I have grown up in the midst of evangelical Republicanism. Born in Oklahoma City, I was in church from the time of infancy and was raised on Southern Baptist preaching. Except for one unremarkable semester, I have been homeschooled from age 4 until now, and I was brought up listening to James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh on a minivan radio.
By 12, I pretty much had it down as far as what it takes to be a good Christian Republican in our protected subculture. I followed that path by choice. Contrary to the ridiculous claims of some readers of this column, all my writings have been my own and all pursuits were by my preference.
Yet, as I look back on all of my writings, I can’t help but think about the original objections raised when I first began. Should a 13- year-old be allowed to have a column? The sensationalism of the spotlight washed away pause and reflection then, and I wrote whatever came to my mind. Now, I regret many things.
I have no desire to be a C-list David Brock and claim brainwashing and manipulation, but I do admit there are many things that have changed in the way I view life, and these things continue to grow in my mind – as some have no doubt observed in the past year.
Simply by the nature of editorial writing, columnists are encouraged to make controversial statements and claim to have practically an omniscient hold on absolute truth – this brings in readers in the same way reality television brings viewers. However, self-absorption must yield to honest reflection at some point – and when I finally came to that point and awoke from the drunken train of conservative punditry, I realized that swallowing talking points is no way to live.
I still consider myself very much conservative in the way I view government, morality and even theology. Yet, I firmly believe the way the American evangelical leadership has responded to the power struggle of politics is reprehensible. When I really began to believe – not just intellectually, but with my life – the message of Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, I began to think critically about the way Christians relate to the world and specifically culture and politics, and it seems as if the message of evangelical Republicanism is teetering on the edge of idolatry when it comes to whom or what we give our allegiance.
The always level-headed editorial board of Christianity Today has published a piece that is making rounds in evangelical circles entitled “Worship as Higher Politics.” It is a message that best exemplifies the conclusions I have come to in my years of writing. Christianity Today writes:
George W. Bush is not Lord. The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice. Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. “Original intent” of America’s founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. “God Bless America” is not the Doxology.
Sometimes one needs to state the obvious – especially at times when it’s less and less obvious.
The magazine goes on to examine trends in American evangelicalism that have been mentioned in this column before. Namely, the religious right’s utopian dream of returning everything back to the “good ol’ days.” It is an editorial all evangelicals would do best to read.
I look at the moral ills of our society and the problems of our government and feel within myself a desire to fix all these problems. Yet, the solution is not found in any government reform or campaign or in anything man can do. The future of America will be determined by God alone, and He does what He wills. After all, the citizenship of the Christ follower is not found within the geographical boundaries of a nation, but in heaven, and the message of Christ crucified is the only message of value we can give. This is not fatalist theology, but an encouragement.
The question is this: When the homosexuals stop marrying one another, when the government stops being corrupt, when babies have stopped being aborted, when terrorists stop killing people, when America stops policing the world, when the Constitution is a respected legal document, when the crisis of education has been solved, and when the conservatives take over Hollywood, all these problems will have been fixed – but what have we truly gained when we still face the sting of death?