Yoked to the Religious Right?

Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said,
“I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat,
“Shouldest thou help the wicked, and love them that hate the LORD? for this thing wrath is upon thee from before the LORD. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast put away the Asheroth out of the land, and hast set thy heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:1-3).

It has been said that the two subjects that you do not bring up in polite conversation are religion and politics. I suppose that makes any discussion of politics in religion doubly difficult. On the other hand, a trend has developed among some brethren over the past fifteen to twenty years which is concerning.

Around 1979 a major political force burst on the scene: the “Religious Right”, or the “Moral Majority”. This is a movement that is predominantly Evangelical, and desired to give a voice and a political bloc for a large group of fundamentalist Evangelicals.

Among the Lord’s people, a healthy ambivalence and desire for avoidance was promoted during the first years of this trend. Many then warned about allying with such persons with whom we have so much doctrinal disagreement. That was before 1990. Since then, many among the brethren have entirely bought into the concept of the Religious Right, including their tactics and worldview.

This, brethren, is concerning: less about politics, and much more about spirituality and Christianity. The issue is not the particular political stances, but buying into this manifestation of Evangelical thought and reasoning, much of which is simply not Biblical. When one aligns oneself to the Religious Right, to what is one yoked?

Many in Evangelicalism have fully bought into the myth of the “Christian nation”. In the past twenty-five to fifty years, a particular view of the origins of this country have been promulgated that thinly veil the idealization of America as a “Christian nation.” When one considers the hermeneutics prevalent among Evangelicals, the concept makes sense. Oftentimes Evangelicals will apply Old Testament concepts into the new covenant without any consideration as to difference in context; likewise, since the concept of distance between text and believer is abhorrent to fundamentalism, any passage is understood as being spoken to us now. What I mean by this may be exemplified by a sign I saw in front of an Evangelical church in Rockford; the sign read, “Possessing this land for the Lord”, and it went on to quote a verse in Deuteronomy. When the language of the Old Testament involving Israel the physical nation is transferred to the modern day without critical analysis, we get the common conception of America as the new Israel. This view is then projected into the past, and the American Revolution and the founding of America functions like Israel’s exodus and conquest, and all the concepts of God blessing His people and so on and so forth is projected upon America itself.

Consider the following:

“America’s uniqueness is in the Christian consensus of the Founding Fathers, who penned documents guaranteeing religious and personal freedom for all. This nation was not founded by atheists, secularizers, or monarchists who thought the elite educated class should rule over the common people. America’s founding was based more on biblical principles than any other nation’s on Earth– and that’s the reason this country has been more blessed by God than any other nation in history” (Tim LaHaye, “The American Idea: Godless Society”, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2007, 44-45).

This is an exceedingly dangerous view for many reasons. First of all, it revises American history to suit the Evangelical agenda. The Founding Fathers have been ripped apart in the modern argument about their religiosity or lack thereof, and quotes are supplied by both sides to justify their positions. In the end, the truth is in the middle. Yes, most people were at least professing Christians in the late eighteenth century. On the other hand, America was not established in a “Christian consensus.” It was founded by some “secularizers”, Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin included. French Enlightenment principles were as prominent, if not more so, than Biblical principles.

Regardless, the main problem is the projection of Israel upon America. That LaHaye sees things in terms of physical kingdoms is not surprising, but we recognize that God’s Kingdom now is spiritual, not physical (John 18:36, Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20). America is not Israel: we today are under a different covenant with better promises, and that is extremely good, because otherwise America and its people would in no way be inheritors of any promise!

What is most dangerous about this viewpoint is that it requires the presupposition that America was this Christian country that has been overrun by secularists and other religions. All this indicates is that the prevalence of “Christianity” as seen in the periods of 1650-1700 and 1790-1860 were deceptive: they were the exception, not the rule. Before the second Great Awakening (the latter timeframe mentioned above), most of the frontier was all but “godless”, and it looked that the secular goals of the Enlightenment would be achieved in America. The same situation was true earlier in the seventeenth century. When one sees the reality of history from the first century to the present, any large proportion of fully practicing “Christian” persons is the exception, not the rule. America did not all of a sudden “turn secular”; America had some phases of professed religiosity and then returned to the status quo.

Should this surprise us? Absolutely not, if we believe that Matthew 7:13-14 is true. How can we cling to such a view of history, if we indeed believe that denominationalism is not true Christianity?

In the end, does LaHaye has the right to say that “God has blessed America because it was founded on biblical principles”? We have no idea why God has blessed America. We would mock and laugh if A. Romanus Christianus stood up in the second century in Rome and said, “God has blessed Rome with peace because it was founded by God.” We realize that Rome was blessed because it served God’s purposes, providing the infrastructure to promote His Gospel and to have vengeance on the Jews. Why did God bless Assyria? Why did God bless Babylon?

Sure, we all know that all those empires were really godless and did wicked things and were full of wicked people. This is all true: this is why all those empires fell. But guess what? We have a lot of godlessness around here, and that didn’t start 25 years ago. America has done many wicked things throughout its history, and has acted in godless ways far too often.

If America fell tomorrow, or in a decade, or in a few decades, what is left of LaHaye’s statement? If, say, China rises to prominence, will we then turn and say that God is blessing them because of how “biblical” they are?

In a time of God’s spiritual Kingdom, arguing any reason why God blesses or does not bless a physical nation is tendentious indeed. In the end, if America is as Israel, it’s for all the wrong reasons: a majority who conform to everyone else, following a perverted form of true religion, with a small minority remnant following God. America is not a Christian nation, never has been, never will be: at best, America is a land with many Christians, but the very idea of a “Christian nation” should be abhorrent. If Jesus would not establish one, why should we?

And then there’s the Dispensational Premillennialism inherent in much of Evangelicalism. The Religious Right’s view of foreign policy (and, it can be argued, environmentalism) flows directly from the premillennial presuppositions of its majority. If you believe that the Antichrist must desecrate the Jewish Temple so that Jesus can return, guess what you’re going to think about Israel?

Good, principled arguments can be made for both sides on the issue of how much America should support Israel. What is indisputable, however, is that we have allowed, justified, or tolerated innumerable evils committed by Israel for various reasons, and the Arab world is inherently suspicious of us and stands against us on account of our unwavering support of Israel. Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II: all have been directly influenced to support Israel on the basis of premillennial belief. If it were not for the prevalence of dispensational premillennialism in this country, our relationship with Israel would most likely not be as it is. This embracing of Israel is at least partly responsible for the prevalence of terrorism and the fueling of terrorism against us by factions of the Islamic world.

Likewise, the view that Jesus will take us out of this world really soon has led many to treat the environment in irresponsible ways: after all, if it’s about to get thrown out anyway, why bother worrying about how we treat it? This does not sound like responsible stewardship and self-control to me.

Eschatology matters; how can we be yoked to persons who advocate such beliefs?

There is also the entire premise of legislating morality. This is the one aspect that should cause some cognitive dissonance in the Religious Right: if America was so clearly founded on biblical principles, why did the Founding Fathers not legislate, say, the ten commandments? Or some other such moral code from the Bible? Why do the Constitution and Bill of Rights enshrine liberties and rights, not bothering to legislate morality?

The reason is that the Founding Fathers realized that the legislation of morality turns the government into a “parent state”. The more legislation enacted by a government, the more pervasive (and tyrannical) that government becomes. There were plenty of examples of governments legislating morality: they were the old monarchies of Europe, the very thing that Americans were trying to avoid.

No, the Founding Fathers recognized one essential trait of mankind: you can’t force anyone to do anything. They established their structure of government to preserve and enshrine freedom, and hoped that the people would follow a moral code independent of government legislation.

This concept of government is actually extremely advanced and mature. It is always easier for a government to declare martial law or a “police state”, and strictly legislate the conduct of its constituents. America is founded, if anything, on the principle of trust: America treats us like adults, expecting us to monitor and police our own conduct.

Yet the Religious Right, paradoxically, is about lessening the government’s role in social programs while heightening the role of government in terms of personal conduct. This goes back to the concept of America as the Christian nation: even though it might not be necessary before, it is now necessary to legislate Christian perspective.

This is one step away from theocracy, and it ought to be distressing on many levels. First of all, who says that the Religious Right will stop with mere “morality”? Remember: Evangelicals do not always take to us “water rats” too kindly.

But what of Proverbs 14:34 and “righteousness exalts a nation”? The statement is absolutely true, but it has never been fully realized. It was spoken by an idolater in the midst of an idolatrous nation. Israel was rarely “righteous”. Assyria, Babylon, Rome, France, England, America: none “righteous”. In the end, people are righteous or unrighteous, and that will be chosen by those people, regardless of what “laws” are on the books.

What is legislation of morality really trying to accomplish? A salve to make us all feel better? How can we feel better if, say, abortion is made illegal but drinking is still lawful? Let us say that the Religious Right actually gets what it wants: abortion is made illegal across the board. What happens then? Since “we have won,” do we believe that the problem “goes away”? Never mind that abortions will still go on, even if “illegal,” and plenty of young women and young couples are left in dire straits and will require compassion and mercy. They would become even more margainalized and forgotten!

Abortion is wrong; sin is a problem in this country. But the Bible’s end goal is not for a country to declare it illegal. If one is going to be in rebellion against God by committing that which is lawless in His sight, one is not automatically going to give pause because man’s government says it’s wrong. Furthermore, is this not putting more faith in government than God, expecting legislation to cure moral ills? This is not Biblical!

The only recourse is obedience to God: the promotion of the Gospel (Romans 1:16, 10:3-11). Consider again Romans 1:18-32. What is the source of man’s depravity? The rejection of God (Romans 1:18-23)! From this the depravity continues. When man becomes convinced that he mutated from sludge and is the highest intelligence in the universe, why should we who know better trust in man’s legislation to compel such ones to be “moral”? To respect God’s law requires respecting God. To live a truly moral life requires a healthy understanding of authority and the power of authority, and without a recognition of God, such cannot exist. The solution to the problem is the Gospel, not legislation.

The New Testament provides a picture of Christians united under the Gospel of Christ as part of His spiritual Kingdom, proclaiming to all who will listen that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. When Christians came before authorities, they testified of Jesus. Their obsession was the promulgation of God’s Kingdom, not man’s.

The Religious Right has corrupted this message, projecting old covenant concepts of an elect nation upon a nation that does not deserve the title. They now protest everything, indicating that they are “losing” their battle to “retake” America. When you see what the Religious Right is about and what they are doing, and you see what Christians in the New Testament are about and what they were doing, the contrast could not be more clear.

Consider again 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. How can we be yoked to such persons when we are to have such different views? What concord can we have when we understand the end of time so differently? What portion can a spiritual Kingdom have with a physical nation?

In 2 Chronicles 19:1-3 God loved Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat did many things pleasing to God, but when he went out in alliance with Ahab against Aram, the prophet Jehu comes and asks him, “Shouldest thou help the wicked, and love them that hate the LORD?” He says this about an Israelite, Ahab, who would profess to be a worshiper of YHWH and part of God’s elect. Sure, Aram represented a nation that was hostile to both Israel and Judah; after all, according to worldly wisdom, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. In spiritual terms, however, this is not the case. The enemy of my enemy may still be my enemy because we are not on the same path.

This is not about a particular political platform; one can hold to “conservative” political opinions about many matters without being infatuated with the Religious Right. But we must be careful lest we begin speaking the “language of Ashdod” and find ourselves compromised because we aligned too closely with people with whom we maintain strong disagreements. Our fealty is always first to Christ, and we must never allow some superficial similarities on certain matters to cloud the very substantive differences underneath.

Ethan R. Longhenry

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