Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Jim Garlow on campus

Jim Garlow was on campus today both to speak in chapel and to speak for a Pastor's Enrichment luncheon. Garlow is pastor of the largest Wesleyan church in San Diego and has been very active politically. He has recently joined Newt Gingrich on a tour called the Third Great Awakening.

Whatever you think of his politics, you cannot know him without recognizing his genuineness and the fact that he has the best interests of individuals and the nation in view. He is part of a strong organization to mobilize to fight what he calls neo-paganism in American culture.

He is at war. He is not hateful or malicious, but he is at war. He has an organized plan to fight for America.

I have serious questions about both his approach and his exegesis, although I do not fault his character. I fear his approach will do more harm than good, but perhaps I just do not see accurately the state we are in or what needs to be done. I end the day somewhat discouraged.


Anonymous said...

I just simply do not understand certain individuals in the Church who attempt to save society through the political system.

Jesus could have done that, but He chose to work through the relatively hick area of Galilee and worked with uneducated people to bring change. It was subversive to the Roman empire, not working through it.

This is discouraging to me also.

Joel Larison

Pastor Ray said...

I was at the luncheon yesterday and heard Dr. Garlow. I was completely amazed at this man's passion. At no point did I think this was a man who was trying to "save society through the political system."
This is a man so convinced of what the biblical definition of marriage is, that he was moved to try and make a difference in his own community and state. And he did!

I was encouraged by his message, not discouraged!

Ray Austin

Ken Schenck said...

It was great to see you yesterday, Ray. I imagine that your feeling was also that of most of those at the luncheon. I was curious about what the students thought, since they're a different generation. I didn't ask anyone, though.

I suppose part of my discouragement is precisely the fact that I suspect most Wesleyan pastors would have a different reaction to me.

John Mark said...

I would like you at some point to spell out for the rest of us your thinking on how Christians should address social issues. It is obvious you don't care for the "Christian Right" and "Talk Radio" right-wingers.
Perhaps you have made your position clear, but I am a slow learner and haven't got it. You have challenged my thinking, and I have actually changed my position on several issues, or have hopefully developed some more nuanced responses to some things I used to be very dogmatic on. Still;
If you feel that engaging the secular left on their own turf (the courts, the political process, etc.) is a bad thing; what is the correct way? I get the impression that you are not necessarily in the Wallis/Campolo camp, either.
I am also aware of how conservatives are perceived in the larger culture; having read unchristian, for example.
If there is a better way in your thinking, how might it be "sold" to Christian conservatives? And, in my thinking, the Jim Garlows of this world are more watchdogs and "defenders"--I don't place him in the same category as Glenn Beck or Limbaugh, who regularly engage in bombast, ad hominem attacks and such like-and are engaged in preservation or protection. I don't think this can be argued even if you disagree with their methodology.
My point is that I question some things about the religious right but I am not convinced at this point they need to go away.

Ken Schenck said...

I suppose some of it is the difference between our personalities. I avoid conflict. I think Garlow likes it. I forget exactly what he said yesterday to that effect. This means I need to be aware that I should fight sometimes that I would naturally not, while he should be aware that he probably shouldn't fight sometimes he wants to. That just speaks to natural tendencies and it is why I am not going to say he is going about things the wrong way--my personality may need to be pushed. I hope I made it clear above that I do not think he is being hateful or carnal.

But here are some of my questions. They are not positions because I do not feel firm on them. They are my questions.

1. Is Garlow's agenda too closely aligned with the Republican party? Is he able properly to distinguish between his legitimate views on immigration, taxation, etc. and points on which Christians might genuinely disagree? 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.

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.

3. Is the "force the world to conform to Christian values" model properly Wesleyan-Arminian? Is it not more the Calvinist model that laments the disestablishment of Virginia in 1833? Does not God give others the freedom to accept or reject Him?

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.

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.

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.

But I do not experience the Obama administration as hostile to Christians, never have. I probably disagree with his understanding of discrimination, but I do not experience him as hostile to Christian values. I know that will sound like I must be stupid or something. But honestly, I really can't think of any decisions he's made yet that I experience as hostile. Disagreeing isn't the same as hostility. I haven't felt like he personally was at war with us. I cannot speak for those under him.

I am very open to being shown where I am missing something.

Ken Schenck said...

Now see Jim's responses where he indicates these questions misunderstand his trajectory.