I listened to this year’s RNC by way of the fine broadcasting team at National Public Radio. It was a unique experience – I was able to focus solely to the words, as opposed to what CNN, Fox, or MSNBC thought of them.
A lot was said; and then, a lot was recanted; leaving, in the end, nothing much.
But, perhaps the most baffling, and discomforting part of the convention (for me) was the religious? muck that was spewed all over the Quicken Loans Arena.
It started Monday, when televangelist Mark Burns gave “the benediction” for the convention.
He had been summoned to lead the political conference in a moment of prayer, to one God, because “[The Republicans] are electing a man, in Donald Trump, who believes in the name of Jesus Christ!”
“And [Republicans] got to be united because our enemy is not other Republicans, but is Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic party,” he continued, screaming, and flailing, and (probably) spitting.
Burns is right about one thing: Republicans’ shared enemy is not made up of other Republicans. But, what he goes on to say is incredibly, and immaturely mislead – the type of immature that brings concern about his leading a flock of people (he was introduced as “Pastor Mark Burns, from the Harvest Praise and Worship Center”).
The Bible – the book upon which Christian doctrine is based, and with which pastors should be well familiar – expresses a direct contrast to Burns’s sentiment.
Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Burns, as a church leader, should know that his enemy is not an adherent to a specific political ideology, but the deceiver of the whole world; a spirit.
The worship center leader went on to thank God for the life of Donald Trump, “in the name of Jesus,” and The Lord for “guiding him [Trump] and giving him the words to unite this party, this country.”
If Trump is intending to unite the country through his often offensive rhetoric, then, he is indeed one of the most extreme experimenters with reverse psychology in US history.
Burns closed his loud prayer identifying those gathered as part of the “conservative party under God, to defeat every attack that comes against us.”
In a word: Burns was bad.
In more than a word, he appeared flagrantly uncultivated.
But, what’s even more troubling is that, this all happened again later in the week.
On Tuesday, former Republican candidate for President, Dr. Ben Carson took the pulpit to address the crowd.
Speaking about “political correctness” – which he admitted to hating – Carson said that the “secular progressives use it to make people sit down and shut up, while they change everything. It’s time for us to stand up, and shout out about what we believe in.”
Before continuing, bear in mind that Carson was not introduced as a pastor, nor is he the leader of a church, or worship center.
For whatever reason, he identifies his political opponents as nonreligious, and worldly.
In fact, there is no religious requirement for membership in either party.
It got much worse.
After sharing a few of his concerns about the lasting effects of a Clinton Presidential administration, Carson said this:
“Now, one of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that, one of her heroes – her mentors – was Saul Alinksy.” The crowd booed cautiously. “And her senior thesis was on Saul Alinksy. This was someone that she greatly admired. And that affected all of her philosophy, subsequently.”
“Now, interestingly enough, let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky. He wrote a book called Rules for Radicals. On the dedication page, it acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own kingdom. Now, think about that.”
“This is a nation where our founding document talks about certain unalienable rights that come from our Creator. This is a nation, where our pledge of allegiance says we are one nation under God. This is a nation where every coin in our pocket, and every bill in our wallet says ‘In God We Trust’. So, are we willing to elect someone as President who has, as their role model, somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.”
First, what the Declaration of Independence says should by no means serve as the basis for a Christian argument – there’s the Bible for that.
Secondly, were I a man of back and forth, I might bring to question, the time that Trump – who (if it weren’t clear) Carson is advocating we elect – said that he doesn’t think that he’s asked God for forgiveness.
But, I’m not a man of back and forth. And, if Trump hasn’t sought Christ for forgiveness, well, I’d suggest that he did, but, remember, neither he, nor Clinton are running for US pope.
I wanted to cut Carson off there, but then he said this.
“The secular progressive agenda is antithetical to the founding principles of this nation.”
I must take this opportunity to say: the “founding principles of this nation” were/are awash with hypocrisy. To start, those self-evident truths used to declare independence were published as more than 500,000 Black people were brutally enslaved – the man who wrote those words owned more than 100. Clearly, the US (to be) didn’t believe then, that all men were “created equal,” nor that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness were inalienable.
Carson went on: “If we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives, God will remove himself from us. We will not be blessed, and our nation will go down the tubes. And we will be responsible for that – we don’t want that to happen.”
“Now Donald Trump, he understands this very well. He understands that the blessings of this nation come with the responsibility to ensure that they are available to all – not just a privileged few.”
It’s not clear where Carson is sourcing his confident assurance of The Lord’s will – hopefully, the Bible – but he – like church speaker Burns – appears to be painfully mislead.
Carson is suggesting that Republicans are God’s elect; and that, if they are not holding political power, then God will curse America.
He sounds like a Pharisee.
Finally, another person introduced as a pastor – Darrel Scott, of New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland – spoke on Wednesday.
He began by telling the congregation that he and Trump had met “several years ago.”
Since then, the two have met “many” times, to discuss issues “that are critical to our nation’s well-being.” Among those, Scott mentioned: the economy, race relations, immigration, jobs, urban renovation and revitalization, and the military.
Either Scott and Trump did not discuss faith; or, perhaps, it didn’t jump into the church speaker’s mind of things “critical” to the to the maintenance of national well-being. Maybe he just forgot to mention it; or, possibly, he considered it inappropriate to assume that subscribers to his political agenda were members of a single faith.
A minute into Scott’s speech, we can validate the second hypothesis: he must’ve forgotten.
“We are spiritually empty,” Scott identified as one of the ways the “Democratic Party (under Obama) has failed us.”
He went on to complain that “we are not feared by our adversaries.”
Feared by our adversaries? What right has any one person to inject fear into the heart of another? Especially, those who are so – “adversaries” – only because they disagree politically. Those people – who disagree politically – can’t be in opposition to our faith, right? Because, there is no single faith of America, right?
Secondly – and most importantly – what about Christ, or the words of the Bible, would lead this man to believe that we should be feared? Is not vengeance The Lord’s.
“The greater that America is, the greater the entire world becomes,” Scott continued. “We are the greatest nation in history,” he soon followed.
2 Peter 2:18: For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
Then, Scott yelled that “We are here as Americans! Regardless of race, regardless of creed, and regardless of color.”
So, if that’s the case – which it is – why are you continuing to speak as if everyone is of your creed?
Scott closed by screaming that he “could think of no stronger leader who would place their left hand on a Bible that they believe in, raise their right hand, and solemnly swear to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.”
Again, being that we are a nation “regardless of creed,” I wonder why we continue to affirm things by swearing upon the Christian Bible.
Republican leaders/speakers need understand: America is not a Christian country. Neither is the Republican a Christian party.
Those that are Christians need worship, read their Word, and pray for the change they seek. That change should be of increased love, and empathy, and understanding.
That’s how Christians should approach this. Take note that the Bible is a declarative book of actions: love is an action; forgiveness is an action; empathy is an action.
Not one person is perfect at any of these things, but that’s not what God asks of us.
It appears that these Republican speakers are unaware of this.
They seem to think that God exists, and is able to be used by them, when they need him.
In fact, it’s the absolute opposite: God can use you when He needs to.
It seems, that for these Republican speakers, Christianity is a speech enhancer, that they use when they don’t really have anything to say.
And that’s a sin.