Thinking Out Loud

October 8, 2018

The Danger of an Inherited Faith II

Discussion about the political scene in the United States for the past (almost) two years since the election brings out the worst in all of us.

I promised myself I wouldn’t wade into discussions of that nature. This blog is intended to be consistently faith-focused and therefore apolitical. But a few times I have made exceptions.

One of those was Friday.

In my comments about Franklin Graham, I incurred some well-warranted criticism from two people I greatly respect and have known for a long time. That stung. In fact, I did something I never do, and that is I basically took the weekend off from blogging; posting only an infographic late Saturday. (That post did however earn a Twitter like from someone who I greatly respect and is greatly respected internationally. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.) However…

I committed three very serious blogging sins.

First — and this is unusual for a blog which tries to put the cookies on the lower shelf — I did not provide any background as to what had provoked the post in the first place. In this case, the thing that really got me — my personal last straw — was when Franklin pulled all the Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child advertising from Relevant magazine when all they had done was quote him. I did not do enough to document his descent from emissary of the gospel to political commentator.

Second, I allowed my writing to become more emotional toward the end. To use the semantic argument that a person who has “lost the plot” of Christianity might never have been a Christian in the first place is not an argument unique to me by any means. But it reeked of judgement. The last three paragraphs have since been edited.

Finally, I think in my mind I was partially conflating Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. who we will look at briefly today. Both are the second generation of a top-tier Evangelical brand and both have wandered down the rabbit trail of leveraging or brokering their base to cozy up to the current U.S. political administration. I should have dealt with both, instead of saving one for now.

So with Jerry Falwell, Jr., let’s be specific.

I made the mistake of assuming that the same people who read my blog posts actually are tracking developments on the weekly link feed. I found it grievous that the Liberty University film students who returned from holidays last January discovered they would not get to complete the two projects they had planned, but were assigned to work on The Trump Prophecy film. I (and they) felt it totally diminished the value of the program’s reputation and the diploma they would receive related to it.

Also, there was the more recent incident where students were bused to Washington, D.C. to show support for Judge Kavanaugh. Again, I feel this is diminishing the university’s reputation and the degrees those students paid top dollar to receive. If the students are Political Science majors, then yes, the confirmation process is important, but this particular story also spoke to the issue of sexual assault in a case where it was difficult to tell which side was telling the truth. I’m not sure how many of those students really wanted to take a position on this issue; though some may have simply gone for the bus ride or because their friends were going, or for the tour of the Capitol building which followed.

And there are many more stories like this.

But Falwell didn’t simply put his film students and protesters (or counter-protesters, I’m not sure) in the middle of his pro-Trump, pro-Kavanaugh agenda; he dragged Evangelicals in the United States and (in my case) beyond into a moral and ethical quagmire of reasoning, where the glaring bad fruit of a person’s life is set aside if it is believed their ascent to political power fits or is in keeping with some higher purpose.

One reader simply suggested people Google “Franklin Graham controversy” for more, and I would add that “Jerry Falwell, Jr. controversy” yields some rather bizarre stories, like this one. But I really don’t want to spend more ink on that, especially where so many minds are already made up.

Another thing I need to reiterate — for my good as well as yours — is Paul’s advice to Timothy that a soldier does not entangle himself in civilian affairs. We belong to a different kingdom and our main energies should be spent on advancing and building that kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.

In the end however, simply changing the name, I find I must simply repeat what I said on Friday:

In the last several years, many of us have watched Jerry Falwell, Jr. make statements which grate against the Christianity many of us are practicing and what we know of the Jesus many of us are striving to follow.

His remarks and their underlying attitudes simply don’t pass the WWJD litmus test. The fruit of the indwelling of the Spirit has left the building.

There is a danger in an inherited faith.

and its conclusion:

If what I write or say doesn’t resemble Christianity or pass the WWJD litmus test, then I would expect you to ask the question, am I truly a Christian?

Yes. I get the irony. It’s possible that in its original form on Friday I would have failed that same litmus test.

Point taken. Such are the times in which we find ourselves.

 

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