Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Newt Gingrich, the Christian Right, War, and Israel

In the ninth Chapter of Luke, the Samaritans insulted Christ as He passed through their territories.  In response, James and John asked "do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them like Elijah did?"   In verses 55 and 56 Jesus rebuked them saying "You know not what manner of spirit you are of.  The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."  
Just like the disciples in those early days, I believe that many in the Christian right do not know what manner of spirit they are of.  This has manifested itself in many ways, three of which I would like to discuss here.  The first one is their turning, in near desperation by this point, to Newt Gingrich as their preferred Presidential candidate.
Newt Gingrich is arrogant, unfaithful, treacherous, a slave to his physical appetites, and hypocritical.    His life reads like a record of everything Jesus Christ is against.    Oh, I don't judge his salvation, for the salvation of any of us wretches is a function of God's grace rather than our merits.  But I do judge his fitness to lead because he is implicitly asking us to do so by running for President of the United States.

 His personal life has been a disgrace.  He left public office in disgrace.  His work since then has been disgraceful.  A creature of the beltway, since he left office he hired himself out to some of the same people who have been bankrupting this country.     I find it amazing, even after their previous four or five choices have all blown up, that Christians are considering supporting Newt Gingrich.  It's pathetic.  It sickens me to even think about it.

 Why not just say the system has failed?  Why not just say you are not backing anyone in the primary because there is no one worth backing?  How low will you go to stay "a player" in this awful system?

But of course, there is someone worth backing in the race.  There is someone who can be the "anti-Romney" candidate for voters.   He has lived an impeccable life of Christian virtue.  He is humble and gracious, faithful to both his family and those who elected him, supremely self-disciplined, and remarkably consistent.   Most of his philosophy of government is taken right from the pages of scripture.   The rest is taken from the Founding Fathers.

So why wouldn't Christians back such a man?  Because he doesn't want to kill people unless they are a legitimate threat to the United States.  Because he does not want to start a war with Iran to add to the several we have going on right now.   Because he is more concerned with preserving our civil liberties than growing the police state.   He's just not bloody enough for some of the Christian Right.

Will Iran get nuclear weapons?  Eventually.  We can't permanently keep the Muslim world in a pre-1944 level of technology.  We can, and are, going bankrupt trying, but it's not a realistic policy objective.   All we can do is keep borrowing money from China to try and suppress them until they either do it despite our efforts or China cuts off our funding.  

But if you were in their shoes, wouldn't you try to get them too?   The dominant global power has conquered the nations on either side of you, has military bases to your north, and a carrier armada in the sea to your south.  They have shown they are willing to use violence to overturn even Muslim governments who have been cooperating with them for years.   They are talking about going to war with you, but not the North Koreans who have the bomb.  Wouldn't you want the bomb to, in order to try to deter future aggression?

Iran, known as "Persia" in the scriptures, is a civilization that is thousands of years old.  They were the United States of the Old Testament, the dominant military power and a culture that was quick to adapt customs from other cultures- a melting pot.     I don't believe they are in a hurry to terminate their 4,000 year old civilization by starting a nuclear war with either the United States who has thousands of deliverable warheads, or Israel which has hundreds.    Especially since a nuclear war with Israel would leave the Middle East a radioactive wasteland for 1,000 years, eradicate most of their race and religion, but only eliminate a minority of the Jews - the majority of whom live in Europe and the United States.

Some might say "Oh the leader of Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map."   His statements in Farsi have been badly mistranslated.    A better interpretation is that he wants to do to the Israeli "regime" (not nation) exactly what most of the Christian Right want to do to the Obama regime, make it vanish via an electoral process.    He is being mistranslated by those beating the war drums.

But of course "we must stand with Israel."  The same folks who say welfare is bad for residents of the ghettos and should be ended insist that it is good for Israel and we must keep them on the dole.   Paul is consistent- government dependency is bad for everybody.

I am not sure about the theology of "standing with Israel" anyway in terms of dropping bombs on anyone that  is a threat to the nation of Israel.    I understand blessing the descendants of Abraham, including the Jews you may know right here in the United States, because in the Old Testament God told Abraham "I will bless those who bless you."  I get that.  What I don't get is the unique form they want this blessing to take.  Who else do we "bless" primarily by killing people for them?

In the book of 1st Timothy Chapter two, Jewish Apostle Paul writes that we are to pray for kings and those in authority for the very purpose that we might live a "quiet and peaceable life of honesty and godliness."   If that's the Biblical goal of government, I find it odd that so much of the Christian Right spends its time loudly advocating that we go overseas in search of wars and military occupations.  "Standing with Israel" in the governmental sense did not seem to be high on the prayer list.   And if ever there was a time when the physical security of the nation of Israel should have been on the prayer list, that was it.  Most Bible scholars place the date this epistle was penned to be around 65 A. D. - only a few years before Jerusalem was sacked and the Jewish people butchered and sold into slavery.

Maybe one of my brothers or sisters could explain these contradictions to me.  I would think that Bible believing Christians would look to the Bible to inform them on public policy rather than FOX News.   I would think that they would, given the choice, choose a man who has lived the kind of life they preach we ought to live rather than one who loudly talks about its virtues while practicing the exact opposite.  

11 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Just like the disciples in those early days, I believe that many in the Christian right do not know what manner of spirit they are of. This has manifested itself in many ways, three of which I would like to discuss here. The first one is their turning, in near desperation by this point, to Newt Gingrich as their preferred Presidential candidate.

9:59 AM, November 30, 2011  
Blogger nbkbauer said...

This theology of it all is terrible. As Christians, we neglect all the insight that Paul the Apostle gave us regarding how we are to understand these questions.

“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

"For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void...That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Romans 4:13-16)

"For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring...This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring" (Romans 9:6-8)

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ…Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 23-29)

4:23 PM, November 30, 2011  
Anonymous c.b. said...

Mark,
Here we must part ways...
Though I identify with many of your reasons to support Paul(constitutional originalist, fiscal hawk, etc.), I scratch my head that someone with the fervent christian convictions you have would so fervently support him.
Paul has so radically embraced liberaterianism that he is willing to abandon moral law and will not even consider that occasionally we must insert ourself overseas to protect ourselves in a world that is radically different than 1776.
It is painful to observe the verbal pretzels you twist yourself into on issues like our responsibility to support Israel, among others, to continue supporting him.
I love you man, but I have one final point....
It makes little sense when you try to correlate my christian vote & Newt's personal life, when you stump for Paul despite tons of connections & ties that he has to Anti-semitic groups, etc.
My vote never has(or will) condone every aspect of a candidate's life, but is cast for the one who I believe will most effectively mold policy in line with my principles.
(Case in point; All the stupid conservatives that voted against the most conservative Senator at the time, Tim Huchinson, because of his infidelity... As if we are better off with liberal-hack-good-old-boy Pryor!)
Just doesn't compute.

12:08 AM, December 01, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

"Paul has so radically embraced liberaterianism that he is willing to abandon moral law"

I don't think that allowing people to make their own decisions, good or bad, is abandoning moral law. The New Testament says practically nothing about Christians enforcing moral laws on those who don't share their beliefs. In this specific way, God is "pro-choice". It is your choice to reject or accept Him.

4:20 PM, December 01, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

"It is painful to observe the verbal pretzels you twist yourself into on issues like our responsibility to support Israel, among others, to continue supporting him."

I see no verbal pretzels on Mark's part. I see little in the New Testament that speaks to any ongoing obligation to Israel as a nation (unless one reads Revelation a certain way). The pre-millenialists and the like always cite the Old Testament but hasn't the New Testament replaced it? Including any specific obligations to any earthly nation?

God's people are in many nations and aren't divided in his eyes by state boundaries that men have put in place. Therefore I feel no Christian responsibility to Israel, at least not any more than I feel towards any nation of people that others want to harm. And there are a lot of them that are less able to defend themselves than Israel. As far as the U.S., I believe it should honor its alliances, but not allow those alliances to outweigh its own interests. The responsibilities of a nation are different than those of a Christian. So those are my views on Israel, and I didn't have to do any verbal pretzels to get there.

4:23 PM, December 01, 2011  
Anonymous c.b. said...

"The New Testament says practically nothing about Christians enforcing moral laws on those who don't share their beliefs."

Then as a christian, why the heck do you even vote and attempt to impose your belief in "freedom of choice" on those who dissagree? Go find yourself a hole and pray til the end in blissful ignorance....
And where does your freedom of choice end? What if I choose to murder your loved one? Hey, my choice!
I guess Moses screwed up... he mislabled those Ten Suggestions. Since God meant "choice" applied to societies not individuals and their personal salvation..

7:56 PM, December 01, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I am a voice crying in the wilderness I guess. I see the defining tenant of conservatism as the mistrust of centralized government power and a healthy skepticism about what government can accomplish.

It seems like a lot of the fighting between left and right on these issues boils down to an argument over who gets to hold the gun. Paul's answer seems to be that NO ONE on the federal level should get to hold the gun, let the citizens of each state determine what the rules ought to be on some of these things. That's the practical effect of what he advocates.

But if there is only one gun C.B., let me tell you that conservatives from the south are not going to be pointing it at California and NY. They are going to outvote us. We won't be enforcing our morality on them, it will be their immorality being enforced on us. I think everyone would be happier, CA and AR and everyone in between, if people in each state had more freedom to organize their society as they saw fit.

8:39 PM, December 01, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

c.b. It sounds like you got a bit worked up there. I wasn't trying to do that. And come on, the murder is apples to the oranges I was speaking of. That would be an example of your choice violently affecting the freedom of another. Murder, rape, and theft, which are crimes of violence are definitely a place for government's protection. Protecting its citizens from exterior threats is one of the main functions of a government.

But I don't think it accomplishes much to pass laws banning gay marriage or the use of marijuana, for instance, other than to irritate large portions of the population or make them criminals under those laws. Neither of those are threats to public safety, and if they become such in some situations
(driving while smoking pot for instance) there are penalties and laws to protect the public in those events.

You mention the 10 Commandments, but are you really thinking our government should try to criminalize adultery, making graven images, or taking the Lord's name in vain?Israel in the OT was a nation under one religion. We are a nation, without a state religion, which has many religions practiced in it.

9:29 PM, December 01, 2011  
Blogger nbkbauer said...

"There are two wars going on in the Middle East. The one threatens the earthly life of thousands. The other seeks the eternal life of millions. Does not God want to deal with us this morning about how utterly preoccupied we are with the one war, and how relatively ignorant and indifferent we are about the other?" - Pastor John Piper

1:15 AM, December 02, 2011  
Blogger Linton said...

@nbkbauer: I just read your first post. I should have read it earlier because it provided some of the scriptures that I alluded to. And, as usually happens, God's word explains far better than I could ever hope to. The quote in your second comment is right on as well.

6:41 AM, December 02, 2011  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

nbkbauer, thanks for bringing more scripture into the discussion. Though interpretations can differ, we are at least interpreting the right source.

C.B, I never did answer your first post to me except I guess about addressing the question of which level of government should deal with moral law.

As to your complaint that Paul "will not even consider that occasionally we must insert ourself overseas to protect ourselves in a world that is radically different than 1776", how do you square that with the fact that he voted FOR the intervention in Afghanistan? Seems to me he just does not believe in "pre-emptive war". As in the trillion dollar fiasco in Iraq for WMD that were not there, and would not have been used against us if they were.

As for the verbal pretzels, perhaps if you gave an example of one we might know what you are referring to.

I guess that leaves, "It makes little sense when you try to correlate my christian vote & Newt's personal life, when you stump for Paul despite tons of connections & ties that he has to Anti-semitic groups, etc."

What "connections and ties"? What ".etc"? If an anti-semitic group said they supported him that does not mean that HE supports THEM. Vids of Paul are all over the internet. Post a link to one of them where he says or does anything anti-semitic.

Newt Gingrich has very specific and very personal behavior that I find appalling. He left Congress in disgrace after his peers voted to fine him $300,000 for financial impropriety- and that was while he was still speaker, with a GOP majority!

He was treacherous to his first two wives and the 3rd will not let him out of her sight. She does not trust her husband, why on earth should I?

Since he got out of Congress he has been taking money to blunt conservative attempts to stop the growth of government. He took money to push for an individual mandate on health care, the medicare prescription drug program that is helping to bankrupt the system, and he and a bunch of other GOP icons took money from Freddie just when they were being investigated- after the payouts the efforts to investigate them died down.

Paul's life is a shining example of how a man ought to live. So what if anti-semites support him? He's not anti-semitic. All kinds of people support him. n I am sure I can find some real slime balls that are backing Gingrich too, but I do not have to resort to guilt by association, because his personal conduct is a disgrace.

7:54 AM, December 02, 2011  

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