Tempting Fate

Published in the January/February 2007 Magazine
by Lincoln E. Steed


Way back when we first heard the war drums for an invasion of Iraq, I had an interesting email exchange with a nationally known television pundit who has written for Liberty
in the past. "You need to write something for us before the crusaders are marching through downtown Baghdad," I wrote tongue in check, with a broad hint that the affair had more than a touch of religious zeal to it. His reply was swift and terse: "Not crusaders—liberators." It's not often you get such reflex optimism from media types! My rejoinder sounds more than a little prophetic as I retype it: "We need to make sure that we are not liberating people from a secular dictatorship and enabling a fundamentalist tyranny." That ended our exchange, but not the chain of events that have belatedly shocked the majority of Americans, and led to an electoral overturn last November.

Conventional wisdom now is that the so-called neocons are in dismay and retreat. I wouldn't hold my breathe on that one, as their worldview is Gothic enough to gain even more validation through rejection. But what is certain is that their conservative Christian auxiliaries are reeling and more than a little confused.And my heart aches to see fellow Christians so used and abused.

The previous national election has long been touted as one defined by the moral issues voter—it was a wave that Christian Conservatives confidently surfed into dominance on. They seemed immune to embarrassment as political champions like Tom Delay dragged the banners of faith in his personal tide pool of factionalism. They even kept quiet as indicted influence peddlers implicated Ralph Reed more by mockery than shared venality. They bit their lips as a top evangelical leader got outed for male massage and drug use. They sat quietly by as talk show surrogates tried to equate the surreal scandal of a conservative legislator in charge of national efforts to control internet porn, but caught instant-messaging enticements to under aged male pages with a now long past "meaning of is" scandal. Sin is sin, and pointing to others' sins tends to add to the offence.

For the popular view the coup de grace for conservative religious political pretensions came with release of one time White House insider David Kuo's book "Tempting Faith."

I wonder if that mighty man of war King David of Old Testament fame had to endure as much public ridicule as seems to be now falling on the more adventuresome of the political Christian groups. But of course he did. David had more than a few blots on his record—taking bathing beauty Bathsheba from a rooftop paled next to the sin of liquidating her husband—even as he just as easily begged God for forgiveness. Probably the most telling evidence of contemporary perception of David's foibles was an incident that occurred as he fled Jerusalem during a coup attempt by his son Absalom. A man named Shimei came out and threw stones at David and his retinue, shouting " Come out thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial {the devil]." 2 Samuel 16: 7. David took it as deserved, and went on to be reinstated to power and favor with God.

It's hard to know what to make of Kuo's book. He is ostensibly a true believer in the aims of the political religious right. He certainly does not question the Faith Based Initiative itself—the program that he was charged to advance—even though it was a bold challenge to previous court determinations of a wall of separation between church and state erected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sometimes reclaiming America for God necessitates playing hardball, and David Kuo was in.


What seems to have set Kuo off to write the book is his discovery of cynicism is government! He discovered that not that much money was actually getting to the churches—this is a revelation I am inclined to put down to sour grapes on his part not to any sudden illumination. Years ago I picked up from a close reading of the plan that the Initiative was actually being sold to the political faithful as a way to do as much or more for the needy with less money—it was a cost-saving exercise as well as a sop to the faith lobby! Who themselves did not mind as much as they might have in more responsible times, because Dominionist views have warped Christian consciousness enough to allow for the ever present poor; many of whom must be poor because they are not Godly enough!!!

The central issue to the book is laughter: behind closed doors snickers by the power brokers that the religious right could be so easily bought off. That they believed the rhetoric of support, and voted to enable another more secular agenda. Hello! Welcome to hardball politics and vindication of the argument that secular power easily corrupts the purest goals of faith.

After the Kuo book, after the debacle of November 2007, after the suddenly allowed patriotism of calls to wind the war down, after all the moral disasters, it might seem that we have heard the last of a politically ambitious Christian agenda to reclaim America. I for one pray that the movement would turn inward for a long enough moment to reconsecrate itself to the ideals of Christ; and then work within society to bring a revival of practical Christian virtues. And I will keep praying those prayers for this country.

However some tactics die hard and are resistant to reality. Democracy as we live it here is still well hidden in the Middle East—remarkably resistant to our efforts to flush it out by force. So, too, the parallel efforts to re-Christianize our own society by political implements, while they may have dredged up even more reminders of corruption, are seized upon by the true crusader as further evidence of the need to stay the course.

This issue of Liberty completes a two-part analysis of the English civil war and the religious rule of Oliver Crowell. He has long been a favorite historical figure of mine and his age has much to say to ours. After all it was the first English Republic and it did embody a groundswell yearning of religious activists for a more Godly governence. It's just a shame that it led to regicide, religious war, intrusive behavioral regulations, sectarian infighting and an eventual disillusionment with the ideal.

It is a shameful thing for Christians when we do anything that brings the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ up for public ridicule.


Lincoln E. Steed
Editor,
Liberty Magazine




Photo of Lincoln E. Steed

Author: Lincoln E. Steed

Editor, Liberty Magazine

Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."

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