Saturday, July 23, 2011

Frank Schaeffer on Evangelical Violence UPDATED

It strikes me as more than a bit odd that the Left is fine with civil disobedience when it suits there cause but as an inability to recognize non-violent civil disobedience can equally be practiced by those with conservative values or more specifically evangelical Christians. 

Witness Frank Schaeffer's diatribe against the conservative Evangelical and his confusion of passive resistant and lawful protest with taking up the sword in violence. Frank Schaeffer seems determined to let no good tragedy go to waste as he comments on recent events in Norway. He pulls together a perfect storm of Christians, Nazis, Jihadists and racists so that he can pin the behaviors of the latter three squarely on the feet of the evangelical Christians. Frank Schaeffer's point is hardly more than a little self serving "I predicted it." And much like the blogger who parades his 'evidence' to champion for the latest conspiracy theory, Schaeffer's post really won't convince any one other than those already convinced. Every prophet has his choir.

But we are told that because the Mahattan declares declares that Christians will not submit to unjust laws then we will take vengeance into our own hands--a leap of logic with little justification demonstrating no ability to understand the true nature of Christian ethics. One would thing regardless of who can claim Martin Luther King Jr., we would at least be familiar with non-violent resistance as refusal to obey unjust laws and refusal for unjust violence in the face of such unjust laws. Schaeffer quotes quotes the Manhattan declaration:
"We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act . . . nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s."
So this is akin to raising up violence and terror? In fact, peaceful resistance that says "we must obey God not man" will lead to unlawful violence, according to Frank Schaeffer. We are told that Christian Jihadist is the next step:
"Terror is on the way on the way from our very own Christian and/or Libertarian “Tea Party” type activists inspired by right wing “Christian” intellectuals and political leaders like Bachmann who – after the killing starts -- will then disown them and express horror at their actions, actions that are in fact the logical extension of the anti-government rhetoric spewing from Congress and the religious right."
Anyone vaguely familiar with Christian ethics or the Bible recognizes that Christian find Romans 13 as binding--that the government bares authority from God. So that while we must obey God and not man when they are in conflict, we still have the responsibility to submit to the state and not become insurrectionists. The overwhelming majority of conservative Christians recognize that even bad government is instituted by God and are not crying for a revolt of human means with weapons and violence.

This reminds me of the words of D.G. Hart on the Religious Right (of which he is no fan):

[T]he Religious Right is simply in continuity with a swath of American Protestantism that many religious historians regard not as extremist but as mainstream, tolerant, and respectable. Granted, the Religious Right had the bad timing to show up after many Protestants had capitulated to some sort of secular America, and they did not always show an awareness of how America had changed not just religiously but demographically after the 1960s. (This was actually the point of the Religious Right’s complaints – they didn’t like what the nation was becoming. Since when is complaining so scary or unAmerican?) But to portray people who differ little from previous generations of Americans as those who nurture terrorist ideas and actions is to show a real ignorance of the field in which you are supposed to be an expert. 
This may be an odd point coming from a writer who regularly chastises the Religious Right. I have not changed my assessment of evangelical politics. I think it is flawed theologically and politically. But I sleep relatively well each night, despite my criticisms, because I know born-again Protestants, however mad they may be at me, believe in an important piece of Moses’ law – namely, the sixth (as Protestants count them) commandment. (Emphasis mine)
As to the whole of Frank Schaeffer's essay, Denny Burk is right: "Wrong tone, wrong time, wrong analysis. Wrong everything." The more Frank Schaeffer writes and the more he comes across with an axe to grind and a genuine hatred of people different from himself (and those with little more than traditional moral values) the more Carl Trueman's analysis at Reformation 21 is vindicated (see here and here for examples). "does Frank Schaeffer demonstrate any ability within the book to understand this `Other' on any terms other than his own?  Not at all." (here)

UPDATE: It may be too soon to tell much about the details of the alleged shooter, but over at Mollie has a pretty good breakdown of how The Atlantic jumped the gun in declaring the shooter as a Christian. We apparently have a whole lot more about his background including interest in growing organic vegetable (a sure sign that he was up to know good) than an nominal Christian beliefs. According to a Norwegian blog that tracks conservative extremists cited at, he wasn't really Christian and was more of a neo-fascist and Masonic.

In other words, one policeman unverifiable said he was a Christian extremist, there is little evidence of it, we know somethings about other influences, but the media ran with "Christian Extremists" because it (a) grabs headlines and (b) fits the meme.

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