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Mark Daniels: The Inaugural Address...Was It a Christian Statement?

Mark Daniels also relooks at the theology and world view in Bush's Inaugural speech. Here are excerpts:

"...was the address a Christian statement? That is, was it the statement of a Christian person, reflecting a Christian understanding of the world?...

I think one has to conclude that, as is true of the statements of any political figure who represents a pluralistic society and who wants to maintain popular support for his agenda, the Inaugural Address was, spiritually speaking, a mish-mash, reflective as much of Enlightenment notions as Christian ones.

This fact hit me full force when I heard the President say yesterday:

'There is only one force that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and the tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.'

Really?

From a Christian perspective, this assertion is suspect at many levels.

For one thing, we should ask, by what standard will the "force of human freedom" wield its power? The framers of the Constitution knew that free peoples are as capable of despotism as kings. If "freedom" is given as an ultimate value, how will those who exercise it decide the manner in which they will use it?

In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis talks about the danger of elevating any virtue, however laudable, to a position of ultimacy. He writes:

'The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials 'for the sake of humanity', and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.'

Is "the force of freedom" as an ultimate value any less susceptible to manipulation and the justification of tyranny than is love? Clearly, it isn't.

As a Christian, I believe, have observed, and have experienced, that only the God made plain to us all through Jesus Christ can really break our tyrannies.

It was the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ that propelled the work of those who sued for an end to slavery in Great Britain and the United States.

It was the Gospel of Jesus Christ that sustained Martin Luther King, Jr. in the US and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa as they faced down injustice.

This same Gospel lay behind the Oxford Movement which resulted in the transforming power of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps.

This Gospel inspired the reforming work of Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and John Calvin.

It also incited the work of John Wesley, setting people free of sin and often, the slavery of alcoholism, to live with God's approval and power working in their lives.

In the end, for whatever other virtues the Inaugural Address may have had, it was not a particularly Christian statement.

While I understand the need for a President to mobilize a nation behind a particular program, I would prefer Presidents to reflect a more humble and realistic understanding of what governments, no matter how virtuous their leaders, can accomplish. No government and no set of political principles can transform a human life, society, or world.

Anyone who reads this blog knows how opposed I am to Christians forcing Christ or specifically Christian values down the throats of society at large. We live in a pluralistic society and we must acknowledge that fact. Furthermore, it is absolutely contrary to the will of God for Christians to force their beliefs on others. Followers of Jesus are called to share their the hope of Jesus Christ in gentle ways.

So, I didn't expect the President to make some overtly Christian declaration of public policy.

But I am more than a little disappointed that the President assigned a place of preeminence to a value which, unless subordinated to Jesus Christ, will render monsters of us all."
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