Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Obama, and Evangelicals versus Me

One of the hardest things about going to church anymore is realizing that as much as my conservative fellow US evangelicals hate Barack Obama’s presidency, they would rather have him as president than a strict constitutionalist like Ron Paul, and they definitely prefer Mr. Obama’s mayhem to an experiment in liberty that would de-fund the murderous wars overseas and the caging of those whose activities they dislike but which the Bible nowhere authorizes them to punish, like druggies and prostitutes.
In short, they have little problem comparing Mr. Obama to Mssrs. Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, but they prefer him to me. My moral system is “What’s yours is yours.” Why that is so repugnant I can’t fathom, but it’s apparently worse than mass murder, let alone Mr. Obama’s comparatively minor rapacity.
It’s not that we disagree on everything. We agree that the biblical Jesus was the unique eternal Son of God who became a human being, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died a sacrificial death to purchase the salvation of those who (in some sense) repent of their sins and obey him. And we agree that Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Obama are bad, at least until we start getting into the details.
But in everything we disagree on, they are on Mr. Obama’s side.
  • The welfare of the collective outweighs the rights of the individual.
  • The law is to be determined by the government; the government is not bound by the law.
  • Actions considered illegitimate for private individuals are permissible for government employees.
o   Actions that are malum in se (inherently evil, e.g., killing innocent people, extortion) are permitted to government employees.
o   Actions that are malum prohibitum (“evil” because they are prohibited, e.g., selling raw milk) are to be denied private individuals.
  • Private individuals acting in voluntary relationships cannot provide the collective with the necessities of life.
o   The government needs to employ full-time armed agents to deal with foreign and domestic miscreants.
o   Disputes must be decided by tax-funded courts.
o   Government must determine and enforce personal morality.
o   Government must determine what are and are not acceptable ways of making a living.
o   Schools should be funded by taxes so they can pass on the intellectual heritage of the collective.
o   Health care should be funded by taxes and includes restrictions on diet and activities.
o   Retirement should be funded by taxes on current workers.
You get the idea.
A good friend told me a while back that I am a minority of one who has not convinced anyone, and that it’s time to shut up. He’s probably right, but I take inspiration from another minority of one who didn’t convince anyone: Micaiah (mi ka-yahu, “[he] who is like the Lord”).
Like today’s evangelicals, King Jehoshaphat was a godly man: “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father's early years …. He sought his father's God and obeyed his commands … . So the LORD established Jehoshaphat's control over the kingdom of Judah” (2Ch 17:3–5).
Yet when evil King Ahab of Israel invited him to join in a needless war of aggression against the Syrians, he replied, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (1Ki 17:4). In perhaps the greatest show of stupidity in the Bible, after asking for a word from the Lord he ignored that word and sent many of his men (presumably) to their deaths. If success is measured in converts, Micaiah was a failure and Ahab was a stellar success.
As a result of Jehoshaphat’s stupidity, the Lord rebuked him: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is upon you” (2Ch 19:2). The parallel of US evangelicals cheering their children off to fight needless wars overseas (most recently, ironically enough, in Syria) on behalf of a government headed by a man they despise is pretty plain to me: I’m writing this now because I do not want to share in the rebuke that will come to them. (I’m expecting to receive enough dreadworthy rebukes, thank you.)
But God’s word to Jehoshaphat will likely also be his word to my evangelical brothers: “There is, however, some good in you” (2Ch 19:3). I have received grace upon grace from them; how to weigh their kindness against their patent stupidity (however sincerely intended) I really don’t know, other than to call both what they are.
We have been called to tell our neighbors all over the world the good news of salvation in Christ. On what basis do we think they will listen to a church that prefers shedding blood on behalf of an increasingly ungodly society to an ethic that says “what’s  yours is yours” and works peacefully and peaceably to resolve differences?

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