Politically Incorrect: The Emerging Faith Factor in American Politics, By Ralph Reed; Word Publishing, Dallas, TX, © 1994; 312 pages; hard back.
Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, has published his first book. The title is designed to make you smirk at the author’s feigned impudence in advocating a Christian alternative to the multicultural quagmire in which America is currently trapped. However, the title is more designed to sell copies than to make the buyer aware.
Politically Incorrect reassures its audience (presumably mostly evangelicals) that the Christian Coalition is a mainstream, multicultural, multi-ethnic tour de force. Those detractors who paint Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Christian Coalition leaders as “fire-breathing, religious right extremists” need not worry. According to Reed, their strategy is much more moderate and mainstream than the liberals fear. Politically Incorrect is an excellent study on exactly what is wrong with the Christian conservative movement. According to Politically Incorrect, the ideology of the Christian Coalition is antinomian (anti-biblical Law) and pluralistic. Reed’s politics are no more Law-based than those of George Bush.
Says Reed, “What do religious conservatives really want? They want a place in the conversation we call democracy. Their commitment to pluralism includes a place for faith among the many other competing interests in society.“1
Reed continues, “Their objective is citizenship, not theism. Few if any believe that the Republican party platform belongs in the canon of Scripture – or vice versa…. Political involvement is a dynamic process. Since the emergence of the pro-family movement, religion has changed our politics, but politics has also changed religious folk. It has taught them not to expect a heaven on earth …“2
To Reed’s credit, he appears to be a realist. He is not expecting a cataclysmic revival to usher in a utopian order in America by the 1996 election. He views the Christian Coalition’s strategy as a long term grass-roots, bottom-up restructuring of the American political system according Christian ideals. He is informed of history and knows of the power the Great Awakenings. He never once appears to be pessimistic in his outlook of the future. Ralph Reed is a young man who expects to spend at least 50 years or so working for the reformation of America. He is certainly not preaching escapism.
But this aside, Ralph Reed fails to get the point of reformation. It is only biblical Law which can sustain a society. The moral Law of God restrains the passions of the sinner, acts as a schoolmaster to bring sinners to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and is the rule of sanctification for the Christian. Only biblical Law can serve as the blueprint for reformation. But instead of advocating theonomy, Reed tries hard to steer clear of what he terms “extremism.”
The myth of pluralism is the number one fallacy which undermines Reed’s entire social ethic. His vision for America is truncated by his anti-Law position. We see conservative Christians, led by the Christian Coalition, bowing to the idol of “pluralism.” We hear them droning on in their hypnotic mantra: “All we want is an equal voice in the market place of ideas.”
Pluralism is defined as each person having an equal voice in a democratic process. This has become the battle cry of Ralph Reed: “All we want is equal time!” But most politically active Christians don’t want equal time with homosexuals, abortionists, animal worshipping pagans, witches, radical feminists and pornographers. We want them silenced and mercifully disciplined according to the Word of God.
In chapter two, “What the World Would Look Like,” Ralph Reed describes his religious conservative vision for America. What will our nation look like, should he be successful in getting “a fair and equal voice in the political process”? The America he envisions falls far short of the vision of the “city set on a hill” extolled by the Puritans.
According to Reed, we need to be cautious about speaking for God as we enter into the world of politics: “Religious folk are now becoming more wise to the possibilities as well as the limits of politics. While they believe they possess the truth about matters of eternity, they are less assured about temporal matters, which tend to be more ambiguous. There are some political issues that the Bible addresses in principle. But most matters await the hereafter before they reach a final resolution.“3
Ralph Reed accurately describes the problem of believing that politics is “the answer.” It is not. Civil government is only one institution of God given to be reformed according to the Word. He is mistaken, however, when he assumes that the Word of God only speaks to “some issues in principle.”
The Word of God is clear on one thing: the moral Law of God is the standard, not natural law, not pluralism, not what man thinks is right in his own eyes. The Bible provides the vast majority of laws needed to govern a society. Those it does not directly define, it addresses in principle. Although we may not always agree on interpretation, we agree on the Law of God as the standard. Either we stand for the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the totality of life, or we become enemies of the cross.
Politically Incorrect constantly advocates a standard that is different from what the Word of God requires: “If religious conservatives served in government, parole would be abolished for violent felons and repeat violent offenders would spend the rest of their lives in jail… Convicted drug dealers who peddled on school grounds or to minors would go to prison – without parole…. there would be fewer divorces, more intact families, and more live births than abortions in even our largest cites…. States would be free to restrict abortions except in cases of the endangerment of the life of the mother, rape, or incest.“4
The moral Law of God requires only two punishments for law breakers: restitution or execution. A repeat violent offender would spend the rest of his life in servitude or would be executed. Convicted drug dealers who sold drugs to children would be executed for the crime of sorcery (Greek: pharmakeia, see Rev. 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). Divorce would be available only in instances of proven adultery. Abortion would be a capital crime and would be considered murder. But Ralph Reed flatly refuses to stand for the moral Law of God.
In his acknowledgments, Reed thanks Stephen Carter for starting a “vital dialogue” on the issue of religion in American politics with his Culture of Disbelief. Although Reed disagrees with Carter’s leftist politics, he agrees with the principle set forth in the book: that religion should be an accepted principle upon which to base one’s political beliefs and that neither liberals nor conservatives should view the opposing candidate’s religious convictions as the basis for an attack on their politics.
Says Carter, “What was wrong with the 1992 Republican Convention was not the effort to link the name of God to secular political ends. What was wrong was the choice of secular ends to which the name of God was linked.“5
This viewpoint expresses the essence of antinomianism: that the righteousness of one’s conduct can be divorced from the moral Law of God – or that one’s political views can be divorced from one’s theology. The Culture of Disbelief and Politically Incorrect both prop up Richard John Neuhaus’ specious idea of “neutrality in the public square.” In truth, the only option besides a biblically based society ruled by the Law of God is a pagan society ruled by lawlessness. There is no neutral ground upon which we can stand.
Stephen Carter denies the inerrancy of Scripture. With such a theological liberal there can be no meaningful dialogue on any level. No matter how much Ralph Reed wishes to thank and acknowledge Stephen Carter for beginning a “vital dialogue,” he can’t escape the fact that Culture of Disbelief is liberal in its position on scriptural inerrancy.
In chapter five, “Faith Versus Fanaticism,” Reed claims that how you are received by your audience is more important than what you say. Reed takes exception to Christian activists who make bold public declarations against sin on the basis of Scripture. A group of Christians distributed a tract before the 1992 elections warning: “To vote for Bill Clinton is a sin against God.” This tract contained scriptural reproof on the issues of homosexuality, abortion and distribution of condoms to school children.6 Reed claims, “These statements presented a harsh side of religious belief that was inappropriate and counterproductive.“7
Whether or not Reed disagrees with these statements is uncertain. He doesn’t face the issue. When would it be a sin to vote for such a candidate? What if the proposed candidate has an openly anti-Christ agenda? Is appearing politically correct in the public square to be bartered for truth? Thus Ralph Reed loathes the democratic unfairness of speaking the truth about homosexuality, abortion and fornication in the “neutral public square.”
It is not whether we appear “politically correct” in the eyes of our enemies, it is the basis of our belief that is important – or our motivation. I am not suggesting that Reed is wrong in seeking to be “wise as a serpent” in the political forum. The problem is not his political savvy, the problem is his faulty anti-biblical Law stance.
Reed seeks to soothe the frightened pagans who dominated the legislative process for half a century with their liberal agenda (due to the default of evangelicals). He desires to reassure his adversaries: “The conventional wisdom that religious conservatives seek to legislate a radical agenda is not borne out by the facts. In fact, the agenda of religious conservatives seems quite minimalist and mainstream, particularly when compared with the radical ambitions of other great social movements in history.“8
Any attempt to legislate according to the moral Law of God or to advocate a theocracy would be a “radical agenda” in the eyes of pagan liberals. According to Reed, a “radical agenda” promoting the rule of God should be avoided at all costs. This succinctly describes the problem with the Christian Coalition.
The goal of the Christian Coalition is to take frequent opinion polls of the American public and then base their campaign on what the voters say matters most. Some leaders are downplaying moral issues such as abortion and homosexuality in favor of a more moderate campaign platform emphasizing tax relief, welfare and crime reform: “the concerns of the common people.” This strategy has even included campaigning for conservative candidates who are pro-abortion. Even Ted Koppel, in an edition of Nightline, claimed that the Christian Coalition, in their attempt to create a big tent was now “sounding more like Mario Cuomo.”
Some have gathered under the “bigger tent” of neutrality not realizing that the biblical commandment to oppose child killing and sodomy is not to be bartered for a larger constituency. The attempt to strike an even keel of balance in the stormy waters of “change” reveals how far evangelicals have drifted from their theological moorings.
Is there hope for the Christian Coalition? Yes! Politically Incorrect does not speak for all members of the Christian Coalition. Many of its leaders on the grass roots level stand for the moral Law of God. This is an organization not defined by the people at the top. It has many strengths as a decentralized organization.
It won’t be too hard to convince members of the Christian Coalition once they see that social reformation on the basis of biblical Law was, in fact, the theology of Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, etc. This is a movement which extols the Puritans, the neo-Puritan Great Awakenings and the political philosophy of our founding fathers. I am exasperated when I realize that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (who did not claim to be evangelical Christians) were often more covenantal in their thinking than many evangelicals are today! Such was the abiding strength of the Puritan social theory in early America.
Covenantalism teaches us that the Christian Coalition must complete the journey and enter the land of the covenant or else die in the wilderness of antinomianism. This should be our immutable prayer for the Christian Coalition: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
1 Ralph Reed, Politically Incorrect (Word Publishing, Dallas, TX, © 1994) p.24.
2 Ibid, p.25.
3 Ibid, pp.26,27.
4 Ibid, pp.28,29,31.
5 Stephen Carter, The Culture of Disbelief, (BasicBooks, New York, NY 10022-5299, © 1993) p.229.
6 Randall Terry, Why Does A Nice Guy Like Me Keep Getting Thrown in Jail? (Huntington House Publishers and Resistance Press, © 1993) p.134.
7 Reed, p.67.
8 Ibid, p.38.