It’s never easy to be a Christian, but lately it’s been tough for the wrong reasons.
Confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of God has earned folks censure, exile, dispossession, torture, and death in most times and places. Whether it’s the ancient Roman Empire or modern North Korea, over 70 million Christians have been murdered for their faith since 33 AD.
Martyrdom is hard, but that isn’t what makes "evangelical" American Christianity difficult. Rather, it’s the hypocritical ravings of Pat Robertson and his ilk.
After blaming 9/11 on the Lord instead of American foreign policy and calling for the murder of Venezuelan thug Hugo Chavez, Robertson has outdone himself by endorsing Rudy Giuliani for the US presidency. The anti-abortion, pro-family televangelist pretends to believe that a pro-abortionist who changes wives as often as he does political positions will "keep America safe" — or at least that portion of it already born.
Why did these strange fellows jump into bed together? "Homeland security," of course: “To me," Robertson intoned, "the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists."
Call me captious, but I’d say the powerlust of American politicians threatens our population far more. Even if that weren’t the case, I’d trust the Almighty for protection long before I would any man, let alone a rodent running for office. Relying on the Lord works every time, whether you’re a shepherd with a slingshot dueling a heavily armed giant or a Cuban refusing to pledge allegiance to Castro.
It seems there are other reasons for Robertson’s endorsement than the knuckle-biting he claims. The dean of his own "Regent’s Robertson School of Government," Charles Dunn, tells us what’s really going on: "Mr. Dunn described the move as a u2018win-win’ for both Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Robertson. The former mayor, he said, u2018needed a whale of the evangelical movement to endorse him’ to slow down Mr. [Mitt] Romney’s momentum with social conservatives. u2018This is a big whale,’ Mr. Dunn said. And as for Mr. Robertson, endorsing Mr. Giuliani u2018makes him a big player in the game,’ Mr. Dunn said."
Cozy little arrangement they have going there, but the Bible Robertson says he believes vehemently condemns it. Jockeying for power may be politics as usual, but Holy Writ has another name for it: worldliness.
We don’t hear much about worldliness anymore, but for almost two millennia it was the bane of Christianity. Warnings against it permeate Scripture, and Christians once put on the whole armor of God to shield themselves from its temptations.
This fallen world runs on political power. Controlling other people, bending them to one’s will, gaining advantages over them — this is the essence of worldliness. It reduces human beings created in God’s image to mere objects. People have no intrinsic worth and therefore no dignity nor claim on compassion: they are cogs in the power machine, slaves to be commanded, without meaning or substance unless they enhance one’s power. Worldlings crave this power. They kill for it, sacrifice their souls, family and friends to it, glorify it, and grab as much of it as they can.
Obviously, the easiest path to power is political office. Satan’s citadel of government is worldliness’ stronghold, too — as well as its epitome when it devours its own. Other worldlings gain power through money, especially when they reap their riches from corruption. In either case, people lie and manipulate and cheat and pull the wool over their victims’ eyes. (Contrast this skullduggery with the free market and its transmutation of self-interest into service. We work for pay, but this guarantees that products and professionals are there when others need them. Praise God for the market’s miracles! No wonder Satan in his guise as Leviathan tries to sabotage it.)
Diminishing and degrading a man by exerting power over him is how the world operates. The Bible forbids such savagery. Instead, it offers a happier, healthier method for dealing with people: love. But power is seductive, and Christians aren’t immune. Worldliness infected the Church, which tried to defang it with a list of do’s and don’ts: after all, actions are easier to control than attitudes. What was defined as "worldly" varied according to time and place. Anabaptists in 16th century Switzerland decided buttons and education corrupted Christians; their Amish descendants avoid both. Rome physically segregated its acolytes to thwart worldliness, yet nunneries and monasteries were rife with power plays. Fundamentalist Americans in the 1960′s frowned on women in short skirts and garish make-up, men with long hair, drinking, smoking, dancing and going to the movies.
But worldliness goes much deeper than actions, appearance, or location. It is a heart that thirsts for power over others.
Power’s antidote is love. How does Biblical love play out in everyday situations? Our Father gave us the Ten Commandments — no lying, no stealing, no adultery, and no killing — and then, when we kept trying to find loopholes, His Son said, "Look, it’s this simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If we object when folks manipulate us, if we resent their scrambling to gain the upper hand, then we can’t behave that way, either. Certainly no Christian should ever back a bully who paraded entrepreneurs in handcuffs to boost his political career, even if doing so makes him "a big player in the game."
Robertson’s endorsement becomes even more nauseating given another candidate in the race. This gentle doctor from Texas, this humble Christian brother, has been wielding his constitutional slingshot for three decades.
Giuliani’s as doomed as Goliath.
Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.