By Donald Hank
According to the Family Research Council website, Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission of the Southern Baptist convention, will debate Jim Wallis, high Priest of the Religious Left, in October. Now leftists normally eschew debate with biblically grounded Christians. They debate only when they feel they can gain something in the incremental dialogue toward realization of their socialist vision. Which makes me wonder what Wallis knows that we don’t and whether punches will be pulled in his favor.
As I said in a previous column, Christianity is incompatible with leftist ideology because the latter is based on materialism, while the former is based on spirituality, so the term “Christian Left” is an oxymoron. Elsewhere I pointed out that Jesus made this clear after performing the miracle of the fishes and loaves, when the crowd followed, dunning him for more food and He rebuked these mischievous materialists saying: ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26). They badgered Him for a while, trying to break Him down, reminding Him that God sent manna to their ancestors, but He insisted that His was not physical bread but the bread of life – and they went away hungry.
This was a clear-cut, unsubtle repudiation of the materialistic religious left and it stands through the ages as a classic biblical response to all charlatans who abuse scripture in an attempt to supplant the message of salvation with one of socialist materialism. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t supposed to be.
Yet evangelicals today rarely if ever use this scriptural passage in their arguments against the religious left, and more alarmingly, have offered little resistance to that group, preferring to piously turn aside their gaze as the Left undermines their message and unfairly accuses conservative Christians of selfishness and poor stewardship, as I have reported previously here and here in connection with a concerted movement that started in the Baptist church to shame gullible Christians into muzzling themselves and giving in to the enemy.
Thus it is vital that Christian leaders who wish to preserve Christ’s message highlight the distinction between their kind and the “Christian Left” rather than looking for “common ground” and resist the temptation to follow the trend toward ignoring the machinations of that sinister group on the false premise that these are sincere Christians trying to implement what Jesus taught but just slightly missing His message and needing some guidance.
Likewise it is important that the audience in the upcoming debate in October be aware that the debate is between a spiritually oriented evangelical Christian on the one hand, and, on the other, a materialist cynically adopting religious language as a veneer to lend credence to a diabolical cause, not between brothers in Christ. It is up to Dr. Land to make that clear because Wallis stands to gain from the blurring of this distinction.
But is Dr. Land up to this task?
To find out, I went to the web site of the SBC Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission, and found it endorses Al Gore’s environmental politics as well as amnesty for illegal aliens. This endorsement of a prominent Democrat on an issue that is far from decided on real scientific bases is puzzling on the surface. Yet it fits right in with the Baptists’ idea of being nice to the enemy of God. One wonders who influenced whom in this bizarre movement, the SBC or the mainline Baptists. As for the illegal alien issue, the SBC leadership is clearly trying to influence its members to soften their stance and compromise on lawfulness. It is to the credit of Americans that they have remained sufficiently unswayed even by influential Christian leaders, including those bearing the “conservative” brand name, to massively protest the lawlessness proposed by the elites, both Christian and secular.
But no less troubling is a book written by Dr. Land entitled The Divided States of America, which attempts to show how both the far left and far right are uncivil, yet downplays the possibility that the two extremes may not be morally equivalent. Yet which one is right is the main issue, not whether they respectively lack civility toward each other. Here again, the similarity with the mainline Baptist position is striking enough to suggest collusion or at least mutual sympathy. Land references as “needlessly strident” Al Franken’s book Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, which makes false claims about the right, followed by Bill O’Reilly’s objective expose The O’Reilly Factor, which Land calls a “diatribe.” He then derides Bernard Goldberg for “turning up the volume by blowing his shrill whistle Bias,” although in fact, the latter is a seminal work in the exposing of media bias, is referred to frequently in the public discussion of that issue and is part of the reason prominent liberals concede today that, yes, there is liberal bias in the media. Yet this invaluable contribution toward preserving our dwindling freedoms is ill regarded by Dr. Land simply because he thinks the language is somehow inflammatory. Perhaps Americans should never criticize anyone, Dr. Land? If so, why is it you are so straightforward in your condemnation of conservatives who dare to do so? Should we also perhaps fire rubber bullets at the terrorists in Iraq?
Michael Moore and his leftist documentaries then come under the gun, followed by the book Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, by David Hardy and Jason Clarke.
Land then writes “Ann Coulter further lowered the level of ‘discourse’ with Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right.” He additionally derides Coulter for writing Godless: the Church of Liberalism, actually a remarkably insightful book that I enjoyed immensely. It hurt me to read Land’s criticism of this brash, iconoclastic lady who dares to tell the unvarnished truth about the Left with a refreshing and admirable bravado and clarity of mind.
Coulter herself points out that some people accuse her of being too harsh with liberals but clarifies by reminding us that these are the people who advocate inserting a scissors in the skull of a living full-term baby and extracting its brain. “You don’t want people like that to like you.” Amen, Sister!
But Dr. Land, on whom Coulter’s humor is lost, apparently thinks that stridently exposing the lies and deceit of the left is roughly tantamount to stridently spreading these lies and deceit. For him the whole point of the matter is to avoid hurting people’s feelings. And, unlike Coulter, he apparently thinks there is some sort of intrinsic value in having the enemies of God like him. This makes no sense whatsoever from a biblical standpoint. In all fairness, I think we can assume that Land is closer in his thinking to Coulter than he is to, say, Al Franken or Michael Moore. But to lump right and left together as though they were equally culpable is simply unfair.
Of course, there are countless pastors today who beatifically tippy-toe through the sermon on the Mount, portraying Christ as a milquetoast peacemaker but squeamishly omitting the following two parts of that sermon containing inflammatory language intentionally devoid of civility:Except your righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no way enter the kingdom of heaven,
Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Obviously, God did not attend the Baptist or Southern Baptist seminaries!
Other early saints who used such “uncivil” discourse against the religious leaders of their time included: Paul, Peter, Stephen and John the Baptist. Stephen was martyred for what many seminary-trained pastors would call a “lack of civility.” Did the saints need a course in sensitivity perhaps?
Of course not. God makes no mistakes, and these words were exactly the raw-boned but uplifting language that early Christians needed to hear by way of encouragement. For them they amounted to a morale-boosting pep talk such as military leaders use before a battle. Christians today need the same kind of pep talks, lots more than they are getting.
My point is, “civil discourse” not only is not a biblical teaching (the prophets were also painfully blunt), it is antithetical to the faith when misapplied to obvious enemies of God whom everyone knows by their fruits. In fact, along with “hate crimes” legislation and campus speech codes, the demand for more “civil discourse” (as distinct from honest and principled discourse) is a favorite armament of the Left in muzzling the last remaining Christian leaders with the courage to tell the truth. Why would a conservative wield this weapon on their behalf? I can think of no justification for it, biblical or otherwise.
Certainly, civility has its place in the religious forum, for example, in the dialogue with the sincerely misguided; but so does straight talk, namely, in the dialogue with intentional misguiders.
Nowhere do Christ and the apostles use conciliatory language with deceivers and enemies of God. Nowhere are we told to do so.
But even if Christ had asked us to pull our punches with evil, in a time when the Left is gaining ground in the muzzling of conservative Christians, the issue of whether or not we behave civilly toward those who would undermine our First Amendment rights still would pale beside the urgency of alerting the public to their sinister machinations.
Evangelical leaders have every right to mince words and be nice to deceivers if that is their desire, just as grassroots believers have every right to vote them in or out of office.
But as for me, with God’s help, I will take my cue from the One who unabashedly defined such deceivers with these refreshingly straightforward words:
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?
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