Cheerleaders and Prophets_Barnabas-Shallow Arrogance.
“While the left directs its hysterical verbal assaults on Mr. Bush, conservative people of faith must vocally support him”
—Jerry Falwell. March 26, 2003
“We appeal to all Christians: Put your faith in Jesus Christ above your loyalty to the nation, because today faith demands a higher loyalty, and patriotism means dissent.”
—An Urgent Appeal to the Churches, March, 2003
“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
—Oliver Cromwell to the General Assembly of the Scottish Kirk, 1650.
What are we to do? Jerry Falwell tells us that people of faith must support the President in his war policies, and the drafters of the “urgent appeal” tell us that our faith demands a higher loyalty than that. I think Cromwell had a pretty good question we can now offer to both sides: to beseech them, “in the bowels of Christ, to think it possible that they may be mistaken.”
Since the urgent appeal people tend to be editors and tenured professors, and Falwell is the pastor of a huge church as well as founder of a major university, it would go against type for them to think that they be mistaken; they are not accustomed to it. They are used to their congregations, staffs, and students agreeing with them.
Neither the peacenikky liberals nor the war-mongering conservatives are engaging in dialogue that might change minds. Demagogues are cheerleaders, not leaders. We are supposed to listen to our cheerleaders and ignore anybody else’s. Those in disagreement are accused by one side of being treasonous liberals, or by the other of being blind patriots who have swapped the cross for the flag.
Since I’m a Christian with a high view of the Church, and also a patriot with a high view of the United States, I have no respect for the shallow arrogance of either the doctrinaire right or the doctrinaire left. I have tried, in my part-time way, to wrestle with the issues of this war for the past ten months--on biblical, historical, and philosophical terms--but the certainties of the doctrinaire types elude me. Maybe it’s because I am not auditioning for cheerleader.
Cheerleading is not prophecy.
Conclusions are not arguments.
Demagoguery belongs neither in the pulpit or the classroom. Unwelcome truths keep getting in the way. Or at least they should.