The Seduction of Politics
“What! No Mount Sion? Did we not see the Delectable Mountains from the Gate of the City? Also, are we not now to walk by faith? Let us go on,” said Hopeful, “lest the man with the whips overtakes us again.” – John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
In his book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, reveals how the Republicans in the Bush administration sought the votes of evangelicals but had no real interest in leading a new Great Awakening. “This [is the] message that has been sent out to Christians for a long time now: that Jesus came primarily for a political agenda, and recently primarily a right-wing political agenda – as if this culture war is a war for God. And it’s not a war for God, it’s a war for politics. And that’s a huge difference,” said Kuo in an interview on 60 Minutes. But it shouldn’t take a White House insider and erstwhile compassionate conservative to convince us that mixing evangelical faith and Washington politics-as-usual is antithetical to the Gospel.
Today God and conservatism have practically merged into one, with the “wonder-working power” of politics driving a large segment of the Christian right. This momentous hour finds our generation of Christians, not filled with the Spirit, not focused on missions (as we should be), but drunk with wine – not the wine from a bottle (abstemious as we are) but all the stimulants of the evil one, the intoxications of Satan. And never has he devised more concoctions to give men false expectations as when he weds religion to politics. What a time for the church to be inebriated with empty political promises when she should be awake and alert to the real challenges of the hour!
Sin is our trouble, not liberalism in government. To treat cancer by temporary measures is to endanger the victim still worse. David Kuo will probably be considered a neurotic pessimist by his cheery fellow-preachers, but he is right and they are wrong, even if he learned his lesson the hard way. Modern political machinations – whether by the right wing or the left wing of evangelicalism – are nothing more than fads that work up mere optimism and positive thinking. Whenever government tries to make men good without being righteous – something the devil would love more than anything in this fallen world – the professing church becomes cluttered with hosts of superficial saints who never sell out to Christ.
Anyone who reads the New Testament will see that Jesus refused to identify Himself with any of the politico-religious parties of His day, whether they were called Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, or Zealots. Christians must maintain an ultimate commitment to Christ and eschew loyalty to a political party – any political party. It is indeed a decadent citizenry that rejects sound doctrine and heaps to itself politicians to tickle its itching ears.
Mr. Kuo is undoubtedly aware of the risks he is taking in airing his criticisms. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn delivered the 1978 commencement speech at Harvard, one newspaper said, “Prophets are not popular. They are uncomfortable people; they make poor house guests. Not only are they not honored in their own countries but sometimes not even in their own times. The greatest of them have been labeled as arrogant, self-righteous, presumptuous, unpatriotic.” Time will tell how quickly – and to what degree – Mr. Kuo will be demonized by his former colleagues. His experience is a reminder of how easy it is for well-meaning Christians to substitute political activism for genuine compassion. Most of the things we major on today are the very things the Pharisees majored on in their day, but they never knew the heart of God. They read the Scriptures but refused to come to the Word of life that they might be saved. They tithed but never gave themselves to the Lord. They prayed but never prayed the prayer of repentance. They were religious but never righteous. So it is today. What Isaiah called “a spirit of deep sleep” has lulled a large number of evangelicals into the stupor of a fool’s paradise.
As long as good men try to remedy conditions with temporary palliatives there will be a need for prophets like David Kuo. That’s because lostness – not liberalism, not libertarianism, not even “compassionate conservatism” – is our problem. We are sinners, blind, even lepers, and to try to make people religious without making them righteous only makes them harder to reach with what they need most.
October 19, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.