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Driving the Left and Right Crazy

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Glenn Beck is driving the Left and the Right crazy. Beck co-opted the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” celebration and turned it into a near religious revival. This drove Al Sharpton up the wall. His counter event was a non-event. Many on the Right are condemning the efforts of Beck because he’s a Mormon. So where are the evangelical pastors and churches doing what Beck is trying to do? You can’t beat something with nothing. So what’s your plan besides telling people not to get involved in politics and “moralizing” is not the gospel? Is it possible that there is a moral dimension to the Christian life? Of course there is, and those who say otherwise are diluting the gospel and putting us in danger. I’ve addressed this issue ad nauseum. See my book Myths Lies and Half-Truths if you want to know my thoughts on this issue. Beck is an indictment on evangelicals similar to the way women politicians are an indictment on weak-willed male politicians who helped to get us into this political mess.

The Left has been using King’s legacy for decades but with little effect for those who should have benefitted by it. The latest example of this is found in a new rug that has been put in the Oval Office that includes quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. woven along its curved edge. But there’s only one problem. The quotation attributed to King is not really his. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” are actually the words of Theodore Parker (1810–1860), an abolitionist, a Unitarian minister, and Transcendentalist who spoke out against slavery. It’s not King’s fault that the quotation was falsely attributed to him. When he first used it, he made it clear that it came from Parker. But like so much of what politicians say, words are props. The ultimate goal is to use words as weapons to subjugate the masses into believing that only the State can save. Gary Oldman’s character Carnegie [1] in the film The Book of Eli (2010) is the personification of the wordsmith politician. He understands the power in words if he gets to control how they are used. Here are some words from King that could have been used on the carpet. Why weren’t they? They seem too close to what Christian upstarts have been saying for decades:

“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.” [2]

“We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.” [3]

“Seems that I can hear God saying that it’s time to rise up now and make it clear that the evils of the universe must be removed. And that God isn’t going to do all of it by himself. The church that overlooks this is a dangerously irrelevant church.” [4]

“The church must also become increasingly active in social action outside its doors. . . . It must exert its influence in the area of economic justice. As guardian of the moral and spiritual life of a community the church cannot look with indifference upon these glaring evils.” [5]

“If one is truly devoted to the religion of Jesus he will seek to rid the earth of social evils. The gospel is social as well as personal.” [6]

“As Christians we owe our ultimate allegiance to God and His will, rather than to man and his folkways.” [7]

“Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried.” [8]

Put these same words in the mouth of a Tea Party member and the Left will scream “intolerance,” “keep religion out of politics,” and “you can’t impose your morality on others.”

The civil rights movement of the 1960s was influenced by those who brought morality to bear on issues related to race and equality. “For the first time in history, a single Protestant‑Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish testimony was presented to Congress in support of legislation. Congress became aware that the religious community was aroused in a startling way. The participation of the religious groups in the March on Washington was another bit of evidence. Over 40,000 white church people participated in the March.” [9] With just a few changes, this description of the 1964 March on Washington could easily describe the activities of the often vilified “religious right” and their efforts to influence legislation. The similarities are not lost on Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University and one of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional law:

Religious organizations were among the strongest supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in employment and public accommodations. They testified in support of it. They made public appeals for it. And, once again, only the segregation[ist]s complained. Senator Richard Russell of Georgia charged that those who made religious arguments in favor of the legislation did not understand “the proper place of religious leaders in our national life,” adding that the religions should not “make a moral question of a political issue.” Indeed, there is little about the civil rights movement, other than the vital distinction in the ends that it sought, that makes it very different from the right‑wing religious movements of the present day. [10]

Civil rights legislation was passed in the early 1960s because the “moral question” was pressed by religious leaders. “When it was finally passed, friend and foe alike credited the passage of the bill to the persistent power of the church.” [11] Hubert H. Humphrey, the leader of the struggle in the Senate for passage, along with other veteran fighters for civil rights legislation, “insisted that the churches’ efforts had made the difference which had been lacking in other struggles for such bills.” [12]

  1. The use of the name “Carnegie” for Oldman’s character may be a reference to Andrew Carnegie who used some of his vast fortune to establish the Carnegie library system of more than 2,500 libraries around the world.[]
  2. From a sermon preached in November 1956. Quoted by William J. Bennett, from the Foreword to Ralph Reed’s Politically Incorrect: The Emerging “Faith Factor” in American Politics (Dallas, TX: Word, 1994), xiii.[]
  3. Quoted in Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954B63 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 743.[]
  4. Quoted in Branch, Parting the Waters, 696.[]
  5. King, Stride Toward Freedom, 208.[]
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 117.[]
  7. King, Stride Toward Freedom, 117.[]
  8. King, Stride Toward Freedom, 91.[]
  9. Robert W. Spike, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches (New York: Association Press, 1965), 106.[]
  10. Stephen L. Carter, The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion (New York: Basic Books, 1993), 228.[]
  11. Spike, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, 108.[]
  12. Spike, The Freedom Revolution and the Churches, 108.[]

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