The following is Part 3 of an open letter to Colonel Vaughn Doner and a critique of his 2012 book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Throughout the series, I address Colonel Doner in the second person, “you.” This book review is part of a series examining Christian Postmodernism.
Dear Colonel Doner,
When people are self-governed by an unchanging moral law, there is the most personal liberty and freedom of conscience. This is the reason why the Spanish Jews, fleeing persecution from the Jesuits and the Inquisition in the 1600s and 1700s, came to Protestant America. Unfortunately, some early Protestant European nations also followed the lead of Roman Catholic countries in persecuting and banishing Jews. By the 1600s, however, Oliver Cromwell and many of the Puritans saw in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans chapters 9 to 11 that the destiny of the Jewish people was to be reingrafted to the vine of the church. So after over a 100-year banishment, first set as policy by King Henry VIII, Cromwell allowed the Jews to return to England and practice their faith.
The first Jewish synagogue in America soon after appeared in New York in 1655. The Jews knew that there they would have freedom of worship. The Puritans and many other colonists in America shared the same view about the ultimate destiny of the Jews. Therefore, after the time of Cromwell in 1650s, the Jews had freedom in the American colonies and more came every year.
This was according to a biblical law ethic. According to God’s law, public idolatry was not to be tolerated in Israel. However, private opinion, belief and worship occurring within the family sphere was not to be intruded upon. Thus not everyone living within the borders of Israel were worshipers of the One God, Jehovah. But all were constrained to honor God publicly or else hold their pagan beliefs in private. For instance, foreigners were not required to observe the Jewish feast days. However, they could not blaspheme God, work on the Sabbath or set up idols for public worship.
I would apply this same standard to modern practice. It is impossible for the civil magistrate to enforce private faith, nor should he try. The responsibility for preaching the Gospel and persuading the hearts and minds of the unconverted is with the church. Individuals may take up the cause of evangelism, but it is not a prescribed duty of the civil magistrate.
It becomes more complicated when Islam is considered. Is a mosque near Ground Zero a sacrilege to many Americans because it defames the memory of those murdered by Muslim fanatics on 9/11/2001? Many Americans feel this is so. However, I would also ask, shouldn’t Christians also oppose a mosque being built on Main Street, USA because it is blasphemous to our God when Muslims chant to Allah? I would answer yes to this question as well. The real question is whether the state ought to regulate the practice of religion on privately held property. My answer to this would be that people should always be able to hold their beliefs in private and practice their faith without harassment by the civil authorities.
Obviously, if a Muslim group wants to set up a terrorist training center according to the supposed mandates of Allah, our government has an interest in quashing such “religious” expression. The same would hold true for Native Americans who want to worship with the use of peyote or a Santeria group that performs bloody sacrifice of animals in their public rituals. It is not unreasonable to suggest that displays of idolatry that are blasphemous to God should not be allowed in public anymore than we would allow displays of hard core pornography or a racial epithet to be placed on a billboard.
As an example, let’s focus on the cover of your book, which has a miniature statue of Jesus strapped to explosives. This is allowable under the first amendment of the United States Constitution. I would rather not have the civil government involved in banning a book because it has a blasphemous cover. What I would prefer would be that the respect of God in the overall culture would be so pervasive, that the pressure of the community around you would pressure you not to dishonor the name and image of Christ.
Now let’s turn this example around and suppose that your book had a similar illustration, but this time it was a statue of the prophet Mohammed or a copy of the Qur’an strapped to a bundle of dynamite. That would be headline news. Like Gainesville, Florida pastor, Terry Jones, you would be receiving death threats every day. Your book would be pulled from the shelves for stirring hatred toward Muslims. People would say that you are stirring violent repercussions on American soldiers and those living abroad. Your name would become a term of scorn even among Christians and American patriots.
It is politically incorrect to mock violent Islam, but the same rule does not apply to peaceful evangelical Christianity. Only in America are you allowed to “beat your mother,” which is the phrase that Benjamin Franklin chose to chastise Thomas Paine upon the proposed publication of his anti-Christian screed, The Age of Reason. Not an orthodox Christian by any stretch of the imagination, Franklin understood that Christian civilization was the foundation of freedom. In a Muslim country, you might be beheaded for a similar offense, but the worst thing that would happen to you in “Christian America” is that like Paine you might be derided by the public and abandoned by your friends. If we in 21st century America had any “common sense,” that is exactly what would happen to you too.
A speaker on our panel put it well in God’s Law and Society, a video I produced in 1999.
Where would you rather be a Buddhist? In Tibet or in America? – Where would you rather be a Hindu? Downtown Madras or America? – Where would you rather be a woman Muslim? In Tehran or in America? The umbrage of Christian freedom because of the founder’s love for the Law of God gives more liberties, freedoms, rights and protections to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims than countries based upon their own religion.
Kill this child for my birthday!
We need to get over the idea that a culture can have unbounded religious tolerance. No culture does. There are always limits. In reality, there is no neutrality when it comes to matters of religion and morality. The evangelical Christian can feign “common ground” and talk warmly about civility and welcoming people of other faiths and worldviews. But when those faiths and worldviews clash with the established Christian mores and civil laws, there is no neutrality. I find myself in agreement with your quote of the otherwise miscreant Jim Wallis.
It was in part, the assaults of secularism that helped turn fundamentalists into the right-wing force it has become today in the United States.
It is not that Christians are suddenly trying to take over the culture and force other religions and philosophical worldviews out of the public discourse. We would prefer a society where people were able to freely hold those beliefs, hear the Gospel freely preached and see a steady stream of converts come voluntarily to a saving faith in Jesus. Rather it is the assault of secularists on the Christian voice that has brought us to a place where evangelicals increasingly are realizing that there can be no neutrality.
Either Christians must support homosexual “marriage” or we must resist it. We cannot simply coexist. It is not a matter of allowing domestic partnerships and legal contracts between two men or two women. Contract law, which would allow domestic arrangements between people of any gender or number, already exists in every state in one form or another. The movement toward sanctifying homosexual unions is in reality a movement toward forcing Christians to subsidize the lifestyle. It is a move toward making it illegal to preach or teach in the public square that homosexuality is a perversion that is condemned by God. In effect, the ratification of homosexual marriage makes Christianity illegal.
To illustrate that point, we can look at a recent instance in which a home-schooled 14-year-old girl named Sarah Crank received numerous death threats from homosexual activists.
I’ve known Sarah’s father, Karl Crank, since 1987 when he came to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to help our campus group with evangelistic outreaches while I was a student. Karl and several other members of Boston Maranatha Church were responsible for getting me involved with direct action on the pro-life front through Operation Rescue Boston in 1988. It was no surprise to me when I learned that Karl and his wife Kathleen had become advocates to protect traditional marriage in their current home state of Maryland.
The vitriol, threats and hatred spewed at the Cranks and their children from the homosexual political activist community came as a shock. The threats toward their daughter, which now number in the thousands, expose the true face of the so-called same-sex marriage movement. It is not a campaign for tolerance and equal rights, but a push to eradicate Christianity from public discourse. It has taken the form of a campaign to punish a 14-year-old home-schooled Christian girl for speaking her opinion at an open forum held in a state house sub-committee meeting in Annapolis, Maryland on January 31st, 2012. This is what lies in store for Christians who want to express their beliefs when same-sex “marriage” becomes accepted as a civil right in our nation. The attack on traditional marriage is much more than a liberal social experiment, but it represents an attack on the right to exercise the Christian faith in the public square.
At a subcommittee hearing in the state house in Annapolis, Maryland, representatives debating a same sex “marriage” measure heard expert testimony from various witnesses. The microphone was then opened to anyone in attendance to give a one-minute testimony stating their opinion. Sarah Crank, then a 14-year-old high school student, came with her mother and friends prepared to give a one-minute speech.
14-Year-Old Sarah Crank faced death threats after stating her opinion on same-sex “marriage.”
Hi, I’m Sarah Crank. Today’s my 14th birthday, and it would be the best birthday present ever if you would vote “no” on gay marriage. I really feel bad for the kids who have two parents of the same gender. Even though some kids think it’s fine, they have no idea what kind of wonderful experiences they miss out on. I don’t want more kids to get confused about what’s right and okay. I really don’t want to grow up in a world where marriage isn’t such a special thing anymore.
It’s rather scary to think that when I grow up the legislature or the court can change the definition of any word they want. If they could change the definition of marriage then they could change the definition of any word. People have the choice to be gay, but I don’t want to be affected by their choice. People say that they were born that way, but I’ve met really nice adults who did change. So please vote “no” on gay marriage. Thank you.
The recorded testimony, which is public record, was commended by one of the sponsors of the gay “marriage” bill, who said, “Thank you. That was a very good testimony. One last question: Where are you in school?”
“I’m home-schooled,” she replied.
“Okay, good for you. You get an ‘A.’”
Another representative asked her where she lived and told her, “You did a great job on your birthday.”
Homosexual activists in attendance then chose three testimonies to immediately post on YouTube. Sarah Crank’s was one of them. Since she named her hometown at the request of the committee, people were able to locate her home address and information about her parents. In early February, the audio of Sarah Crank’s testimony then went viral on several websites including Salon.com, LGBTQNation.com and the HuffingtonPost.com.
“And now everyone knows her name, so hopefully she will feel what its like to be harassed and bullied …” reads a comment posted on LGBTQNation.com
From YouTube: “My god I hate people like this. Most (not all) Americans are [expletive] retards. If I ever see this girl, I will kill her. That’s a promise.”
Other entries: “Her parents should be exterminated.”
“The [sic] is why abortion must stay legal – to prevent little bigots like this from being Born…”
“Kill this child and his [sic] parent, for my birthday would be a wonderful gift, thanks.”
“Her belief is hurting other people. I will attack her as much as I please.”
“Parents like hers should be sterilized…”
“I’m gonna kill ‘er!”
Her father, Karl Crank, explained that he began compiling these threats and abusive comments.
I collected a 45-page file of profane cursing, near-threats, threats, and death threats. I gave up collecting these about a week after Sarah’s testimony. Just too many of them to track. I wasn’t ever going to track all those people down to confront them, the police weren’t swayed by this file, and the FBI never returned my call.
This spawned an ongoing campaign of harassment toward the Crank family by the homosexual activist community. One website is dedicated to having Sarah Crank stripped of her title as the 2011 Junior Miss Greenbelt, which according to the pageant is a competition “designed to teach girls poise and self confidence, how to be at ease with themselves and others, and how to have fun in a team effort toward a common goal.” The website encourages gay activists to contact the corporate sponsors of Miss Greenbelt and demand that the “money, crown and sash” be stripped from Sarah and returned to the pageant. Another group seeks to have the home-schooling Crank parents investigated by child services. On and on it goes to many instances of hostile harassment.
If this makes you hopping mad (as it should) then please pray for the Crank family. But more importantly, this instance illustrates the need for Christians to get involved in the fight to save our culture. Our children will inherit a society that is either pagan or Christian. There can be no tolerance for both in the “neutral public square” because the pagan worldview wants Christian voices silenced and those who refuse to be quiet to be put to death.
The Myth of Neutrality
This hammers home my point. When faced with the Lordship of Jesus Christ, there really is no such thing as neutrality. Every statement we make is a moral statement that either favors or opposes God’s moral law. Every action we do and every word we say will one day be exposed and judged for all to see by Christ the King, the eternal Judge of all the universe.
Christians who dare to speak the principles of God’s moral law will find themselves in a conflict – a cosmic war that has gone on from the beginning of time. It should not come as a surprise when the world and the devil are against us as we advance Christ’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We can be comforted in knowing that we will win in the end. However, in order to be victorious, we need to stand firmly on the winning side without compromise. To do that, we stand for the Lordship of Jesus in all areas of human life. But make no mistake about it, the true faith is a deadly serious call to take up our cross and suffer the insults, murderous threats and even death for the cause of Christ.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
So for the record, I do agree with your statement that as Christians we need to defend biblical ethics with a spirit of tolerance, civility and mutual respect – of loving our neighbors as ourselves and doing good to those who persecute us.
Am I ready to listen to opposing views?
Am I willing to accept opposing views and social behaviors that are evil and have been shown both in the light of Scripture and the testimony of history to be destructive to individuals and society?
Not a chance. The reason for dialog is to understand another worldview. We should always try to show empathy. But this should not imply sympathetic acceptance of evil behavior.
What is a total biblical worldview?
In the second chapter of the book you speak of your importance to the founding of the Christian Right. Unlike Frank Schaeffer, whose claim to importance in the founding of the Christian Right is mostly bluster, you were a strategic, although not well-known, operative in the conservative movement.
Although most Christians don’t realize it, you invented the strategy that later became the “Christian Voter Guides” that are now distributed in churches all over America prior to elections. Unlike the voter guides that simply teach Christians how to educate themselves on the candidates and the issues, your “Candidates Scorecards” assigned a letter grade to each candidate for federal office based on their voting record. Not only were issues such as the sanctity of life covered, but it was possible for an otherwise conservative candidate, such as Senator Paul Simon who was a fiscal conservative and an outspoken opponent of obscenity and violence in the media, to somehow get an “F” because of how he voted on the Panama Canal Treaty. I am sure we both agree today that it was outrageous to assign a moral “letter grade” for a candidate who voted to shorten the terms of an international treaty that would allow the Panamanians to regain a canal that, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, was “stolen” from them in the first place.
As you succinctly put it, “I lacked a cohesive framework … a Christian worldview.”
I remember that when I finally met you around 1995, you freely admitted that this was the case. I could not have agreed more. I was impressed when I saw that men such as Howard Phillips and Colonel Doner, who had had such a huge influence in Washington D.C., had now defected to the ranks of the Reconstructionists and specifically to the camp of R.J. Rushdoony. I was impressed because I thought that most of the Christian right was either too vacuous or man-pleasing to admit the obvious – that they had no overarching philosophy of government besides supporting a few hot-button issues. On the other hand, Rushdoony taught that in civil politics, as in all areas of life, we will either have God’s Law or man’s law – theonomy or autonomy. God’s Law leads to life and liberty. Man’s law, whenever it conflicts with God’s law, leads to servitude and eventually the death of a culture.
This is a consistent observation of many Christian scholars, from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas to the present day. Martin Luther King, a hero of both liberals and conservatives alike, noted this in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.
I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong…. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
I am always amazed when liberals tell us to “change the law!” in response to our pro-life street activism. This is a response I’ve heard for over 20 years. Of course, when laws are about to be enacted in response to the abortion epidemic, we hear: “Keep your laws off my body!” I have always argued for the importance for cultural change followed by political action. Christian social reform must be from the bottom-up, not the top-down.
In the civil rights movement, we saw this principle. How do good people respond when man’s law violates God’s law? King outlined the steps that must precede direct action. He also popularized the axiom that “politicians don’t see the light until they feel the heat.” But what is often not noticed about King’s philosophy of direct action was his over arching belief in the transcendent Law of God.
God’s moral law, far from being outside of the mainstream, has been central to the philosophy of virtually all Christian social justice movements. If God’s Law is not at the center of social ethics, then, according to Martin Luther King, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, we have an unjust law – a law that is based on man’s arbitrary whims that does not square with God’s justice as revealed in nature and in the special revelation of the written Word.
Liberal detractors of theonomy never deride Thomas or Augustine as being “Christian Jihadists.” Further, Martin Luther King can hardly be called a “fundamentalist” or a “Christian Reconstructionist” because he rejected several key tenets of orthodoxy. However, the idea that the basis for a “just law” is found in God’s Law has been a mainstream idea from the beginning of Christian thought.
The question until very recently has not been the Ultimate Source of just laws. From the Magna Charta to the Declaration of Independence, it was universally recognized that God himself is the author of just laws and the guarantor or rights and liberty. The challenge has always been in acquiring a total biblical worldview, that is, knowing how to correctly interpret and apply the Law of God in governing society.
Direct Action or Indirect Action?
If we study history, we will find that it is a combination of direct action and indirect political and judicial action that accomplishes social change. However, most often it is direct action that begins the process and is most effective in changing cultural attitudes. Many years later we see the laws changed.
By way of example, the underground railroad and civil disobedience over slavery resulted in the negative outcome of the Dred Scott decision. But that set off a chain of events that finally resulted in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Slavery was not eliminated through the federal courts. Quite to the contrary, it took the direct action of those who defied the law and brought social conflict. It was the so-called “militancy” of the anti-slavery and abolitionist movement – that drove the work of great figures such as the Beecher family, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas.
Ironically, what is often called pro-life “militancy” is a peaceful campaign for public awareness. In contrast, the “effective progress” of many years of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade might never end abortion simply because abortion laws would revert to the states and cultural local attitudes would influence laws at the state and local level. Thus local direct action is needed whether Roe remains in place or not.
Although one might criticize the unorthodox theological positions of some of the figures mentioned above, the idea of direct action is soundly based on biblical principle. Martin Luther King argued that the Apostles did not lobby to change the law before they preached the Gospel, but they immediately resolved to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately when the Gospel spread over several centuries, the laws were changed to allow for Christian liberty.
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