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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Blessings of a Flat Tire


Most of you know that I am a Christian historian/theologian. But few of you know that my wife is a fine novelist and non-fictions writer. Her latest published work is Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles. This work describes her transformation from a cessionist Baptist to a charismatic healing and counseling minister. It also documents in funny and entertaining ways our walk together in ministry. What follows in an incident that happened to us several years ago. Somehow the text got “lost” amidst the multiplicity of files on her computer and did not make it into the book. It shows how God can wonderfully work in and through irritating times.



HERE is the link to Amazon for all of Carolyn’s published books. Another is coming soon.


The Blessings of a Flat Tire 


It is hard to believe but true that God can use even mundane irritations like a flat tire to bless us and others. Bill and I were on the way back from conference in Virginia Beach where we had blessed others and been mightily blessed at a conference. Naturally, Ol’Scratch wanted to get a lick in and harass us for the blessings. But it didn’t work, at least not in the end.

On I-85 somewhere in North Caroline (we can’t remember exactly) Bill decided to pull off and get gas and give me a chance to walk a bit. At our age the joints sort of rust up quick, so we have to walk to keep them lubricated. We pulled off into a really nice little town; the center was clean and freshly painted, most of the stores still in business and new lamp posts in town square. It had a really nice atmosphere.

We stopped at one of those gas station/food-mart places. After I had walked the isle of the food-mart I went back to the car. Bill, who was pumping the gas, noticed that a rear tire was low. The air pump at the station was “out of Order” but we were informed by the cashier that the car wash down the street had one that was working.  Off we went. But the time we got there the tire was flat, not just low.
Bill knew he had to change it. He let out an oath, not the real bad kind, but certainly not “Praise the Lord!” He got all of our luggage out of the trunk and into the back seat. (I must confess here, I do not pack light. I mean, I like to be prepared for any emergency, or change of weather, which necessitates extra clothing, first-aid kit, and all sorts of things). The back seat was pilled practically to the roof with the trunk luggage before Bill finally got to the spare tire. With considerable huffing and puffing he got the spare on, only to find it too was low, too low to drive safely any distance.

So we asked “Carman,” our Garmin GPS device, for directions to a tire store/service station, and one came up just a half mile away. We couldn’t find it, and went around the corner to a Laundromat for advice form the locals. Three African-Americans were there talking, and one was particularly well dressed, with shirt and tie. They said that right around the corner, where we had been, there was indeed a tire shop, but hurry since it was now 5 minutes of five, and they close at five.

On the second try we did find it. It had no commercial sign - I guess the locals just knew where to go to get their tires fixed. The owner was closing and said his tire man had just left. (He was in his eighties, I guess, and did not volunteer to do the tire himself). Just as Bill was about to ask Carmen for directions to the nearest motel, the three fellows from the Laundromat come around. As soon as they learned that the tire man had left, the man with the tie whips out his I-phone and starts calling.
It turns out he is the pastor to a local full gospel church. The tire man is the son of one of his parishioners. He dilled the parishioner, who gave him his son’s cell phone number. Pastor-man (we never asked their names) called him immediately and asked him to come back to the shop to “help a Christian brother.” He hangs up with a smile and says “He’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”

So we all start talking. Bill shares that he is a part time pastor and healing evangelist, and Pastor-man says that he just finished preaching on “by his stripes we are healed” which ended with a laying on of hands service. Bill asked if anyone present still had a healing neeed, and when they all said everything was fine Bill went into his silly routine of saying, “Oh how terrible, everybody is well!”
It turned out that one of the other fellows, dressed in one of those sport-team jackets was in preparation to be ordained as assistant pastor for Pastor-man. We all prayed for him: that his process go well, and Bill prayed that he receive a special anointing in healing in his ministry. Just then Tire-man shows up and goes right too repairing our flat.

Everyone was treating us so nice that I felt I had to start giving out copies of my novel. I told them it was a wman’s mystery novel, and that their wives would especially enjoy reading it. (Bill dislikes the way I give out so many of my books free, but he didn’t seem to mind his time.) Pastor-man had to leave, as we thanked him for his blessings, and prayed a further blessing and revival for his church. After a bit more talking it turns out that Sports-jacket man has some marital problems. You guessed it, Bill and I prayed for that situation.

We then went inside the tire office and had a nice conversation with Owner-man. It turns out, all of his children went to college, and one of his grandsons is now teaching physics at a state university.  Finally, maybe after working for a full half hour or more on our tire, including replacing the valve, “Tire-man” replaces our tire. As he was doing that I encouraged him to go to church every Sunday (Pastor-man had sort of complained that Tire-man was lax in this).

Well after all of this Owner man gave Bill the bill – fifteen dollars. Bill actually protested and said this was too small. But we both thanked and blessed everyone again.

On the road again, we thanked the Lord for this flat tire. What a blessing it had been praying and talking with these Christian brothers. Even without knowing their names we felt at home with them. The moment was like the reverse of those old western movies when the hero cowboy rides off to the sunset and the town folks in awe say, "Who was that stranger?" Well, we were driving off into the sunset and asking ourselves, "Who were those strangers?"

What a difference the Holy Spirit makes in providing just the right help at just the right time. Had we been non-believers, the process would most certainly been more clumsy and costly. Perhaps Bill would not have been prompted to ask for help in the Laundromat, not would that pastor been providentially there. Certainly we had a road assistance plan, but those things take hours to come to you, etc.

Indeed, having that flat tire was a great blessing.



c

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Wrath of God in the Present Sunni Shia War: A Pentecostal Perspective



Aleppo Syria, "The Beautiful"


This blog posting examines a theologically unpopular and neglected topic: the wrath of God. It also suggests how the mercy of God flowers once the wrath of God has done its work to bring change and repentance.

This topic will be examined first from its biblical example and then from an example manifest in 20th Century European history, and finally to the present situation in the 21th Century in the Sunni Shia War now raging in Syria and Iraq.

It is the author’s contentions that the present Sunni Shia war is the beginnings of the wrath of God on Islam.  Further, that with much prayer and intercession by Christians, it could result in the mercy of God having great effect on the Muslim peoples through mass conversions to Christianity.[1]  

 The Biblical View of the Wrath of God:
One of the clearest biblical examples of the wrath of God in action is the description of the destruction of Solomon’s temple. The book of 2 Chronicles describes it in tragic and stark terms;
The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.  He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power.  The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah. (2 Chronicles 36: 15-21)

What the chronicler left out, perhaps to avoid a salacious tint, was that victorious armies of the era were permitted to rape the women in the captured city for a number of days. Also excluded was a description of the forced march of the captives to Babylon. Surely that march, as in all such events, must have had many heartbreaking scenes of weaker members left to die of starvation and exposure, and of the captors tormenting and abusing the women within the column of captives, etc.
But the grace and mercy operating among the exiles was larger than they imagined, even in the midst of their humiliation and suffering. Jeremiah wrote to the captives with an upbeat message.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29: 4-7)
They did reestablish normal lives in Babylon and did prosper. But note also that when the exiles returned to Jerusalem to begin the tasks of rebuilding the Temple and then its walls, they brought with them the institution of the synagogue. This was necessary for universal worship in areas distant from the Temple, and is the building block of the Christian Church of the future. The exiles also came back to Jerusalem with a renewed fervor for the Word of God and determination to follow its commandments. As it turned out, the Second Temple, with Herod’s renovation and additions was far more glorious than the First Temple, and was the place honored by the Messiah’s presence and frequent teachings.
All of which is to say that the wrath of God can be horrific and terrible when a people are in the midst of it. Yet there is also a salvific element that redeems and changes the end situation for the better. God’s goodness is manifest even in His wrath, or as C.S Lewis’ expressed, God’s love is a “severe mercy.”
The Wrath of God in Modern Times: A VERY brief history of Germany.
I would like to suggest that the history of Germany is a case study of the wrath of God falling upon a people, and acting as a “severe mercy” to bring about a better spiritual outcome.
At the time of the Germanic invasions of the crumbling Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes were independent and often at odds with one another. The Kingdom of Charlemagne grouped several of the tribes together for a moment in history, but from then on it was a process of fragmentation into tiny, small or mid-sized kingdoms. Prussia, on the coast of the North Sea developed as one of the larger kingdoms. Prussia also eventually led the reunification of the Germanic kingdoms to its south and west.
Prussia’ prominence began at a point in history when French, Austrian and Russian and Sweden allied and plotted to partition it. This was prevented by a series of brilliant military campaigns led by Frederic the Great (1712-1786). Frederic established a highly efficient military and splendid officer corps, and this acquired a mythical glow with the passage of time. Frederic managed to add some territory to Prussia, but further expansion had to wait a later generation.
 
Frederick the Great leading his troops in battle                                 
The unification of Germany, under Prussian leadership, was brought forward in the 19th Century Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898). He was a genius in diplomacy, and politics.  But he also harbored a disdain and racial hatred towards the Polish people, wishing that they be exterminated.[2] He unified Germany by inciting three wars: one against Denmark, one against Austria, and the last against France. They were quickly won by the superior Prussian Army, and stirred a desire among the Germans for political unification. Under the Pan-German fervor, the lessor German kingdoms gathered under Prussia’s umbrella into the North German Federation, controlled by Prussia, but with significant autonomy.

Bismarck in his general's uniform
In the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 France was both defeated and humiliated. Not only did France loose the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, but it had to pay and indemnity to Germany. This set the scene for World War I. The war was fought principally in France, where German armies gained rapid initial victories.  But then it stalemated for four years with very heavy casualties to all sides and huge destructiveness.  Germany was defeated in 1918 as fresh American divisions tipped the balance towards the Allies.
The magnitude of the war, the rise of a communist state in Russia (and almost in Bavaria) should have been an invitation for Christians to pray for a revival in Europe. But that did not happen. The Churches in Protestant Europe were cessationist, and in Germany especially influenced by liberal theology and “higher criticism,” i.e. that the biblical miracles did not happen. They knew nothing of the gifts of the Spirit, and disdained the revivalism of the American churches. Karl Barth, the most famous theologian of the era, brought back an Evangelical understanding of the Gospels, but remained mired in cessationsim.[3] In sum, the churches and were powerless to demonstrate healing and deliverance, or to mediate reconciliation to the continent. In fact, before the War the German Evangelical churches officially rejected Pentecostalism as “from below” in the Berlin Declaration of 1909. They had read about the Azusa St. revival and wanted nothing to do with it.
Instead of World War I functioning as a prophetic warning to the German peoples of the evil of militarism and ultra-nationalism, the opposite happened. The Nazi movement arose, extolling the superiority of the Arian race, anti-Semitism, and the virtues of German militarism, as in Frederic the Great. Hitler railed that  Germany almost won the war in spite of being vastly outnumbered, but lost only because of the back-stabbing, communist Jews. German Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, mostly failed to discern the Pagan and demonic character of Nazism, and only a small “confessing church” actively opposed Hitler.

Nazi poster
We all know what happened next, and do not need to rehearse the details of Nazi anti-Semitism, genocide and aggression. But it should be noted that Nazi atrocities against the Polish people are largely unknown. Hitler followed and expanded Bismarck’s darkest yearnings. He ordered the extermination of the Polish intelligentsia, with the ultimate intent of creating a nation of ignorant surfs under Germanic overlords. In fact, in the early years of WWII Polish intellectuals were rounded up and purposely worked to death in Nazi concentration camps.
Germany suffers the Wrath of God:
We can now begin to see World War II as an activity of God’s wrath to an unrepentant nation. Germany again began the war with brilliant victories, as in the campaigns of Frederic the Great. The French Army was destroyed and the British Army kicked out of Europe in only six weeks of fighting. Nazi armies then turned to Russia and again experienced amazing victories, but bogged down in the midst of the brutal Russian winter and new divisions from the Russian hinterland.  These were hastily trained and dispatched by the superior German Army, but no matter, new divisions replaced the decimated ones.[4]  
It was principally through the bomber campaigns by the British and American air forces that the wrath of God came directly to Germany.  How this happened is significant. By late 1943 Allied air forces had achieved a major degree of air superiority over Europe.  Allied planners believed Germany would be defeated by 1944, and in fact German intelligence agreed. After the war, German intelligence officers shared their puzzlement at the Allied targeting strategy. Had the Allied bombers targeted the German electric grid, and Germany’s limited petroleum facilities, the war would have indeed ended in 1944 with German industry totally shut down.
But that did not happen. The War dragged on until May of 1945. American bombers went after specific manufacturing targets, such as aircraft plants, and their supporting industries. The much publicized raid on the ball-bearing plants in Schweinfurt, Germany, is an example of this strategy. In fact, that raid was a costly fiasco that did nothing to stop German war production. Germany quickly moved her main industries underground and in dispersed sites outside of its cities. War production in 1944 was actually higher than in 1943. The magnificently engineered German jets and tanks kept rolling off the production lines until the day of surrender. All the while, American bombs fell at or around the sometimes empty factories in the centers of German cities. The famous American Norden bombsight was less accurate than publicized and bombs would often land a quarter of a mile off target.  Thousands of civilians perished or had their homes demolished in the misses.
Berlin in 1945
The British had a different strategy which was more brutal. It was to carpet bomb the cities and thus destroy German morale. That also did not work. It mostly made the survivors mad and led credence to Nazi propaganda that the Allies intended to eradicate Germany. Nazi propaganda also promised that the new jet airplanes would soon turn the tide.
Through all this the German people suffered tremendously. Multiple German cites underwent intense bombing which resulted in super-hot “fire-storms” in which everything burned: the buildings, appliances, food stuffs, people, and even bricks disintegrated in the intense heat. Between Allied bombers and Russian artillery the Germans suffered perhaps one and a quarter million civilian deaths. To that must be added about five million military deaths, the majority form the Eastern Front via the despised Slavic (Russian) forces.
The Russian soldiers were not gentle conquerors, and the women of Berlin and other Russian occupied areas suffered a prolonged round of rape and abuse. Further, after the War, German borders were shifted and reduced, with large sections given to Poland (which in turn lost territory to Russia). The German populations in the reassigned areas where driven out, as well as many ethnic Germans who lived in various enclaves in Eastern Europe. Perhaps another 500,000 Germans died in that forced migration to the remaining part of Germany. (Does this sound similar to what happened to the Jews of the First Temple destruction?)
Allied planners feared guerrilla warfare by Nazi troops immediately after the War. In fact, Nazi propaganda in the last weeks of the war promised as much. Nothing of the sort took place. The German people were truly shell shocked and wanted no more war.  Further, as the revelations of the brutality of the concentration camps became known, and the extent of the Nazi Genocide revealed, many Germans were shocked and began experiencing repentance. The idolatries of the Frederick the Great militarism and Bismarck’s racism were largely broken.[5]
Significantly, in the first post-War election (1948) there was a possibility that the Communist Party would win. But there was a spiritual turn around brought about mainly by the campaign of a German American Lutheran pastor and evangelist, Frank Buchman. He had founded a precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous, called the “Oxford Movement,” and then the anti-communist “Moral Rearmament Movement.” He campaigned and persuaded many Germans to vote for democracy and the new Christian Democrat Union party. His work was especially important in reversing Communist Party gains among the miners in the Ruhr.[6] The CDU won the early post-War elections and went on to rule West Germany into the 1960s.
Indeed, most Germans have repented of their militarist and Nazi past.  But that did not convert into a more robust and active form of Christianity. Cessationsim, in its Protestant and Catholic varieties, and theological liberalism, remained the norm, continuing to weaken the churches. Germany, along with Europe, slipped into ever increasing atheism, materialism and sexual libertinism.
That the manifestation of the wrath of God did not result in the full conversion of Germany is not surprising. Mass revivals and conversions of any sort are always incomplete, and need to be refreshed. American has had seasons of great revivals and yet its current spiritual state is  lamentable. The wrath of God did succeed in shocking the German people out of militarism, ant-Semitism and Nazism.  And in the working of God’s mercy, the Germans resumed their national existence as hard-working, scientific and inventive people. But God would not force them into a revived Christianity.  That is the work of the Church through revived and Spirit-filled Christian leaders – mostly absent since the Berlin Declaration.
The Sunni-Shia War as the Wrath of God:
Before I proceed to outline why I believe that the present Sunni-Shia War is a manifestation of the wrath of God, I need to say some things that are radically politically incorrect.
Secular academics, and not a few Christians, believe that Islam is to be ranked as a “great” religion. It is most often classified as one of the three “Aramaic” religions, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. Islam’s origins in Judaism and early Christianity, and the Koran’s similarities and points of contact with the Bible seem to affirm this classification.
But this is a purely historical and totally superficial view which lacks discernment. In both Judaism and Christianity the scriptures are incarnational, whereas the Koran is a mediumistic document.  For example, we see in the Epistles a wide variety of styles, different vocabulary and focuses of thought. Paul’s letters have run on sentences, but the letter of Hebrews is elegant and written in sophisticated Greek, etc. All this signifies very individual human authors that the Holy Spirit utilized and inspired while respecting the autonomy, memories and uniqueness of the authors.
Not so with the Koran. The Koran came from as a series of saying recorded from the moth of Mohamed as he was in an altered state of consciousness, and claiming to receive specific utterances from the angel Gabriel. We have nothing of the Prophets’ own words and thoughts. It is all from the spirit that dictated to him.  In blunt terms, Mohamed was an unintentional medium, and the Koran is the fruit of spiritism.
The Angel Gabriel whispering to Mohamed
Because it is a mediumistic document, we can assume that it is demonically laced, as all such products of mediumship.  Back in the 1970sI was into the New Age Movement and read several spiritualist works enthusiastically, including the Seth books then popular. These books had a lot of nice moralistic advice, such as not eating meat and being kind to others to avoid bad karma, but the real demonic agenda was subtly attached. It was to accept a religious system in which repentance was absent, a Savior missing, and Worship of God replaced by meditation.
Similarly when one reads the Koran one finds much good moral advice (which often turns into legalistic bondage). Unlike modern spiritualism, there is a strong command to worship the One God. But there are missing elements of the Judeo-Christian scriptures which leads to spiritual ineffectiveness and destructiveness. As Pope Benedict mentioned in one of his early discourses on Islam, the Koran has a concept of forceful expansion through war, which contradicts the character of God ad Father and the One who loves all his creatures.[7]
Salient to the failure of the “Arab Spring” to establish viable democratic is the absence in the Koran of the concept of mutual submission as called forth by Paul: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) Nor does Islam command its follower to forgive and love ones enemies as Christ did. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”(Matt 5:44)
Without getting into further details of Islamic religion, let me go straight to my assertion that the wrath of God is now manifesting through the Sunni-Shia War. Why would this be so, and why now? It seems that the past seventy years have changed the spiritual situation of Islam for the worse to the point where God’s wrath is practically inevitable.
Islamic nations have shifted from tolerance of Jews to a universal hatred of Jews and the Jewish state of Israel. For centuries Jews lived in Mid East countries in relative peace. They could worship openly and without risk of disturbance or persecution. Now there is a universal hatred of the Jews and passionate desire to eliminate the Jewish state.
The change is reminiscent of what happened in Germany in the 20th Century. Certainly anti-Semitism was present in all European nations as legal codes and popular opinion - and in the murderous pogroms and expulsions of the Middle Ages. But in the 19th century that began to weaken with the rise of democratic governments. In Germany the Kaiser was careful to protect Jews from any sort of government abuse or mob actions that one found, for instance, in Imperial Russia. The Rise of the Nazis changed all of that. Pogroms were in, as in the infamous “crystal night” of 9-10 November, 1938, when Jewish stores and synagogues were smashed and looted. The Nazis enacted vicious anti-Semitic laws, leading ultimately to the infamous Holocaust.
In sum, being violently ant-Semetic is an invitation to the wrath of God.
Arab Islamic peoples have similarly shifted from being tolerant of Christians to a spectrum of intolerance ranging from harassment to persecution and murder. Christians in the Middle East have been and continue to be harassed and chased out of their ancestral lands at an alarming rate, and the overall proportion of Christians living in the middle East has decreased from about 25% to about 7% just in a few decades. The Egyptian pogroms against Coptic Christians after the recent anti-Morsi coup was nothing less than another “crystal night.”

Radical Islam seriously distorts the image of God.  The third commandment warns against the wrong use of God’s name, and this indicated that God does not take lightly insults or distortions about Him. Paul in Romans 2 shows us that we can see at least some of God’s characteristics in the beautiful created universe. This indicates to us that God is a God of love. Radical Islam seems to confuse God and Satan. Islamic radicals are perpetually angry, aggressive and violent, and believe God is pleased with that.  That is a distortion of God, a “misnaming” of Him in an active sense, and something that must provoke His wrath.
If my analysis is correct, that the present Sunni Shia war is the beginning of the wrath of God upon Islam, then we should see in the coming weeks a continuation and expansion of that war. Sunni radicals from all over the world who have been excited and encourages by the ISIS blitzkrieg in Mosel and other places will continue to stream into ISIS ranks. But the other side will not roll over and die. Already Iran’s Shias are entering into Iraq to stem the ISIS Sunni advance, and the Iraq government is mounting a counter-offensive with Shia militia to reinforce the Army. Given the character of the ISIS leadership and the Shia militias there is little chance this will end in a negotiated settlement. It looks like this will be long campaign, something like the stalemated trench war in WWI that left both sided exhausted. In part it may also be a replay several instances in the Old Testament where the enemies of Israel turned on each other and annihilated each other out without Israel having to lift a finger.  
The mercy of God on Islam
But where is the mercy of God in the Sunni Shia War? We cannot precisely know now, but if it the wrath of God it must end in something spiritually good for the Arabs. That might be the collapse of Islam itself, just as the Nazi state disappeared, and the rise of Arab Christendom. [8]
This is a grad claim and speculation, and almost impossible to imagine.  But things are happening in the Arab and Muslim world that would have been inconceivable just a generation ago. There are mass conversions to Christianity that numbers in the millions. This is mostly hidden from the public because the conversions do not take place in huge rallies or public places like the typical Billy Graham service. Rather, conversions from Islam to Christianity happen mostly one person or family at a time, and in small group fellowships or in the privacy of their homes.
Two forces are driving this torrent of mass conversions. First, Jesus is appearing in dreams and visions among hundreds of thousands of Muslims, inviting them to believe in Him. The Muslims are not cessationists and understand that dreams and visions are spiritually significant. Thus when Jesus appears to them, they take note. The numbers of these vision and dream invitations is totally without precedent in the centuries of Islamic history. [9]
The second factor is electronic delivery of the Gospel via satellites and the internet. Arabs and Muslims, like all peoples, love multi-channel television. Satellite dishes have become ubiquitous all over the Islamic world, even in such places as Iran and Saudi Arabia where the proclamation of the Gospel is a capital offense. Dozens of Christian ministries have arisen which broadcast the Gospel throughout the Muslim world via satellite. The most famous and effective is that of the Coptic priest, Fr. Zacharias Botors, who has had up to sixty million viewer per broadcast. His downloadable and free Evangelical pamphlets are available wherever there is an internet connection.[10]
This brings us to the “operative” part of the blog. What can Christians do to hurry the conversion of the Islamic peoples to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Part of the answer is to support with finances the Evangelical ministries that are presently operating so effectively,  but the main part for every Christian and every church is prayer. The following are several suggested prayer focuses:
  • Pray the Sunni-Shia war be fully reported in the Muslim world, and that the Islamist atrocities, such as the ISIS mass executions of civilians and surrendered soldiers, bring a sense of disgust to many Muslims.
  • Pray that moderate Muslims everywhere begin to “connect the dots” and understand what they are seeing on the TV news. That Islam is an intrinsically violent religion and that the Koran cannot be the book of a loving God.
  • Pray that those who experience dreams and visions from the Lord will have the courage to obey His voice and accept Him as son of God.
  • Pray that the Christian satellite ministries all gain increasing favor and viewing among the Muslim people, but especially the Arabs.
  • Pray for the ongoing Christian awakenings that are breaking out in many Muslim nations.
  • Pray for the safety and multiplication of the Muslim “secret church” in its many locations.
  • Pray that the wrath of God in the Sunni Shia War will soon bear fruit in the mercy of God to the Muslim peoples.
    Announcement:

    The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.




    The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

    My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

    Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]



[1] My critics accuse me of being overly speculative in my theology. I agree. But on the other hand all theology is speculative. Orthodox theology, such as St. Augustine’s understanding of the Trinity was an initially speculative system that subsequently gained general approval.
[2] Norman Davies, God’s Play Ground, A History of Poland (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 124.

[3] Matthew Rose, “Karl Barth’s Failure,” First Things, June 2014, at: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/06/karl-barths-failure
[4] Reece Howells, a famous British missionary and intercessor, prayed fervently for a quick end to WWII and lamented the huge casualties it was producing in the Eastern Front. God answered that Russia too was being punished for its atrocities. See Norman Grubb, Rees Howell Intercessor (Lutterworth: Christian Literature Crusade, 1952).
[5] Of course, not immediately and not completely. About 1955 my brother dated a beautiful German girl who had come to the US right after the war. She had no repentance about the war and only lamented that Hitler did not take his own advice about not fighting a two front war.
[6] Garth Lean, Frank Buchmn: A Life (London: Constable, 1985), 360ff.
[7] Pope Benedict XVI, Rogenburg lecture, August 2006. Many in the Islamic world, which knows nothing of the prophetic element of criticism, went wild in demonstrations and riots over the Pope’s statements.
[8] In an important and prophetic work, George Otis, Jr., son of the pioneer of Christian radio and television to the Arab world, predicted Islam would cave in suddenly, just as Communism did. See  George Otis, Jr., The Last of the Giants (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 1991).
[9] Tom Doyle, Dreams and Visions; Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim world? (Nashville :Thomas Nelson, 2012).
[10] For my blog posting on Fr. Botors’ incredible ministry see: http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2013/07/fr-zakaria-botros-apostle-to-muslims.html







Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Spiritual Decline and Fall of the Republican Party: Is it time to form a Christian Center party?

Note: This is a spiritual blog on a political issue. It deals with the spiritual decline of the Republican Party. It has been the most difficult (and personally sad) blog posting I have ever written, as I have been a devoted Republican most of my adult life.  Many of you will disagree with parts or all of it. I am anxious to see your comments.

Twenty years ago my wife and I were attending Sunday church service, and the reading was from Luke 18:1-4, about the unjust judge and the persistent widow. As the reader read the line where the judge thought, “‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think…” I interjected in a stage whisper, “He’s a Democrat.” Everyone around laughed in approval. That’s the way most Evangelical Christians thought (and some still do).  That is, the Democratic Party is the party of the ungodly, supporting abortions, deviant sexuality, radical secularism, etc., while the Republican is the party of America’s Christian heritage and values.

Several years later I was an ordained minister and pastor to a Hispanic/Anglican congregation. Just before the presidential election of 2000 (Bush vs. Gore) I preached about politics (unusual for me) and addressed the handful of persons in my congregation who had the right to vote – most were undocumented or only had green cards. I said that as Hispanic Americans they had to choose between their ultimate spiritual welfare in the Republican Party which was pro-life, and spiritually (semi-) righteous, or the immediate economic benefits offered to the Hispanics in welfare and other entitlements which reflect the policies of the Democratic Party. Bush won that election, and won many Hispanic votes from his understanding of Hispanic issues and his record as governor of Texas.

Two years into the G. W. Bush presidency I was invited to say a prayer at State Republican prayer breakfast, sponsored by a Pentecostal mega-church in Atlanta. I was the token Hispanic preacher, and had my turn at saying a prayer for the Nation. At the time was still a solid Republican, but I was disturbed with my conversation at the breakfast table with madam chairperson of the State Republican party. She dismissed any notion that it was time to initiate a constitutional amendment allowing prayer in public places and in schools. She felt that “would come later,” and what was needed first was revision of the tax code to be pro-business, etc. I was saddened by this spiritual insensitivity. For many years I strongly believed that the series of Supreme Court rulings in 1962-1963 ending prayer in the public schools, and ultimately in the public square, was the key in impelling America towards radical secularization and, ultimately, Paganization. Further, that time was running out to reverse those rulings. The last people are dying who remember how basically moral and peaceful American schools were because they had an essentially Christian setting and began the school day with prayer. This gave a transcendent, extra-personal reason for life and study which is now missing.[1]  

More ominously, she was adamantly opposed to amnesty for Hispanics, and referred to my undocumented Mexicans “law-breakers.” I did not argue with her, but I wondered if she, like most Americans, went over the speed limit every time she hit the interstate, and only considered how far over the limit to go before the police would take notice. How many of us do that and feel it OK to break a law for the minor gain of a few minutes gain in travel time? As Christians we know we are all sinners, and need to own up to also being “lawbreakers”– at least sometimes. The Hispanics in my congregation had crossed the border illegally for serious reasons, the survival of their families. I wondered if madam chairperson would seek across some border if her family’s welfare was in danger.

This is not to negate the really serious issues of border control, and the fact that for many Anglos, especially those living in the Border States, feel their very national identity slighted and marginalized by the massive Hispanic migration. This is not necessarily racism as some critics claim, but is natural to national identity.  For Example, the French have been very sensitive to the overwhelming presence of American movies and culture and make great efforts to keep their language free of Anglo words. That is not racism, but a real issue of cultural integrity and identity exists that has been little addressed in serious political discussions.

I did say to madam chairperson a few words to the effect that many of the Hispanics in my congregation were ‘natural’ Republicans. They were forming small business as mechanics, house-cleaners, and gardening, etc. and favored minimum regulations and other free-enterprise policies basic to Republican ideology. They were also strongly Christian and saw abortion as sin. I suggested the Republican Party should take care to win over as many Hispanics as possible, as a demographic bubble would soon make them a voting block to recon with.

From Democrat to Republican:

I had been a Republican most of my adult life, but I began as a Democrat. My father and mother, adults during the Depression, always voted Democratic and I remember Dad frequently dismissing Republicans as the “party of the rich,” and I mostly agreed. In fact, I campaigned for Jack Kennedy as a high-school junior. But I became a Republican as the Democratic Party turned left during the Vietnam War era. I volunteered for that war, as I believed the struggle against communism was as important as the fight against Nazism and Fascism had been just decades before.  I vowed never to vote Democratic again as Democratic Politicians increasingly mocked the Cold War effort against communism, culminating in the speaker of the House and the Democratic majority siding against the Regan Administration and for the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

By the time of G. W. Bush’s second term I was having second thoughts. The country desperately needed general health insurance and coverage for everyone, and not just dumping the poor in the emergency rooms. I was under VA medical care and my wife under Medicare, so it was not a personal issue, but rather from observing friends who could not afford adequate insurance or medical care. Why was the concern of the Bush Administration all about helping the business sector? Certainly, that sector generates jobs, but what about an upgrade in the minimum wage? Was my father correct about the Republican Party being the party of the rich?

But forward to the now. The Democratic Party continues its slide into extreme secularism which is turning into open anti-Christianity. This has been partly accelerated by the unnoticed triumph of political and psychological solipsism – where strongly held ideas are granted the statues of truth without any check with reality. This means that any passionately felt idea/inclination is awarded normality, as in the idea that a person believes he is really “trapped” in the body of another sex. Thus ultimately, the government has to pay for surgeries and treatments to conform with that idea. There seems to be no limit to this creeping solipsist “I think and have strong emotions, therefore it is true” mode. Its latest manifestation is persons who believe their “real self” does not include some of their limbs, which should be cut off.  This is called “somatoparaphelia” and is gaining traction. Perhaps in a few decades we will see government funded amputations and special vehicles for persons with these solipsistic fantasies.[2] 

Concurrently, year by year, and accelerating under the Obama administration, American culture continues to become coarser, as there is no longer a Biblical base to say that something is indecent. For example, note how the issue of woman in combat positions was handled. The discussion was all about employment opportunities and the equality of women (a confusion between equality and identity). Not a word was said about the issue of the threat to modesty or morality. Soldiers often live or are transported in very close quarters, and eat, sleep and poop closely, all violating modesty if it is done with a mixed sex unit, besides tempting to fornication. Paganized secularism has no concern or category for either issues. 

Libertarianism as spiritual nihilism:

A decade ago the Republican Party put up some resistance to the solipsist LGBT agenda, but that has mostly ceased. But the spiritual collapse of the Republican Party has come from other sources also. One of the most important is radical Libertarian philosophy. Up to the current decade Libertarianism had its own political manifestation in the Libertarian Party, but it now has become mainline within Republicans. The other manifestation is the Tea Party movement, which also includes a large dose of the Any Rand form of libertarian philosophy called “Objectivism.”

The Libertarian idea is that Government should be as un-intrusive as possible and forbid only those things that would harm others, or allow for one person to coerce another. Also, Libertarians believe government can force valid contracts to be executed. Such government functions as mail delivery, park ownership and social security, etc., should be eliminated or in the hands of privately owned entities. Drug consumption, even of mind altering drugs should be left to the individual and certainly not criminalized. In its pure form the libertarian idea of government has been termed the “night watchmen” mode of government. With all government functions not directly related to protection from violence or coercion ended, or left to private entities. Certainly, good arguments could be made for some of these positions. As a boy I recall how garbage collection was universally a local government operated activity, and often resulted in strikes and disruption of services. That has mostly ended with the now almost universal practice of contracting out that service. On that specific issue Libertarianism was correct.

But as a universal principal Libertarianism can be destructive and become an idolatry. Libertarianism is attractive to many young people in America for the reason that they are blessed by living in a country that has been non-Libertarian and has believed in a government which can organize and operate for the common good. The sacrifices of our predecessors, in the way of taxes for bridges, highways and public facilities have made modern life pleasant for us. It is enlightening to go to a country with poor initial infrastructure to see exactly how awful Libertarian politics and policies can be. Such has happed to the unfortunate Central American country of Honduras, whose government adopted libertarian policies since 2009. That government has created a dump of a country (it was not in good shape to start with) with unrepaired roads and near zero public services.[3]

In theory, there can be an authentic “Christian libertarianism,” which is moderate and I am sure many Conservative Christians hold to this opinion. Many conservative Republicans would point to Senator Ted Cruz as an example of combining the better parts of Libertarian philosophy with Christian morals and values. But Cruz’ record as a non-compromiser, and as one of the most disliked figures in the Senate point to a superficial mix rather than creative synthesis. Ultimately Libertarianism is biblically shaky, and probably no better than the Left’s attempt to combine Marxism with Christianity in “Liberation theology.”

The Biblical view of government:

In the Old Testament we have only a pattern for a theocracy, where the church and state are one. This is of no use to inform the modern government situation. However, in the New Testament we see the Church separate from, and independent of, the state in a relationship that directly speaks to the modern world. Paul had some brief, but telling things to say about government in the letter of Romans. For one, the state has legitimate authority to wield the “sword” to punish evildoers – all libertarians would agree here.  He also insisted that that government officers be respected, honored, and prayed for, for they are ultimately God’s servants. Taxes must be paid (Romans 13:6) and Paul doesn’t differentiate between taxes that you agree with or not. None of this has been of much concern to Libertarian Republicans in the last decade.[4]

Significantly, for Paul one of the tasks of government is the commending and rewarding good civic behavior (Rm 13:4). This was more common in the Ancient world than it is today. Christians of the fundamentalist persuasion should argue this be carried out to the letter, and if for instance, there is a large military  bureaucracy to govern national defense there should be similar, perhaps equal, bureaucracy to identify and reward good civic behavior – a Pentagon of “do-good” bureaucrats snooping around to find out who has been “naughty or nice.”[5]  I am joking, but with a serious point, Romans 13:4 is a tip off that the night-watchmen theory of government is not God’s plan for civil government. Government is for positive things other than safety. [6]  
  
I personally find the night watchman theory of government destructive, and by traveling overseas have learned to appreciate many instances of good government and good government projects in the U.S. that are way beyond the Libertarian night-watchmen ideal. 

Libertarianism before it had a name:

Libertarianism, without that name, was already part of Republican ideology back in the 1930s and the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Republicans opposed most New Deal measures because they went beyond anything described in the constitution, as in the Social Security program and the creation of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC). That opposition mostly dissipated by the end of World War II with the election of Dwight Eisenhower (1952) as the first Republican President since 1933. Eisenhower, unlike Senator Taft, the establishment Republican nominee of 1951, had no interest in repealing New Deal programs. In fact, President “Ike” pushed forward such new government programs as the interstate highway system which was modeled after the German autobahn which he saw and admired during the War.

Another example of a government program that did immense good was the CCC. I was born in 1943, too young to remember the years of the dust bowl directly. But the vast good of the CCC and other federal programs for soil conservation came home to me decades ago at a summer Christian camp meeting in South Georgia. There two elderly women there began reminiscing about their childhood days, and how ugly the local landscape was, as there was not a tree in sight. All the land was all given to cotton farming. But the work of the CCC and other government programs led to tree hedges, soil conservation, limited cultivation, etc., all of which restored the beauty and fertility of the land. Neither the CCC not the various farm programs would fit a Libertarian definition of the proper role of government, but both did tremendous good. It is hard to see how individual self-interest could have carried out such programs, as each farmer would have been under pressure to produce and sell as much cotton as he could, and could not gratuitously plant trees (that would take year to grow) or let his land go fallow without some sort of compensation.

With climate change now a major threat, it is important to appreciate the positive role that government must have to confront the issue. A recent article in Newsweek highlighted how California, through vigorous government regulations, forced power companies to become leaders in renewable energy practices. California now leads the world, and it the model for the world, in how to achieve economic growth with (mostly) renewable technology, principally wind and solar.[7]  Paul would probably recommend California’s Govern Brown be given a government sponsored  ceremony and olive wreath of recognition, as was the custom in the Roman world. What California modeled is far beyond any conceivable Libertarian understanding of government, and more resembles FDR’s New Deal regulations on agriculture.

Certainly it is true that government programs tend to expand, continue past their usefulness, and create wasteful bureaucracies. A Republican Party which is vigilant about bloated bureaucracy and wasteful projects is certainly needed and beneficial.  Democrats are often careless about this, as bureaucrats tend to vote Democratic and thus create a useful voting bloc. We should be mindful of what has happened to such countries as Greece, Uruguay and Italy where wasteful bureaucracies have become especially onerous.

Ayn Rand “Objectivism”:

An extreme and atheistic form of Libertarianism was created by the philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand.  She called it “Objectivism” for its dependence of sense data and reason, and might be seen as a materialist extreme of Aristotelian philosophy.[8] In her system selfishness, properly managed, is the supreme virtue and best organizing principal of society.[9] Her heroes demonstrate this in her popular (and artless) novels such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.  In her universe people divided into “producers” such as business entrepreneurs, and engineers who create wealth and live out their human potential, versus the “parasites” who do no economic good but live off the creativity of the producers.[10]


Any Rand and her most popular novel



Many Christians, trying to find an alternative to the statist philosophies common in Europe and among Liberal politicians and thinkers, think Ayn Rand Objectivism can be Christianized, but this is hardly possible.[11]  Any Rand was consistently and bitterly anti-Christian. She particularly despised Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, since it honored the week and the meek, and routinely fulminated against C. S. Lewis.[12]  To the contrary, Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy and ethics formed the basis of Anton La Vet infamous work The Satanic Bible.[13] (One does not even have to go to the New Testament to see how God commands us to help the poor and the week, see for instance Leviticus 19.)

Objectivism has many followers all over the world and is unfortunately influencing corporations, big and small.  An example is the elevation in 2008 of Eddie Lampert, an Ayn Rand devotee, to be CEO of Sears/Kmart. He believed that the Objectivist “virtues” of selfishness and pure competition would increase the corporation’s productivity and bottom line. He divided the Sears/Kmart into competing sub-groups, each responsible for increased profitability. This in fact created a hellish atmosphere of cut-throat competition that dramatically contrasted with the work ethos of the traditional Sears. Profits and sales declined, management morale plummeted, and ultimately, Sears/Kmart may have to go bankrupt.[14]

By happenstance just as I was finishing this piece I ran across a series of articles, “This is Our City,” done by Christianity Today on how individuals a and organizations are making cities in America better by following biblical patters of love and cooperation. The most recent article highlights a CEO of a large electrical contracting company who has made it her task to encourage and hire persons with less than excellent education and mentor them into responsibility and success – the very opposite of Ayn Rand’s “creative selfishness.”[15]

Any Rand philosophy, ethics and politics might be described as a demonic opposite of Marxism and Communism. Ayn Rand was a youth in Russia when the Russian Revolution broke out and she and her family suffered much under communism. She escaped Russia in 1924, and vowed to fight its evil philosophy where she could. Unfortunately she was an atheist and had no inkling of the spiritual dynamics of Marxists, or of her own thought. In Marxist ideology the working man is the saint and hero, and the business man (bourgeois) is the villain. In Objectivism the businessman is the hero of society, and the workers, more than likely, ignorant louts who deserve low wages. In Marxism it is the trans-individual entity, the state or the local “collective” that plans and carries out useful and socially activities, and the individual is warned constantly against selfishness. Again Objectivism is a blanket inversion of this – only the individual can do creative work. As such Objectivism is not a remedy for the collectivization of Marxism, but an inverted caricature of it. The true Christian view is that all social groups are 100% sinners, with some businessmen as well sanctified, most not, and some really villainous, and the “workers” a similar mix of well sanctified and not, or villainous. Similarly, creativity can come from sole individuals, but also from well integrated teams of persons working for a common goal.

Marxists and those in the extreme left suffer from the delusion (and gain a self-esteem payoff) that by being “non-bourgeois” they are more enlightened and righteous than others. Ayn Rand followers have the opposite delusion for being “producers.”  Both patterns are spiritually destructive and sinful as they lead to rash judgments on those who belong to the supposed non-favored groups, and lack self- criticism on their own motivations and actions.

I recall that just after the last congressional elections, when the Republicans consolidated their hold on the Congress and attained a majority in the Senate, the chairman of the Republican Party was interviewed by NPR. He was both hostile and candid, and used Ayn Rand terms to categorize the Republicans as “producers.” I shuddered at this spiritual self-deception. 

The Tea Party and Libertarianism as tax-cutting:

Libertarianism “with teeth” was brought into the Republican mainstream mainly by one person, Grover Glenn Norquist, who founded the “Americans for Tax Reform.”  Norquist’s Libertarianism is of the full-fledged “night-watchmen” variety. His desire is to revoke most Government programs that are “unconstitutional” including those which go back to Teddy Roosvelt’s administration, such as the National Park Service. Since such popular programs are hard to attack front up, the next best thing is to stave the Federal Government of tax revenue so it has to slowly reduce or shut down programs.
To this end he has managed a highly successful campaign to get Republican elected officials to pledge to absolutely no tax increases. By 2012 an amazing 95% of all Republican congressmen had signed on to the pledge. The no-tax pledge became a moral absolute for many Republican voters and their elected officials. No new taxes (and tax reductions) became unquestionably a good thing, and associated with the label “true conservative.” In other words the no-tax policy became an idol, instead of just a usable policy to limit waste. The evil fruit of this idolatry has been seen in the gridlock of the American congress. When tax issues become an idol it is difficult or impossible to compromise. The damage of gridlock is preferred by politicians who fear the wrath of their conservative voters if they compromise with the Democratic opposition.

Night-watchman libertarianism, the Norquist no-tax pledge, and Ayn Rand’s philosophy all came together in the Tea Party movement. Unfortunately, many in the Tea party are sincere Christians even as they carry placards sprouting Any Rand slogans. [16] As a historian I understand, but dislike, the Tea Party’s appropriation of glamour and heroism of the original group that dumped British Tea into Boston harbor. The Original Tea Party Patriots did not object to taxes, only to “taxation without representation” –  a huge difference from the present movement.  Colonial Americans were used to running their local affairs and raised their own taxes as needed without much fuss.

In Georgia (my home state) the Tea Party led a campaign to defeat an important local tax initiative for the repair of roads and bridges, much needed in our state. Their official statement against the tax increase was that public works are often wasteful. This is awful reasoning, as every government, or private, construction project has some waste (have you ever notice the lumber waste at a home construction site). Waste, should be routinely monitored, but the possibility of waste is not a reasonable argument. The real issue was the idol of no-taxes, even in the face of need local needs, and nothing to do with the Federal Government.

Personally, I have never been impressed with the Libertarians argument that individuals always make better choices with their money than government. Did the Tea party members use the tax money they saved for some common good purpose? I am highly suspicious. Most likely they spent their money in Libertarian self-interest with little concern for the common good.

The Present Spiritual Crisis in the Republican Party

The last few months have seen a vast literature on the Rise of Donald Trump, and how such a person of dubious character, nebulous ideas and exaggerated bravado could have achieved prominence in the Republican Party. Much of the analysis has focused on such things as the failure of the Republican establishment to recognize real issues among its constituency, such as the effect of trade pacts that benefit the company headquarters’ staff and stockholders, but ship the manufacturing jobs overseas. All of this is true, and certainly it is good that the issues have come up.

But in this essay I am arguing that the rise of Trump, and the vulgarity and sensationalism of the present primary campaign, could only have occurred in a nation that has lost its roots in Christian ethics. This happened in events (and court rulings) mostly outside of the domain of the Republican Party. However, the Republican Party shares in this sin by not mobilizing a reversal to those tragic decisions, and prioritizing tax and other policies over overruling the courts on this one.

Many of the current problems in the Republican Party are due to its leadership gap. The present leadership has been so weakened spiritually by the steady separation from its Christian roots and the infiltration of Libertarian ideology that they have not noticed how dysfunctional and unattractive they have become. The New Your Times columnist David Brooks, who, inversely, has shown and increased sensitivity to the spiritual and ethical issues of politics, recently described how Republicans and  American Conservatives as a whole have morally declined. He noted that classical conservatism of the Edmund Burke variety (Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, etc.) concerned itself with the greater common good, and how to conserve traditions and institutions that encourage the common good. Libertarianism, particularly the Any Rand variety has destroyed that strand of conservatism. Libertarian Republicans and the Tea Party’s misguided attacks on the traditional patterns of compromise have created a generation of incompetent politicians and gridlock.[17]

Sadly, this is a situation is probably irreversible and sadly contrasts with the Republican Party of earlier decades. A key factor in the difference is a that from the 1950s, American conservatives and Republicans were graced with the leadership, intelligence and wit of William Buckley Jr. (1925-2008), founder of the National Review. As a devote Catholic, he clearly saw the underlying spiritual aspects of the political area, and battled against harmful extremisms that haunted the Republican Party edge. Early on in his career as political columnist he quit the conservative political journal American Mercury, because of its increasing anti-Semitism (a root spiritual dysfunction).[18] But Buckley’s greatest gift to the Republican Party was in his leadership in opposing an extremist group, the John Birch Society. This ultra-conservative group thrived on conspiracy theories, and believed, for instance, that President Eisenhower was a “conscious tool of the Community conspiracy on America.”[19] And, as another example, the Birchers believed that the plan to fluoridate drinking water to prevent tooth decay, then starting to be implemented, was also a communist conspiracy to weaken and poison the American people.[20]

Buckley led the struggle to counter this wacko, but increasingly influential and popular group. In 1961 he organized a secret meeting of Republican luminaries, including Russell Kirk and Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was by then known as “Mr. Conservative,” and went on to become the Republican presidential nominee in 1964. Goldwater admired the passion and dedication of the Joh Birchers, but understood thy held serious delusions. Buckley’s group organized a multipronged attack on the John Birchers. Goldwater toured the country praising the patriotism of the Birchers, but pointing out the logical and historical fallacies of their doctrines. Buckley published a series of blistering attacks on the John Birch Society and its leader John Ealsh, in the National Review. All this had the effect of marginalizing the Society from Republican ranks.[21] 

Buckley’s astute leadership, clear thinking, and base Christian values saved the Republican Party from being overcome by extremism. Significantly, Buckley often called himself a Libertarian, but his brand was both thoughtful and moderate. He constantly opposed Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and its creeping influence in Republican circles. Sadly, no one took on his mantel after he died.

Another Buckley gift to the cause of conservatism and the Republican Party was his famous TV program, “Firing Line” (1966-1999). This program featured vigorous (and almost universally polite) debates between Buckley and liberal politician or academics. Their views were exchanged and thoughtfully countered, with Buckley winning on most occasions.[22]  The program was structured like a collegiate debate exercise, and had its roots in Medieval Christian tradition (of which Buckley was aware) of debating theological and philosophical issues. In the Christian Medieval University the two debaters began by summarizing their opponent’s position to the satisfaction of that opponent. Thus it was clear that each side understood the other’s viewpoint, and not just a caricature of the other’s position. Then the real debate began when each side tried to bring in superior reasoning or new facts to bear, with the intention of converting the opposition. Ridicule and caricature had no place in this tradition.

The stars of today’s conservative talk radio are a faint substitute of Buckley’s Firing Line. They never giving meaningful air-time to the opposition’s best thinkers. Rather, conservative talk radio centers on the opinions of the commentator. For instance, Rush Limbaugh, the key model of conservative talk radio, allows some opposition speakers in his program, but only for very short segments, and he never invites the opposition thinkers to share his microphone for a concentrated debate.  Limbaugh’s programs are well done, very entertaining and his commentary is often insightful, but the model for rational, sustained debate has been forgotten. The effect is that the present day Conservative Libertarian and Tea Party public has no idea of what a good debate is like, or what the real motive and reasoning of the opposition is. Significantly, even liberal commentators are now lamenting the absence of Mr. Buckley and his influence on the Republican Party.[23]
Is it time to form a Christian Center Party?
In this article I have concentrated on the sins and misdemeanors of the Republicans and have not much elaborated my view that the Democratic Party is now essentially radically secular and anti-Christian. That analysis must wait. I only need to say here that the Christian now can find no comfortable home in either political party. Both parties’ “baggage” of excesses and immoderate ideologies makes them untenable to carry out any righteous reforms that would be the interest of the Christian.
We Christians are at a point now where Abolitionists were in 1856. The Whig Party, which should have been their natural home, fudged on the slavery issue, and thus destroyed itself by cowardice. Similarly, I believe the Republican Party, in its Libertarian confusion, has rejected true righteousness for delusional virtues of no compromise on taxes, and in the case of Objectivism, the demonic “virtues” of selfishness and unbridled competition.
The Abolitionists formed a new party, the Republican Party. Note, this did not mean a sinless party. For new political groups, just like old ones, are made up of 100% sinners. The new Republican Party did unload some of the political baggage of the Whigs and was able to carry forward the cause of the restriction of, and eventual abolition of , slavery. The Republicans’ sin pattern manifested almost immediately during the conduct of the Civil War, where greed and carelessness soon became all too common among war contractors.  Thus the Republican Party came into American history with a mix of idealism, greed and focus on the business class that has limited or damaged its ability to govern gracefully.
A new Christian Center party (CCP) cannot expect to be sinless, and, without specific prayer, will certainly fall into the exaggerations and pseudo virtues that all political parties manifest. But it can also be the vehicle of sound, good, or at least non-destructive policies.
The CCP (like the Christian Democratic Union which ruled Germany after World War II, could take a central point between libertarianism and anti-Government (and anti-common good) ideology  of the now totally conservative Republican party, and the statist, extreme secularist and welfare focused ideology of the Democratic Party. It could serve to mediate and cast swing votes between the two in cases where one of the other parties has creative and good legislative proposals. For one, I am thinking of aligning with the Democrats for the reforms necessary in making universal health care a feasible reality. Further on, aligning with the Libertarian/Republican party on limiting and cutting back on ineffective government programs, and limiting the role of the courts on philosophical and moral judgments. The CCP central goal should be reversing the creeping Paganization and anti-Christian tone of the government. For instance, the laws which have made political correctness mandated in colleges and universities, and which act as a substitute for true morality. Or, for another example, in the feminist drive to make all Armed Forces slots gender neutral.

Additional Resources:

A review of new book on William Buckley and his defense of Conservatism agaisnt extremism, Ian Rand and conspiracy theories HERE

An excelent article on Any Rand and the Republican Party from Patheos HERE

A master article by David Brooks of the NYT: HERE

Another terrific article from First Things on the need for civic minded conservatism, HERE

On the political and moral virtures of the old Republican establishment, from First Things: HERE

An article on the hedonistic and destructive personal morality of Mrs. Rand and her close followers. HERE
Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.




The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]




[1]See William F. Buckley’s, Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith (New York: Doubleday: 1997). For many readers, the first years of the GW Bush presidency are a distant memory, but it was a time when the Evangelical/Catholic alliance was strong, and a prayer-amendment could have passed.  Madam Chairperson’s position made sense to me only when I read the article by R.R Reno on how the Republican establishment was using its Cristian base without really meeting its concerns. R. R. Reno, “Our Challenged,” First Things August 2012.   http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/08/our-challenges     
[2] See the key article on this solipsism: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/12/a-new-way-to-be-mad/304671/  I have dealt with the  issue of solipsism in sexuality and its demonic base  in the blog: The Anglican Pentecostal, “The Demonic Origins and Confusion of the Transgender Issue,” http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-demonic-origins-and-confusion-of.html?_sm_au_=iMV0nHPZWQRVN6F6
[3] Edwin Lyngor, “My Libertarian Vacation Nightmare,” Salon (March 2, 2015).  http://www.salon.com/2015/03/02/my_libertarian_vacation_nightmare_how_ayn_rand_ron_paul_their_groupies_were_all_debunked/   This article is particularly significant, as it was written by an American Libertarian (now ex-Libertarian) who traveled to Honduras to see just how well Libertarian polices could work.
[4] I find the disrespect and gossip against Obama expressed by many Christian most distressing. We have every right to disagree with his policies and voice our opinions, but much of the criticism of Obama by Christian conservatives would have been labeled “evil speaking” by the Fathers of the Early Church, and punishable by sever penances. I mentioned this to a Republican friend who replied, “But the Democrats did the same to Bush.” The point is that Christian behavior and speaking cannot be determined by secular standards.
[5] Christian fiction writers, here is a great idea for a novel, an alternative universe in which this is true! Have fun.
[6] For a theological discussion of the positive role of Government, see Roger Scruton’s, “The Good of Government: American Conservatives Need a Positive View of government,” First Things (June, 2014). http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/06/the-good-of-government   First Things is perhaps the premier orthodox/conservative Christian journal in America today, and it has published a series of critical articles on libertarianism from a variety of fine authors (note the following footnotes).
[7] Gabriel Kahn, “Did California figure Out How to Fix Global Warming?”  Newsweek  (March 23, 2016).  http://www.newsweek.com/california-global-warming-climate-change-439972?google_editors_picks=true
[8] The online article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is objective, complete and accessible: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ayn-rand/
[9] See: Jennifer Burns. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (New York; Oxford University Press, 2009).
[10] Note the article by Henry Blodget “The Selfish Ayn Rand Business Philosophy is Ruining the U.S Economy,” Business Insider, September 24, 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/ayn-rand-is-ruining-the-american-economy-2013-9
[11] See, Joseph Knippenberg’s. “Libertarianism and Christianity,” First Things (December 20, 2011). http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/12/libertarianism-and-christianity  And Joe Carter’s, “Virtue Ethics and Broken Windows or Why I Am Not a Libertarian,” First Things, (July, 9, 2009). http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/07/virtue-ethics-and-broken-windows-or-why-i-am-not-a-libertarian
[12] David Bently Hart, “The Trouble with Ayn Rand,” First Things, May 1, 2011. And Matthew Schmitz, “Ayn Rand Really Really Hated C.S. lewis,” First Things, (Mar 27, 2013).  For direct quotes on Ayn Rand’s antipathy towards religion and Christianity see the official Ayn Rand website: and the heading “religion” : https://campus.aynrand.org/lexicon/religion
[13] Joe Carter, “The Fountainhead of Satanism” First Things (Jun 8, 2011). http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2011/06/the-fountainhead-of-satanism
[14] Mina Kines, Eddie Lambert’s Warring Divisions Model Made Things Worse,” Bloomberg Business (July 11, 2013).  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-07-11/at-sears-eddie-lamperts-warring-divisions-model-adds-to-the-troubles Of course other factors are involved in the decline of Sears/Kmart, especially in the juggernaut ascendency of Walmart.
[15]Jeff Haanen, “Light for Electricians: How Christians Bring Hope to Business,” Christianity Today (March 21, 2016).
[16] The Guardian, “The Tea Party and Ayn Rand,” April 22, 2011
[18] That many Republicans of the 1950s shared a deep suspicion for the Jews in America is partially understandable in that many of the Jewish migrants who came to American in the early 20th C were often secularized and alienated from religious Judaism, and placed their trust in radical politics. Buckley spiritually discerned that, in spite of that, anti-Semitism was evil. Here I must confess that s a young man and passionate Democrat I considered Buckley as some sort of political jerk rather than the prophet he was.
[19]The similarities between the Tea Party and the John Birch Society has been noted by various writes. In fact the Tea Party included many of the now gray-haired John Birchers. See Adam Gopnik, “The John Birchers’ Tea Party,” New Yorker, posted: October 11, 2013. http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-john-birchers-tea-party
[20] For a book length study of the Society see, D. T. Mulloy, The World of the John Birch Society: Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2014).
[21] Al of this is described by Buckley himself, who calls it the “Palm Beach Conspiracy.” See his article, “Goldwater, the John Birch Society, and Me,” Commentary. Posted March 1, 2008. Details of Buckley’s campaign against the John Birch society are found in my article in Pneuma Rview, “Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories”  June 29, 2015 Pneuma Review http://pneumareview.com/the-sinfulness-and-destructiveness-of-conspiracy-theories/
[22] The exception was his long standing feud with George Vidal, which got “testy” but fortunately not homicidal.
[23] David Welch, “Where Have You Gone Bill Buckley,” New York Times,  December 3, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/04/opinion/where-have-you-gone-bill-buckley.html?_r=0