Ethics Articles

Articles: Social Action


>> = Important Articles; ** = Major Articles


>>That’s What Christians Do Now (Free Congress Foundation, 030613)

The Imperial Judiciary (Christian Coalition, 970000)

Bringing Together Jews and Christians (Christian Coalition, 970000)

Catholic Alliance (Christian Coalition, 970000)

Breaking the law for a cause Protests (970415)

Faith Goes to Court (EFC, 021000)

Why I Do Not Believe In Revolution (Free Congress Foundation, 030103)

Is The Religious Right Really Right? (Christian Post, 040716)

Was Jesus Political? (Christian Post, 060314)





>>That’s What Christians Do Now (Free Congress Foundation, 030613)


Paul M. Weyrich’s Introduction: If Christians truly professed their faith and showed the world what we stand for, terrible things such as legalized abortion, over-the-counter and online pornography, homosexual rights, sexual promiscuity, and gambling would not be sanctioned in today’s America. The evildoers would have backed off. But because those who promote evil sensed a weakness, they pushed ahead. Lenin said when you are confronting an issue, you take your bayonet and you probe. When you find steel, you retreat. When you find weakness, you advance. The evil ones have found weakness because Christians have been failing to act as Christians. Dr. Donald Wildmon is one of the few people who is still willing to stand up to be counted. If his example can inspire more Christians to act as Christians should, then we can reclaim America. That’s why I wanted to share with you this commentary by Dr. Wildmon that was originally published in the American Family Association Journal.


In 1973 the Supreme Court said it was okay to kill unborn babies. Since then, we have killed more than the entire population of Canada. And it continues. A woman’s choice? Half of those who have died in their mothers’ wombs have been women. They didn’t have a choice. It is called abortion.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


First it was in dingy, dirty theaters. Then, convenience stores. Then, grocery stores. Then on television. Now it is in the homes of millions via the Internet. It is called pornography.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


They called it no-fault. Why should we blame anyone when something so tragic happens? Haven’t they already suffered enough? Half of the marriages in America end this way. The children suffer. The family breaks down. It is called divorce.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


At one time it was a perversion. We kept it secret. We secured help and hope for those who practiced it. Now it is praised. We have parades celebrating it, and elected officials give it their blessing. Now it is endowed with special privileges and protected by special laws. Even some Christian leaders and denominations praise it. It is called homosexuality.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


It used to be an embarrassment. A shame. Now a third of all births are to mothers who aren¹t married. Two-thirds of all African-American children are born into a home without a father. The state usually pays the tab. That is why we pay our taxes, so that government can take the place of parents. After all, government bureaucrats know much better how to raise children than parents do. It is called illegitimacy.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


At one time it was wrong. But then the state decided to legalize it, promote it and tax it. It has ripped apart families and destroyed lives. But just look at all the money the state has raised. No longer do we have to teach our children to study and work hard. Now we teach them they can get something for nothing. We spend millions encouraging people to join the fun and excitement. Just look at the big sums that people are winning. They will never have to work again! It is called gambling.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


Not long ago, Christians were the good guys. But now any positive image of Christians in movies or on TV is gone. We are now depicted as the bad guys -- greedy, narrow-minded hypocrites. The teacher can’t have a Bible on her desk, but can have Playboy. We don¹t have Christmas and Easter holidays -- just winter and spring break. We can¹t pray in school, but can use foul language. It’s called being tolerant.


Me? I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


Yes, all these things came to pass within 30 years. Where were the Christians? Why, they were in church. All these things were for someone else to deal with. Times have changed. Involvement has been replaced with apathy.


But don’t blame me. I didn’t do anything. I go to church, the minister preaches, I go home. That’s what Christians do now.


Dr. Donald Wildmon is Founder and Chairman of the American Family Association, a Christian organization promoting the Biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media.




The Imperial Judiciary (Christian Coalition, 970000)


As more liberal activists become federal judges, family advocates have serious cause for concern.


Most pro-family initiatives in 1997 will go forth in Congress, but family advocates are becoming savvier about how judicial activism undercuts the process of self-government. The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming docket illustrates how courts are being utilized by anti-family forces to reshape the culture. Justices will hear two “right to kill” cases from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th and 2nd Circuits. Both cases are examples of how a culture of death is encroaching upon society, first with the unborn and now with the elderly and infirm.


One case from Washington state provides a perfect illustration of how judges second-guess what citizens want. An initiative placed on the state ballot by Washington residents was approved by the electorate. The vote established a ban on physician-assisted suicides. But through a series of court appeals, the ban was struck down by the 9th Circuit and now has made its way to the Supreme Court.


“Think of it! An initiative by the people is the most direct form of government we have,” said Tom Jipping, director of the Free Congress Foundation’s Judicial Selection Monitoring Project. “The voters made their wishes known by a majority. Yet a court has the power to thwart the will of the people.”


In the other “right to kill” case, the 2nd Circuit ruled that two New York state statutes are “one and the same” and, therefore, subject to further interpretation by a higher court on the legal principle known as “equal protection under the law.” One statute allows dying patients to refuse invasive and extraordinary treatment, and the other bans physician-assisted suicide. The decision was bumped up to the Supreme Court. Explains Mike Pendleton of the Free Congress Foundation: “Terminology such as ‘allows’ and ‘bans’ should make it obvious that they are not the same. But what we’re seeing is that judicial activists are becoming so brazen they’re even amending state constitutions.” Also, the Supreme Court accepted for review from the 11th Circuit a case addressing the constitutionality of a Georgia statute requiring drug testing of candidates for state political office. A judge appointed by President Clinton argued that the statute violates First Amendment rights of those wishing to hold public office who want to legalize drug use. In effect, the decision establishes a constitutional right for a potential state official not to be tested for illegal drug use.


In addition, a case reviewed by the Supreme Court in October 1996 could drastically alter the traditional notion that public streets are forums for free speech activities. The central issue in Schenck vs. Pro-Choice Network is the constitutionality of “sidewalk counseling” and other speech, including prayer, near abortion clinics. Should pro-family citizens care about such judicial actions? Can they do anything about them? “Yes,” says Keith Fournier, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. “Anti-family forces have established a pattern. If they don’t like the results of elections, they turn to the courts for help with their social engineering. And liberal judges will find in their favor. The judicial branch has assumed for itself a power way beyond what the framers of the Constitution intended.”


The next four years will be key ones in the battle for the judiciary.


According to information gathered for the Judicial Selection Monitor, a monthly publication of Free Congress Foundation’s Judicial Selection Monitoring Project, of the 837 federal judges, 202 are Clinton appointees. Court-watchers estimate that Clinton will fill three or four Supreme Court vacancies during his second term.


“Clinton says he will be going for his place in history, and what could be a more telling legacy than whom he nominates as justices?” says Marty Dannenfelser of Family Research Council.


Should pro-family Americans worry about his choices? Consider the following examples from Clinton’s appointees so far:


U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer voted against limiting porn on cable TV, against single-sex education, to block a ban on quotas for homosexuals, to allow race preferences in government contracting, to block term limits, and to empower the federal government to regulate every aspect of social and economic life. Justice Ginsburg is former general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).


Judges Judith Rogers and David Tatel (D.C. Circuit) voted against limiting porn on broadcast TV.


Judges Blane Michael and Diana Motz (4th Circuit) voted against excluding gays from the military.


Judge Carlos Lucero (10th Circuit) voted to declare as unconstitutional a city seal that included a cross.


Judge Theodore McKee (3rd Circuit) voted to ban student-led graduation prayers.


Judge Martha Daughtrey (6th Circuit) voted to throw out child pornography evidence because a search warrant for illegal videotapes did not specifically mention the other forms of illegal child pornography that were found.


Judge Pierre Leval (2nd Circuit) voted to reduce the sentences of LSD traffickers.


Judges Rosemary Barkett and Claudia Wilken (11th Circuit) voted to allow lawsuits against school districts when one student harasses another.


These examples, say family advocates, point to the need for vigilance as Clinton makes more appointments during his next term.


“A liberal activist judge will work his way back to the conclusion he wants through his decision-making process, whereas a restrained judge will base his interpretation on the Constitution itself, whether or not he personally agrees with the law,” added Pendleton.




Bringing Together Jews and Christians (Christian Coalition, 970000)


PLAIN BLACK AND EMBROIDERED YARMULKES ARE discretely anchored to some heads of hair by bobby pins. Crucifixes and crosses adorn blouses and shirts. Cleric collars are nearly as prominent as neckties. Bibles are scattered among position papers and other paraphernalia of a conference.


It’s a meeting of seemingly disparate people joined together by a common commitment: to reverse the moral decline in our nation by bringing together Jews and Christians in support of a common set of Biblical principles, programs and public policies on which to build a more moral society in America. So reads the mission statement of the Center for Jewish and Christian Values.


In its first year of existence, the Washington-based organization has brought together prominent leaders of conservative religious persuasions for meaningful dialogue and plans for action on issues of interest to people of faith, “those who take the dictates of their faith seriously, who share a life-transforming belief in God,” explains Michael Medved, film critic and frequent speaker at Center events.


A November 1996 seminar asked, “Is Hollywood Hostile to Religion?” Analyses of portrayals of religious characters in movies and television were followed by a panel discussion inviting responses from the entertainment industry and its critics and observers.


“Public-opinion polls show that the majority of Americans are troubled by the proliferation of material coming out of Hollywood that mocks religious faith and casts it in a negative, even sadistic light,” said Center founder and president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. “[The material] contributes heavily to the steady erosion of respect, not only for Hollywood, but also for our nation’s basic values.”


In September the Center offered religious perspectives on the right-to-die debate at a briefing on Capitol Hill. With the emergence of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) as a national issue, many congressmen were exposed for the first time to statistics and information from a country where euthanasia is routine - the Netherlands, the only Western nation that has formally endorsed the idea of PAS.


Center Director Chris Gersten presented a Dutch government survey showing that euthanasia most often is administered without patients’ consent. Pointing out that, with 64 percent of cases involving persons who had given no prior approval to such a fate, “Once [Dutch] doctors started helping patients take their own lives rather than treating them, the slide into making the decision about who should live or die was easy.”


Another conference on euthanasia is planned for Feb. 4.


The Center recently received a John Templeton Foundation grant to expand religious expression in public schools by “aggressively lobbying school boards, PTAs and other influential groups in 10 medium-sized cities,” says Gersten. “We will work closely with Christian Coalition in this endeavor.”


Issues That Unite


Conservative points of view coming from the mouths of Jews can be surprising for people accustomed to the stereotype that being Jewish equates to being liberal. Others welcome the trend wholeheartedly.


“For too long Jewish leadership has been a kind of shell for liberalism,” said Barbara Ledeen, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum. “Now there’s a movement to acknowledge that some political decisions are motivated by religious convictions. For faithful people, that means heeding the conservative beliefs we are taught and hold dear.


“We realize that the more people are separated from our religious background, the more it’s affecting our culture in a negative way.” Ledeen hopes more Jews and Christians will discover common ground.


“We find that faithful Jews and Christians have more to unite us than to separate us,” explained Eckstein at the Center’s May inaugural conference attended by a Who’s Who of national conservative leaders representing the spectrum of political parties and theological persuasions. He co-founded the Center in December 1995 with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and Orthodox Jew, and Sen. Daniel Coats, a Republican from Indiana and evangelical Christian.


Addressing the nearly 100 attendees assembled to kick off the Center’s work, Lieberman quoted thinkers as wide-ranging as author C.S. Lewis and Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed, also a speaker. Lieberman said, “The American people really hunger for a moral leadership that will talk about faith.”


Coats added that although “America doesn’t accept [state-] established religion, faith in God is essential to society.”


As founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and a former national co-director for Interreligious Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), Eckstein has been forging alliances between Jews and Christians for 20 years.


In 1994, when the ADL issued a booklet on the “intolerance” of the “Christian right,” Eckstein was among the first leaders to smooth over sharp exchanges. He called for a summit from which grew the Center he founded the following year.


Eckstein invites participation from a range of religious thinkers but does not want the Center “to become so broad that it becomes lukewarm or lacks any bite or effect.”


It’s an unabashed response to declining civility in society, including a deteriorating respect for religious people, who he believes are the country’s hope. “If Christians were better Christians and Jews better Jews, we would have a better America,” said Eckstein when he announced the Center’s founding in 1995.


Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition, also has been a dedicated voice calling for more cooperation between Jews and Christians. Lapin cites economic policy as an area for agreement.


“Jews and Christians must proudly proclaim ethical capitalism in the free market. For too long the left has used economic policy to plunder the pockets of the upright for the benefit of the irresponsible.”


Lapin started Toward Tradition in 1990 to bring together Christians and Jews to inject Judeo-Christian conservatism into American culture, politics and economics.


Lapin does not mind taking the heat for being outspokenly conservative or for being a lightning rod for controversy. Eckstein, however, is more interested in providing a forum for discussion between liberals and conservatives.


The two rabbis are supportive of each other’s points of view but see their roles in building bridges of understanding between the Jewish and Christian communities as different.


Seeking Common Ground


For a first time attendee, a Center-sponsored symposium can be a jarring juxtaposition of Talmudic sayings, quotes from Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” an encyclical by Pope John Paul II) and New Testament Scriptures.


Susan Millman helps herself to sandwich-makings during the noon break. To some in today’s group it’s important to know the lunch is kosher. Others are happy it will be blessed with a prayer.


Millman recalls how - in the 1950s - Jewish families like hers wouldn’t dare “mow our yards or wash our cars on Sunday mornings out of regard for our Christian neighbors.” She watched as respect between the groups eroded over the years and is interested to learn what common ground the leaders of both religions will forge at today’s conference.


At first she’s startled when syndicated columnist Don Feder - himself a Jew - publicly rejoices in the “religious right,” a term she thought was reserved for Christians. Yet she finds she agrees with him when he concludes, after listing instance after instance of anti-religious jabs by the entertainment industry: “Religious people are expected to grin and bear it while secular sensibilities are guarded at all costs.”


Later she says, “Who better than Jews can appreciate society’s deep-seated venom aimed at people of faith?”




Catholic Alliance (Christian Coalition, 970000)


It was a busy and productive summer for Catholic Alliance. We recruited nationally and internationally known Catholics for our newly formed board of directors and advisory board. We released a mailing to more than 572,000 Catholics across this country educating them concerning partial-birth abortion and protesting President Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban.


One significant development is the newly changed status of Catholic Alliance in relation to Christian Coalition. We are now an “affiliate” rather than a “division” of Christian Coalition. What does that mean?


Catholic Alliance now has an independent board of directors and an advisory board, both comprised entirely of American Catholics. We will continue to work in tandem with Christian Coalition, but our board of directors and advisory board will establish Catholic Alliance policies and develop our own public policy platforms.


As Catholics we understand that Catholic theology and spirituality recognize not only a hierarchy of truths but a hierarchy of love and authority, and this principle of ordering is foundational to a Catholic worldview. In our effort to work with Christians of other confessions and communions (and to reach beyond the Christian community to other people of good will), we believe there is a “hierarchy of cooperation” in ecumenical and interreligious work in the arena of social justice. Let’s take a closer look.


Members of Catholic Alliance are - first - faithful Catholics taking seriously the call of the Church and Gospel to renew the temporal order and to stand for true social justice; therefore, Catholic Alliance commits itself to pursuing such a “hierarchy of cooperation.”


Catholic Alliance affirms that the first four “rungs” on this “ladder” of cooperation are life, liberty, family and care for the poor. We believe that care for the poor and needy is best achieved through applying the principle of subsidiarity to governance and by re-empowering the mediating structures of society to accomplish this task. (Subsidiarity is a principle recognizing that governance occurs best at the lowest practicable social order.)


Catholic Alliance proposes as a working principle a “hierarchy of cooperation” in its public policy, issue-based political activism and work as an affiliate of Christian Coalition. We recognize that there are fundamental issues of justice and morality upon which we can stand in full cooperation with Christians of other confessions, other people of faith and all people of good will in four areas:


·      The Dignity of Life

·      Liberty

·      The Primacy of the Family

·      Obligation to the Poor and the Needy


In the next issue of Catholic Alliance Perspectives, I will discuss in detail these four areas and how they impact the work of Catholic Alliance.


In summary, Catholic Alliance recognizes that this “hierarchy of cooperation” is by no means complete. Catholic Alliance will seek to further expound its positions as we progress. However, Catholic Alliance will cooperate with Christian Coalition in a completely nonpartisan manner, on an issue-by-issue basis, as it relates to these four primary foundational principles.




Breaking the law for a cause Protests (970415)


Activists disagree on conditions that justify civil disobedience


Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. --Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849


Later this week, aboriginal protesters plan to block parts of the Trans-Canada Highway running through their reserves to send a message to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.


Last month, five Detroit-area animal rights activists were charged after more than 1,500 mink were freed in the middle of the night from a fur farm near Chatham.


Civil disobedience has a long and respected history throughout the world. Mohandas Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Burning draft cards. But when is breaking the law justified to protest a perceived injustice?


Leading ethicists and civil rights advocates all agree that the use of bombs to support a cause can never be approved.


But there is remarkably little consensus among them on the conditions that can justify breaking the law.


Former Ontario premier Bob Rae was arrested in 1989 while NDP leader for taking part in a blockade of a logging road in the Temagami forest.


“No one is above the law, everyone is subject to the law,” Mr. Rae says. “There are just times and circumstances when one says, ‘I’m going to demonstrate and I’ll live with the consequences.’


“I think if people are prepared to accept the penalty, it really depends on the circumstances.


“There are no absolutes in this business.”


Montreal civil rights lawyer Julius Grey is a strong believer in civil disobedience, but says it must be limited to “matters of conscience.”


“There is of course a great distinction to be made between disobedience because you disagree and disobedience because your conscience tells you.” Disagreement on policy in a democratic state such as Canada, Mr. Grey says, is a matter for opposition but not disobedience.


“However, when it is truly a matter of conscience, then you have no choice. É I would have no choice but to disobey an order for instance to assist in an execution. I could not follow that order.”


The case for civil disobedience is strongest, Mr. Grey says, when the state orders you to do something.


“Suppose the state says that you have to serve on a jury and you have to decide on the death penalty. The answer for me would be no. Similarly, I can imagine that a certain very Catholic doctor might refuse to perform an abortion.”


However, even on fundamental matters of conscience, Mr. Grey draws the line at those things that are “wrong in themselves.”


“Throwing a bomb on a bus is wrong no matter how strong your disagreement. You can withdraw all recognition from the state, but you still can’t kill.”


University of Manitoba ethicist Arthur Schafer suggests a “strong moral case” can be made for civil disobedience even, in some cases, in democracies.


But Mr. Schafer, director of the university’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, suggests a series of questions that should be examined before embarking on such a course of conduct.


Is the law or cause that is being challenged truly unjust, oppressive or illegitimate?


Is there a serious moral value at stake with some urgency to it? “Frivolous or trivial or insignificant goals or unworthwhile goals wouldn’t justify breaking the law.”


Will the harm that comes from your disobedience (inconvenience or suffering to other people, financial costs) be significantly outweighed by the good you are likely to do?


Is there any alternative legal means that would be just as effective and achieve the same goal?


“The more democratic the society, the more alternative legal avenues there are to work for one’s vision of a better or just society, the less justifiable would be breaking the law.”


But surprisingly, Canada’s best-known civil libertarian, Alan Borovoy, says civil disobedience is “rarely justified” as a pressure tactic to bring about change.


“We live in a democratic society where we have a right to participate in the creation of the law and that has to imply a correlative duty to obey the law that has emerged from that process,” says Mr. Borovoy, longtime head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.


The U.S. civil rights movement and the push for equal rights for black Americans is one of the few justified uses of civil disobedience, Mr. Borovoy suggests.


He wrote a book called Uncivil Obedience in which he urged activists to use more imagination within the law and “raise hell without breaking the law.”


“Just as Martin Luther King taught us how to pleasantly disobey the law, I am recommending how we can unpleasantly obey the law. There are ways of being miserable to government without violating the law.


“There’s too much fantasizing about those rare situations that arise in our lifetime where a case could be made for civil disobedience.”




Faith Goes to Court (EFC, 021000)


As the courts dismantle Christian-influenced social policies, believers need to speak out boldly and be prepared to defend their rights


When the Ontario Superior Court forced Oshawa’s Catholic School Board to allow Marc Hall to attend his May high school prom with his boyfriend, he launched a direct attack on Canadian Christians’ freedom of religion.


Since the Catholic Church considers homosexuality an “intrinsic disorder,” the ruling amounts to a declaration that Christian groups may no longer put their beliefs into practice.


What is almost as stunning is that the Catholic board surrendered without a fight. In the past, any Catholic board so challenged would have declared that the church doesn’t take orders from the courts on matters of doctrine, and canceled the prom. But today they would have faced contempt of court charges and would be subject to fines or imprisonment. Today, the threat of contempt of court charges, which can impose fines or imprisonment, blocked such action.


Civil courts once intervened in church affairs only when church courts themselves acted unfairly. Then, with the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the courts quickly made it clear that the Christian world view no longer shapes culture or the law. The courts, with the tacit support of politicians, began by dismantling remnants of Christian influence such as the legal prohibitions of abortion and physician-assisted suicide, and the idea that marriage involves a man and a woman. More recently, the courts have been an instrument of direct attacks on believers.


One example is the Surrey School Board case, in which  the British Columbia Supreme Court overturned school trustees’ refusal to approve books that would promote same-sex parents to kindergarten and Grade 1 students. The court ruled that the board “made a decision significantly influenced by religious considerations,” thus contravening a section of the Schools Act that requires schools to operate on strictly secular principles. That ruling implied that believers of all faiths can have no voice in school board decisions, and was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. A decision is pending.


Another recent troubling case is that of Toronto printer Scott Brockie, a Christian printer who refused to print materials promoting the gay and lesbian lifestyle. The Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered him to undergo a re-education that would sensitize him to homosexual concerns. That case had to go to the Ontario Divisional Court before Brockie was granted the freedom to follow his conscience in his own print shop.


Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: a) freedom of conscience and religion; b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression.” Yet Christians and other believers obviously cannot always depend on their courts and governments as guarantors of these personal and religious freedoms.


The prejudice against faith runs deep in government and media as well as the courts. Prime Minister Jean Chretien was recently reported as boasting that it was his personal decision to exclude “priests” (and all mention of faith) from the memorial service on Parliament Hill for the Sept. 11 victims.


When Archbishop Michael Peers, the head of the Anglican Church of Canada, lamented the exclusion of religion from public life, Robert Fulford, normally one of my favourite columnists, voiced the opinion of many of my media colleagues. Fulford retorted that “Christians and all others will in the end be better able to maintain their beliefs in freedom if the political world holds no religious views, ignores religious events and politely declines to embrace religious leaders...The world of 2002 has too little secularism, not too much. As well as freedom of religion, our form of society requires freedom from religion.”


In such a climate, it is not enough for believers just to carry on with worshiping and doing good. We are now a minority in danger of being silenced. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Catholic Civil Rights League and others are now beginning to do what the Canadian Jewish Congress and other minority group representatives have long been forced to do: speak out boldly, and go to court when necessary to protect their rights.


Christians must now fight to be heard on public issues, because public issues quickly become personal issues for some or all of us.


Bob Harvey is the religion editor of the Ottawa Citizen.




Why I Do Not Believe In Revolution (Free Congress Foundation, 030103)


By Daniel G. Jennings


I’m a strong believer in the concept of liberty and the rights of the individual who doesn’t believe in revolution. I don’t believe in revolution for the simple reason that history has proven that revolution is the road to tyranny.


The social revolution in Ancient Rome led to the end of the Republic, the dictatorships of Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar and Augustus, and eventually absolute monarchy. The English Civil War, which was a revolution, led to the dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell and a regime of religious fanaticism. The French Revolution led to the absolute dictatorship of Napoleon. The Russian Revolution led to the dictatorships of Lenin and Stalin. The Chinese Revolution ushered in the dictatorship of Mao, the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power, the Iranian Revolution resulted in the tyranny of the ayatollahs, and so on.


Virtually every revolution in human history has made things worse for the average person and led to a vicious and destructive dictatorship. Generally, these dictatorships have ruthlessly crushed dissent, deprived the average person of his freedom, and engaged in gross violations of basic human rights. Many of these dictatorships launched destructive and useless wars against their neighbors as soon as they seized power.


It must also be added that in China, Cuba and Russia, conditions for the average person actually became worse after the revolutions carried out in their name. Late Tsarist Russia was no paradise but at least the people had a few rights, there was some free enterprise and freedom of dissent, and serious attempts had been made at creating a constitutional democracy. Furthermore, Russian society had experienced a great deal of material progress. All of that was basically gone by the late 1920s, a normal civil society was not reestablished in Russia until the 1950s and Russia saw nothing like the freedoms enjoyed under Nicholas II until after the collapse of Communism. China before Mao was taking rudimentary steps toward democracy, capitalism and modernization.

Within ten years of the Chinese Revolution, the Chinese people were starving to death because of Mao’s agricultural policies. The famine in the early 1960s under Mao was actually worse than the one that the Chinese experienced in World War II when half the country had been occupied by the brutal and barbaric Imperial Japanese Army. Vast material progress has been made in China in the last twenty years because Deng Xiaoping essentially returned to the social and economic policies of the pre-revolutionary Nationalist regime. In Cuba, what was once a rich agricultural country is now importing food. Cuba is actually importing sugar from the United States forty years after the revolution allowed Fidel Castro to seize power.


At the same time those nations that have not undergone “revolution” have experienced far more progress than those that underwent “revolution.” For example, Western Europe where there hasn’t been a revolution since 1936, now has democracies and welfare states that are the envy of the world. The United States, where there hasn’t been a revolution since the 18th century, is the world’s richest and most advanced nation. In Asia, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, all of which had not experienced revolution, became peaceful and prosperous democracies. Compare them to China, North Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Burma, which all underwent Revolution.


Let’s face it folks, revolution does not work. History has proven it again and again. Far from benefiting the average person, revolution is often the worst thing that can happen because it destroys the one thing needed to make life better: freedom. For when the average person is given freedom, even limited freedom, he will work to improve his life and those of his neighbors without coercion or force. Therefore, I don’t believe in revolution because I believe in people and their capacity to improve their lives without the need to create a blood bath or build a tyranny.


Daniel G. Jennings is a freelance writer and journalist who lives and works in Denver, CO. He has worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in five states.




Is The Religious Right Really Right? (Christian Post, 040716)


With the 2004 presidential election looming before us, the secular media are sure to begin issuing ominous warnings about the influence of the so-called “Religious Right.” Every four years or so--roughly following the pattern of presidential elections--the media rediscover conservative Christians and set out to warn the rest of the population of the supposed threat posed by evangelicals active in the political sphere.


The Religious Right emerged on the national political scene in a big way in the 1980 presidential election, when Ronald Reagan was elected President with the overwhelming support of evangelical Christians. The evangelical support for Ronald Reagan--who, after all, defeated a “born again” Southern Baptist president--caught the national media by surprise and led to an avalanche of analysis. What would this new evangelical involvement in politics mean for the country? Were the evangelicals here to stay?


This election year promises to be no different, at least in terms of media scrutiny. With issues like same-sex marriage on the national agenda, the values-centered voting patterns of conservative Christians will play a big part in the presidential election. A fascinating look at the Religious Right and its critics is offered by Christian Networks Journal in its Winter 2004 issue, “Religious Right or Wrong?” The issue features an exchange of articles between Rev. Matt Fitzgerald, pastor of Epiphany Church in Chicago, Illinois, and Dr. Ronald H. Nash, professor of Christian Philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Fitzgerald, representing the religious left, and Nash, a prominent conservative philosopher, present a lively exchange focused on the influence of the Religious Right.


In, “Why the Religious Right is Wrong,” Fitzgerald aims a broadside attack on the political involvement of conservative Christians. Fitzgerald, we might note, does not mince words. He identifies all evangelicals as fundamentalists, and charges that “belief in the inerrancy of Scripture saps God of majesty and mystery.” Fitzgerald claims that his church takes the Bible “too seriously to read it literally,” and argues that though “the Christian story speaks God’s truth,” this story is not to be limited to the Holy Scriptures. As he argues, “the doctrine of Biblical infallibility wants to trap the Divine inside texts that God’s power ultimately transcends.” This misrepresentation of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is eccentric, to say the least. Doctrines do not have “wants” and are incapable of “trapping” the Divine.


Though Fitzgerald is predictably opposed to evangelicals on the basis of political judgment, he is remarkably candid in addressing his critique to the Gospel as preached and taught in evangelical churches. As he explains, “Conservative churchgoers are taught to believe that they deserve judgment, but that Jesus comes rushing in to save them.” Evangelicals, Fitzgerald asserts, believe that humanity is “doomed” by its sinfulness and must be rescued from without, by the intervention of God in the person of Jesus Christ. According to Fitzgerald, conservative churches grow because conservative Christians “flock” to churches which tell the story of redemption and rescue. According to his analysis, “the threat of judgment plays a necessary role in the story that shapes their lives.”


Amazingly enough, Fitzgerald is bold to announce that liberal churches no longer believe in the threat of divine judgment and thus no longer look to rescue by a divine Savior. Even as evangelical Christians experience the radical transformation that comes by faith in Jesus Christ, “few people in the mainline church experience this sort of transformation.”


Fitzgerald explains that the liberal churches embraced a protest against “rigid and controlling religious orthodoxy and political tyranny.” Attempting to keep one foot in the modern world and the other in the Christian tradition, the mainline churches have accommodated themselves to a modernist perspective--a position Fitzgerald describes as “a very honest stance.”


What about the threat of divine judgment? “As people who believe that humanity has the answer to its own problems we no longer believe we’re doomed,” he explains. As Fitzgerald parodies the evangelical understanding of the Gospel, he accuses us of forcing a “rescue” on persons who are only standing in knee-deep water, and thus in need of no rescue at all. Liberal churches see the situation otherwise: “We think we’re splashing around in the shallow end of some motel pool, but Christian songs, scripture and stories treat us as if we are drowning in a storm-tossed sea. Because its liberal Protestant listeners no longer subscribe to the notion that humanity is in grave danger, the message of salvation is rendered nonsensical. Jesus has become the answer to a question we are no longer asking.”


Fitzgerald is not at all pleased that conservative Christians are now politically organized and involved in the political sphere. He declares that his church welcomes people “of all sexual orientations.” He identifies his vision of Christianity with the political left and charges the Religious Right with an “arrogant conflation of God’s will with American military might.”


Dr. Ronald Nash doesn’t beat around the bush in his response to Fitzgerald’s critique. One of America’s most prominent Christian apologists, Nash accuses Fitzgerald of demonstrating “either a defective grasp of American church history over the past fifty years and/or an emotional problem that makes one wonder if he knows what he’s talking about.” Take that, Mister “I take the Bible too seriously to read it literally.”


Turning the question on Fitzgerald himself, Nash accuses the Chicago pastor of harboring ill will towards evangelicals, who are simply following the example set by religious liberals in organizing themselves politically and seeking to influence public policy. At the same time, Nash understands that Fitzgerald’s agenda goes beyond politics.


“Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot,” Nash observes. “Religious conservatives have discovered the social dimension of the Gospel--although some never really lost sight of it. Now the liberals like Rev. Fitzgerald wish conservatives would go back into their churches and forget the political arena. Well, perhaps that sentence is too simplistic. Rev. Fitzgerald, it appears, would also prefer that they stop preaching their Gospel.”


Religious liberals conveniently force all evangelicals into their concept of fundamentalism, and then warn the nation of a horde of unwashed conservatives seeking to force an extreme vision on the nation. The scare tactics aren’t working.


Nash knows an evangelical when he sees one, and he defines an evangelical as “a Christian believer whose theology is traditional or orthodox, who takes the Bible as his ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice, who has had a religious conversion, and who is interested in helping others have a similar conversion experience.”


As Nash explains, evangelicals are deeply concerned about the nation’s moral crisis, the state of public schools, the mounting death toll of abortion, as well as a host of other issues including racial and social justice, poverty, and the environment. He points to evangelical ministries directed toward the alleviation of poverty and human suffering around the world. A published author and expert in the Christian analysis of economics, Nash also asserts that evangelicals generally oppose liberal social programs “because they are often counter-productive and they hurt the poor.” With wit sustained by wisdom, Nash observes: “With friends like the religious left, America’s poor and disadvantaged do not need any enemies.”


Finally, Nash accuses Fitzgerald and fellow leaders of the religious left of harboring a deep and dishonest hostility toward Christian conservatives, treating them as “bare-footed Neanderthals living in the fever swamps of Tennessee.” As Nash laments, “I think we have a right to expect a minister to be trained in the church history of the past fifty years and speak the truth.” According to Nash, “Fitzgerald owes an apology to the millions of faithful Christians he has maligned in his article.”


I wouldn’t wait long for that apology, for Fitzgerald and his fellow religious liberals see the Religious Right as a formidable threat and one they cannot dare to take seriously in terms of an intellectual argument. Liberalism’s arguments are now threadbare and worn, and conservatives have been offering the most compelling policy proposals put forward in the public square over the last several years. Political liberalism is on the retreat, even as lifestyle liberalism is now on the ascent in America and in other advanced nations.


Nevertheless, Fitzgerald’s acid attack is useful in helping evangelicals to see how the “other side” sees us. Nash’s article should remind evangelicals that this fight is not going to be won with pithy platitudes and public politeness. Here’s hoping that Professor Nash is right when he argues that religious conservatives are not about to turn on their heels and retreat from the political arena. The next few months should show us where we stand.


Sources:  See Christian Networks Journal


R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and host of  “The Albert Mohler Program,” a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network.




Was Jesus Political? (Christian Post, 060314)


Last week, the raleigh news & observer reported that rev. Stephen davey, a conservative evangelical pastor and founder of colonial baptist church in cary, nc, believes the church shouldn’t engage in political action. “the mission, energy and investment of the church is not to clean up the evils of society,” says davey. “the mission of the church is to evangelize society.”


Davey’s position is similar to that of renowned bible teacher, john macarthur, who claims in his book, why government can’t save you, that god has not commissioned his people to declare war on their culture, but instead to obey the government, whatever it demands. Evangelicals who hold this position often declare: “you don’t see jesus standing up to the evils of the government or the decadence of his day; neither should christians do it today?”


The statement begs the question: was jesus political?


Certainly jesus’ ministry was not about establishing a political kingdom. Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world” (john 18:36). On one occasion, jesus perceived that a group of people were going to try and make him a king. So he hid from them on a mountain (john 6:15). “on the other hand,” says andrew sandlin in jesus and politics, “it would be totally in error to hold that jesus’ life and teaching had nothing to do with politics. All to the contrary, a politics that does not issue from a proper understanding of jesus’ teaching will be a seriously misguided — and ultimately dangerous — politics.”


The thrust of christ’s ministry was regeneration — the saving of souls. His message was essentially a spiritual one. Nevertheless, when jesus’ message is applied to all of life as he intended, the results are nothing less than revolutionary. Indeed, christ’s kingdom is not of this world, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to pervade the world.


Much of what jesus taught in the sermon on the mount has considerable political ramifications.


Consider the savior’s words, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (matthew 5:4). The late great bible teacher james montgomery boice, formerly the senior pastor of the historic tenth presbyterian church in philadelphia, notes the heart of christ’s statement in this text has to do with a sinner mourning over their transgressions against god. But he also rightly contends the text is “a call to involvement in the social arena — in the struggle of blacks for true equality, the plight of underpaid workers, pollution of our natural resources, education, ethical problems in politics, medicine, and business, and other contemporary problems — just as christians were formerly active in the war against slavery, child labor, lack of freedom of the press, and immorality. We should mourn for such things. And we should mourn deeply enough to do something about them.”


Jesus also said in this same sermon, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (matthew 5:6). Again, this text’s primary application is about a person’s yearning for salvation — one’s hunger for forgiveness — thirsting to have the righteousness of christ imputed to one’s account as a free gift by faith. But as tom minnery contends in why you can’t stay silent, “righteousness is more than that .... In the hebrew culture, people thought far more about the community than they did about the individual. Righteousness was not primarily about one’s personal relationship with god; it was the standard for right relationships between people ... This passion for a righteous society was a part of jesus’ meaning when he pronounced his blessing on those who hunger and thirst to see righteousness dominate the affairs of mankind. The revised english bible translates matthew 5:6 this way: ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail; they shall be satisfied.’”


Furthermore, jesus argued in the sermon on the mount that his followers were to be “salt” and “light” (matthew 5:13, 14). “salt” in jesus’ day was used as a preservative for food stuffs. “light” dispels the darkness. John r.w. Stott, rector emeritus of all souls church in london says of this text: “the function of salt is largely negative: it prevents decay. The function of light is positive: it illumines the darkness. So jesus calls his disciples to exert a double influence on the secular community, a negative influence by arresting its decay and a positive influence by bringing light into darkness. For it is one thing to stop the spread of evil; it is another to promote the spread of truth, beauty and goodness. Putting the two metaphors together, it seems legitimate to discern in them the proper relationship between evangelism and social action in the total mission of christ in the world.”


Civil rights leader, dr. Martin luther king, jr., said that jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount provided him with the foundation for his political protest of non-violent resistance. King’s views were based in part on matthew 5:39, where jesus said: “but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” The consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars concerning this text is that jesus was referring to a backhanded blow — one of the worst indignities suffered by an oppressed people in the roman culture. To turn the other cheek, however, is a clever way of preventing another backhand from one’s persecutor. It forces the oppressor to make the next blow with his fist, which was the way equals would fight in that day. It’s a way of saying, “i have dignity. I am your equal. I am your peer.” Without question, jesus is instructing god’s people not to retaliate when persecuted for their faith. But his words also contain a political strategy for overcoming evil with good — shaming and exposing the evil of oppression — using the power of oppression against itself.


Consider jesus’ parable of the good samaritan (luke 10:25-37). Could there be a more sublime statement with greater political overtones? This parable crosses the divide between culture, race and creed. It talks about crime, racial discrimination, hatred, bigotry, and exploitation. It even indicts religious leaders who are unwilling to do anything about these problems.


And let’s not forget that jesus was most outspoken when it came to criticizing the cultural and religious authorities of his day. He told them: “woe to you, teachers of the law and pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are” (matthew 23:15). Jesus once chased the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip because he said they had corrupted it (mark 11:15-17). He called herod a “fox” (luke 13:32). These remarks and actions by christ were both spiritual and political in nature.


Lastly, the followers of jesus perfectly understood the dual application of his preaching, that they were to be citizens of two worlds – a heavenly kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. They understood what jesus was talking about when he commanded in matthew 22:21: “render unto caesar the things which are caesars; and unto god the things that are god’s.” They would not worship the roman emperor as a god, and, many therefore, paid with their lives. Yet the pressure and agitation they wielded on roman culture did much to improve the plight of women and slaves, protect defenseless children, abolish the gladiatorial games, and provide humane treatment for prisoners and the poor.


Evangelist billy graham once described the early christians in this way: “christianity grew because its adherents were not silent. They said, ‘we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.’ nor did they stop with expressing the great faith they had found. They stormed against the evils of their day until the very foundations of decadent rome began to crumble.”


So, was jesus political? The fundamental nature of jesus’ message was unequivocally religious. Nonetheless, christ’s message had political corollaries.


Faithful christians seek to both evangelize and bring a righteous influence to bear on the political process. Davey and other evangelicals who share his view imply the later is a futile and even worldly endeavor by the church. However, to paraphrase an argument once made by sir frederick catherwood: to try to improve politics is not worldliness but love. To wash your hands of politics is not love but worldliness.



Rev. Mark H. Creech (Calact@Aol.Com) Is The Executive Director Of The Christian Action League Of North Carolina, Inc.