communists to break the Church in order to save it. With propaganda as their tool, they used fear to drive multiple wedges in the Church. When the cold war was over, they were on a roll, and they found other wedge issues to exploit.

    It is still going on (today it is homosexuality and abortion). All the mainline churches have been victimized. Some, as institutions, are mortally wounded. Mission work is a shadow of its former self. Congregations are dying and not being replaced. And health care and education are in a deeper crisis than they have been since any of us can remember.

    But at the end of the day, it’s all a crisis of Faith. There would be no Fear to exploit if we all remembered to have faith in the Author of our Faith. Cooler heads would prevail. We would be One in the Spirit and they would know us by our Love.

    Jodie

  6. http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Endure-the-Tribulation


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