The Thirteenth Clown

I am enjoying my discussion with Brian Mattson on incrementalism and problems presented to Trinitarian orthodoxy by the syncretism of President Bush. I think Brian’s responses are thoughtful, biblically-based, and worthy of interaction. His site is worth checking out.

In his latest post on this, he raises a point worth noting. I said that any Christian leader attending any inter-faith event is guilty of idolatry, and of leading other Christians into idolatry. I had in mind those events orchestrated by the powers that be in the interests of advancing their syncretistic agenda. Brian raises the reasonable question of other sorts of events. Suppose a Muslim co-worker of yours is getting married. Is it lawful to go to such a wedding when your presence there could not be construed as personal religious participation, even though (say) a prayer to Allah would be said? The biblical answer is that it is certainly lawful to go. Namaan the Syrian (whom Jesus mentions favorably) continued to bow in the house of Rimmon, and did so with the prophet’s approval (2 Kings 5:18). He was not there to make any kind of religious statement, but rather just to push his master’s wheelchair. It was lawful for him to be there physically. So not only am I an incrementalist, I am not a perfectionist.

But when the meaning of the event is otherwise, and the point of having everyone there is to advance the view of the president that Allah and God the Father are the same, my earlier statement stands. Now I recognize the world is a messy place, and that (on paper) it could be possible for an evangelical Christian leader to go, and not be a syncretistic participant. But in order to keep himself free from idolatry, he would have to do it in such a way as to land himself on the front page of the New York Times for five straight days, and he would never be invited back again.

Run the thought experiment. Suppose Jerry Falwell wanted (for some reason) to be at a multi-religion worship service at the National Cathedral, and yet he did not want anyone to think he was approving of the point being made by the worship service as a whole. So he held a press conference afterwards, and carefully explained that Allah was a false god, and that he had attended simply to show his political support for the president, which should never be taken as religious support for the president’s false teaching on this important subject. I would differ (tactically) with anyone who did that, but I could also respect it. I would also be willing to personally attend the Rev. Falwell’s funeral.

That kind of thing is not happening. If there are twelve clowns in the circus ring cavorting about, you can jump down there and start quoting Shakespeare, but to the audience you are just the thirteenth clown. Christian political players in the current administration are simply the thirteenth clown. They have done nothing (nothing effective, that is) to make anyone think that they repudiate what the president is saying about this — and it is the most important thing being done. Their attendance at these awful events, coupled with their silence, is culpable, and the fault is idolatry. Political support for the Republicans is too important to the Religious Right for them to call the Republicans on their active promotion of idolatry.

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