Thursday, August 26, 2010

History Can't Save America - Part 1

This Saturday, one of America's favorite conservative heroes is hosting a rally at the Lincoln Memorial entitled "Restoring Honor."

According to his website, Glenn Beck's purpose for this rally is as follows:

"On August 28, come celebrate America by honoring our heroes, our heritage and our future.

"Join the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and many more for this non-political event that pays tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.

"Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous. Help us restore the values that founded this great nation. On August, 28th, come join us in our pledge to restore honor at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC."


At first glance, there's nothing debatable about the reasons Beck is hosting this rally on the National Mall. Who can argue that integrity, truth, and honor aren't virtues to celebrate?

Indeed, I hope Beck gets a good turn-out at this event, and that many Americans will genuinely commit themselves to living lives of integrity, truth, and honor.

'Non-Political'? Who're You Kidding?!

But I suspect there's more to this rally than platitudes about righteous living. For one thing, Beck claims this will be a non-political event, which right away tips us off as to the liberal-bashing rhetoric which will probably gush down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial like pre-sweetened iced tea.

How can you get a professional conservative talk show host and Sarah Palin on the same platform without drowning in right-wing sound bites? How "non-political" have these two staunch right-wingers ever been?

Not that I think liberal Democrats don't need a good tongue-lashing. They've managed to stuff an atrocious healthcare bill down our throats, their leader has actually bowed to Arab royalty, and they pushed for programs which sparked a worldwide lending crisis. Bailouts and fiscal mismanagement which started in the last Bush administration have ballooned since he left. Racial tensions, which actually became almost a non-issue during Bush's eight years, have roared back to the fore, mostly because of baffling over-reactions by our first black president and his cabinet.

Do Conservatives Have More Integrity Than Liberals?

But this is more than petty politics and economic philosophies, isn't it? Are conservatives the answer to our problems simply because they claim to have the corner on integrity?

The pro-business wonks who've helped stall illegal immigration reform, jumped on the sub-prime bandwagon, and argued for ludicrously imbalanced executive compensation?

The whites who, insisting on moving further and further away from urban minorities and poor folk, suck highway funding budgets dry and inflate school taxes in quaint districts?

The owners of SUVs and other gas hogs who helped Detroit fight fuel efficiency mandates which have only deepened our thirst for Middle East oil?

The church-going families whose divorce rates mirror our society at large, and whose appetite for pleasure makes us the most spoiled believers on the planet? Talk to any cross-cultural missionary returning to the states, and they'll tell you that hedonism in the church virtually mocks what saints across the world have to endure.

What's So Sacred About America's History?

You just know that Beck and Palin won't waste much time before reminiscing about America's good ol' days with the Founding Fathers. Maybe I'm too cynical, but do conservative talking heads rely on references to the past because they can't rely on their own personal morality?

Is creating a version of the past which supports your current ideologies a lot safer and easier than positing an argument on the merits of your own convictions and how you live your life?

After all, history can't always argue for itself. We can make historical figures what we want them to be - especially people who died 200 years ago - because none of their peers can come back and contradict us. We can take their writings and superimpose what we want them to say, taking advantage of differing writing styles to bridge any gaps.

But the real question is this: if George Washington was a born-again evangelical servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, even if he was a virtually flawless human being, are we beholden to him because of how he lived his life? The only Person to whom present-day evangelicals owe allegiance is Christ. Is it easier to take Washington's writings and extrapolate conservative ideology than it is God's immortal words?

(Particularly for churchgoers who rebuff traditional worship and hymnody - saying they're irrelevant - doesn't it sounds howlingly ridiculous to apply sainthood to the Founding Fathers and insist we change our country to how we think they envisioned it? Talk about double-standards. I'll listen to conservatives whose traditional worship acknowledges the Church Triumphant before I'll give much credence to rock-n-roll churchgoers spouting Limbaughese.)

Real Conservative Family Values

If we want conservative family values, let's start with ourselves. Don't have sex outside of marriage, or even joke about sexual impropriety. Honor the marriage covenant and our aging parents. Teach the Bible to your children daily - don't expect Sunday School teachers at church to do it all - and model the Gospel in private and in public.

Whether we're an employer or an employee, let's conduct our business affairs with honesty and integrity. Learn about what the Bible teaches regarding wealth, not what the stock market expects of us. Break out of the rat race and evaluate how much of what we're doing goes to propping up a materialistic lifestyle rather than a life of servant leadership at home, church, and within our community.

Rush Limbaugh is on his fourth marriage, after his first three ended in divorce. Glenn Beck is a Mormon on his second marriage. Both of these modern media medicine men have had issues with chemical dependency in their past. Sarah Palin's eldest daughter got pregnant as a teenager, a sad situation usually triggered by a parental void. None of these are unpardonable sins, and they could even be used as teaching points (except for Rush's serial monogamy, for which there's no legitimate excuse). But neither do they represent all that is wholesome and virtuous in terms of the example conservatives should be setting for people we don't agree with. Just because these common personal faults may be representative of our society at large, does that validate these pundits as experts on integrity, truth, and honor? As contrasted with examples from liberal politicians?

My Challenge

I challenge any self-professed conservative who listens to Rush Limbaugh or watches Glenn Beck to spend an equivalent amount of time reading the Bible every day. See if your attitude changes any. And if you're indignant at the audacity of my challenge, is it because I'm no better than you? If that is the case, then what makes you better than the liberals you think are destroying America? My point is that none of us are righteous - not one (Romans 3:10). Yet conservatives keep hoping the ghost of George Washington is going to redeem us.

Our problems in this country have little to do with political party affiliation. They have to do with sin. And until we recognize that none of us has the superiority to claim the high road when it comes to integrity, truth, and honor in running the United States, then precious little is going to get accomplished.

For people who want to see real change in our country, don't look to our Founding Fathers or our modern media medicine men. Look to Christ. Confess your sins. For His glory, and our good.

And let ol' George rest in peace.

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