Monday, March 16, 2015

Real Evangelicals Set Lazarus At Their Gate As Their Priority

In the old days he would have
worn purple and fine linen 

There was an interesting article in The New York Times this morning about political strategist David Lane who is attempting to organize a force of approximately 300,000 “Evangelicals” on behalf of the Republican party.  Read below:
DES MOINES — One afternoon last week, David Lane watched from the sidelines as a roomful of Iowa evangelical pastors applauded a defense of religious liberty by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. That night, he gazed out from the stage as the pastors surrounded Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana in a prayer circle.
For Mr. Lane, a onetime Bible salesman and self-described former “wild man,” connecting the pastors with two likely presidential candidates was more than a good day’s work. It was part of what he sees as his mission, which is to make evangelical Christians a decisive power in the Republican Party. “An army,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
And Mr. Lane is positioning himself as a field marshal. A fast-talking and born-again veteran of conservative politics with experience in Washington, Texas and California, Mr. Lane, 60, travels the country trying to persuade evangelical clergy members to become politically active. . . .
But close observers of evangelicals and their political involvement say Mr. Lane is emblematic of a new generation of evangelical leaders who draw local support or exert influence through niche issues or their own networks.
My intention is not to write about the political side of this, but the religious—just what is an “Evangelical” and do these people fit the bill or are they counterfeit disciples.
So, what is an “Evangelical?”  Evangelical comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, which means “good news” and specifically the news of a victory.  The Greek word for Gospel is εὐαγγέλιον because it is the Good News of God’s Victory in Christ, the Victory of Christ over sin and death which is the authentication of his message of the Kingdom of God.  A true evangelical announces the Good News of the Kingdom of God, the central message of Jesus which he handed on to his disciples to be preached to the four corners of the earth until the end of time. 
Jesus spoke constantly of this Kingdom—it was his mission, his raison d’etre for coming into this world.  He was faithful to this mission to death and because he was faithful he was, we Christians believe, raised from the dead and given the place at God’s right hand as a validation of his mission.  But we make a huge mistake by conflating this message of the kingdom into some “pie in the sky when you die” and robbing it of its true import for our life in this world.
Heaven was not a particular pre-occupation of Jesus and his preaching.  He didn’t talk about it very much.  As a Pharisee himself, Jesus was not so focused on heaven as he was on the Resurrection at the end time.  Like other Pharisees (and unlike the Sadducee’s) Jesus believed  that the faithful would be raised at a final judgment to eternal life and the sinners to an eternal punishment.  He didn’t talk much about what happened between death and final-day resurrection.  He did, of course, mention that Lazurus (the poor fellow whose sores the dogs used to lick while he lay at the rich man’s gate, not his friend from Bethany) was carried to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man was in hell where he “was in torment.”  And he does promise the repentant thief on the cross that “this day you will be with me in paradise.”  That is about it for what Jesus says about life after death and before the resurrection.  But he has plenty to say about the Kingdom of God and he makes it very clear that the Kingdom of God is not some post-mortem picnic in a celestial park but a commitment to here-and-now fidelity to God—to live lives of conformity to God’s Kingship.  What does that a life of subjugation to that kingship look like?  Well, there is a lot about forgiving others even as we ask God to forgive us; something I recall that the measure with which we measure forgiveness out will be used to measure forgiveness to us.  And there is that passage about leaving your gift at the altar and being reconciled with anyone who has a bone to pick with you before you return and offer your gift.  There is quite a bit actually about “the poor having the good news preached to them.”  And there is something about I was hungry and you gave me to eat; a stranger and you welcomed me (migrants like this one); in prison and you ministered to me, sick and you visited me.  These last seems to be particularly important as they constitute the “final exam” by which our eternal destiny is determined.  I definitely remember something about you can’t serve God and wealth.  And there is that line about “love your enemies; pray for your persecutors.”  Hmmm, but did Jesus know about ISIS?  Would he really have said that if had?   Maybe we need to do a more critical edition of the gospels, don’t you think?  You know, take out some of these “inconvenient truths?” (Apologies to Al Gore.)  I think that we are not supposed to store up wealth where moths devour and rust corrodes—or even in bigger and bigger barns—lest we be called to account this very night.  And of course there is that thing about turning the other cheek?  Does that mean I can’t shoot the SOB?  The NRA says I can. 
This kingdom of God is, as St Paul sums it up, a matter of integrity, of peace, and of the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 14:17)  I am choosing integrity but some translations say “justice,” some say “righteousness.”  This righteousness or justice means that we have aligned ourselves to the Divine Will.  We are obedient to God, our hearts (wills) are surrendered to him.  Can we honestly say that we are righteous when we have more of this world’s goods than we can use while others of his children lack for their basic needs?  (Some radicals call this “income inequality.)  Is there righteousness in God’s sight when so many of his children have no grounds for hope for a decent life?  When life is structured to exclude them from a future in which they can realize their God-given potential. 
Real evangelicals are not those who cry out Lord, Lord, or who say “We ate and drank with you (think Holy Communion) and you taught in our streets (we went to Church every Sunday and listened to the sermons).”  Real evangelicals are those who see in the systemic injustice in our society and are determined to set right that which our collective sinfulness has set wrong.  And you know, God bless David Lane and army of Republican activists, but they just don’t get it.  You are not a genuine evangelical if you are keeping the stranger in our midst from making a home.  You are not a genuine evangelical if you are dividing your world into “us” and “them.”  You are not a genuine evangelical if you support the 5% rich who control 80% of the world’s wealth when 60% of the Lazaruses of this world are undernourished.  You are not a genuine evangelical if you believe we can use violence to rid this world of violence.  I would love to see evangelical leadership our nation—genuine evangelicals—but frankly I don’t see anyone in either party who fits the bill—or even comes close.  
Let’s continue on with some more excerpts from the same article
Bob Perry, the wealthy Texas home builder and Republican donor, who later funded the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry in 2004, gave Mr. Lane $3,000 of seed money to get started in Washington, where Mr. Lane began working for Carl Channell in support of President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” defense system.  Oh yeah, I remember the Swift Vote Veterans—they spread lies to accomplish their agenda?  Evangelicals?   I don’t think so.  Children of the Father of Lies, maybe.
After Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey made a good impression at a Republican event later that year, Mr. Lane offered him the chance to join primary state pastors on a “Reagan, Thatcher, John Paul II” tour to California, London and Rome.
“They turned it down,” said Mr. Lane, who smiled when asked if he thought that was a mistake.
Instead, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, jumped at the opportunity, subbing former Nazi concentration camps and Oskar Schindler’s former factory in Poland for the stop in Rome.  Well Christie is a Catholic, Huckabee has long shown his bigotry against Catholics, thus scratch Rome.  We don’t want to be associated with that Roman anti-Christ—even some of his own followers are saying he’s a commie. 
Last month, Mr. Lane took 60 members of the Republican National Committee to Jerusalem at a cost, he said, of about $500,000. A trip to Israel with Mr. Jindal is planned for July.
Missing from his travel manifests and events are the Republican Party’s establishment candidates. While Mr. Lane is technically neutral at this point, he clearly is no fan of the more moderate wing of his party. He said he tried to rescue the 2008 and 2012 tickets by advocating Mr. Huckabee for vice president.
“If the Lord were to call 1,000 pastors in America — 1,000 — and they ended up with an average of 300 volunteers per campaign in 2016, that would be 300,000 grass-root, precinct-level, evangelical conservatives coming from the bottom up,” he said to the ballroom full of pastors. “It would change America.”
I’m sure it would change America, but not for the better.  I am not saying that David Lane and his “evangelical” army are frauds; I am sure they are sincere in their beliefs.  I am only saying that they are not evangelicals because their agenda is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God.  Like so many they have made god in their own image and likeness, and to their convenience; a deity that shares their view of the world, rather than tailoring their view of the world to the revelation that God has given us in Jesus Christ.  Lane is right, we need to bring our Christian faith to bear on our political life; he is only wrong in what he determines to be Christian faith.


  1. "As a Pharisee himself, Jesus was not so focused on heaven as he was on the Resurrection at the end time."

    Where do you get the idea that Jesus was a Pharisee?

  2. This would be covered in any academic course on the four gospels. You might check it out in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary which is the best of Catholic commentaries on the Bible or in John Myer's Jesus: A Marginal Jew Almost any serious commentary on the New Testament will explain that 1st century Judaism was broken into two major theological camps: Pharisees and Saducees. The former believed in the Resurrection of the Dead, in Angels and other supernatural beings; the Saducees--representing the older orthodoxy in Judaism--did not. Pharisees were associated with rural and non-Jerusalem people; Saducees tended to be represented in the priestly class and the more sophisticated urban population