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One's Soul for a Political Pottage Mess

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“I am a Christian, I am a Protestant, I am a Baptist . . . [and] my own personal religious faith . . . has developed out of my own personal experience in life as well. . . . [T]he tradition of which I’m a part recognizes the importance of personal communication with the deity, along with the lessons that come from Scripture.”[1]
—Al Gore

(The Devil and Daniel Webster [1941] was on Turner Classic Movies [TCM] Monday evening (2.23.2009). It reminded me of the following article I wrote a few years ago. I’ve made some revisions and additions to it for today’s posting.)

The main character, Jabez Stone, sells his soul to the Devil for seven years of unrivaled prosperity. As the time for his soul’s collection approaches, the farmer has second thoughts. Scratch will extend the contract if he can get the Stone’s son in the deal. Panicked to think that all might be eternally lost, Jabez enlists the legal expertise of Daniel Webster to plead his case before a jury of long-dead scoundrels. This wonderful Faustian drama is filled with timeless personal, social, and political lessons. Unfortunately, most of today’s politicians are not listening. Case in point, Al and Tipper Gore. Tipper, too? Yes, Tipper.

In 2000, former Major League pitcher John Rocker got blasted for making some derogatory remarks about “some queer with AIDS” and kids “with purple hair” that appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine. Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French was so outraged by these and other Rocker statements that he insisted that the Atlanta Braves not allow Rocker to use their song I Wanna Rock when Rocker raced across the field from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound. Michael Medved reminds us how twisted “Twisted Sister” is by printing lyrics to their song Shoot ’em Down:

The lyrics of Twisted Sister, chillingly suggesting firearms violence by youthful outcasts against popular classmates, emerged as part of a copyrighted song after rehearsal and recording sessions, deliberately injected into America’s cultural bloodstream. Rocker’s thoughtless statements came as part of a long, rambling interview, much of which he blabbed to a reporter as he was driving. Which tasteless statements represent a more serious, studied, premeditated assault?[2]

Twister Sister’s Jay French castigated Medved for not knowing the difference between “a real bigot” and “an actor who plays one on TV.”[3] Entertainers can do and say almost anything because their performances are “art,” but a critic of their “art” is a bigot, moron, and a backwoods redneck hick.

Not long ago, Tipper Gore agreed with Medved over against “Twisted Sister.” Tipper made a “purple hair” indictment of her own in 1987. She described a meeting she had with “angry rock stars and other recording artists” at the New York Chapter of the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS):

I never had a chance. The panel included record producer Bob Porter, jazz artist Mtume, and punk rock singer Wendy O. Williams, in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Eat Your Honey.” The audience consisted of a business associate of the rock group Twisted Sister, punk rockers sporting purple mohawk haircuts and T-shirts bearing the logo for the heavy metal band Venom, and a few quiet NARAS officials. Every question, for almost three hours, were aimed at me. Many were highly personal and insulting. No doubt about it—I had been set up.[4]

To her credit, Tipper took on the very powerful music and film industries. She stood up to a barrage of criticism, especially from Frank Zappa, the self-appointed “anti-censorship” advocate, who called her a “cultural terrorist.” The “highly personal and insulting” questions Gore was asked cannot be repeated here. This helps to explain the cautionary warning on the front cover of her book Raising PG Kids In An X-Rated Society: “EXPLICIT MATERIAL—PARENTAL ADVISORY.” Her book is filled with indictments of unbelievably raunchy and violence-laden lyrics, including “lyrics dedicated to satanism,” which she describes as “the ultimate form of rebellion. It rejects Judeo-Christian religion, turns good and evil upside down, and rebels against life itself.”[5] These are strangely prophetic words, for it seems that the Gores have taken the path which has turned good and evil upside down that have turned them into “rebels against life itself.”

Raising PG Kids In An X-Rated Society was published in 1987. In 1988, Al Gore decided to run for president. He painted himself as a cultural conservative. Here’s how one observer saw it.

The political experts agree that Mrs. Gore’s book promotion will have an imprint on her husband’s race, giving it a more moralistic tone, but they are divided over whether this will help or hurt Senator Gore. 

Some argue that it will help by charming the right wing of the Democratic party, where the Senator is not particularly strong because of his youth, his moderate stands and his father’s liberal legacy as a member of Congress from Tennessee for more than three decades.

But others disagree, privately singing a tune called “Tipper Don’t Preach,” a takeoff on the hit song ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ by Madonna, one of the artists Mrs. Gore has criticized.

Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, said Mrs. Gore could alienate many young professionals who should be her husband’s natural constituency.[6]

As time went on, Tipper would change her tune for obvious political and fund raising reasons. In an October 1987 meeting between the Gores and entertainment luminaries, she claimed the 1985 Senate hearings on X-rated music lyrics, on which her husband served, were a “mistake.” Al Gore claimed he “was not in favor of the hearings.” Of course, this was a lie. The transcripts show Gore as a willing participant. He thanked the Chairman and commended him for calling the hearing. Soon Tipper was holding behind-closed-door meetings with big names in the entertainment business in order to “mend fences.”

Why the change? Needing additional money to run a campaign, Gore turned to the usual liberal suspects: the entertainment industry. He got the cold shoulder because his wife “was viewed as a dangerous advocate of censorship by many in Hollywood.”[7] By 1992, Tipper had “backed off” from her work with the Parents Music Resource Center, “a group that successfully pressured the record industry to place labels on albums and tapes to warn purchasers of sexually explicit or violent lyrics.”[8] But she was still viewed as a “threat.” In fact, when Bill Clinton picked Gore as his running mate, some leftist rockers were shocked. Joey Ramone of the punk band “The Ramones,” who penned Censtorsh**, planned to vote for Clinton in the 1992 election, “but when he brought Gore in, I felt betrayed and alienated. He goes for the MTV generation which is fueled by music, then he turns his back on the music populace.”[9]

To show you how much things changed, Irving Azoff, Norman Lear, Don Henley, contributed nothing to Gore’s early campaign efforts. However, all three gave the maximum $1,000 to the Gore 2000 campaign, and Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa, children of the late Frank Zappa, also each gave $1,000 to Gore 2000.[10]

In 2000 the Gores will not be making the mistake of antagonizing the left wing of the Democrat Party. Crusading against explicit music lyrics is no longer as high on Tipper’s list as fund-raising with former members of the Grateful Dead is. These days Tipper does not think twice about getting on stage and performing with former members of the Grateful Dead, a band who lost three members to drug induced deaths, all the while producing explicit drug-related music.[11]

The transformation does not stop with catering to the liberal entertainment industry. Al Gore repudiated his once pro-life record. In fact, he went so far as to deny that he ever supported pro-life initiatives. He and Bill Bradley out abortioned one another. Bradley, once a professing Christian who spoke for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, is proud of the fact that he supports abortion on demand, even calling for taxpayers to fund the grizzly procedure.

In several letters to constituents, early in his political career, Gore made it clear that he opposed abortion. He stated in a September 15, 1983, letter, “It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong.” He went on to state, “Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected and I have an open mind on how to further this goal.” In a letter dated August 22, 1984, Gore stated, “I have strongly opposed federal funding of abortion.” He even supported the Hyde Amendment, which denied federal funds for abortions except to save the life of the mother. “As late as 1987, as a U.S. Senator, Gore wrote, ‘During my 11 years in Congress, I have consistently opposed federal funding of abortions. In my opinion, it is wrong to spend federal funds for what is arguably[12] the taking of a human life.’” Gore went so far as to vote in 1984 to amend the federal civil rights law to re-define the term “person” to “include unborn children from the moment of conception.”

What came out of the Gore campaign when he ran for President? Al Gore “has always supported a woman’s right to choose” regarding abortion. Based on his written and voting record, this is a lie. Al Gore’s transformation from a pro-life advocate to a pro-abortion point man began in 1987, the same year he announced his candidacy for president. In fact, immediately after his narrow win over the very pro-abortionist Bradley in the New Hampshire primary February 1, 2000, Gore headed back to Washington for an abortion rights vote. As his spokesman was quick to point out, “Al Gore has time and again stood up for a woman’s right to choose and this is another example of it.”[13] To choose what? To choose to kill pre-born babies and have tax payers fund the gruesome process! While he may have scored political points with this move among the pro-abortion left, ultimately he will have hell to pay if he remains on this course.

Gore has forsaken the “least of these” for the worship of mother earth. Please, don’t misunderstand me. Stewardship of the created order is a biblical ideal, but its worship is not (Rom. 1:20–25). Christians can fall on both sides of an error. First, a created thing can become an idol, and idols require devotion and sacrifice at the expense of the idol makers and worshippers. “With their silver and gold,” the prophet Hosea wrote, “they made idols for their own destruction” (Hosea 8:4).

Idolatry in its larger meaning is properly understood as any substitution of what is created for the creator. People may worship nature, money, mankind, power, history, or social and political systems instead of the God who created them all. The New Testament writers, in particular, recognized that the relationship need not be explicitly one of cultic worship; a man can place anyone or anything at the top of his pyramid of values, and that is ultimately what he serves. The ultimacy of that service profoundly affects the way he lives. When the society around him also turns away from God to idols, it is an idolatrous society and therefore is headed for destruction.[14]

Second, an equal and opposite error is to fall of the boat on the other side by adopting a Gnostic view of the physical world. Gnosticism is the belief that there are two separate realms—“one spiritual, the other material. The spiritual realm, created by God, [is] all good; the material realm, created by the demiurge, all evil. Man [needs] to be saved, not from Original Sin, but from enslavement to matter.”[15] For the Gnostic, life “must be escaped at any cost.”[16] But if there can be no immediate material escape, then a spiritual escape is a good enough substitute. The Gnostic escapes from the responsibilities of history. But for the Christian, history is the realm of decision making, and, therefore, is anti-Gnostic. If we are not responsible for history, then we are not responsible for decision making. But even a casual reading of the Bible will show that our faith is to be lived out in the world so that “fruit,” good works, are manifested for the world to see and for Christians to judge (Matt. 7:15–23). No restrictions are placed on where this fruit is to mature and ripen.

The creation is a necessary place for the practice of Christian stewardship, but there are some Christians who discount its importance in light of their eschatology. “Rather than being consumed with the things of this earth,” members of the leadership team at Grace Community Church argue, “believers are commanded to focus on the life to come.”[17] The background for this claim is said to be 2 Peter 3:10–13 and the realization of a future “new heaven and a new earth.” I would suggest that we are to focus on both realms simultaneously with the Bible being the standard by which we are to govern our lives in this world and the one to come (1 Tim. 4:1–5). This means caring for the unborn and the earth.

What happened to the Gores who claimed to be a Christian, Protestant, Bible-believing Baptist couple by turning the creation into an idol for profit (Acts 19:23–28)? Did they strike a deal with the devil? I hope the Gore’s will come to their spiritual senses and remember, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

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Endnotes:

[1] Quoted in Kenneth L. Woodward, “Finding God,” Time (February 7, 2000), 33.
[2] Michael Medved, “Pop critics: Do as we say, John rocker, not as we do,” USA Today (January 24, 2000), 19A.
[3] Jay French’s letter to the editor, USA Today (January 28, 2000), 17A.
[4] Tipper Gore, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1987), 15–16.
[5] Gore, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, 121.
[6] Maureen Dowd, “Tipper Changes Her Tune,” The New York Times (April 28, 1987). Emphasis added.
[7] “Hollywood changes tune on Mrs. Gore,” Atlanta Journal/Constitution (September 6, 1992), A2.
[8] “Hollywood changes tune on Mrs. Gore,” A2.
[9] Quoted in Edna Gundersen, “Tipper Gore faces the Music,” USA Today (July 22, 1992), 1D.
[10] For an account of the evolving views of the Gores, see See Bob Zelnick, “Tipper and Porn Rock” in Gore: A Political Life (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2000), 133–150.
[11] “What Democrats Don’t Want You to Know: Tipper and Albert Gore and Porn Rock."
[12] I firmly believe that he meant “unarguably,” otherwise it does not make sense with what follows: “the taking of a human life."
[13] “Gore Back for Abortion Vote, McCain, Bush Go South,” as reported by Reuters at http://dailynews.yahoo.com (February 2, 2000).
[14] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 6.
[15] Dusty Sklar, The Nazis and the Occult (New York: Dorset Press, [1977] 1989), 140–41.
[16] Philip Lee, Against the Protestant Gnostics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 122.
[17] John MacArthur, “God’s Carbon Footprint,” Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2009), 154.

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