Citizenship Confusion: How the Culture Wars Lost Me, Or, The Family Research Council Appoints Gen. Jerry Boykin Ex. VP
Every Monday in Citizenship Confusion, Alan Noble discusses how we confuse our heavenly citizenship with citizenship to the state, culture, and the world.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately about whether the “culture wars” have been good for the church or if we should try to move on. In this discussion, something that has repeatedly come up is that whatever their faults, the major conservative Christian political organizations that have been so vocally fighting these wars are essential and good (See: David French). We might not like them, but we need them. Abortion and Gay Marriage are such important issues that we cannot afford to be critical about conservative Christian groups, so the argument goes.
Among those organizations that have been defended by some is the Family Research Council, one of the most well-known and influential conservative Christian political groups. Recently, FRC has gotten into the news for giving a pro-family award to a pastor who compared homosexuals to maggots and murderers. Even after calls for them to rescind the award, the FRC stood by its decision (See Matthew Lee Anderson’s commentary).
Over the years liberal watchdog sites have attacked FRC over various incidences, and some criticisms have been warranted, others not so much. Last week I was surprised to read the FRC appoint Gen. (Ret). Jerry Boykin, an infamous and controversial figure, as their new Executive Vice President.
This appointment captures for me many of the reasons why I suspect (hope, and pray) that many Christians in the coming decades will increasingly move away from supporting traditionally popular and influential conservative Christian political groups, like FRC, unless they dramatically change. Boykin promotes debunked conspiracy theories which speak dishonorably about our president, has a history of advocating the suspension of rights to Muslim citizens, promotes unbiblical and dangerous theology, and has close connections with strange and disreputable groups.
A Pattern of Ignorant Politics and Flawed Theology
Boykin is a leader in The Oak Initiative, a conservative Christian political group headed by Rick Joyner. The group promotes various conspiracy theories, makes “prophetic” statements about the future, and claims things like, “Our Justice Department recently stated in a memo that they consider those who often refer to the Bible or to the Constitution as threats,”–which is patently false.
In this position, Boykin once claimed,
“We need to realize that Islam itself is not just a religion – it is a totalitarian way of life. It’s a legal system, sharia law; it’s a financial system; it’s a moral code; it’s a political system; it’s a military system. It should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Quran are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with sharia law.”
At the start of this video, Boykin says that Muslims should have the right to worship, but it’s not entirely clear how we are supposed to reconcile that statement with the one quoted above. Similarly, he once said on a radio show, “Seal the borders and eliminate sanctuary cities and they’ll go home. No mosques in America. Islam is a totalitarian way of life; it’s not just a religion.” He later stated that he misspoke and was actually referring to the Ground Zero Mosque, but as RightWingWatch shows, that excuse doesn’t add up. He’s had several other major Islam-related gaffs; one was even denounced by then-President Bush.
In regard to his theology, at his ministry website, Gen. Boykin misuses II Chron 7:14 to support the idea that if we simply repent, then God will bless the US, as He promised to Israel (See FRC’s “Call2Fall” similarly misuse the verse). This treatment of the US as historical Israel is theologically wrong and can justify all kinds of dangerous political ideologies–like the idea that God has chosen the US to “disciple other nations,” as The Oak Initiative claims.
Perhaps most troubling are the conspiracy theories that Boykin promotes. In 2011, Boykin posted a video through the Oak Initiative arguing that the US was about to experience a Marxist revolution. The evidence he cites at first are exaggerated truths. He cites things like “Hate Crime” legislation and the government bailout as evidence of encroaching Marxism, but none of it is particularly compelling until his final point. Boykin tells viewers about a secret item attached to the Affordable Care Act:
“There are paragraphs in the health care legislation that talk about the commissioning of officers in time of a national crisis to work directly for the President. It’s laying the groundwork for a constabulary force that will control the population in America.”
Just to drive his point home, he compares this force to Hitler’s Brownshirts.
The problem is that the item he appears to be referring to gives the president the power to raise a reserve corps of doctors, nurses, and scientists for national emergencies, as FactCheck.org shows. To make matters worse, the Oak Initiative touted the video a year later, bragging that it went viral and reached “millions.” Either they were still ignorant of the actual healthcare law or they were willfully lying to make Obama look like he was about to establish himself as a Marxist dictator.
In sum, Boykin and the groups he affiliates with promote a conspiracy-driven political ideology that relies heavily on rhetoric of warfare and persecution to oppose what it perceives as attacks against God’s chosen nation, or something close to it.
The Fringe becomes Mainstream
The appointment of Gen. Boykin by FRC reminds us that deceptive, radical, conspiratorial politics does not just happen at the fringe. Boykin was appointed to one of the highest postions within one of the most important Christian political groups in America. This is mainstream. To make matters worse, he will be in charge of the daily operations of a political organization whose goal is to “equip churches to transform the culture.”
How can you equip the church to transform the culture if you are either grossly uninformed or willfully lying about our president establishing the groundwork to raise a Marxist “constabulary force”?
Here’s where the established culture warriors lose me. I don’t care how hard FRC and other groups fight for the pro-life movement, if they promote hateful, ignorant, dangerous, and deceptive propaganda, I can’t support them. I will look for other pro-life groups to support, but I will not support an organization that is grossly ignorant or deceptive, brings shame upon the Church, and discredits our efforts to love our neighbor through our politics.
I hope and pray that FRC can make the drastic changes necessary to be a organization that is above reproach. But if being a cultural warrior means accepting deception, bad theology, and bad politics, I’m out. If, however, we can begin to do cultivating work and accept self-critique, if we can start holding each other to a higher standard than merely supporting a handful of (admittedly important) issues, then I think there is a way we can move forward together (See MLA make a similar point at Mere-Orthodoxy).
Hence the need for the Church, rather than political organizations, to be actively informing the consciences and commanding the obedience of the faithful (and reminding all that such faith is an obligation they cannot ignore).
Readers may be interested in this piece I did on post-partisan:
That same website will lead you to extensive work I have done on Oak Initiative. Great to see this from you Alan!
Yuck. This is highly irritating. No one wonder the world thinks Christians are nutjobs. Has anyone seen the movie “Lord Save Us From Your Followers”? The opening interviews in New York’s Times Square are rather revealing to how the wider culture views us. So sad and I am hoping that is beginning to change.
Thanks, Alan, for your thoughtful words.
I am a biblical and moral conservative, with compassion for those who struggle to believe in and to conform to the Bible’s high standards. Surely, all of us struggle at some level around issues of faith and ethics.
I believe that the church must teach and give example of high standards, but I believe that the church moves onto slippery ground when it involves itself in partisan politics for causes of the left, right, or middle. There is a difference between (1) gently trying to persuade people to Christian faith and to a lifestyle compatible with that faith and (2) entering the battle to control political power and to use the coercive powers of government in the advancing of our values. Option number 2 comes with tremendous temptations to idolize political power and to allow ourselves to be corrupted by our political idols. We will inevitably become less attractive in our presentation of the gospel to the degree that we are perceived as angrily pursuing power over the lives of others.
I am not saying that there is no place for Christians to enter politics and to try to apply Christian values in their political decisions. We need individual Christians in politics working to strengthen family life, and we need individual Christians in politics working for peace and social justice. What we do not need is for the church as a body to enter the fray on a hostile cultural crusade.
In the latter quarter of the 18th century and a bit beyond, Anglican priest John Newton (of Amazing Grace fame) privately encouraged William Wilberforce in his battle against slavery, and he offered a brief autobiography of his much regretted history as a slave trader and transporter to the cause. But beyond that, he understood that his clear priority was to win people to Christ and to encourage them in their degree-by-degree transformation into Christ’s likeness. He also understood that, if he entered the political fray full force, he would forfeit his right to reach and influence those who were not yet anti-slavery.
We need to step back from our political passions long enough to remember our true Christian mission and to discern carefully what our actual calling is in times such as these.
Your post reminded me of another column “Cultural Elites: The Next Unreached People Group” from the Q Conference website. It details a lot of the story William Willberforce and why that is important for us to look to that as an example for today.
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