Monday, August 30, 2010

The Name, Beck, and the Black Robes

As Glenn Beck has it, God told the media superstar pundit how things should be at the rally in DC:
“It was about four months ago that we were still kind of lost, and we didn’t know what we were going to do when we got here,” Beck said. “And I was down on my knees, and we were in the office. And I said ‘Lord, I think I’m one of your dumber children. Speak slowly!’ And the answer was, ‘You have all the pieces. Just put them together.’ The pieces are faith, hope and charity and looking for those things inside each of us.’"

 I cannot help but shudder.  Assuming not only that Beck prays on his knees--I do too as a practicing Anglican Christian--but also that God actually spoke to Beck about his upcoming rally, and in a way that not only implies the Supreme Deity's approval, but also His outright support, it would behoove any rational person to rethink their politics.  In fact, one wonders whether or not an American flag now graces and enhances the glorious environment of the heavenly throne room.

Bringing God's name into this was the perfect foil (a lie, really) to mask the unspoken subtext of the rally--despite all me-thinks-she-doth-protest-too-much protestations to the contrary--that what the nation really needs are the right political viewpoints, candidates, and party to bring the nation back to its senses.  Rather than partisan protests imbued with bellicose vituperation, what better way to do this than to enlist YHWH to help in steering the nation back.  While invoking God's name, Beck assures the wary that this rally would not be about partisan politics.  But if God is the chief partisan in all of this--which seemed apparent at the rally--then those of us who don't hold with Beck's politics will apparently be in for a very unpleasant awakening on the other shore.  Boil it all down and you get it this way: better repent now, ask God for forgiveness, and embrace God's own conservative politics.

I think it is high time for Christians to have done with all of this.  God's name is not to be bandied about as if he were the chief enthusiast for a cheap and cynical religious nationalism.  The commandment that prohibits the taking of God's name in vain should bring all of us up short.  God's name is holy.  It is to be invoked with praise and adoration, thanksgiving and supplication.  I AM THAT I AM is not a political talisman.  Jesus Christ is not the nation's mascot.  These are names by which fallen human beings receive forgiveness, redemption, new and abundant life, and the eternal promise of future bodily resurrection in the new heavens and new earth.  With grateful hearts Christians are to be zealous for God's name. For there is no other name under heaven...

 Moreover, the various titles of God are actually subversive of all earthly political orders and systems.  To say Jesus is Lord in 1st century Rome could have gotten you killed, and in a most brutal way.  For the early Christians there was only one Lord and King; in their way of thinking, even Caesar must eventually bow down and give way to the name above all names, though they would have been horrified at the thought of picking up a sword to make this happen.  Instead, they renounced power, submitted themselves to the earthly consequences of allegiance to the only name that will ever matter, and the empire eventually crumbled.  The first shall be last, and the last first...  They knew who held the real power in the universe, and if He were humble enough to have renounced the power that was His by right for their sake, then they could only follow his example.

The most surreal part in all of this is that Christians are actually buying into Mr. Beck's power grab.  They are being played by this media superstar and his pilot-fish school of opportunistic politicians.  Isn't that just another way of saying that the rich and powerful are using the name of God to gather--and preserve--power to themselves?  Beck goes even further and enlists the help of clergy--the so-called "Black-robed Regiment"--to his cause.  Other earthly despots have done the same thing before, so this is nothing new.  Do these ministers not see the conscription?  Have they no sense that the name to which they are collared is not to be uttered in vain, especially the vanity of partisan politics?  Are they really that easily seduced by power?

Perhaps it is time for another confessing church movement to spring up and call Christians in the US back to their real purpose: Loving God and loving neighbors.  Such purpose needs no legislation, no rallies, no elections, no media cheerleaders, and certainly no politicians.  Christians will do more to influence and shape culture by simply loving God and their neighbors in deeds and words.  It isn't sexy, it isn't glamorous, and most of the time, it goes on quietly, behind the scenes, out of the limelight. and without any pomp and circumstance.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be what Mr. Beck and his Black-robed Regiment desire.  I think they simply desire power.  Raw, sinful, earthly power.  To wield such power is to risk violence, bloodshed, and injustice.  All in God's name.

In the world of Mr. Beck, Christians like me are faced with a choice: adjust my politics in order to avoid incurring God's conservative disfavor, or risk incurring the legislative (and perhaps penal) wrath of populist passion whipped up by Beck and the Black Robes.  I think I will take my chances with the Almighty...