Beck and Palin and Common Cause

Moscow’s community email forum, Vision 2020, was briefly abuzz last week about the likelihood, in the aftermath of various Tea Party conventions and rallies, of a political alliance between Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck — either ascending to the leadership of their respective Tea Party constituencies and combining forces, or perhaps even running, together or not but with each other’s support, for national office in 2012 or 2016.

Inevitably, the question of who was more dangerous — I believe it was phrased, and not by me, as “more nutty” — came up. In response to a comment from Moara about Beck’s LDS affiliation and the strange notion that evangelicals would even consider his call to sprint out the doors from “social-justice churches,” which he believes to be hotbeds of socialist and anti-American foment, I thought I’d copy my Vision 2020 comments here. They are in quotes, below, followed by further remarks written today.

From Vision 2020, March 19, 2010

” ‘Who’s nuttier, Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck?’ This is a question much more important, say, than ‘Could Superman beat Batman if they wrestled?’, no matter how cartoonishly unreal both Beck and Palin appear at times.

I think it’s conceivable — not likely, but conceivable — that the two could join forces at some point to catapult her onto the national stage again. I think Sarah’s evangelicalism would make it very unlikely that she and Glenn, an LDS, would share a ticket, though, given that most evangelicals would view that as “un-common cause” religiously. However, a PAC, Third Party, or other organization specifically designed to elevate her, him, Lou Dobbs, or some other Tea Party favorite (that’s not going to be Pawlenty, I’m certain) to contender status in 2012 is, I think, very likely. It would have to be something other than the grass-roots, or AstroTurf, movement(s) we now see; I think the hardcore Constitutionalists, some extreme right evangelicals, the fiscal-but-not-social-policy Libertarians and the racist elements now attempting to mainstream are all very likely to coalesce into that organization, and only Palin, Beck, and Dobbs have the fame necessary to make it a factor.

For all it’s worth, I think Beck is odious and Sarah, merely dumb. Both, however, are dangerous to what most of us hold dear. The odious fan the flames, and the dense attract the powerful. Bad combination.”

Really, the only thing I want to add is that I’m chagrined at the ease with which the evangelical religious right — the non-Mormon religious right — has flocked to those elements of and players in the Tea Party movement that are so clearly anti-Gospel. They may not be “opposed” to the Gospel; in all likelihood, these people may claim to be Christians and expend enormous effort in trying to shoehorn Tea Party activism and issues into the contours of Scripture, which I think is more often than not futile.

By “anti-Gospel,” I mean re-shaping the Gospel into a philosophy that’s not only unbalanced, unfruitful, and unproductive, but also unlike the teachings of Jesus. (I find this to be true as well with some of what passes for the activism of the “religious left,” but evangelicals tend not to flock to the left). The arms that too many religious right Tea Partyers run into are not arms that honor Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior — Jesus as Republican-in-Chief, perhaps, or Jesus as icon of American Christiandom, but not Jesus as the Christ through whose teachings any philosophy must be run before it can be accepted by his disciples. As I’ve said before, our politics should be informed by the Scriptures, filled by the Spirit, and shaped like the cross — some to the left, some to the right, rooted solidly in the fertile soil of faith and reaching for the heavens.

An example of what cannot be embraced by evangelicals is the ugliness — the often-racist, always-nasty, peppered-with-bigotry and fear-mongering ugliness — of Glenn Beck. This is not because Beck is Mormon. It’s because Beck is a divisive, hateful opportunist exacerbating and profiting from this nation’s economic and social stresses. Certainly evangelicals and LDS can find common cause on some things, as long as those things are civic in nature — public schools, parks, business — and don’t constitute an individual partnership. Good neighbors share good-neighbor concerns; being “unequally yoked” with one’s neighbors in a campaign for a new public library, for example, ought not be objectionable to the evangelical.

When the issue becomes religious, or reflects the presumed religio-political agenda of any demographic, the evangelical and the Mormon cannot, however, pretend that they hold to the same faith, nor can followers of Biblical Christianity be expected to take direction on spiritual things from LDS pundits — or vice-versa. Like most evangelical Christians, I believe Mormon theology to be tremendously, unchangeably at odds with Scripture and LDS practice to be based on a faulty foundation that is not the Rock of the historic Christian faith. This is not to say there are no Mormon people who don’t love Jesus Christ and worship him sincerely, and their eternal destiny is, in the same way mine is, solely because of the lovingkindness of God Almighty. The LORD knows his own, and in his great grace, he has people, I’m convinced, in the Mormon Church. I can’t say, and you can’t either, that no Mormon will ever reach Heaven.

I can say, however, that the beliefs and sacraments of the Mormon Church are antithetical to the testimony of Scripture, and no civic or political movement can be more important than loyalty to the Christian Gospel. We can’t decide to accommodate objectionable religious views simply because the people holding them are sincere, or because they agree with our own political views despite differences in theology. Fortunately, when it comes to Glenn Beck’s counsel on what kind of church to attend, the Christian has it easy — ignore him. Evangelicals ought to reject Beck’s politics, punditry, and practice of hateful divisiveness simply because it’s not Spirit-filled behavior bringing forth good fruit. It doesn’t matter what religious beliefs, if any, someone who acts like Beck on the public stage has — he, like the comparatively non-religious Rush Limbaugh, behaves badly enough to be not a model for the Christian, but an object of evangelistic effort and prayer. He certainly can’t be a reliable spiritual advisor, and says something about Christianity in the U.S. that some consider him to be.

That so many Christ followers have embraced Beck’s politics is lamentable; that many of them would actually take seriously the spiritual counsel, in the name of Christ, of a man whose understanding of Christ and his Gospel is so demonstrably faulty as his is tragic.

2 Responses to “Beck and Palin and Common Cause”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Are you sure you are not confusing temporal matters with heavenly ones? Because you have done it before.

    It is very possible for someone to NOT be a liberal and yet be a Christian. A man’s political views are no measure of his proximity to Christ.

  2. Ashwin, of course I believe that a person can be a conservative and love the Lord Jesus. In many ways, I am conservative myself. In addition, it’s the conservative wing of the political process that most proclaims allegiance to God. My prayer is simply that they would manifest more and more, as we all ought to, the character of Christ and the teachings of his Gospel. In SOME parts of the Tea Party movement, as I’m sure you’d agree, that hasn’t happened.

    More later, and thanks again . . .


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