Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Political Pietism: An article ahead of its' time ..

I normally don't tackle politics here but there's a point to this brief commentary:

With the headlong collision of presidential elections on the way, one wonders if America might be best served by considering the third party candidates who will be on ballots nationally but who will be largely invisible and off the radar of American voters this year as in most all other Presidential election years. That's because the American electorate are all largely lemmings and they aren't going to act a whole lot more differently this year then in 2000 when third party candidates had their best shot at becoming a real voice in American political change.

There aren't deep enough wells of political consciousness (spelled critical thinking) among Americans to vote anything but Democrat or Republican. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns demonstrate a ruthless energy in spinning the facts about one another and their own policies even as we speak through the mass media. Both demonstrate an inordinate ability in evading any real answers to the challenges an American President will need to deal with in the next four years. So therefore, we're stuck with them. There's no sufficient depth of mass outrage and real taste for change to look beyond both parties. No one wants to gamble on the unknown and the third parties have utterly failed to attract attention to their platforms since most Americans are too disinterested enough to engage in real reflection, let alone political passion, that might fire a new third part alternative.

And any third party, regardless who they are, are going to have insurmountable odds in cracking the liberal bias of the mass media and gain sufficient respect to garnish the kind of attention they'll lavish on things Republican or Democratic. So it's a wrap as far as I see it. Unless the third parties consistently master and then sustain an eye catching campaign that engages those voters who look beyond the obvious and encourages them to critical political thought, it ain't going to happen and I'm not going to waste an ounce more of my own taps of idealism on a battle that won't be won.

But that surely won't ever stop the continued Red vs Blue state antagonism from rearing it's head anyway. The inevitable obliteration between the circles of secular civic duty and spiritual Christian influence in American politics gets particularly noticeable every four years when the more outspoken and activistic circles of evangelicalism get involved. This hasn't been lost on Christian observers as well as less reverent ones like Bill Maher and the producers of "Jesus Camp" who see this ugly diffusion. They raise a stink over religion being visible in the secular seats of American political discourse ... and an equally loud rhubarb has been sounded by Christians who refuse to allow encroaching and antichristian secularism to dominate the debate.

In so doing, however, Christians can certainly seem as dense as their secular counterparts.

One such Christian observer, pastor Joseph McAuliffe of a Tampa, Florida congregation penned the following essay in the June 1993 issue of Charisma, barely four months after Bill Clinton first became president of the United States in November, 1992: it bears out what we've observed:

POLITICAL PIETISM by Pastor Joseph R. McAuliffe, Tampa, FL (Charisma, June 1993)

Considering his political leanings, it's not surprising that President Clinton would be endorsed by homosexuals, radical feminists, ultraliberals and MTV rockers. What does surprise me is the widespread support Clinton is enjoying from the Christian community, particularly the charismatic group some refer to as "the prophetic movement."

A recent copy of The Morning Star Prophetic Bulletin featured an article titled, "The Clinton Administration: Its Meaning and Our Future," which was discussed in the Editorial column of the March Charisma. The Morning Star article is based on a dream that well-known prophet Paul Cain received prior to the election - a dream that predicted Clinton's win.

Cain's interpretations of why God wanted Clinton to win is, in my opinion, dubious, if not altogether amiss. Paul Cain's revelation contains several salient admonitions such as the importance of humility and prayer. But overall, I believe it is misguided political pietism.

Cain claims that he "saw the Lord putting His Spirit upon Bill Clinton and changing him into another man just as he did King Saul." Cain says God is going to give Clinton "the power of the Holy Spirit to lead this country. What some people in the church regarded as a defeat is actually a blessing from the Lord. "If the church will pray for this, it will come to pass" (emphasis mine).

That last phrase is most telling. If Clinton turns out to be in the future what he's been in the past - a tax-and-spend statist of questionable morals who espouses abortion and homosexual rights - then it's the church's fault for not praying. That seems lame to me. I know God works through prayer, but doesn't the Bible teach that He distributes His Spirit principally in terms of His initiative and calling?

Sounding like the chairman of the Democratic party, Cain says the Lord showed him that Clinton's "waffling on the issues" was "really a genuine openness...to do what is right and fair." The Lord said that Clinton "was a listener" and that listening "is a demonstration of humility."

Since the inauguration and Paul Cain's prophetic dream, we have witnessed the "humble listener" appoint a cabinet comprised of all pro-abortion leftist Democrats with no track record of upholding biblical values. Listening is an important social skill, but God admonishes us to "take care what you listen to" (Mark 4:24, NASB).

The Morning Star article makes a statement typical of' the latent anti-doctrinal disposition of the prophetic movement: "In many ways it is better to have wrong doctrines with humility than to have right doctrines with pride."

That's the kind of aphorism you might find in a Kahlil Gibran greeting card. Innumerable blunders have been inflicted upon humanity by humble bumbles. The unorthodox Gandhi, Sun Myung Moon, Mary Baker Eddy and Albert Schweitzer were all theologically misguided despite their reputed humble bearings. Sometimes it's better to have right doctrines with a little arrogance like Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Calvin and even the apostle Paul, who once declared that the apostolic pillars "added nothing" to him (see Gal. 2:6).

Cain correctly predicts that, like Solomon, Clinton's first test would be "the issue of life" - but he contends that if the church would repent and pray, the outcome would be different.

Well, on January 22, (1993) with more than 100,000 God-fearing citizens gathered in Washington, D.C., to pray for the unborn and millions more praying in their home churches, Clinton swiftly issued five executive orders making it easier to obtain an abortion. In April, he proposed revoking the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits funding abortions with tax dollars. The following week he recommended the federal health insurance policies include funding abortions.

Are we supposed to believe this happened because Christians didn't repent or pray enough?

In Cain's dream, God reportedly blames the church for the moral degeneration in America. So corrupt politicians, porn-peddlers, leftist educators and criminals are all absolved from blame for the moral woes of our nation. Certainly the Church needs reformation, but should it be the scapegoat for America's sins?

Cain's dream ends with a call for the church to be humble and pray accompanied by the promise that, if we do, the Lord will "give us great cause for rejoicing." That would be swell. I pray that Bill Clinton does experience a Nebuchadnezzar-type conversion, but it's more likely that he and Hillary will be a repeat of Ahab and Jezebel.

I believe God gave us Bill Clinton not to bless this country, but to judge us for our rebellion. Perhaps the damage that Clinton will inflict upon America will humble this nation and turn us to God. But I fear the effect of Cain's prophecy will be to turn Christians away from the public square and back to the monastery.

Joseph R. McAuliffe pastors Tampa Covenant Church in Tampa, Florida.