Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rick Perry -- "called" to be president?

Recently a number of readers of the Los Angeles Times wrote in with their choice to be president -- Rick Perry, current governor of Texas and an overt evangelical who has called for statewide prayer. At least two people have convinced themselves that he can beat Obama next year, and some believe that Perry is "called" of God.

I can understand their preference, but "called of God?" That's theologically dubious at best, for two reasons.

Let's consider their context of "calling": This nation is under the spell of evil liberals and liberalism, so we need to find a champion who will defeat [choose the target of your choice] and restore our nation to greatness -- you know, "the way it used to be."

We've seen that one before -- Palestine in the first century. Recall that the Jewish people of that day were living under the rule of Rome, which they resented deeply and wanted overthrown and understood well the prophecy of a Messiah, who they believed would be the person who would kick the Romans out.

But in their desire for political freedom they missed what Jesus, who of course was the Messiah, came to do -- change the entire calculus in showing the world Who God really was. They ended up rejecting Him because He turned out not to be the political leader they wanted.

Two, "calling" in this context is connected to service and sacrifice, not as a will to power. It's perfectly appropriate to "call" a pastor or other spiritual leader to a place of authority; however, in such cases he or she has been specifically raised up to give of him/herself, not simply to be "in charge" and push people around. (See John Eldredge's description of the "King" in the book "Fathered by God.")

Those Christians who want Perry to be president have missed that point. You see, they have always sought someone who will fight the battle against what they consider demonic forces (read: Those who disagree with them politically) so that they can go about their lives and not have to engage in spiritual warfare themselves -- something that God will never allow. To wit, they want the "blessings" of God but not really to know Him personally and permit Him to change who they are, making Him in their image in the process.

They have also forgotten that God Himself raises up and takes down leaders for His purposes; I'm convinced that Barack Obama and, before him, Bill Clinton became president at least in part to demonstrate to politically conservative Christians that He is, and they are not, running the show. Sadly, some still don't understand that concept -- just before the general election of 2008 I received an emergency e-mail asking folks to pray that, by some miracle, Obama would be defeated. (I responded by saying that it was inappropriate.)

This is why "anointing" a presidential candidate -- keep in mind that the term "Messiah" means "anointed one" -- is flatly dangerous. And if Perry does decide to run, he needs to understand that he would lead all the people of this great country, not simply those who agree with his politics. Sadly, I don't think he does based on his speeches and record, which is why the "calling" is bogus.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The imminent revival -- part 4

Now that I've proclaimed in previous entries that revival is coming soon (and in some places has already started), the question comes up: How will we recognize it?

In good Jewish fashion, let me ask another question: What's the focus?

If it's on personal peace and happiness, cultural issues, church growth or putting on a show, walk away from that. If it's on desiring Christ's kingdom, freedom from sin, a craving to know truth and an emphasis on service to the world and in His church, you're getting warm. Let's keep in mind that God made us to glorify Himself and no other.

That said, here are some things to consider:

1) Folks 30 and younger will drive this revival. The reason is simple: Right now, the generation directly behind mine doesn't really have its own "move of God"; it's either submerged in parents' faith or running away from it. Therefore, it needs to reach its own generation in the way He dictates, and it needs to hear that. A couple of years ago at dinner I had the honor of telling a then-29-year-old man, "You're the next wave." The temptation for us in the "baby boom" generation, more culture-bound than we realize, will be to discount the ways in which God is moving in that generation; however, if it doesn't contradict the Scriptures we, like Gamaliel, should wait and see if this has staying power.

2) It will be interracial and multi-cultural. The generation behind mine was reared with "diversity" and this is used to it; as a result, it doesn't have the racial hang-ups that previous generations did. It will be the first generation to live Martin Luther King Jr.'s words about being "judged [not] by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As a result, the faith will be taken places we've been afraid to go.

3) Abortion will be addressed and dealt with but only as part of a consistenly "pro-life" ethic. The biggest mistake that the anti-abortion movement made was to link itself to the modern conservative movement, which was interested only in defeating the other side for its own sake. Since that movement is, despite all the noise it makes, on its last legs, its eventual collapse will free us who oppose legal abortion to expand our reach to issues of poverty, the environment and other issues of social justice. In addition, the image of Margaret Sanger, the late founder of what is now Planned Parenthood, will undergo a makeover in large part because folks are now learning that, contrary to popular opinion, she was actually staunchly anti-abortion. (And that may actually help to split PP!)

4) The "evangelical left" will play a surprisingly large role. One thing God has always done is reach out to the marginalized and make them into His trophies of grace, and the evangelical left certainly has been marginalized by much of the rest of the church for not being "politically correct." However, it has always been close to the heart of God because of its love for people and its desire to change systems that hold people in bondage. Dr. King will be recognized as a true prophet of God, as will such luminaries as Ron Sider, Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo.

5) The church will get back to the Scriptures' true teaching on homosexuality. That is to say, it will be recognized as an outward sign of inward rebellion against almighty God -- no more, no less. Those "conservative" churches who teach and preach homophobia and the liberal ones who affirm homosexual behavior as a legitimate lifestyle will both become irrelevant.

6) Folks will reconcile with each other. As they comb through their lives and recognize the wreckage that their sin has caused they will seek to make amends on both a personal and institutional level. Doing so will strengthen the church because it will break long-standing barriers that have kept them apart.

7) Persecution will come -- from, believe it or not, "conservatives." Keep in mind that the movement at its heart always was secular and extremely combative and doesn't take kindly to disagreement. Not only that, they operate from a default attitude of fear, the exact opposite of faith.

If there are more, I will list them here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

David Duke -- he's ba-ack! (well, maybe ... )

You may soom be able to drive another nail into the coffin of the GOP's attempt to wrest the presidency from Barack Obama.

Recently, the Daily Beast reported that David Duke, the notorious white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klansman from Louisiana, is considering throwing his hat into the ring. What's worse from that perspective, Obama's election in 2008 has spurred considerable "white-rights" activity," and not just from Duke. If he does, that can only hurt the Republican Party.

Indeed, the GOP has had a race problem since its "Southern Strategy" first took hold in 1966 but especially since Ronald Reagan kicked off his ultimately successful 1980s presidential campaign in Neshoba County, Miss., where three civil-rights workers were murdered 16 years earlier. During his stump speech, Reagan told the people who supported him that he supported "states rights" -- in that context, a code word for racism because the primary legal argument against the civil-rights movement was its tramping on state sovereignty. That eventually led to an unwelcome endorsement from a Klan leader in Georgia who said, "The Republican platform could have been written by a Klansman."

And this wouldn't be Duke's first stab at elected office, either. He ran for president as a Democrat in 1988 -- making little headway -- but again four years later, as a Republican, which caused considerable consternation in the party, the Florida GOP trying to get him off the ballot. In 1990 he won a special election for the state legislature (but proved ineffective). In 1991 he ran for governor and, while he received less than 40 percent of the overall vote in the state-mandated runoff, he crowed afterward that he got 55 percent of the white vote. (In fairness, he was running against Edwin Edwards, who was the epitome of "laissez les bon temps rouler" and who got most of the black vote.)

While modern conservatism isn't inherently racist, all of your "racial realists" -- their preferred term -- are conservative in every possible way and today vote Republican. And according to the Daily Beast article, Duke has quite a following, with his YouTube videos going "viral." That's especially the case since Obama became president.

The tea-party movement in particular has a reputation for racist behavior that its leadership has categorically denied. But according to Stormfront founder and radio host Don Black, it shouldn't because, frankly, there are indeed racists who participate.

"Many of our people are involved in the tea party," Black explained to the Daily Beast. "But much of [its] leadership is skittish when it comes to talking about racial realities. The tea party is a healthy movement, but too many are conditioned to run like scared rabbits when called racists."

You see the difficulty. On the one hand, you have a party that's trying to build a coalition to regain the highest office in the land and arguably the most powerful political post in the world. On the other hand, you have forces of intolerance, a form of "religion" if you will, that won't accept anything less than capitulation. The GOP simply can't and won't have it both ways, so get ready for a major split.