Lions Led By Lambs
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 @ 6:10PM
As World War I deepened into the futility of static trench warfare, hidebound French and British generals attempted to break the stalemate by flinging their willing troops in massed waves across open ground against German machine guns, barbed wire, and impregnable fortifications. Unspeakable carnage was the result. On a single day at the Somme River in June 1916, 60,000 British soldiers fell. Watching the slaughter of his heroic enemies, a German general remarked sadly, “Nowhere have I seen such lions led by such lambs.”
We Won’t Get Fooled Again, by Steven Deace and Gregg Jackson, tells the story of lions led by lambs in another protracted conflict. This is the “culture war” that has convulsed our country in recent decades, transforming it from a free constitutional republic founded on biblical precepts into a godless, collectivist empire in which Christians themselves, as well as biblical truths, are being increasingly disenfranchised. The lions? The dedicated and hard-working Christian activists of the modern Christian Right and pro-family movements. The lambs? Their so-called leaders.
In their book, Deace and Jackson analyze the failure of the Christian Right and pro-family leadership, also sometimes identified with the political wing of the evangelical movement, to halt the cultural and moral slide of the family, church, and culture in the USA. I have been part of this movement since my college days and have participated in many of the organizations and political campaigns described in this book. Regrettably, I must affirm that their analysis, tone, and overall conclusions are valid. You only have to look around at the state of America today to see the failure of Christian cultural and political regeneration writ large.
“Lions led by lambs” captures the current status of the evangelical political movement and its Christian Right political allies marching under the banner of the major pro-family and Christian Right organizations. It is a failed movement, and we are long overdue for this fundamental reassessment and evaluation. We Won’t Get Fooled Again is so late coming shows the patience of many activists who have doubted the value these major pro-family organizations for years, yet continued to hope and pray for wise and effective leaders to emerge.
It’s a sad task for me to write this foreword and no doubt was the same for Deace and Jackson to write the book. But today we have to face the reality that the Christian Right is manifestly a failed movement. It has not reversed nor even appreciably slowed the process of moral, cultural, political and legal degeneration in America. The culture is inexorably “slip-sliding away” to the Left. Christians’ lack of political and cultural success is of enormous significance, yet most evangelical and pro-family voters who support Christian Right organizations with their votes, lobbying, and funds seem oblivious to the gravity of the losses and depth of cultural demise. This book will awaken many of the rank and file to the real record of their leaders, although it is not just about these failed leaders and their organizations, but also about the future of our families, our churches and yes, our country, too. Nevertheless, though we are all in some ways at fault, such poor leadership needs to be evaluated and held to account and no longer blindly followed.
My own journey into cultural and conservative politics began in 1962 when I attended the Draft Goldwater Convention in New York, and continued through the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s. In 1980, while serving as a campus minister at Purdue University and having recently completed my seminary education at Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana, I was invited to serve on Dan Quayle’s U.S. Senate campaign staff. I was also present at a founding meeting of the Moral Majority in Indianapolis in late 1979 with Jerry Falwell. I participated in several Congressional and local campaigns until 1986 when I was invited to join the Presidential Campaign of Pat Robertson. So I may claim, modestly but accurately, that my experience as a loyal foot soldier in both the conservative movement and Christian Right organizations is considerable and spans four decades.
In 1990 I was mobilized as an Army Reserve Chaplain to serve in the first Gulf War and continued on active duty until 1996, during which time I was restricted from political activity. This break from traditional politics was an opportunity to look at things anew. I threw all my extra energies into studying the crisis in K-12 public education, and how to advance K-12 Christian schools and home schooling. In 1997 I launched the Exodus Mandate Project with the goal of encouraging K-12 Christian schools and home schooling in the evangelical Christian community, and in hopes the effort would eventually find wide support in both the conservative movement and major Christian Right and pro-family organizations with whom I had worked all my adult life. I believed that families and churches recovering their God-ordained role in the education of their children would lead to family, church and culture renewal.
As a result of my mission to promote Christian education, I began to be aware of the failure of the older conservative movement and Christian Right to concern themselves with the moral and Christian educational development of the children in our churches. Their preferred – and demonstrably futile – approach was to reform a failing public school system. Five years ago at a major conservative leadership meeting, I had an extensive conversation with legendary conservative political leader Paul Weyrich, now deceased. Paul said to me, “You’re doing the right thing by getting families and churches to place their children in Christian school or home schooling. When conservatives and their Christian allies win elections they still lose because the left controls primary and higher education, the media, the arts and our legal system; and thus they control the culture-forming institutions. We lose even when we win because culture always trumps politics.”
In February 2009 I attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville and published a report card on the major Christian Right organizations involved in the culture war and on their failure to fully support K-12 Christian education or home schooling over the public schools. Most organizations received grades of C and D. This was a difficult step but I came to a realization that these organizations would never commit to save their own children from the damage to their Christian worldview and to their moral and academic development at the hands of the state-sponsored public school system. This exposé to the larger evangelical community was long overdue. I rated Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Wallbuilders, and Concerned Women for America, to name a few. The full report card can be viewed at www.exodusmandate.org. This event and my subsequent interview with national columnist Kathleen Parker on the failure of the Christian Right in The Washington Post published April 5, 2009, entitled “Political Pullback for the Christian Right?” represented my official break with the Christian Right leadership. It flowed from the reluctant conclusion that, on the whole, their efforts did more harm than good to our cause. I asked myself, as many others are now asking, “What can you say about a movement that will not even save its own children from the destructive forces it purports to combat?”
How is it that such a potentially potent movement as the Christian Right has failed so miserably and at such an important time in US history? There are estimates that evangelical Christians number 40 to 50 million Americans and comprise 20% of the population or more. These are good, moral, honest people who contribute immeasurably to the well-being of their local communities. It is indeed a tragedy that this great potential for good has not been effectively mobilized to reverse the moral, cultural and political collapse of our nation, an outcome well within Christians’ grasp had they done things differently and been better led.
Jackson and Deace have done considerable research into the causes of the failure of the Christian Right and pro-family movement and offer invaluable insights. I can only hope the Christian Right will begin to heed them.
One of the main reasons for this failure is theological, including a refusal to follow long-established biblical principles characteristic of the evangelical movement in other arenas. “Sola Scriptura” should be followed in the realm of public policy and politics as well as in doctrine, missiology, and church affairs. But no, many Christian Right leaders are supremely pragmatic and operate under the lesser-of-two evils approach when deciding between candidates and issues. The choice between the lesser of two evils is still evil. Jackson and Deace give a good critique of this approach and how it has been used to defeat good public policy and superior Christian candidates from a Christian point of view. As Paul says in Romans 10:3b, it’s a case of “…going about to establish their own righteousness, but have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.”
It grieves me to say it, but it appears that many of our Christian Right and pro-family leaders have been naïve and vulnerable to the con-artistry of the political establishment in Washington, and especially of the Republican Party, which now has a virtual lock on the Christian and pro-family voter, while doing little to further their agenda except dropping rhetorical crumbs from the table time to time. The GOP is the master at fooling Christian leaders into thinking they make a difference and are important players in Washington politics. In turn, our so-called leaders have tried to con the average evangelical Christian voter and contributor with reports of energetic political and lobbying activities, even though these efforts do nothing to arrest the moral, cultural, and political rot. As Paul Weyrich pointed out to me, even our occasional political victories don’t last. They don’t reverse the inexorable drift to the left because conservatives and Christians have failed to address the cultural component which always trumps politics.
A recent example of the depth and totality of the defeat of the Christian Right was its inability to prevent the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the lame duck Congress after the enormous GOP victories in the November 2010 elections. What is so amazing about this defeat is the fact that the homosexual movement and their leftist allies used moral arguments – demanding the rights of homosexuals to openly practice their lifestyle in the armed forces based on their natural rights to serve and die for their country just like any heterosexual soldier. Seventeen years earlier, when President Clinton instituted “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” these same Christian Right and pro-family groups opposed this policy from the moral high ground, asserting that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the armed forces under any circumstances. In the December 2010 debacle, pathetic Christian Right leaders seldom raised a moral argument or even questioned the immorality of homosexual behavior. Their defense of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was based on pragmatic and utilitarian grounds, and was defeated by a now thoroughly hostile culture.
This defense was defeated before it was ever deployed. It represents the nadir in Christian Right leadership and lobbying. The homosexualization of the armed forces, following close on the heels of the feminization of the armed forces, shows how low we have sunk in a mere seventeen years. It dramatizes better than any recent issue the marginal impact and power of the Christian Right and its leadership to create a political climate more favorable to a biblical worldview. The Christian Right has finally arrived at the state described by Jesus in Matthew 5:13 and 14, “salt that has lost its flavor…it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by man.”
Even though the critique of Gregg Jackson and Steve Deace is withering, it is important to note that their critique is based fully in their commitment to the goals (if not the methods) of the Christian Right and the evangelical movement. My hope is that all who want to save what is left of our country and begin the vital work of regeneration and restoration will heed its invaluable insights. We must start with repentance followed by intercessory prayer. Then we must recover a sound Christian worldview and apply it in all areas, in public policy and political activity as well as in ecclesiastical activity. We need a renewed vision of effective Christian action and service at all levels, in the hearts of those who aspire to lead, among pastors, and especially in the Christian people who support them.