Monday, August 27, 2012

The Politics of Babylon

I address this post, with substantial familiarity and more than a little affection, to the conservative Christian evangelicals who constitute a large part of the Republican base; who are enthusiasts for all things military and police; who listen to the usual talk-radio lineup and follow politics closely; and who are apt to be downcast and gloomy in the late summer of 2012.  Brothers and sisters: open your Bibles, please, to chapter 4 of the book of Daniel and follow along, starting at verse 28 ...
All of this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.  Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.  The king reflected and said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?"  While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field.  You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes."  Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.
Yes, I know the possibility of heavy weather combined with your native security mania to bring out the inner Keystone Kop in your party leadership. I know you started out hungry for red meat, in the form of a Santorum or a Huckabee or something similar, and now you're reduced to crossing your fingers for an exceedingly pale substitute who finds it very difficult to conceal his contempt for you.  And, yes, your candidate for the Senate from Missouri, Todd Akin, is proving to be ... an embarrassment?  A liability?  A nuclear meltdown?  Something like that.

This is something that I share with you, by the way; I also don't think abortion should be legally available for the "hard cases" of rape or incest.  I would think, though, that a principled opponent of legal abortion wouldn't be driven to inventing some kind of reproductive wack-biology as a reason; one could, after all, simply point out that rapists themselves do not face summary execution without due process; why should their children?  Having an unsavory father shouldn't be a capital crime, it seems to me.  Of course, not everyone will agree; most, I'm sure, will not.  But it's an opposition that can be coherently defended, if you oppose abortion because you think the weak, the helpless, the orphans should be defended, not slaughtered.  On the other hand, if your opposition to abortion is more an excuse for you to indulge your natural inclination toward slut-shaming, then maybe babbling about "legitimate rapes" is something that will come naturally to you.

Coherence, it seems to me, is prominent among the things that the Nebuchadnezzars of the GOP lack, as they eat grass out in the Fields of Foolishness, getting rained on and growing bird-claws.  Now, I do not claim to know that this is God's doing; for me to claim such knowledge would be blasphemous, and I think blasphemy is a pretty serious offense.  But I do have to wonder, from time to time.  Consider Romans chapter 1.  It's a favorite of evangelicals seeking to justify their rejection of homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality, and yes, that really is there.  But Paul is rather more comprehensive, as we see starting in verse 28:
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
I do not mean to suggest that the GOP is more enthusiastic than the Democratic Party in its embrace of the catalog of unrighteousness against which Paul wrote.  The Two Major Brands are, in my estimation, identical twins with respect to such things.  The distinction that I see is that the GOP markets itself to gullible believers in a way that its opponents don't do so much.  And so it seems to me that if God is really picking primarily on the elephants, maybe it's because they've represented themselves more as the Party of God (sort of an American Hezbollah, maybe?), and perhaps God is indulging an ironic sense of humor.  Or maybe not -- as I've said, this is all speculation on my part, perhaps leaning more toward pure whimsy.

Back to my fellow believers: what, if anything, am I suggesting?  Should you flee from the elephants to join up with the donkeys; trade your red shirts for blue?  To quote the apostle once again, much more briefly: may it never be so.  Instead, may I suggest turning to the Old Testament for counsel in relating to the politics of this modern world.  From Isaiah chapter 52:
Depart, depart, go out from there,
Touch nothing unclean;
Go out from the midst of her, purify yourselves,
You who carry the vessels of the Lord.
But you will not go out in haste,
Nor will you go as fugitives;
For the Lord will go before you,
And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Your mind is a gift from God, and its proper use is to love Him; and He's been revealed perfectly in the person of Jesus.  Return to your first love.  Delight in His teaching.  Spit out that grass; come back from the fields, and back to your right mind.  And, by the way, even Nebuchadnezzar can serve as a model:
"But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'
At that time my reason returned to me.  And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride."


Cal said...

I use to be a hard-core conservative/libertarian until I was redeemed by our Lord, so I remember all the idolatry so clearly.

GOP or DNC, they are merely different royal houses of Babylon worshiping different shrines of Baal or Ishtar. Both claim the name of their gods, but differ in their epithets. To the GOP it is Zeus of the Military Industrial Complex, to the DNC Zeus of the Unions. Yet, we Christians ought to be pointing to the True God, Christ Jesus.

Good post!

Mimi said...

Oh, Jim, i wish we could meet for lunch and talk over your belief and my lack of it. But, hey, we're on the same page always when it comes to the slaughter of others, state-sanctioned or not.
As Cal said, that was a good one.

Jim Wetzel said...

Cal: Me, too (in fact, until rather well after I was redeemed ... but then, we're all involved in a process that won't be completed in the here-and-now). Thanks for your kind words.

Mimi: I would absolutely love to meet you for lunch and talk about anything at all, or not much of anything ... I know you have fascinating conversation, and I think you pretty much know the good places for lunch, too! Regrettably, our homes are inconveniently far apart. If and when I again have occasion to travel near the Garden State, I'll email you in advance and maybe we could, in fact, do lunch. I have a wife who is pretty much always happy to do lunch, too. (It's our mutual downfall!)