The Current Scene
Fundamentalists in Politics
In Colonial days North America became a haven for persecuted Christians of many persuasions. True, the Puritans wanted their colony just their way. There was plenty of room for dissenters to open up other areas, as did Roger Williams, which resulted in the founding of Rhode Island. The founding fathers of this nation knew from history the dilemma European rulers had encountered, and the consequent bloody wars, resulting from their religious involvements. One of the assurances of the Revolution of 1776 was a complete freedom for all religions. Also there was to be a decided separation between Church and State. Now for over two centuries the U.S. has reasonably kept that commitment. Up until the Supreme Court’s decision in 1963 to ban public prayers in our schools the nation maintained a Protestant bias. Whatever we might think otherwise, the Court, with no other guide but the Constitution, could hardly arrive at any other decision. Ever since, a conservative wing of Protestants has grieved over this decision and worked for its revocation.
It has required a constant vigilance to keep the government out of religious involvement. In the past it was the Roman Catholic Church that sought to breech this strong government commitment. Time and again they have sought to get government grants for their schools. Sometimes there were subtle attempts to get around the law. So far, Protestants, atheists and what not have jealously guarded this article of the Constitution. Now, in the eyes of some, the pot is becoming as black as the kettle. Fundamental Protestants are now seeking to inject their conservatism into the political arena. This element has been called the “sleeping giant” of American politics. A quote from U. S. News and World Report says, “It consists according to various polls, of 30 to 60 million Protestants and Catholics — at least 20 per cent of the adult population. For decades, this rapidly swelling group of believers has remained largely aloof from political battles. Now their influence has grown to the point where, for the first time in modern history, all three candidates publicly proclaimed themselves to be born again Christians and considered that label an asset to their campaigns.” The concerns of this conservative wing of the “Fundamentalists” are for the most part laudable. Essentially they are the principles that made this nation great in the first place. TV preacher Jerry Falwell claims registration of 3 million new voters to back conservative candidates. He heads an organization called the “Moral Majority” which includes 70,000 ministers. Another fire brand of the Christian right is TV evangelist James Robison. His fears were expressed in a rally of 17,000 evangelicals in Dallas when he stated, “The stage is set where we are either going to have a Hitler style takeover, a dictatorship, Soviet Communism, or we’re going to get right with God in this country.” In concluding he urged, “It is time for Christians to crawl out from under their pews.”
True, the dangers of socialism are now becoming the facts of life. The drift from moral norms, we fear, has now become a malignancy. If so, these moral crusades are whipping a dead horse. Then there is the light of prophecy. We are told that it shines for the believer in a “dark place” (the world). It does not dissipate the darkness but occasions the “day star” (Christ’s promise to come again for His own) of hope to arise in the Christian’s heart. Then there is the promise of “the day dawn” when our Lord reigning as King will usher in a new day for this tortured world. Until then all is man’s day, or as our Lord put it when a rabble came to arrest Him in Gethsemane, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). The characteristics of that hour continue until Jesus Christ exercises the rod of His power and inaugurates “the day of the Lord.” In connection with this we call attention to a paragraph in William Kelly’s commentary on Isaiah 14. “The Lord grant that we may be enabled to profit by all Scripture, using it for instruction and warning, as well as refreshment and joy. All plans for worldly ease and honour will end only in destruction and bitter disappointment. Our business is to work out what God gives us now to do. He is saving souls to be the companions of Christ in heaven. Our responsibility meanwhile is to carry out His thoughts of mercy towards sinners, and His love to and in those that cleave to the name of His Son.”
Paul’s last words to Timothy were, “Preach the word; in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). This does not mean imposing a Christian morality on those who have not the Spirit of Christ. Then, too, there is always the danger of being carried away with a pet nostrum. When compared with the great doctrines of Scripture we can be found majoring on a minor. Admittedly, in matters of morality we are in an area where personal convictions will vary. Our Lord reminds us that we are not of the world, and He prayed that we may be kept from the world. As examples we find that neither He nor His apostles launched any campaigns to clean up the immorality and political corruptions that abounded on every hand in their day. A vital link with Christian morality is the touchy matter of separation. There is a categorical command as a prerequisite to faithfulness, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). The world and merely professing Christians have always eventually shown their hostility to what is basically Christian. The keener the Christianity the sooner and sharper is the hostility provoked. The world is the sphere where it is still possible for the Christian to find himself as a sheep among wolves. For him it is a spiritual wrestling against wickedness in high places. On the other hand, it is the only place where the kind of character can be developed that will invoke the Master’s “Well done.”
A lesson from history is significant. The churches that have played a significant role in politics have immediately been victimized when there has been a revolutionary takeover. Movements that have won a reputation for being politically neutral have been overlooked, or granted some accommodation. Furthermore, they rarely own the properties that incite the cupidity of the revolutionaries. The needs of the Pilgrim Church are simple. A board to contain a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. Nor must we forget the availability of a nearby creek. As a local “body or Christ” it is not dependent upon a benign government and can adjust and function regardless of the culture in which it happens to be planted. Are we really identifying ourselves with a Christ the religious and secular world cast out? The servant is not above His Master.