Sunday, December 02, 2007

An Odd Position

[Wow - a month since I have posted: the damage two jobs do.]

I find myself in an odd position - I find myself defending Hillary Clinton a lot lately. Considering there are no Republicans I feel called upon to defend - and Senator Clinton is a particular target for stomping from both "progressives" and "repugs" - I find myself pondering why I want to defend her.

It must be chivalry.

I receive notification for - and today I read a reaction to Hillary Clinton's speaking at the Saddleback Church AIDS conference.

Kevin McCullough's "Hillary's Purpose Driven Drivel" is, while making some valid points, basically unfair, uncharitable, self-righteous, and essentially unchristian. In saying that, I too may be unfair, uncharitable, self-righteous, and essentially unchristian. That seems to be the nature and danger of secular political engagement for Christians.

Had he simply bashed her politically I wouldn't be writing this. Since he bashed her theologically with a book I care a great deal about, my chivalrous nature has risen to the fore. McCullough called her to task for three quotes - of course taken out of context with no link to a full text of Senator Clinton's speech. However, I will take Kevin's presentation at face value because, well, it is good enough for what I want to say:

Clinton: "My own 'faith journey' is approaching a half century, and I know how far I have to go."
McCullough hits this pretty well from my theological perspective.
Which is an odd thing to consider for the Biblical Christian. For when one thinks about it we know two truths to be the exact opposite of that statement. First the only journey of faith worth taking is not something that requires fifty years to clarify, and secondly none of us - not one - can begin to fathom the gap of "how far" we are separated from God in our state of sin. Understanding this is key of course because in reality we can't "go" any distance to make up that gap. For us to try to ascertain legitimate standing before the God who made us it would be likened to the impossibility of standing on the top of the Empire State Building in New York City and attempting to shoot an arrow from a bow in hopes of striking the target dead center in the middle of the fifty yard line of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena California.
At Street Prophets I hear a lot from theologically liberal Christians, and other religious beliefs, about "faith journeys" - and I ignore it because they have as much contempt for my "make a decision", "pray a prayer", and be "born again" perspectives as I do for the idea that there is a any "journey" that takes us closer to God. Frankly, we can turn from Him or turn to Him - the "journey" is in our day-to-day decisions to do His will in our lives or not.

However, what would Kevin think of this core principle of my theologically conservative Evangelical church:
We are a people of authentic spiritual transformation – demonstrating love, purity, humility, hospitality, generosity and servant leadership.
We certainly do not believe that transformation ever ends. If I say that I am praying that I will allow the Holy Spirit to continue to transform me into more the person God created me to be - would Hillary say "Yes, that is the spiritual journey I am talking about". I have to leave that as a possibility I think

That is, however, about the only point Kevin gets from me - and he screws it up with his next statement:

Clinton: "But I have been blessed in my life, with my family, and in the church of my childhood, to be guided every step of the way."
Now if McCullough had jumped on this because Senator Clinton didn't mention being guided by the Bible, or the Holy Spirit, or God - and settled for her family and her church - I might have been sympathetic. His argument was, well . . .
Would anyone who has tolerated serial adultery, first hand accounts of rape and sexual assault against other women, and an infantile like obsession with never being criticized call their "family" (i.e. the philanderer she's married to and bore a child with) a blessing? And for Bible believing Christians being "guided every step of the way" is a pretty gigantic claim. After all I do not know a single fellow Christian who would claim to live their life in such away as to have reflected biblical guidance through every single step. The more important question being - guided by what? One Clinton's amorous ambition for Hillary's assistant?
First, to be clear, she didn't name Bill Clinton as someone who guided her - and my guess is it wasn't who she was talking about. Next, we are of course supposed to believe that all of the good, and all of the bad, in our life are blessings - and praise God for it all. However, how should she have "lived her life" based on Biblical guidance?

  • Divorced Bill Clinton? Certainly she had the grounds Biblically - but isn't it clear scripturally that God hates divorce

  • Not forgiven him? Hopefully Kevin doesn't even want to try to make this case.

So, Kevin's prescription for Hillary's actions in the face of Bill's repeated adultery was to divorce him, and not forgive him? What of this Biblical guidance:
1 Peter 3:1 In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands. Then, even if some are disobedient to the word, they will be won over without a word by the way you live, 2 when they see your pure and reverent conduct.
In retrospect, have we heard anything about Bill's further sexual exploits since Monica? Has the grace and mercy Hillary bestowed on him helped him redeem himself and turn away from his adulterous past? Isn't that exactly the grace and mercy God calls us to on nearly every page of scripture? Isn't that the Biblical guidance that Peter gave.

Clinton: "Jesus never asked why someone was sick!"
If Kevin had pointed out that Jesus didn't need to ask; and that He made it clear on at least one occasion that He knew without asking why someone was sick - again he might get some sympathy. And, this point is well-taken:
In her attempt to seem biblically literate she sends the double sided message . . . The message is clear: cure the illness and leave the behavior alone . . . the certain equivalent of curing a child of intestinal parasites that threaten their lives - while then sending them back to their village to drink more fecal tainted water supplies.
Yes, Jesus on more than one occasion offered grace and mercy coupled with the command to repent and do different. However, then Kevin goes here:
Should we do all that we can to cure those who are afflicted? Sure, starting first with those who were infected with the disease through no fault of their own. They get the drug cocktails first.
This is wrong on so many Biblical levels I can only ask if Jesus offered His sacrifice on the cross first for those who were perishing in their sin through no fault of their own.

If Kevin wants to open his Bible and make this case Biblically then I will take it all back. However, I would like to start that conversation with:
The Condemnation of the Moralist

Romans 2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?

Next: "An Oddly Positioned Postscript"

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly