The Arrival of the Evangelical Left (II)
What’s Worse: Bush as Jesus or O’Bama as the Messiah?
We are examining the article Mark Tooley, of The Weekly Standard, wrote on the Emergent church movement in general and emergent guru Donald Miller in particular. The article is entitled “Post-Modern Prophet” and it touts Miller as the Evangelical Left’s poster-boy. You might not have heard too much about the Evangelical Left—it’s not highly publicized—sort of like “secret lobbyists,” but they do exist, they do have growing support, and they are adamant about “the cause.”
One of the pet peeves of the Evangelical Left is the Evangelical Right. Tooley writes that Miller decided to leave the “family” (the Evangelical Right), because, as he puts it, “I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus.” (p. 1.) This is an obvious exaggeration, but in his book, Blue Like Jazz, Miller complained that conservative churches he had attended “were ‘parrots’ for the GOP…” (Ibid.) So apparently, Mr. Miller has swapped being a parrot for the GOP for being a parrot for the Democratic Party. To my mind, that’s a very bad trade-off for a number of valid reasons. Before I give them to you, let me explain that I do not consider myself a “parrot” for anyone, except the Lord, but certainly not any political party. As Christians, it is my hope that we vote our consciences for the political party that most closely approximates what Scripture teaches.
Having said that, let me now explain where I believe the real problems are for Donald Poster-Boy and the so-called Evangelical Left. First, these folks pay just as much homage—if not more—to President O’Bama as they claim the Evangelical Right did to Bush, Reagan, or the GOP. If Bush were “Jesus,” then O’Bama is the “Messiah,” otherwise known as “the One” or “that One.” Miller also demonized John McCain as “religiously inarticulate.” I agree with him, but since our President has not found or made time to attend worship since his coronation, he might be a little religiously inept himself. He is most certainly lacking in religious discernment after sitting under Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s “preaching” for twenty years and not knowing that the man entertains strong Marxist notions that he learned from James Cone’s theology.
The article goes on to state that not only is Miller disenchanted with the Republican Party, but so are a number of younger church-goers. (Ibid.) If Miller and the author of the article mean younger emergent church-goers, then it’s completely understandable. If he means the run of the mill, garden variety young person, I’m not so certain. I have quite a bit of contact with young church-goers—our congregation is full of them—and I don’t hear the same kinds of sounds. I do, however, hear them from Miller, McLaren, Wallis, some in academia, Bell, Chalke, Burke, and the emergent tribe, but not from others. Reading articles like this almost gives one the impression that every young person in Christianity has joined the Evangelical Left, but that is simply not the case—thankfully. Although admittedly, I believe Tooley is acting strictly as a journalist for The Weekly Standard. On the other hand, it is true that Miller and his ilk is garnering a following.
But when I talk to young people about various ethical issues, they are not as certain as Miller is that “the presidency ‘doesn’t have much power’ over abortion.” Really? We realize that the abortion issue is above Mr. O’Bama’s pay grade (is it still?), but the power part is up for grabs. Whether you and I agree or not, Miller is convinced that “The Republican ‘mindset’ of trying to restrict abortion has failed.” (Ibid.) This is yet another example of what I call “the pretence of knowledge” and the “silencing of dissent.” By walking in lockstep with the political left, Miller has fallen right into the leftwing machinery talking points. He’s a Kool-Aid drinker. But if it’s true that the GOP has failed on the abortion issue, what is the solution? According to Miller, the solution is the Democratic Party “with their concern for the ‘marginalized and the oppressed and the poor.’” (Ibid.) This sounds just like McLaren and Wallis—Yoder and Gushee as well. Tooley reports that “In justifying support of Obama, the ‘emergents’ and others on the Evangelical Left minimize abortion and same-sex marriage as politically motivating issues for evangelicals.” (Ibid.) This begs the question: How can that be? That is to say, how can crucial ethical issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage not be politically motivating the Christians? If a believer is in possession of even a modicum of scriptural truth and discernment, abortion must be repugnant and unacceptable to him or her. Only an unbeliever (Neo-pagan) or incredibly ignorant or liberal Christian would find abortion acceptable. The same is true of the biblical teaching on same-sex marriage.
Let’s make it and keep it simple: In Genesis 1:26-28, God sovereignly creates man as male and female. He gives them dominion (thinking God’s thoughts after him) and teaches them about labor, the Sabbath, and marriage—and marriage. Then the Lord lovingly planted a garden and placed the man in it (cf. Gen. 2:8). God brought Eve to Adam, which is clear that God gives husband and wife to each other. Verse 24 clearly states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (ESV) What is unclear about God’s words? If the Genesis account is so unclear for some, then Jesus cites Genesis 2:24 in his teaching about divorce in Matthew’s gospel (Matt. 19:3-6). And as if this were not enough, the apostle Paul cites it in Ephesians 5:31, stating in verse 32 that the verse not only applies to marriage, but also to Christ and his Church. What is unclear?
Miller, the article continues, used to be Southern Baptist, but now attends a “socially conscious church” in Seattle. This is tantamount to attending an “open and affirming” church. What does it matter if the church is “socially conscious” if it is not “biblically conscious”? If there is no Scripture to back up your stance, either in the Christian faith or in politics, what is the point? For example, if Scripture is clear on abortion and the sanctity of life—and it is—how can Christians then vote for anyone who is pro-choice? It is not as if God thought abortion was adiaphorous. The same holds for same-sex marriage. This approach sounds more like a huge accommodation to culture, since the Evangelical Left realizes how radically left modern culture actually is. And—and—the emergents also realize that if they do not give our Neo-pagan culture everything it wants, it will walk away from them. Just how naïve is the emergent church when it comes to social and cultural issues? Do they really think that the Neo-barbarians are going to concede any ground? In addition, this is the blueprint that McLaren laid out early on in A Generous Orthodoxy and has gradually put into practice as he’s moved forward. Why wasn’t anyone listening? The seeds of disdain for Scripture and our rich theological heritage are in that book, as is McLaren’s stance on homosexuality, and universalism. His later theological regressions have merely been outcroppings of his original theses. For the theological world not to have listened to what McLaren said in AGO, is just about the same thing that politicians did when O’Bama was campaigning for president. Few paid any attention and almost no one was willing to listen to him because they were enthralled with O’Bama’s facility with the teleprompter and not with the content of what he was saying. Now O’Bama’s implementing all he talked about and the political hacks and pundits act surprised.
Miller opines that the Democrats have a concern for “marginalized and the oppressed and the poor…” Really? Or is this “concern” only window dressing? Here is what I mean: I’ve addressed the poverty situation in previous Ethos issues and one of the points that I made then is that in the United States today, the real poverty level is at about 1%. In fact, it has hovered around 1% irrespective of whether Democrats or Republicans were in power. But Miller is not done yet. He further believes that the Democrat Party will create “better social conditions so that less women are put in situations where they feel like they need to have an abortion.”
Is Miller saying what I think he’s saying? Is he saying that abortion is a poverty or low-income problem? If he is, he’s wrong and, if the shoe were on the other foot, he might be accused of being a bigot and uncaring. Abortion is not dependent upon income status or education. Neo-pagan women and Christian women (how can this be?) who get abortions come from the super-wealthy to the homeless. If Miller wants to make his case, he’s going to have to do a lot better than this.
In our next installment, we’ll take a look at Miller’s background growing up, because as we all know, we’re all victims these days. As just a forewarning, you’re going to hear the type of whining that both McLaren and Wallis use as well.
 See David Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008); Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2007); Jim Wallis, God’s Politics, (San Francisco: Harper, 2005); & John Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 11942).
Labels: Emergent Church