Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Reach Out and Touch Someone: Examing the Values of the Christian Alliance Pt. 3

When time allows, I have been reviewing and evaluating the values shaping the Christian Alliance for Progress. Just so as to remind folks, I heard a CAP representative by the name of Rev. Tim Simpson interviewed on the radio. The Rev. Simpson and his friends at the CAP claim to speak for a vast number of Christians who are alarmed over the right-wing fundamental high jacking of Christianity. Is there a need for such an alarm? Does the CAP truly represent Christianity, or are they inventing a Christian faith made in the likeness of their particular political agendas? They articulate their beliefs in a group of seven values and it is these values we are taking under consideration.

In the last post, we looked at the first value articulating the spiritual foundation for the CAP supporters. As I pointed out, that foundation does not consist of a spirituality anchored firmly to the objective standard of Holy Scripture, but rather, it is a spirituality born out of the mysticism of individual feelings. The CAP defines this spirituality as an intense relationship with God. Of course, there is no propositional truth being declared with a mystical perspective. For all it is worth, David Koresh and Mohammed Atta could claim to have had an intense relationship with God, but we would consider their experience to be misguided.

It is crucially important to have one's values defined by a foundational, objective standard. Values, based upon subjectivity - for example, an intense relationship with God - can quickly disintegrate any cohesive unity. That is because each person has his or her own experience, and that experience will dictate which value is worth more than others. Members in a community of activists, like the CAP, are certain to run into some serious practical ramifications when each person's intense relationship conflicts with all the others. Who is to say (or heaven forbid "judge") one's experience is better than another's, especially when five or six folks are convinced their unique experience with their own personal intense relationship is the best course of action with implementing these values in practical, everyday reality? How do they even begin to reach an agreement? Surely, among all these open-minded progressives there would be communication, discussion and dialog; but that would only mean several folks would have to put aside their own experience of intense relationships in order for the group to achieve any meaningful application of their overall goals. Are those people to be denied the worth of their intense relationship with God?

These practical inconsistencies at a - dare I say - fundamental level, cripples the stated purpose of the CAP before the group even steps out the proverbial gate. A group planning to confront the alleged fundamental right wing take over of Christianity would serve the credibility of their confrontive process if the leadership would address what is so plainly a contradiction in their basic mission statement.

Moving along, we now turn our attention to the second value. It calls Christians to a responsible obligation:

Jesus challenges us to embrace personal and societal responsibility. He gives us an example in the Samaritan, an ethnic 'enemy' who showed what it meant to act as a genuine 'neighbor'. Jesus' life and death summon us to take up our own obligations. In our individual lives, Jesus' example calls us to continually grow and transform, to die to an old way of being and be born to a new identity. But following Jesus requires us to go further. Our duties do not stop with 'the personal'. We are obliged to challenge oppressive and unjust structures in our world. Despite being keenly aware that his actions could lead to his execution, Jesus courageously persisted with his message. As an incomparable standard for accepting obligation, he teaches us to seek God's justice as he did. We strive to heed Jesus' call to take up our cross - to live in personal integrity and to take responsibility in our communities and country.

According to this value, Christians are to not only be personally responsible, in that each believer takes up his or her cross and be transformed in the new identity we share together with Christ, but believers are also to be socially responsible. In other words, our responsibility extends beyond our immediate selves to helping others; perhaps even others Christians may normally never associate with.

At a glance, I as a believer would agree in principle with this value, but we need to stop and consider this value for a moment.

To begin, I am a tad annoyed with what is not being stated, but I think is being silently implied. Is the leadership of the CAP implying that fundamentalist Christians don't recognize a personal responsibility and social obligation with the gospel message? Is the CAP suggesting that right wing fundamentalists are lazy and self-centered? I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they don't think so ill of right-wingers. But let us be honest with the facts: the CAP's contention with fundamentalist is not that they shirk their responsibility and obligations. What is really at the heart of disagreement is how right wing fundies work out their responsibility and obligations in practical terms. That is what bugs the CAP. However, that again returns to the foundational difference in how each group views the authority of God in such matters.

Boiled down to its essence, ultimately the disagreement between the two parties is one of understanding and applying God's principles, both personally and socially. Principles derive from a standardized source. For the Christian, that has to be the Old and New Testaments. But, as I have already mentioned the CAP doesn't necessarily respect the Bible as a revealed source of dictatorial and propositional authority for Christians. They may argue otherwise, but from what I have seen so far, their appeal to scripture is only when it fits their agenda and even then their appeal is based upon an intentional misreading of scripture.

Rather, they honor subjective, mystical, personal experiences with God over a recognized objective standard of truth, which fundamentalists firmly believe is God's Word. Now granted, we may haggle over whether or not fundies are correctly understanding and applying the Bible, but at least with the fundies we can appeal to an existing source of authority so as to offer a corrective. Unverifiable, mystical experiences felt as intense relationships carry no weight as a corrective authority when people need to be held accountable to their responsibilities both personally and socially.

I am also annoyed with how the Bible is handled by the folks of the CAP. I seem to notice when the writers of these values do appeal to scripture to make a point, they have a tendency to abuse scripture, torturously wrenching verses from context. I guess that is to be expected if one does not hold scripture in high esteem. In fact, this is witnessed with all seven values when scripture is cited. For instance, with this second value, the parable of the Good Samaritan is quoted as an exhortation for Christians to engage in social responsibility. Yet, in the context of Luke 10, Jesus doesn't tell the parable for the purpose of exhorting social responsibility. Instead, the parable is a rebuke of the religious leaders for their self-righteousness and misuse of God's law. The point Jesus was making is against the hypocrisy of a person claiming to love God with all his heart, mind and soul, then being picky as to who is considered a neighbor and who will be loved as himself. The CAP twists this parable to imply a person is a good Christian when he or she is engaged in some form of self sacrificing social responsibility.

That leads me to my third problem with this stated value: there are no examples provided as to what consists of the social responsibility the CAP advocates. This second value makes a vague reference to our social obligations, to Jesus being our model in confronting unjust structure in the world, and that Jesus was even executed for practicing his social responsibility. Yet, the confusion lies in the fact no practical examples are cited illustrating social responsibility. I guess the how-to of working out our obligations and responsibility is left to each person and his or her intense relationship with God? If I take up my social responsibility with fundamental, right-wing agenda would I be meeting my obligations as a Christian according to the CAP? Even though I don't care for subjectivity, I have a nagging, gut feeling that would not be the case.

The CAP website indicates the obligations and social responsibility they recommend involve embracing leftist ideas. For instance, the CAP takes up economic socialism and socialized medicine. They further suggest Jesus our Lord would not want to criminalize abortion and allow a woman to choose what is best for her reproductive health, that He would want to normalize homosexual perversion, and would promote evironmental activism.

Do CAP members sincerely believe Jesus would take up these modern day, leftist causes; that this is the historic Jesus represented in scripture? Or, is this a modern day jesus with a little "j" who has been fashioned into the image of the anti-fundamentalists at the CAP? If we are to be honest with the biblical record of Jesus Christ, then he is not to be found at the CAP advocating man-made causes that have a tract record of utter failure.

Next time I will take up the third value of overcoming poverty.


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