Saturday, November 08, 2008

Prophetic words and elections

Nothing brings out the false prophets quite like election years. There are a variety of ways in which to be a false prophet but as a Christian the most clear-cut way for this to happen is to simply invoke the name of the Lord and blurt out a prediction--this is what the Lord says. Better yet, be more subtle about it and say, "Based on what I know God said about X and Y this is what I'm sure God says about Z and W and if you don't agree with me who are you to defy the Word of God?"

The most obvious application is the TBN style preacher or super-charismatic who just declares "This is what the Lord says--McCain will win and Sarah Palin is the Esther/Deborah of our time.." It's a false prophecy at two levels. The first level is to say "This is what the Lord says" and the second is more obvious, the thing didn't come to pass, at all. Electoral landslides for Obama certainly don't indicate that Palin is God's annointed Esther for our time (now would be the time for all those people with prophetic words from the Lord to invoke whatever conditional statements are said to apply to all prophecies). Now suppose I were to say that this means that Palin is somehow appointed by God to play an important role in American politics. Well, heh, that's nice and sufficiently vague that a person can say, "Well, duh. What role?"

Sinking McCain's viability as a candidate for the presidency seems to have been Palin's role. That's not what the Lord says, that's just what I say. At that point McCain was doomed. You can't spend the better part of your campaign once you've gotten nominated saying Obama lacks the experience to be presidential and then pick Palin, who has less experience and, no, being an executive by way of governor simply doesn't count. If Obama's years as a senator aren't enough to make him qualified then Palin's year or so as governor make her less qualified. I didn't vote for Obama (I also didn't vote for McCain as I didn't vote) but the thing is that it's dishonest and self-serving of any Republican to say that Palin was qualified while Obama is not. You can't make the case that lack of experience onnly applies as a viable argument for the other candidate.

Saying that Biden is unfit to be president despite his experience also presents a problem. At that point experience and inexperience aren't really the basis for the decision, it's the naive belief that your party is right and the other is wrong. I don't like it coming from either party. Given the conduct of the Republican party as a whole in the last eight years it cannot suffice for someone to say they want to vote for someone who will not wake up one morning and ask themselves rhetorically "What do I think the Constitution means today?" Republicans and Democrats have been doing that since the foundation of the parties. This is the sort of dishonesty I despite in both parties.

For Christians of a certain stripe on prophecy, though, it is merely enough to say that the Lord says X therefore X must come to pass. Prophets often spoke into political matters in their day. Nathan's rebuke of David was a rebuke with a political as well as a religious and personal meaning. Nathan also, it seems, had a position from which to speak to the king and know what he was talking about. Many people who would presume to play a Nathan-like role do not have a Nathan-like position in relationship to the leaders of the land (whatever level of leadership we're talking about). Christians who attempt to claim the role of Nathan by force of action or influence reveal that they are probably NOT playing that role. A person has the task of speaking prophetically given to them, it's not just something they always take up themselves. There were prophets and sons of prophets, to be sure,. but not all of them spoke directly for the Lord.

So I have read about some of the stuff in the Framily Research Council "letter from 2012". I don't take it seriously. I don't take it seriously because once you get past page 1 you realize there's no reason to take it seriously. It's a lengthy conjecture on all the things that "could" happen based on precedent, a precedent that has little to do with Obama as such. And the problem inherent in a letter from the future is that it presents a narrative. We're no longer talking about a list of things that "could" happen. We have a narrative device which says all these things DID happen in the future BECAUSE the election of Barack Obama was the tipping point. It also invokes not the probability of any one of these things happening as isolated events but ALL of these improbabilities being certainties between now and 2012.

With all those retiring and dying supreme court justices why not imagine that McCain dies in a few months and Palin is president, with her lack of experience that is comparable to Obamas, if we're going to start preferring charges of inexperience? Why not, really? Imagine that McCain got elected and that he died. Palin takes over and begins to deal with terrorist attacks. What does she do?

Notice something else about this letter from the future stuff? What letter from 2008 would the Family Research Council write to their constituents in 1999? What would they say about the safety of the American populace? Should they not vote for George W Bush because the most startlign terrorist attack of the century happened after Bush got elected? Would they say that the election of Bush was "the tipping point" that led to other things happening? After all, Bush 1 invaded the Middle East and Clinton was considering invading Iraq over weapons of mass destruction. We had bases in the Middle East for a decade. Does anyone else see the limits of this guilt-by-association approach? Am I supposed to believe Bush is responsible for 9/11/2001 because it happened after he got elected? Should I suppose that Clinton is responsible? Why? The post-war occupation of bases seemed to happen during Bush 1. Why should we blame individual presidents as representatives of their respective political parties for things that are more complex than that? Do we think Wahhabi Muslims think there's a meaningful difference between one kind of American infidel or another?

The Family Research Council letter about Obama constitutes, albeit at a removed level, what I would consider a false prophecy. The reason I believe that is not because I think FRC is saying "This is what God says", it's more of a case of appropriating the Lord's name and worship of Him (and the fear of losing that or facing persecution for that) as a basis for which to be afraid. Freedom is our legacy in Christ ... but notice how little freedom and political liberties the early Christians seemed to have. Jesus said to rejoice and be happy when people persecute you for the sake of the Gospel, but Family Research Council would apparently have us believe otherwise.

I might have to mention (again) that I didn't vote for Obama. I cringe at the idea that people imagine another Kennedy-era Camelot will happen, just as I cringe at the idea that people think that America as we have come to know and love the country is now given over to some godless Muslim/Atheist sleeper agent bastard love-child of Malcom X. Can't we just say "I didn't vote for that guy?" I spent 8 years of the Clinton era getting emails from paranoid Christians convinced, absolutely, that Bill was waiting for any excuse to suspend the Constitution and establish martial law and make himself emperor for life. And then I got to read all the stuff on the other side during the Bush administration. Same absurd stuff, only this time the case could be made that Republicans and Democrats working together were getting closer to fulfilling the doomsday scenario people from the Clinton era feared Slick Willy would bring about.

Christians don't believe God is sovereign and in control if He's not giving them what they want. I know, I know, I have this same problem, too. All kinds of things have happened in the last few years I wish had not happened. My hope is not in my country. My country is screwed no matter who gets elected because one day Christ will come to judge the nations for their rebellion against Him. The nations that protestthe loudest that they were doing God a favor seem to have been the ones that come under harshest judgment. America by professing to be a Christian nation may have simply given itself cuts in the line to Hell.

So when you get this or that spammy email or see some YouTube link about this or that prophetic word from the Lord about who His annointed is that turns out to not have been elected after all and who has to return some clothes, just keep it all in mind. The secret things belong to the Lord but it's amazing how often Christians, or supposed Christians, or at any rate people who you would think ought to know better if they read the Bible and exercised any humility whatsoever, rush in with a video camera running or a printing press running and declare, "By God, THIS IS WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN." As far as I'm concerned the same thing applies to "What if Obama gets elected and all a third of the Supreme Court justices die?" Well, what happened when Bush got elected? Terrorists attacked. Go figure. Some trust in tanks and political parties. Some trust in money, in their work ethic, in their ability to be smarter and better than others. If we belong to Christ we don't trust in those things. We also don't trust in ourselves, and that's the tough part, we trust in Christ. I could certainly use a lot of help from the Lord doing that now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On election (a sonnet)

On election

In all the steady hand of Providence
guides well except if, this election year,
the party I love lacks preeminence.
Then I will cry out with many a tear:
"My God, my God, why did you forsake me!
The person I want in office has lost!
In your wrath have you forgotten mercy?
Have it on me and not the foolish host!
Did you break your promise to do my will
That was given `ere the day I was born?
Or did my requests lack a prayerful skill
that You listened not, and I am forlorn?
In all things Providence can only be
The stuff that should be convenient to me!"

Here's a little poem I wrote earlier this year but now it's practically a new poem. Why? Why because it has a new title of course. This time the title is shorter and manages to invoke both religion AND politics! What could be better?

I have heard it said that polite company does not discuss politics or religion. That proviso given, my family constitutes one of the most inveterately impolite in the Western world, since it can hardly go for long before we as an assembled group find it obligatory to talk about both politics AND religion, preferably comingling them in all the most inextricable ways possible! At least one of my uncles was a chaplain in the military so I suppose it would stand to reason. Some of my family are Protestant, some of them Orthodox, nearly all of the Republican but not all of the same stripe of Republican. My siblings and I preferred McCain in 2000 to the general horror of parents who doubted if we were even Christians for that.

Now, eight years later, Obama is the antichrist and must be stopped. Back from 1992 to 2000 I would get paranoid emails from time to time forwarded to me written by people who sincerely believed Bill Clinton was about to suspend the Constitution and institute martial law and declare himself dictator for life at any moment. And the Democrats shrieked similar things these last eight years. Can people put the crack pipes down long enough to recognize that tyranny in this country is going to have to be a truly bipartisan effort should it arrive?

It is on account of my lovely but sometime frustrating family (or just certain members of them) that I settled upon the motto that Jesus was crucified by the vote of a bipartisan committee of single issue voters. Not just my family mind you, but some friends of mine who passionatel left and right. I have had the ineffable joy of being caught between them as someone I would describe as a moderate.

One of my family would talk to me about how God is in control. When Clinton won I told her that God is in control. The response was something along the lines of "I don't know. Sometimes God lets terrible things happen." This is the time in the United States when people love to misappropriate "If my people who are called by my name ... ." That applied to Israel, who still went off into exile for centuries, by the way. If Christians just pray hard enough then the antichrist (whether it's Obama or McCain) will be defeated and the tribulation age will be averted.

This is the time when being a dispensationalist reveals itself to be insanity. It took a year or two in college talking with Protestants of various stripes and researching some of my family's favored teachers to realize that Hal Lindsay was ... how do I put it, kinda on crack. But peddlers of paranoia and terror exist on both the left and the right within Christendom so it's not as though I think we're going to hear that SURPRISE Billary had some secret trap door plan so that they really take over the country with help from the trilateral commission.

Unbelievers don't have this paranoia that the world will end about stuff like this. They may squeal about the end of all that is holy and beautiful in America ... but that's not quite the same thing. they don't profess to believe in the sovereign God who made all things and then turn around and act as though God has ceded everything to Satan just because the wrong candidate got the most votes. Stuff about voter fraud and claiming the other side is busy working to rig the election shows how paranoid and depraved both sides are as far as I'm concerned.

It has sometimes been proferred that the best of all governments is a benevolent dictatorship. This must be popular with precisely those people who go to bed at night telling themselves that they will be the most benevolent of dictators. These last sixteen years I have seen some people freak about the Constitution not being kept only so long as it was the opposition party that seemed to be ignoring it. Turn things around and the right political party has things and I have heard people complain that the President doesn't have ENOUGH power. The whole point of limited government, of checks and balances, is precisely because you're trying to imagine the Presidency having X amount of power when Y candidate, who you hate, is in office, rather than Z candidate, whom you worship. What's too much power for Y is too much power for Z and that, my fellow citizens, is a foundational precept of constitutionally limited government. Only most of the people who claim they stand for that are liars. Period. End of story.

Many Christians who are upset about the potential Armageddon that will be brought about if either the donkey or elephant prevails are revealing where their idols are. They also reveal how they circumscribe the sovereignty of God within their own convictions and not from Scripture or the historical Christian faith.

See, there's all this I wrote, or you can just go back and read the sonnet. Wasn't the sonnet more fun?