Friday, April 09, 2010

Answers from Jim Garlow

I received a nice response from Jim Garlow to some questions I posted in a comment under another post in relation to his approach to the current American situation. He gave me permission to post his thoughts on the questions I raised. You might pray for him right now as he is currently focused on the violence in Mexico!
KEN: 1. Is Garlow's agenda too closely aligned with the Republican party?

JIM: Well - for starters, ask me. :-) Answer: No – not at all. My confidence is totally in the Gospel of Christ. That was the whole point. Political parties CANNOT save us. No candidate can save us.

My concern: alignment with the Scriptures. I will, however, function within whatever party that gives me the greatest voice for and identification with Christ. If, for example, the Democratic Party or one of the Independent Parties would give me a greater voice for Christ than say, the Republican party, I would join them today. My allegiance is to Christ. While we don’t need to be “too closely aligned” with any party, I wish the parties were (due to fierce commitments to Christ as Lord) were more closely aligned with biblical constructs.

KEN: Is he able properly to distinguish between his legitimate views on immigration, taxation, etc. and points on which Christians might genuinely disagree?

JIM: I sure desire to. Am sorting out many of these myself…which I have found to be an arduous task. I think there is a “range” of bona fide Christian views on these. I would be honored for you to help me on this. Your expertise would be welcomed.

KEN: Although he located himself with Niebuhr's fifth approach--Christ the transformer of culture, he feels much more like Christ over culture, civil religion that blurs Christian with particular cultural values.

JIM: No – I disdain the “Christ over culture” model. It cannot draw in the human heart. It only coerces.

Re: civil religion: I did lots of study of “culture religion” in grad school. (At one point I was accepted to do my doctorate on that topic under Franklin Littell at Temple University, then I switched to Drew U. Will Herberg was THE expert on that topic at Drew U. Altho I changed my focus to another topic, I ended up writing many papers on this.)

No – “civil religion” is lethal to biblical proclamation. I find it offensive to the Gospel. However, it is possible to affirm America’s “exceptionalism” (clearly defined) without confusing America as the kingdom of God.

KEN: 2. Is the OT prophetic model the appropriate model? This is a model that aims at the purity of Israel and the purgation of all impurity from the land. Would not a New Testament model be more appropriate--God "gave them up" to the consequences of their sin. Caesar is Caesar; God is God.

JIM: Fair question….and one I wrestle with. I am cueing off of Eph 4:12 – were Christ is all 5 – including prophetic – and I believe the church is to function in all five realms/ offices / callings / anointings listed there. What intrigues me about this question is the unique “covenantal” aspect of America’s most sacred & binding founding legal documents. Quite an intriguing & fascinating study in itself – with implications beyond my ability to grasp yet.

KEN: 3. Is the "force the world to conform to Christian values" model properly Wesleyan-Arminian?

JIM: “Force?” –NO! We live in a democracy (or constitutional republic). People vote. Some issues win. Some issues lose. That is the nature of democracy.

If the population votes that something (w/i the scope of the Constitution) then that is not “force.” It is simply the nature of our US government.

To enforce marriage as being “one man/one woman” by a vote is not more coercive than if the election would have gone the other way.

If we want to use the word “force” that would apply to the left. For example: 31 states have voted on the definition of marriage. All 31 have voted in favor of traditional, natural marriage. Is that “force?” Nope. Just the people expressing themselves on the issue.

HOWEVER, the only states that have gay marriage were “forced” on them via court, court fiat, and in a couple cases – a legislature (by one vote) – AGAINST all polling – even in “liberal” northeastern states.

Desiring to see people vote for biblical values is not “coercive.” It is an election.

But far more important than election, the (second) reason that tens of thousands of Californians were on a 40 day fast together was so that the hearts of Californians would be drawn towards Christ & biblical values (without elections).

KEN: 4. Wesleyans were indeed involved in social action in the 1800s--against the enslavement of slaves and the lack of rights of women. We should have been advocates for civil rights in the 60s but were strangely silent. It is not clear to me, however, that the social actions that Garlow promotes are "for" anyone. They are a different prophetic model, the OT one I mentioned above.

JIM: Fighting for pre-born babies is not “for everyone?” Who is it not for? Affirming the definition of marriage as one man/one woman (adding to that the coercive results of same sex marriage) is a worthy cause, in my estimation.

KEN: 5. Will the net result of such activism actually be to turn people away from Christ. I doubt that we will attract any neutral person to Christ by Garlow's political stance, but we will almost certainly harden many away from Christ.

JIM: Possibly – which concerns me greatly. You may be right. I was VERY hesitant to take any stance – on any topic - for this very reason. However – that has NOT been the case for the very reasons I gave in the talk: investing personally & relationally with those who differ & are hostile to our values. I have found the relationships quite rewarding.

I have observed something though. Much of the “I don’t want to offend them (allegedly for the gospel)” is actually “I don’t want to be disliked, to be uncool, unchick, unhip.”

I am glad Orange Scott, LaRoy Sunderland and Luther Lee did not give too much thought to this, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Niemöller, etc.

Many ways to slice this issue, but we will agree that a healthy reverence (awe / fear) of God is more important than having the affirmation of humans.

Observationally, anecdotally and phenomenalogically, among some pastors that took the strongest pro Prop 8 stances here in CA (Miles McPherson, Jack Hibbs, Dudley Rutherford, etc) the gospel continues to be beautifully received in their churches.

KEN: Having said that, I am all for us standing up for the rights of preachers to preach the gospel and I support Garlow's positions on all the lawsuits he mentioned that have been brought against Christians. Those are battles I see as worth fighting.

JIM: Ken, that is at the core of most of what I said yesterday. Consider what was signed into law on Oct 28 – in the Hate Speech legislation that was tucked into the Defense Appropriations Bill.

I wish you could have been / could be here in the context of CA – with the implications for the Prop 8 trial that is going RIGHT NOW (US District Court - Judge Vaugh Walker [San Francisco]…then to the 9th Circuit [San Francisco] – and is going all the way to the US Supreme Court via Ted Olson/David Bois). When it gets there (it is predicted it will be there in about 2 yrs) – it could mandate gay marriage in the US – with one declaration – with all the (unintended?) consequences that I outlined (loss of parental rights / personally freedoms / religious liberties) that have been documented in several US states, much of Canada & all of Europe. That is a CURRENT politica and moral reality - now. Google it, if you can.



Logan Hoffman said...

Interesting responses, especially to the coercion question. I'd not really thought along those lines before, but I think he's probably right. In a situation where the government can't take a neutral stance (gay marriage must be either legal or illegal) then taking a vote is the going to be the least "net coercive" option. Somebody (those who lose the vote) will be unhappy, but that's just the way democracy works.

Of course, this assumes that there are no other options (civil unions or the like), but it is still an interesting point.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

If the Church sees itself as different from culture, then why isn't there an acknowledgement of this separation with something like acknowledging "civil unions"?

A conservative church that doesn't want to condone or sanction gay marriage can do that. They don't have to have the government's approval, do they?

And those churches that deem gay marriage a challenge to the social norm, just as slavery was in the past, should have the right to define and defend why gay marriage should be sanctioned. What would be the boundaries that define gay marriage? Should there be stipulations on such things as fidelity, and a commitment to the societal value of child-rearing?

The same is the case for any social organization, whether the Klu Klux Klan, or the Knights of Columbus. Clubs are uniquely defined by their "ordinances, rules, and/or by-laws". And as long as these rules do not subvert, in a direct way, government's laws, then there is no problem. This is why there is such a thing as separation of Church and State. And this is what religious freedom is about.

If churches want to maintain their liberty, then, I think they must inform, but not be a "voting block". They must entertain critical engagment, and not indoctrination. Each church member who resides in a free society, then is able to have their voice heard in their individual vote. And would be encouraged to develop their "voice" in a more nuanced way, than a "one issue" stance toward abortion.

Of course, there should be some addressing of things that distort the power of the vote, as well...and that might be a fight, as power doesn't give up easily or quickly see the ultimate values they undermine.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Perhaps, the Church should be less afraid of "God's judgment" toward those that decide "against" what they deem "sacred". Then, the Church/christians would be viewed as human, not as God's arbitrators of judgment. And that would be more like Jesus, wouldn't it?

Michael Cline said...

It was good to hear Dr. Garlow's thoughts on this. I especially appreciated his take on what it means, and what it does not mean, to "force" something on someone.

I do worry though about the overall perception of the Wesleyan Church, especially when Garlow's efforts are plastered all over the Wesleyan newsfeeds as heroic. When Prop. 8 was being pushed, I was reading articles in the Wesleyan Life and online that seemed to take for granted that others within the denomination might have a different take on how to be socially active. There were people within my local church, who are rather "conservative" politically, who even questioned the news coverage and the time and energy going into Prop. 8 versus other avenues.

I also find Garlow's statment: "What intrigues me about this question is the unique 'covenantal' aspect of America’s most sacred & binding founding legal documents" somewhat odd.

What if their covenant was completely fabricated? God doesn't care about our legal documents that promotes some sort of covenant. We can't talk the talk of covenant while slaughtering Native Americans.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Of course one would have to "give up" on "propositional truth", as revealed in scripture to come to terms with reality in the real world apart from "kingdom of god" talk.

Sorry, Mike, there is no "ideal" in the real world. We do the best we can, and hopefully live in a place that maintains civility under laws, which protect our differences of opinion!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I wonder if anyone has read or knows about the case the ACLU is handling over a prom. (Those of you who are interested in the "bullying" in schools and the hurt that can cause, listen carefully.)

It is reported that a lesbian girl wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom but was denied. She petitioned and was promised the right to attend the prom, only to come to understand that "the powers that be" had made a separate "prom" for her and her girlfriend. Was this just?

This is what the ACLU is addressing in emotional harm. Should christians be concerned over the treatment of homosexuals, as they are their own children when it come to things such as bullying?

Ken Schenck said...

Angie, one of the things that discourages me about these sorts of conversations is that all sides have examples of legal cases or events. I almost never know enough about these events or cases to know the whole story or even to put them into context. How representative are these examples? Are they anomalous or part of a truly cumulative case for a trajectory?

I regularly feel this way about political speeches on all sides. I am regularly left not knowing what to do with what I've heard, which is part of my discouragement.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ken, Thanks for your honesty and your comment.

I am not arguing for individual cases, to set precedent. But, I am arguing about this specific case in regards to christian behavior, as this is pertinant to this "conversation".

Do christians have the right and even a mandate from god to suggest that this type of behavior is appropriate? The majority "rule" or social norm seems to be what drives christian behavior, instead of listening to the case and right of a minority opinion, or considering the issue in principle.

I have thought and read and continue to do so about where the lines should be in regards to the law in our land. And that has led me down a road to moral philosophy...moral judgment and sentiment. This has and is of concern me, if we are to be considered a "christian nation". Or should we not consider ourselves, as a 'christian nation". What does that mean, when we were founded as predominantly a Protestant nation, in regards to religion?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Another thing pertinant to this discussion...Texas deciding that John Calvin, Blackstone, and another should replace Thomas Jefferson!!!That is distorting history in the opposite direction from liberal revisionists. What does a country like ours do?

::athada:: said...

The answers just don't seem to square up with the NGA Tour Brochure. Or maybe I'm reading into the schedule too much.

John Mark said...

Ken, I have been away from my computer for a few days, I know this is 'old news' now. However, I wanted to say thanks for posting this, and for your willingness, as always, to be open. The kind of dialogue modeled here is what I wish were happening at a higher level between Christian conservatives and Christian liberals; not just so that we might get along, but so we might sharpen each other and hammer out a unified response to some of the great moral issues of the day. Of course I am thinking of the issues social conservatives find important, but such a dialogue on, say, poverty, war, etc, could help all of us.
Thanks again.