Saturday, 6 August 2016

More Utilitarian than Christian

Christian Ethics In the Public Square

Christian leaders in the Republican Party, who have supported Ted Cruz, are deserting him--or so we are told.  They believe he has violated a fundamental ethical principle, a Christian standard.  He has acted in an ungodly manner.

Several things immediately spring to mind upon hearing this--and we will evaluate the particular stumbling block shortly--but in the immediate let us be clear, if the charge against Cruz is true, Christian leaders in the Republican Party would be acting as conscientious disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Their stand would be commendable and to be imitated by all.

But if it were not true, what then?  Well, sin being sin, and human beings being fallen creatures, there would be two possible camps amongst the Christian critics.

It is possible that one group (Group Number One) are not seeking to ground their judgment of Cruz in Scripture at all, but have merely fallen for a good dose of Republican Party hubris, which demands submission to the Party, for the good of the Party, and calls all good men to the aid of the Party.  Lenin would have been at home amongst such a group.  In fact he would have comfortably led such a party.

It is also possible that a second group have thought about the matter scripturally, and believe that Cruz has indeed violated the Law of the Living God.  This group would have withdrawn their support until he repents and is restored.  That would be the Christian way, right?

Group Number One are not worth debating in this piece.
 Some may choose to debate them some time in the future, but it would not be a pretty picture.  They would appear so steeped in idolatry, so wedded to the pagan utilitarian ethic of  "end justifies the means" that they appear to have strayed from the Kingdom.  There are probably far more profitable things that could be done to help them come closer than to shred their current position.

But Group Number Two are worth debating and challenging.  First, let's set forth the issue:
when Ted Cruz failed to endorse and support Donald Trump for President, he has been charged with sinning against God and man because he broke his word.
. . . some of his high-profile benefactors, h-bent on keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, are now livid at what they perceive as a betrayal of the pledge he made last year to support the Republican nominee. . . . (T)he complaints from Cruz’s financial backers have become increasingly public: The New York hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, both intensely private people, were so infuriated that they went to the New York Times and upbraided Cruz in a lengthy statement, expressing “disappointment” that he “chose to disregard” his pledge to support the nominee.

Their remarks sent shock waves through the GOP donor universe. “Think about it: This is a family that never, ever, ever, ever speaks to the press,” says the first donor. “They’ve probably fielded a thousand press inquiries in the last two years and never spoke out. And now they finally decide to speak out to the press. What’s the topic? Ted Cruz, saying, ‘We thought he was a man of his word.’” [Eliana Johnson & Tim Alberta, National Review Online.]
There is the issue.  That's what Christians do, right.  They swear to their own hurt, and do not change (Psalm 15: 4).  Their yea is yea, and their nay is nay.  In promising to endorse whoever was the one nominated and voted for presidential candidate, Cruz was bound.  When he broke his pledge he sinned against God and man.  For Christians that is a serious matter.  No wonder it has sent shock waves through the GOP donor universe (or at least a conscientious Christian section of it.)

But let's change the circumstances somewhat.  Let's imagine those same Christian Republican party functionaries and supporters were gathered around Herod's court when a certain sensuous female danced in front of the king.  Herod was so besotted (and doubtless drunk) that he vowed to the woman anything up to half his kingdom.  She asked for the head of John the Baptist.  The Christian Republican party folk would have urged Herod to be a man of his word.  Holy murder was required.

Herod should never have given the promise.  It ostensibly bound him to something evil.  He should have resiled from the oath and repented of his foolish, hasty words.  In other words, Psalm 15:4 addresses the case of a godly man, making a godly oath, and holding it sacred.  It does not address the case of a foolish man making a misguided oath that would potentially bind him to doing evil.  If Christian Republicans refuse to think this through, they need to explain something far, far worse.  They need to justify why it would possibly please our Lord to make oaths and keep them even to the point (as in the case of Herod) of committing not just murder, but of facilitating revenge.  They also need to explain how it can be true,  that to do right means we must commit evil.  Which pit did that idea crawl out from?

From where we sit, those Christian Republicans criticising Ted Cruz for "not keeping his word" and judging him to be just another promise-breaking Republican ought to examine themselves for a few moments.  Let him without this very sin cast the first stone.  For are not such critics calling for Cruz to do the very thing they say they hate in Republican politicians--practising loyalty to the party above all else?

Whenever Christians erect a standard of rectitude that seems to hold regardless of circumstances, we always want to explore its reliability and truthfulness by seeing if there are limits and qualifications to the precept. Let's imagine that Trump, at the last minute of the Republican convention, suddenly announced that he supported trans-genderism and, in the interests of uniting America, had decided pragmatically to promote state funded abortion-on-demand.  Would those same Christian Republicans still insist that Cruz should still keep his word and endorse and support Mr Trump?

If they say, "No", then they have some explaining to do to Mr Cruz (and to all the watching world).  The real issue here is whether they believe Donald Trump's actions towards Mr Cruz, his wife and his family were evil or not--along with an attendant host of similar acts and words perpetrated by Mr Trump against many during his tilt towards the Presidency.  Our challenge to them would be this: if they are willing to overlook these ethical lapses by their brand new nominee, they really ought to resign their membership in Group Number Two, and acknowledge that they are really devotees of Group Number One, and have been all along.

For our money, Ted Cruz should never have given a blanket endorsement to support whoever the Republican Party chose as their presidential candidate.  That was a foolish and un-Christian thing to do. He should have publicly repented of it.  If he has not repented by now, he needs to.  It was a foolish mistake that a carefully reasoning Christian soul ought never to have made.  (This is being written, mark you, by those who have committed more than a few ethical and moral lapses on our own account through our days of following our Lord.)  To insist that Cruz follow through on such a Herodian oath doubles down on the evil--and those insistent Christian Republicans ought to be ashamed.

Whatever happened, dear folks, to the Christian notion of liberty of conscience?  Those who believe that one ought to swear and hold to their oaths even though evil be done, or that people should violate their consciences are way off the Christian reservation, in our humble view.

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