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Kuo Vadis?

October 24, 2006

David Kuo was not previously a household name, but he seems to be everywhere these days. Former Special Assistant to the President for Faith-Based Initiatives, he has an impressive resume and certainly gives the impression of being a man of integrity and intelligence. His years in the Bush administration have led him to write a “very personal” account of his experiences, intended, as I take it, to sound a word of caution to his fellow conservative Christians(Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction). Arriving in Washington with high hopes for the “compassionate conservative” agenda, some defining moments left him with considerable disillusionment with some fellow Republicans in the administration. Specifically, he discovered that some in the party considered the conservative Christian element to be “useful idiots” who could be used to get out the vote in return for lip service and the occasional policy trinket now and then.

If Kuo felt used and abused by his own party before, what is he now that he has become “useful” for the opponents of all that he has stood for lo these many years? Released two weeks before the mid-term elections, his ruminations and revelations may well serve to disaffect and disengage a percentage of the so-called “values voters.” If the Democrats regain a house of Congress, pundits will likely intone “Foley and Kuo” in a single breath; strange bedfellows indeed.

Conservative comrades in arms, who may otherwise have applauded his message, are asking, slack-jawed, “Why now, David?” His response is the “I wuz had” defense; it seems his contract called for a release date of early next year, well after the dust of the election would have settled. It is hard to blame Simon and Schuster, however; published on schedule, Kuo’s magnum opus would be gracing the bargain table at Family Bookstores by Easter. Nor is it clear that 60 Minutes would have given him the time of day. To hear him on the talk shows, he appears genuinely nonplussed at the turn of events. Naive though he may be, at the end of the day, this David still has four of his smooth stones, and they turn out to be nuggets of gold.

Ironically, the impact of his book may obscure its message, which may well be worth hearing. He calls for fellow religious conservatives to take a fast from politics to regain their spiritual bearings. Good idea; I’m thinking of taking mine during the next Clinton administration. Still it is always the right moment to reaffirm one’s priorities. Could it be that for the average unchurched Harry, the only thing he knows about evangelicals is that the evangel has something to do with “tax cuts for the rich?”

Truth be told, between the wild-eyed paranoia of the Christophobes and the star-spangled banter of some on the so-called religious right, I am not so sure that the relationship between spiritual and political concerns has been rightly understood. Two or three decades into the phenomenon, the days when Christians stood aloof from civil discourse because politics was “dirty” is now only a distant memory for the most seasoned citizens. Still, elements in our society who oppose what we value are eager to see a pendulum swing back to the days of political quietism.

From my vantage point, the beginnings go back as far as the Francis Schaeffer book and film tours of the late seventies. How Shall We Then Live ? brought the significance of world-view into focus, while Whatever Happened to the Human Race? specifically called believers to action in regard to legalized abortion. The fact that the “Reagan Revolution” took place a year after the second of these tours is no coincidence, especially since Schaeffer’s coauthor on the second book, C. Everett Koop, would soon afterward become President Reagan’s Surgeon General.

Since that time politically-engaged Christians have been accused of being power hungry, having misplaced priorities, trying to convert the world through political means, trying to establish a theocracy in America, and turning their back on the gospel. So what is the truth? What is the rationale behind these last decades of Christian involvement in public affairs? Is there any Biblical justification?

The two outstanding examples in the Bible of believers in high levels of government are Joseph and Daniel. Neither aspired to the corridors of power; they found themselves thrust into the situation by circumstances, that is by providence. Each was a man of high integrity, and this was tested on more than one occasion. First advisers, then officials, each in his time brought wisdom, insight, truth, and the blessing of God to his area of responsibility. Neither one governed out of a divine mandate for God’s people to wield power on the earth, but finding themselves in positions of authority, they glorified God by the good works that were prepared for them to do.

As Christians we have a dual nationality; as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are strangers and aliens on the earth, looking to a city not made with hands, and on a mission that is not achieved by votes in Congress or the strength of armies. At the same time we have been plugged into a time and place where we live and are involved, and the exercise of this citizenship is also to the glory of God. In the United States, in this republic, each citizen carries something of the responsibility of Joseph and of Daniel, not just the right, but the duty. In short, the call to involvement is because we are Americans, not because we are Christians. Being Christians, however, we exercise our responsibility in a way consistent with the character of God and the wisdom of the Scriptures.

In regard to abortion, this practice is such a blatant and obvious injustice that it defies belief that it can exist in civilized society. The argument is actually simple:
1. The fetus is alive, of course. It is growing. That’s the “problem,” isn’t it? If it isn’t alive, why do you need to kill it?
2. It is human: it has 46 chromosomes, and all the same DNA as any other human. No one really argues that it isn’t human tissue.
3. Who is it? Again DNA. It’s not mama. It’s not papa. It is a separate individual. Someone else. With two you get politics. Maybe Robinson Crusoe could do just whatever he liked all alone on that island. When Friday showed up, however, so did politics. When a pregnant woman goes to a doctor, he has two patients. Just governance demands protection of the helpless, the minor, the innocent.

Second, the movement to mainstream homosexual behavior has been extremely successful through a very well-executed campaign of sophistry. The homosexual “community” is the first special interest group (I am aware of) that identifies themselves by the way they sin. The fact that we commonly make reference to “gay” people is one indication to me that the battle is largely already lost. With vocabulary and concepts in place, the issue has now been framed in the minds of the average person as one of civil rights. If this is true (and I do not think it is) they not only will win–but they ought to win.

We are actually at the point where our society is debating over marriage between two individuals of the same gender. It is as if we were living in the “theater of the absurd.” Did huge masses of our fellow countrymen happen to sleep through just the wrong part of anatomy class? Do we just need to explain how innies and outies work in a complementary way? Oops, I beg your pardon; I’m using an argument from design, and we know that is off the table. The main problem in the issue over homosexuality and in particular the marriage question is that we are about to, as a society, write a lie into the law of the land.

Are truth and justice still the American way? I don’t wish to belabor all the ways the Christian worldview impacts policy decisions, but they include the basic nature of man, what the source of crime is, what solutions are actually effective, the role of punishment, and how to educate the next generation.

All the while however, we do need to remember our primary allegiance to our Lord and to his kingdom. 1 Peter 2:12 says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.” After all, the Bible has a word that includes the homosexual, the abortionist, the atheist, the terrorist, and the criminal. It is neighbor.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    October 25, 2006 1:26 pm

    “It is neighbor.

    Amen!

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

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