10 November 2011

Focus on Sacralist Jurisprudence 1

Culture Warriors and the Sacralist Swords of Threat, Litigation, and Fear.

The other day on Focus on the Family they had a guest from the Alliance Defense Fund. As the Christian Right has grown in influence, its leaders have deliberately worked to form organizations and tools that will help them wage relentless culture war. Increasingly they are forming groups devoted to tackling legislation and the judiciary. To do this they're looking to lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians all interfacing in the overlapping realms of Christian media, ministries, think-tanks, and political organizations.

In the last post I mentioned an Elitist tendency among Dominionists and this would be another example. Clearly to accomplish their goals of re-capturing and/or transforming culture (however it is framed) an issue like the law has to become a major focus.

And though they insist the hotel clerk and waitress are just as important in their supposed kingdom building task...the reality is, most of the emphasis is on things like law and politics, education and the arts. While everyone interacts with these spheres in their daily lives, the lower classes are not able to exert any transformative influence. At best they can bring about the change through their wallets and perhaps in the illusion that is the ballot box.

A few observations regarding the show....

It is presented as information you the Christian need to know. Their purpose is to inform everyone of the legal difficulties Christians are facing, the things we need to be aware of and what we should do about it.

First I would urge anyone listening to Focus on the Family, American Family Radio, the Family Life Network, Crosstalk or any of these shows to listen with a grain of salt.

I have found that if you look up and research the things they report on you will often discover they can easily be charged with sensationalism and exaggeration. The Family Life Network which operates in my area regularly misreports stories, sometimes omitting crucial facts or just plain reports them wrong. Sometimes it seems deliberate...they've put a spin on the story. Other times I've been under the impression that the reporters are just terribly unqualified to even weigh in on the issues. Often they exhibit an obvious lack of familiarity with the topics they're discussing, geographical goof-ups, bad mispronunciations of well known people and places, and that's just the blatant examples. You'll often find when they cover an issue they won't interview someone who has a contrary opinion or they'll find a straw man to beat on, a poor representative of the other camp who is unable to put forth cogent arguments. Even though we may disagree with the arguments, there are better ones than those in Christian media are often willing to interact with. I saw this recently in Ray Comfort's short film '180', but that deserves a whole post in itself.

While some of the aforementioned points regarding their coverage of events can be proved by examining the data, there's also a more subjective element that I think is obvious, but is of course a matter of opinion. These shows in their sensationalism often seem to be deliberately promoting fear. I would argue and I'm hardly alone, that fear is common tactic employed by conservatives in general, and it seems even more intense in Christian media circles.

As I'm listening to programmes like this I get the impression that they're trying to scare me into action. Genghis Khan is at the gates and if we don't act now, then America will fall...and of course (echoing Jerome regarding Rome) that would mean the Church is in jeopardy as well. Now, they might argue in response that the times are indeed dire and that the people of God are in a stupor. While on a certain level I can sympathize with such a notion, in this case their hysteria seems to be more driven by the decline of Westernism and the politics that go with it. This is not to say they aren't sometimes concerned with viable ecclesiastical issues, and there are many, but the real urgency comes with politics.

I am concerned that their answer to a Christian’s civil rights being violated is to sue people. Obviously 1 Corinthians teaches us that Christians should never go to the civil courts to sue other Christians...more than a small problem in a Sacralist society that doesn't mark out the Church as separate from the bulk of the population! And sadly though the Bible clearly teaches the civil courts are not be used between Christians, we see almost daily occasions when Christians are involved in litigation against each other. I suppose in a Sacralist society you could indeed go to court...everyone is Christian so then the lawsuit stays 'in house' as it were? Paul's argument doesn't make much sense under the Sacralist model does it?

But what about Christians suing the state, corporations or just non-believers in general? There might be some instances when a Christian could do this. Of course if your insurance company completely violated the terms of agreement, which they often do, and you’ve been left homeless…that might be a time. But one instance I would say is wrong is when our rights are being violated...that is to say that someone is ill-treating us for issues that rightly or wrongly are perceived to be associated with our Christianity. If we think (even wrongly) that we're being persecuted for the sake of the gospel...should we ever look to the civil courts to protect our rights, to vindicate us?

For example, employees that are fired because they wear 'cross' jewelry. First of all I'm against such jewelry, but even if for the sake of argument I acknowledge its legitimacy I just do not see how you can make a case from Scripture that the Biblical response to such treatment is litigation. Isn't that threatening our persecutor? Since the notion of the Kingdom has become muddled by Sacralist obligations and agendas it seems virtually impossible to let something like this go. Their extra-Biblical zeal for a voice of influence in the public square seems to cancel out clear Biblical commands. I thought we were supposed to turn the other cheek. I thought we were supposed to rejoice when we're persecuted...not strike back to get what's ours. So while Alliance Defense Fund and other so-called Christian legal organization claim to be applying the Biblical Worldview to these issues...are they in fact promoting the exact opposite of the Biblical Worldview?

So what's paramount here...the Kingdom agenda or the America agenda? Does the Bible just end up being another tool in their political arsenal?


Mark Nieweg said...

Hello John,
Your observations are spot on about the Sacralist's take on society and how they live in it. One of Peter's challenges came to mind while reading your post. The question for me from the following verses is, "is the Christian slave being unjustly treated because he is a Christian, or because he is his master's property?"

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.(1 Pe 2:18-25 ESV).

It is here where the lines drawn so often by Christians (more interested in their self-preservation than the calling that is the cross)gets blurred - between suffering for a "secular reason" where we can behave no differently than the world in our response, and suffering for Jesus' sake where we are to be like Him. If God's posture towards us in suffering love was for our benefit, then we need to regard our lives in a unified way under that same mission - to reflect the God whom we claim is our Father, and we as His children by adoption. After all, we receive benefits from God's action that we then deny to a world that "does not know its right hand from its left" as God told Jonah.

I think it is this "mission focus" of our calling in Christ that gets scant attention in these days - if it ever really did in the first place.

Please keep up the good work brother! The encouragement here is a real blessing.


Protoprotestant said...


Self-preservation v. the calling of the cross.


Behaving no different than the world in our response...precisely.

It really troubles me.

But I am encouraged by your comment! It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who sees it.

I think the Mennonites and Amish have seen this for years. This is a big part of their legacy that puts many other Christians to shame.

Of course they're not trying to build a Christian Culture are they?

Despite the problems generated by their Separatism...they've sure got this right.

And they're not nearly as separate as people think. Just this afternoon we were walking through a mall in Western NY and got a good chuckle. There's an Amish furniture store in the mall and one of the Amish guys was standing behind the counter talking on the phone. It seemed out of place, but it's not unusual.

I like 'mission focus'....putting it in those terms makes it clear...the Sacralists have completely misunderstood why we're here.