A NEW ADMINISTRATION BEGINS WORK
AS A NEW ADMINISTRATION BEGINS WORK,
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE NATION'S
CONSERVATIVES AND EVANGELICALS?
First, this thought for the day with respect to some of
the now threatened wealth-realignment ("stimulation")
programs -- from Sir Winston Churchill: "You don't
make the poor richer by making the rich poorer."
For what it's worth: Although the number of TV
viewers watching the presidential inauguration of
Barack Obama was impressive, they fall short of
those who saw Ronald Reagan take the oath of
office for his first term in 1981.
According to Nielsen Media Research, 37.8 million
television viewers tuned in Tuesday to watch the
swearing-in ceremony, which was the largest
inaugural audience in 28 years. Reagan's first
inauguration in 1981 drew an enormous 41.8 million.
Obama's viewership was, however, 27 percent higher
than Bill Clinton's in 1993, and 30 percent higher than
George W. Bush's in 2001. But it's all over. . . all of
the elaborate stage settings have been dismantled and
the crowds have gone home.
We often made the point that immediately after being
elected was not the time to commend or condemn the
new president . . . and that we should wait until he had\
actually done something, and then evaluate those actions.
That time has arrived, and some of the news headlines
we noted during his first few days in office begin to set
the scene. Consider these few examples:
"Obama's first day a frenzy"
"The Obama Presidency; here comes Socialism"
"Obama to Close Gitmo, Foreign Prisons,
Limit CIA Methods"
"Moral Life of Nation Could be Decided by
"Israel: All Troops have left Gaza Strip, Gaza
Tunnels Back in Business"
"Obama signs bill to use US tax dollars to pay
for overseas abortions"
"Gloom and doom over climate change 'silly'"
"Obama acts to reverse Bush climate moves"
"Bush Tax Cuts Will End"
"Vatican Slams Obama Over Abortion"
... and if those headlines were not confusing
enough, here is one more from the liberal-biased
Washington Post, "Obama Signals Shift in
Governing Philosophy" The story behind the
headline explains as follows, citing Obama's inaugural
speech: "The question we ask today is not whether
government is too big or too small, but whether it
works." The Post explains that this marks a new
governing philosophy which raises the importance of
the basic operations of government to equal the stated
political ideology and policy development. If this new
philosophy of governing works, the Post predicts this
will become the "hallmark of his administration."
Much of the early political activity was predicted
in the promises made during the campaign. And the
fulfillment of those promises was spotlighted in the
extended TV coverage as some of his first actions
were signed and enacted. One, however, slipped by
with no TV coverage at the end of his first week in
office: the decision to use American tax funds to pay
for - and promote - abortions overseas. This action
was done quietly on Friday at the end of the flurry of
the enactment of the week's more popular decisions.
The funding of overseas abortions has been a political
Republican-Democrat football for many years. It was
banned by President Reagan in 1984, reversed by
President Clinton in 1993, and reinstated by President
Bush in 2001. Obama's action was warmly welcomed
by liberal groups and denounced by foes of abortions.
The Vatican was quick to cite Obama's arrogance in
making the ruling, in these words, "It is the arrogance
of someone who believes they are right, in signing
a decree which will open the door to abortion and
thus to the destruction of human life," stated by
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical
Academy for Life.
And as a reminder that the ACLU is still around,
consider this headline: "Illinois Moment of Silence
Ruled Unconstitutional." In Illinois, a state law allows
students to reflect on the day's activities rather than
pray if that is their choice. Seems like a good thing
and a good practice for young people; but in a case
brought by an atheistic talk show host, US District
Judge Robert Gettleman ruled, "The statute is a
subtle effort to force students at impressionable
ages to contemplate religion." The judge was
aided and abetted by the ACLU which said the law
is a thinly disguised effort to bring religion into the
schools. As the French say, "Plus ça change, plus
c'est la même chose" -- the more things change,
the more they stay the same.
And so the new administration has begun, and
some actions merit more condemnation than others,
but at the same time there appears to be a softening
or moderating of some of his campaign promises as
the new president begins to examine the present day
national and international situations from the vantage
point of the office of actual president -- not as just
the candidate for president or even the president-elect.
And now the continuing essay on "Evangelical."
We have established that the concept of "Evangelical"
belief as a theological position grew out of the early
20th century designation of "Fundamentalist." Those
who were so labeled held to the "fundamentals" of
the Christian faith. That basic principle is still true for
"Evangelicals," and reviewing them helps us to
understand who is and who is not an "Evangelical."
The old saying comes to mind: "A square is also a
rectangle." Give that some thought.
Alister McGrath, one of the better (best) theological
minds in Great Britain, offers these distinctives as held
by Evangelicals in his "Evangelicalism and the Future
of Christianity:" (1) The supreme authority of Scripture;
(2) Jesus Christ as incarnate God; (3) the Holy Spirit;
(4) personal conversion; (5) evangelism; and (6) the
importance of the Christian community. Although
they are expressed somewhat differently, these are
closely akin to the fundamentals of the faith held by
American "Fundamentalists," and, like those beliefs,
are true and essential because they are from the
Word of God.
Dr. Michael Youssef, whose analysis of this subject
we referenced last week, goes into slightly more
detail than Dr. McGrath, but also begins with the
over-riding importance of the authority of Scripture,
and includes this concluding evaluation, "Anyone
who does not believe that once they are saved
they will always be saved through the sustaining
power, discipline and chastening by the Holy
Spirit -- is no evangelical."
Dr. Youssef wraps up his discussion with this note::
"If you have concluded that all of these evangelical
qualifications are defining a true Christian -- you
would be correct. For a true evangelical is a true
Thus as a basic statement, it may be said that an
Evangelical believer is one who holds to the authority
of the Scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and
salvation by grace through faith alone, and who is
active in sharing those beliefs with others.
Those attributes of an Evangelical become also the
attributes of an Evangelical church. And yet there
is no uniformity of understanding as to who is an
Evangelical, or as to which church is an Evangelical
congregation. In some classifications, to be an
"Evangelical Christian" is seen as being a right-wing
fundamentalist Republican. (Hillary Clinton's term
was "vast right wing conspiracy.") In other
classifications the term "Evangelical Christian" is used
to distinguish an individual from a Catholic Christian
or an Orthodox Christian. The media is perhaps the
most guilty of misuse of the term, and use it to refer
to any Christian who doesn't fit the traditional, main-
stream Protestant minister category.
Although there has been considerable political activity
on the part of evangelicals, association with a particular
political party is not a foregone conclusion. Yet in
fairly recent years, Evangelical leaders have played an
important role in national politics. Just a few years ago,
in 1980 Jerry Falwell utilized the informal association
"Moral Majority" to build on the theme of moral values
which led to the election of President Ronald Reagan,
and Falwell remained the leader of America's Evangelical
movement and its principal spokesperson until his death
in 2007. The Evangelical world experienced a double
leadership loss in that year, with the death of D. James
Kennedy. To date, no one has stepped into their shoes
to lead the Evangelical, Moral Values, Moral Majority
movement in this nation. In large measure the election
of Barack Obama in the 2008 election can be attributed
to the leadership vacuum in the Evangelical world. And
in looking to the future, no replacement for these two
leaders has appeared on the horizon.
The NAE, which, as a national association of churches
and individuals, should represent the Evangelical cause,
has also suffered leadership losses which have seriously
damaged the association's reputation and ability to lead.
The NAE president, Ted Haggard, pastor of a mega
church in Colorado resigned, or was forced to relinquish
all leadership positions, in 2006, after being involved in
homosexual relationships and narcotic use with a male
prostitute for a period of years. It has now been revealed
that at approximately the same time he had also been
involved in similar relationships with a young male
volunteer at the church. Currently Haggard is now
preparing to appear this week in an HBO documentary
(produced by Alexandra Pelosi -- yes, it's that family)
and is making promotional appearances on various
As if that were not enough, Richard Cizik, for more
than 20 years an NAE official and its political
spokesperson (lobbyist), has recently resigned after
admitting in a TV interview that he favored gay civil
unions, and was not certain of his view of traditional
marriage between a man and a woman. He had also
long been a supporter of the theory of man-caused
global warming. His statement: "I'm shifting, I have
to admit. In other words, I would willingly say I
believe in civil unions. I don't officially support
redefining marriage from its traditional definition,
I don't think." The Family Research Council President
Tony Perkins used the term "left-leaning evangelicals."
Unfortunately that may represent a growing number of
individuals, although we have long considered such a
term to be an oxymoron.
None of these events help enhance the reputation of
true Evangelicals and/or the NAE, whose original intent
and purpose was of the highest order.
So it is a confusing situation. The Evangelical cause is
not dead, or not even seriously ill. What it needs, what
it must have, is a new leader or leaders of the stature
of Jerry Falwell and James Kennedy, to direct the return
of this nation to the position of world Christian leadership
which it once held, as its Founding Fathers intended.
A word from the not too distant past: "There is
little value in insuring the survival of our nation
if our traditions do not survive with it."
-- John F. Kennedy, April 1961
Some Random Afterthoughts . . .
Global Warming - in case you wondered: The
average surface temperature of the planet has warmed
one degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) during
the last 100 years, according to the National Research
Council. Not quite as disastrous as Al Gore thinks it is.
Incidentally, while addressing global warming is a top
priority of the Obama administration, it ranks low on
most Americans' list of concerns, according to a Pew
Research Center poll released last week. Among 20
issues to rank, Global Warming was in last place while
Economy and Jobs, took first and second places in the
Contraception as an economic stimulus: The new
Obama-inspired Democrat-acquiesced economic
stimulus package (it seems a bit bizarre to call it a
"plan") as originally drafted included hundreds of
millions of dollars for family planning (birth control via
abortions). But you may ask: "How is birth control an
economic stimulus?" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in
defending the stimulus package argued that babies are
costly: "Family planning services reduce cost. The
states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and
part of what we do for children's health, education
and some of those elements are to help the states
meet their financial needs... contraception will
reduce costs to the states and to the federal
government." Mrs. Pelosi has five children. In
retrospect, one wonders which ones she would have
preferred not to let live by killing some by abortion . . .
or would she advocate going the Chinese government
route of limiting each family to just one child? Of course,
with her and her husband's combined worth of an
estimated $69 million. this problem does not relate, and
it seems to be only the poor for whom she would urge
abortions. As the process continues to move along
however, President Obama has become aware of the
strong objections, even outrage over the funds assigned
to contraception, and has directed Democrat leaders in
the House to remove those provisions from the draft of
A bit far afield for us, but this quote from the
Atlanta Journal - Constitution does raise a question:
"The south Georgia peanut butter plant linked to
the salmonella outbreak has a history of sanitation
problems in recent years that include grease and
dirt buildup, unmarked chemical containers and
gaps in doors large enough for rodents, according
to state inspection reports obtained by The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. The inspection reports from
2006 to 2008 show repeated problems with
cleanliness at the plant, which federal officials have
targeted as the sole source of the national outbreak."
The question: Why was nothing done, right here in America?
From the seldom quoted Theodore Roosevelt:
"Is America a weakling, to shrink from the work
of the great world powers? No! The young giant
of the West stands on a continent and clasps the
crest of an ocean in either hand. Our nation,
glorious in youth and strength, looks into the
future with eager eyes and rejoices as a strong
man to run a race." -- Theodore Roosevelt, in
A WORD ABOUT THE INAUGURATION
WORD ABOUT THE INAUGURATION,
A FEW THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE,
AND OUR "EVANGELICAL" ESSAY
On the day after the inauguration it seems to be
appropriate to quote one of the nation's Founding
Fathers on the subject of the presidency. James
Wilson was named by President George Washington
as an associate justice in the first US Supreme Court,
and was, with James Madison, a principal drafter of
the US Constitution. In his Lectures on Law in 1791
he wrote: "The President is the dignified, but
accountable magistrate of a free and great
people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not
hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure
of the noblest kind. By being the man of the
people, he is invested; by continuing to be the
man of the people, his investiture will be
voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably
renewed." Those words, "A man of the people,"
could well be printed on a plaque to be on display
in the Oval Office where every president could see
it at all times.
If one marveled at President Obama's penchant
for a "show business" style of presentation during his
campaign for election, that marvel took on a major
new dimension at this week's inaugural ceremonies.
Beginning with the train ride into Washington a la
Abraham Lincoln (Obama's train was 2 1/2 football
fields in length) through the usual plethora of "gowns
on display" inaugural balls, this was an inauguration
not soon to be forgotten. Of interest to Christians
were the several inaugural prayers, over which so
much prior concern had been expressed.
After California pastor Rick Warren had been
invited to offer one of the inaugural prayers, the
homosexuals expressed outrage because Warren,
as a California resident, had expressed support for
Proposition 8 which California citizens passed by
a strong majority. To appease his many homosexual
supporters, then President-elect Obama invited the
homosexual Episcopal bishop, Vicki Gene Robinson,
to offer the opening inaugural weekend prayer - who
said he was "horrified" to read previous inaugural
prayers because they were so "specifically and
aggressively Christian." He added, "I am very
clear that this will not be a Christian prayer, and
I won't be quoting Scripture."
Bishop Robinson kept his word in his prayer. It was
addressed to the "God of our many understandings,"
whom he asked to bless us with anger at discrimination
at home and abroad, mentioning specifically "gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," and
also refugees, women and people of color. He then
reminded us that "our new president is a human
being, not a messiah," and pointed out that "every
religion’s God judges us by the way we care for
the most vulnerable in the human community."
Like he said: it wasn't a Christian prayer.
Bishop Robinson's superior in the Episcopal Church,
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, will be
pronouncing the benediction at the Inaugural Prayer
Service later today. It will be interesting to see if she
uses a Christian prayer, or if she will follow the lead
of her most prominent bishop.
The Rev. Rick Warren, in delivering one of the prayers
at the inauguration ceremony, was challenged perhaps
by Franklin Graham,who had previously had the the
same responsibility (and whose father had offered
prayer at more presidential inaugurations than any
person in our nation's history). Pastor Warren's prayer
-- as distinct from bishop Robinson's -- was very
definitely a Christian prayer, offered in the name of
Jesus, and concluded with the Lord's prayer as it is
recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The
other prayer to conclude the inaugural ceremony, as
offered by Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights leader,
was clearly to our God and was certainly eloquent,
but was concluded with just "Amen," and with no
mention of Jesus Christ, but with a closing poem of
almost humorous racial comparisons.
And, may we say, there were more defeats for
the atheist leader Michael Newdow. Both President
Obama and Vice President Biden concluded their oath
of office with the words, "So help me God." And
President Obama concluded his address with the words,
"God Bless you and God bless America."
At the time this new administration begins there
is a significant change in Americans' views of politics
and religion. A new Pew Research Center poll
released last week shows a distinct change in public
opinion as to whether there should be any mixing of
religion and politics. And the major change appears
to be among Conservatives who are now registering
opinions much more in line with Liberals. In 2004,
30% of Conservatives thought that churches should
stay out of politics. Today that figure has increased
to 50%. As for politicians talking about their own
religious views, 46% now feel uncomfortable about it
-- up from 40% four years ago. As for political party
views toward religion, 38% feel the Democrats are
favorable toward religion, up from 26% just two years
ago. But 52% feel Republicans are more friendly
toward religion. There is no way we, as Christians,
can find much encouragement in these trends.
All of which makes the essay on "Evangelical"
important in these troubled times. The response of
our readers - the largest we have ever experienced -
has demonstrated that there is widespread concern
and confusion over the present day use of the term.
It will be remembered that in last week's introduction
to this subject, we made it clear that we are not going
to rely on dictionary or encyclopedic definitions of
the term "Evangelical," nor are we going to dwell on
the history of the use of the term. We are much more
concerned about the use and meaning of "Evangelical"
or "Evangelicalism" in religious thought today .
And with so many other items of interest and concern
needing comment this week, it is evident that we will
be unable to complete the essay in this issue. Looking
back to our introductory comments last week, we
pointed out the official entry of the term "Evangelical"
into present-day theological vocabulary, with the
establishment of the National Association of Evangelicals
(NAE) in 1942. The NAE was formed to counteract a
drift toward the extreme right, to the extreme forms of
fundamentalism. The concept of "separation" -- not at
all a non-Scriptural concept, if not taken to excess --
became almost one of "segregation." The mission of the
Church which Jesus Christ established, to evangelize
the world and make disciples of all men was seriously
Those extremists advocated a Christian life style
based on "don'ts," things that a Christian must not do
in order to develop a spiritual life. But a person does
not become spiritual by not doing things.If that were
true, a corpse would be the most spiritual person in
the world, because he isn't doing anything. To become
a spiritual Christian requires a positive action -- "be
filled with the Spirit," (Eph. 5:18, ff)
The positions taken by some of the more strident \
and opinionated fundamentalists were giving the
Conservative view of the Christian faith a bad name,
and led by the early supporters of the NAE many
Conservative Christians began to use the "Evangelical"
label to establish the difference between themselves
and the extreme theological right-wingers.
As the NAE began to operate and unite those
Christians who held to the fundamentals of the faith,
but who believed in an aggressive, positive Gospel
witness, a new wave of evangelistic outreach began
to be manifest in America and throughout the world.
The great gulf between the extremes of American
theological thought (Fundamentalism on the right, and
Modernism on the left) which the NAE sought to bridge ,
was addressed by Carl F.H. Henry, who was rightly
known as the father of Evangelical theology. His book,
"The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism"
published in 1947 spoke to the complaints from the
Modernists that Fundamentalism excluded all efforts
of humanitarianism. In his brief but aggressive analysis
of the issue, Dr. Henry laid down this principle: "The
evangelical task primarily is the preaching of the
Gospel in the interest of individual regeneration by
the supernatural grace of God, in such a way that
divine redemption can be recognized as the best
solution of our problems, individual and social."
For those who tend to stress good works, feeding
the hungry, aiding the poor, offering medical care to
the ailing, as more meaningful than the proclamation
of the Gospel, we have long advocated that these
are the outworkings, the demonstrations of the true
Christian life. Dr. Henry expressed it this way: "The
corporate testimony of believers, in their purity
of life, should provide for the world an example
of the divine dynamic to overcome evils in every
From a time line standpoint it should be remembered
that the "Billy Graham Era" in evangelism began with
the Los Angeles Crusade in the Fall of 1949 in a tent
at the intersection of Washington and Hill Street. From
that point in time -- now nearly 60 years ago -- the
Evangelical movement has seen its high and its lows.
Billy Graham was never an "Evangelical leader." He
was always an Evangelist, and was always one who
put the true Evangelical principles first, and never
compromised in his world-wide preaching of the
message first stated by Jesus Christ: "Except a man
be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God ... Marvel not that I said
unto thee, Ye must be born again." (John 3: 5,7)
But active, aggressive evangelism is just one aspect of
the broad term "Evangelical."
That's it for this week -- next week we will wind
up the essay on "Evangelical" and "Evangelicalism" --
that's a promise. In preparation, we invite you to
click on this link and go to World Net Daily:
That is a very thoughtful and very scholarly analysis
of "What is an Evangelical?" by Michael Youssef, PhD.
And that is where we will take up this subject in next
One more early American view of the Presidency:
"No man can well doubt the propriety of placing a
president of the United States under the most
solemn obligations to preserve, protect, and defend
the constitution. It is a suitable pledge of his fidelity
and responsibility to his country; and creates upon
his conscience a deep sense of duty, by an appeal,
at once in the presence of God and man, to the most
sacred and solemn sanctions, which can operate
upon the human mind." - Joseph Story, writing in his
Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
Some Random Afterthoughts . . .
The "Global Warming" hoax just does not seem
to fade away -- but it should. According to Investors
Business Daily, "We're supposed to be living in fear
of our coastal cities drowning because we refuse to
give up oil and the modern machines it powers. Yet
today's sea ice levels match those of nearly three
decades ago." That is fact, based on data from the
University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center.
But those aren't the facts the environmentalists who
predicted the North Pole would be ice free in 2008
want to hear. Al Gore and his followers have been
telling us that melting sea ice and glaciers will very
dangerously increase sea levels -- by as much as
20 feet, according to his award winning film, "An
Inconvenient Truth." Bad title. "Inconvenient" --
yes; "Truth" -- not really. Sorry, Al. One other
problem or question -- If there were any truth in Mr.
Gore's "Global Warming" theory, why is it so cold
for this Democrat inauguration in Washington? And
to top it all -- Al Gore actually appeared at the
And there is this very timely reminder: There is
an effort under way in Washington to change the
present term limits on the office of president. Rep.
Jose Serrano (D, NY) has introduced HJ Res. 5 to
repeal Constitutional Amendment 22 which sets a
limit on the number of terms a president may serve.
The 22nd amendment prevents a president from
being elected to more than two terms in office. If it
is adopted and enacted, President Obama could
become "President for Life." Not likely to happen,
but we have been promised a change.
More problems, close to home: We have written
previously about the ongoing criminal rioting close to
our border with Mexico. In the past year some 5,300
killings have taken place -- far more than all US
military losses after more than 5 years in Iraq. Now
the US Joint Forces Command on worldwide security
threats, reports that Mexico is in danger of a “rapid
and sudden collapse” due to criminal gangs and
drug cartels, stating “The Mexican government, its
politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are
all under sustained assault and pressure." The
report warns that “any descent by Mexico into
chaos would demand an American response
based on the serious implications for homeland
security alone.” The old familiar phrase comes to
mind, "There are none so blind as those who
will not see." (Possible Scriptural source, Jer. 5:21
"Hear now this, O foolish people, and without
understanding; which have eyes, and see not;
which have ears, and hear not.")
A valid question for the immediate future: Now
that George W. Bush is no longer president, who
will the elite media (CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, NY
Times, Time, Newsweek, et al) have as their target
of criticism, sarcasm and ridicule . . . on whom will
they put the blame for the nation's (and the world's)
problems? The answer, when it develops, should be
interesting. Stay tuned . . .
These thoughts occur, among others: (1) In all the
self congratulatory exchanges about their prayers at
the various inaugural functions, bishop Robinson and
pastor Warren commended President Obama for
being the president of all Americans -- but by even
making recognition of a God of some sort, didn't
they leave out the atheists in America? (2) As almost
his last official act, president Bush commuted the prison
sentences of US Border Agents Compean and Ramos.
They can now be released in a few months. No pardon
was granted. The felony convictions will be inseparably
linked to their future lives. An insignificant example of
the presidential power and authority which was his to
An important quote from a leader of our time:
"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by
legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one
person receives without working for, another
person must work for without receiving. The
government cannot give to anybody anything
that the government does not first take from
somebody else. When half the people get the idea
that they do not have to work because the other
half is going to take care of them, and when the
other half gets the idea that it does no good to
work because somebody else is going to get what
they work for, that is about the end of any nation.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
-- Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), former three
term president of the Southern Baptist Convention
COMMENTS ON A FEW CURRENT EVENTS
While the world focused on Hamas launching
Some Random Afterthoughts . . .
It tends to make you wonder. In Denmark an
editorial cartoonist suggests a bit of humor with respect
to Mohammad, and Muslims around the world revolt.
For what it's worth (and you might want to keep this
AN OLD ISSUE REAPPEARS
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