Thursday, June 26, 2008

McLaren v. Dobson vis a vis Obama per Wallis

In response to James Dobson's representation of Barack Obama's theology, Brian McLaren, head of the emergent church (resisting the urge to put scare quotes around church) is "saddened".

Of course, it is important to do away with all things that make Brian McLaren sad. In a post on Sojourners, McLaren is calling for a regulatory body to monitor evangelical rhetoric. No, I'm not making this up. The Evangelical Council for Rhetorical Accountability will see to it that Brian McLaren is never sad again.

Meanwhile, snippets of Jim Wallis' holiday tirade against the Bush Administration are making their way around the internet. Here's a snippet of the rhetoric for which McLaren seems to be pining:

"I believe that Dick Cheney is a liar; that Donald Rumsfeld is also a liar; and that George W. Bush was, and is, clueless about how to be the president of the United States. And this isn’t about being partisan. . . . Almost 4,000 young Americans are dead because of the lies of this administration, tens of thousands more wounded and maimed for life, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also dead, and 400 billion dollars wasted—because of their lies, incompetence, and corruption...

I believe they should spend the rest of their lives in prison - after offering their repentance to every American family who has lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister. Deliberately lying about going to war should not be forgiven."

Reasoned and thoughtful as always, Jim.

And what, pray tell, would an Evangelical rhetorical monitoring association, um, monitor for? McLaren outlines several areas of concern.

1. Inferring and Judging Motives (or: Do not judge - Matthew 7:1)

Notice he backs it up with scripture. Crackerjack theologian, this guy. And here I thought the Bible was cool with judging motives. Apparently, inference is off-limits as well for some reason. But here is Tony Campolo, describing evangelical Christians who support the Iraq War.

"Perhaps in the long run they put nationalistic jingoism and our lust for oil above the call of Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel."

Gee, that sure sounds like an inferring a motive to me. Alert the ECRA. Unless Campolo heads the ECRA, in which case nevermind.

2. Scrutinizing the Biases of Others Without Scrutinizing One's Own Biases (or: Don't remove others' splinters before removing one's own planks - Matthew 7:3-5)

I'm speechless. If biases constitute planks, then McLaren and the rest of Sojourners are stumbling about in the dark.

3. Logical Inconsistencies (or: In your thinking, be mature adults - 1 Corinthians 14:20)

We need an organization to monitor logical inconsistencies? Suddenly, a post on McLaren's organization requires a JD.

4. Name-calling/Mockery (or: Don't stir up needless anger - Proverbs 15:1)

I would refer you to this insipid parody of the conservative viewpoint on national healthcare. Whether the tone is mocking, I'll leave to you, but perhaps we can also set the organization to the elimination of bad satire.

McLaren elaborates on this point.

"This tendency to mock the opposition might be deemed excusable if it were a rhetorical icing on the cake of solid analysis, "

And what, pray tell, was the solid analysis that led Jim Wallis to condemn our president to the gallows? A 60 minutes minutes report he saw the day before. Solid, indeed.

5. Misrepresenting Your Opponent's View (or: Do not give dishonest evidence - Proverbs 12:17)

Earlier this month, Sojourners' Kevin Lum excoriated Sen. Tom Coburn and six other Senators for threatening to stall funding for PEPFAR unless certain performance requirements were maintained accusing them of "playing politics with the lives of millions of people ". This in spite of the fact that Coburn has a demonstrated track record of sponsoring legislation to fight AIDS in Africa, and was one of the original proponents of the program.

6. Confusing Democracy with Theocracy (or: Don't pre-empt discernment by claiming "God says ..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

A curious stipulation from a blog entitled "God's Politics".

7. Name-Appropriating (or: Calling yourself something doesn't make it so - 2 Corinthians 10:12)

Calling your organization non-partisan doesn't make it so.

Brian McLaren's call for an association to monitor evangelical rhetoric amounts to a call to end disagreement with his preferred ideological and theological precepts. Honest, civil dialogue is a desirable goal, but McLaren and Wallis work in dishonesty the way painters work in oils.

There is no criticism of Barack Obama that will pass muster with Brian McLaren for the simple reason that he is a liberal Democrat. He is free to tackle criticisms, but to claim the high-ground strains credibility, a clear violation of rule number three.

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Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

6. Confusing Democracy with Theocracy (or: Don't pre-empt discernment by claiming "God says ..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

A curious stipulation from a blog entitled "God's Politics".


6:00 PM  
Blogger Unspar! said...

While I agree with your criticisms of the propose ECRA, and the whole thing does seem vaguely communist, I'm intrigued by one of McLaren's closing points:

"Unless this leader and his political and religious allies can lift their level of discourse, their shared good ideas will be discredited along with their bad ones."

I think we've witnessed this happen in a number of circles--people dismiss the majority of Christianity because of a few crackpots, and though I'm not sure if Wallis/McLaren have any ideas, we've been pretty dismissive of everything they're about. Obviously a board for rhetorical accountability isn't a good solution, but is there any way to keep people from writing off whole ideologies and throwing out the good with the bad? Or do we just let crackpots be crackpots and speak up for what we believe is true? I'm inclined towards the latter, as it seems to be the more gracious response, but what are your thoughts?

10:18 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

As Christians, we do well to stand up to the crackpots. If Dobson goes overboard, we call him on it. If McLaren teaches something other than the gospel, we call him on it.

I don't see any scriptural support for ignoring false teaching, so why would we ignore crackpotism?

12:56 PM  

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