Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton, Idolatry, and God

I am not one for gloom and doom hypothesizing so I hope this post does not come off as such.  I am writing about my increasing concern for American Christians turning Christianity into nationalistic idolatry, if it has not already came to that point.  Before I say why, let me say a few words about idolatry.

Since the beginning of history, we humans have been very good at erecting idols and worshiping them as though they are God.  It is by nature inconceivable as to how we could be guilty of such tragedy, even though it makes perfect sense to us why others could fall into such trappings.  The reason for this is because the very nature of idolatry is that we do not think of our idols as such or else we would not worship them as such.  Who among the people of God would knowingly worship what is believed to believe an idol?  Thus, just because we label something as being the capitol “G” God or of that capitol “G” God, does not make it so.  The very nature of idolatry is that we call an idol “God” or claim it belongs to the cause of “God.”

Furthermore, idolatry seems rooted in our quest for a secure and stable life.  If we think the god of Mars can provide such life then we erect an image to represent the god of Mars and worship it.  If we think the vision of Marxism holds the key to life then we might enjoin ourselves to the cause of Marxism and to those leaders who champion its cause.  If we believe that the dream of Americanism is…

This past weekend thousands rallied in Washington D.C.  Many of them gathered around an event sponsored by political commentator Glenn Beck to support the cause of God and Country cloaked in the language of “restoring honor to America.”  A smaller but nonetheless substantial crowd gathered around political activist and clergyman, the Rev. Al Sharpton.  I am sure both Beck and Sharpton mean well.  I am sure both of them believe their cause is in some way of God.  I am also sure that both believe their two different visions embrace the dream of Americanism even though they often appear to be at odds with each other.  What I question is whether both Beck and Sharpton and the causes they represent are truly interested in the life for which God has created and seeks to redeem humanity to?  If they are not, then their causes seem to be nothing other than another incarnation of idolatry.

But here is why I raise the question, the life God has created us for and seeks to redeem us to is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  We learn of this life within the larger biblical canon that points us toward Jesus Christ.  This is a life that has the cross – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus – at the center of its story.  It is a life that is not about nation or tribe, ethnic or social status, privatized security, or citizenship in this world.  Rather, it is a life that remakes all people as one in Christ, calling them into a life of submission in obedience to God and in doing so, trusts in God alone to the point that it can sacrifice self for the sake of others (which includes acts of social-justice).  It is a life that proclaims, along with Jesus, the kingdom of God.  And that is what Beck, Sharpton, and so many other quasi-politicians seem to be missing…all the while, so do many Christians who are increasingly appealing to these leaders as though they point the way to the redemptive call of God in Jesus Christ..

I mean no ill will to Glenn Beck or Al Sharpton, I just simply don’t see how they represent the call of God to follow and be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that the many Christians I know of who share this concern of mine will find venues to speak up because the beginning of liberation from idolatry is to point it out and call it for what it is.

And by the way…here is a link to a great article that speaks in regards to Evangelical Christianity’s love affair with Glenn Beck.

17 responses to “Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton, Idolatry, and God

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton, Idolatry, and God « Kingdom Seeking -- Topsy.com

  2. I heartedly disagree with this Post, and also with the posted link. It is obvious to me that these are written out of sheer ignorance. It is obvious that the authors here are forming their opinions third hand, and do not watch or listen to Glen Beck, or Al Sharpton, or what has been going on to any great extent. It is amazing what the media comes up with, which is also so perverted as such. I hope to return, when I have more time to write, and am able to weed my way through all the wrongs that I myself see presented here. Unfortunately, I am not a professional writer and it does take me awhile to write a good response, with solid substance to back it up. Of course, it would be easy to just sit back, say nothing, and just let what will be, –be. But, as Christians we really need to speak up. Later gators, God bless, –dc

  3. Don,

    You said, “It is obvious to me that these are written out of sheer ignorance. It is obvious that the authors here are forming their opinions third hand, and do not watch or listen to Glen Beck, or Al Sharpton, or what has been going on to any great extent.”

    I am not sure who you are referring to…is that directed at me?

    I don’t mind comments which disagree with me but please be careful in the accusatory tone…you don’t know who and what I watch/listen too. I have listened to Glenn Beck before as well as Al Sharpton and other political commentators…at least enough to know what’s going on.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  4. Amen. Here is another hitting the nail on the head development of your conviction

    http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/08/29/god-the-gospel-and-glenn-beck/

  5. Yes, the main thing is redemption in Christ. And the redemptive community is the Church the Body of Christ, where we find the fullness of the Redemption that Christ has for us as a People. In the Protestant world, because of the doctrine of the invisible Church, and the defacto acceptance of schism, and the loss of a Catholic Sense of the Church as the Community of Redemption, our Nation has become by default the Community of Redemption. In the absence of a Catholic sense of the Church, America and its dream filled the vacuum. So, in a certain sense, we are seeing the out-working of the death of faith in the Church, as expressed in the Creed, and the failure of Believers to take deadly serious the Scriptural demand that we all be One, in such a way that the world might believe.
    I might add that for 15 hundred years a doctrine of the Visible Church, and of the historic presence and persistence of that Church, was an essential aspect of the Unity that was more or less maintained throughout the era of triumphant Christendom.

  6. Oops. just noticed you had already posted Moore’s excellent article!

  7. Pingback: Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton, Idolatry, and God Kingdom Seeking

  8. It would be interesting to read more about the doctrine of the visible church. I have for a while been interested in the ecclesiolgy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jurgen Moltmann since they both were writing in response to what was and did happen in early 20th century Europe…which is a terrifying example of what can happen when Christians trade in the gospel of Jesus Christ for a nationalistic agenda.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  9. Good words Rex. With minor differences, overall I agree with your post here, and as you have pointed out it does cut all ways throughout the political spectrum. What peeves me off is when people use Jesus to forward a political ideal. He becomes a means to an end and it turns people off to the real message; that is, the Gospel. If someone is going to disagree with me, or hate me, or spurn me; I want it to be because they disagree, hate, and spurn Jesus, the Cross, salvation, and therefore the Father. We should be hated by the world because of our King, not because we are for or against tax cuts or for or against nuclear weapons (again, goes both ways), or any other political ideas that Jesus had zero part in addressing to the Roman Empire. This is why I’m really fond of the doctrine of the two-kingdoms. I believe we are here to tell the good news so that individual hearts will be changed and not to support some overt political revolution.

    What is interesting is in our tradition (and in others), guys like Alexander Campbell attached the church and the state (“Protestant America”) as the realization of bringing in the millennium (hence the “Millennial Harbinger”). It is a story that is as old as our country is and it is in our DNA.

    To address the church issue: The visible/invisible church idea is key to understanding the simple concept of wheat and tares. While the church is visible, it is, I think, shortsighted to think that everybody who belongs to a visible church are actually among the flock. The invisible church simply maintains that throughout all the world there is a body of believers that are truly His, as it is written, “The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim 2:19).

    A little off-topic, but Rex you said, “It is a life that proclaims, along with Jesus, the kingdom of God.” Are you differentiating “Jesus” from the “Kingdom of God”? I only ask because there are some interesting studies, particularly from the Gospel of John, that depict Jesus as the Kingdom of God (and not something He points to outside of Himself). Anyway, another topic.

    Grace to you-
    Jr

    • Thanks for your comments. I agree that if we should be hated it should be because those who hate us hate Jesus first.

      My understanding of the Kingdom of God and its socio-political implications has been shaped by guys like Lee C. Camp, John Howard Yoder, Leo Tolstoy, Richard B. Hays…not that I have a perfect understanding of all those people theology nor do I claim to have a perfect understanding of what it means to live as people belonging to the Kingdom of God.

      With that being said, in the Synoptic Gospels the Kingdom of God is something which Jesus proclaims. Does that mean he was proclaiming himself? My best shot would be “yes” and “no”. Yes in the sense that it is Jesus who brings about and establishes the Kingdom (rule/reign) of God. No in the sense the sense that the Kingdom is not just a person but a reality. However, I would not want to press too much of a distinction between Jesus and the Kingdom because it seems to me (based on my best understanding of the entire NT witness) that we cannot proclaim the Kingdom of God without proclaiming Jesus Christ and vise versa. So while small distinctions between the two may appear as they seem to in the Synoptic Gospels, I also believe we go beyond scripture if we demarcate Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

      I hope that answers your question.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

  10. Excellent assessment. What you said, though, about us being blind to our own idolatry is both true and problematic. I have attempted, with modest success, to influence brothers and sisters to avoid mixing political agendas with the cause of Christ. Often they don’t recognize the difference between “winning America back for God” and making disciples. It’s an incredibly important issue, though. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • I should also add that I am sure I have my own idols. I just don’t see them yet.

    • I do believe the gospel is very political – the confession “Jesus is Lord” was a political affront to Caeser – it’s just one ruled by God rather than the kingdoms of this world.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

      • Oh absolutely, the gospel is political……..but in a “not of this world” sort of way. Jesus didn’t spend his energy and words on sorting out the worldly political agendas of His day, but in trying to turn people to Kingdom citizenship. That’s a whole different thing than using the democratic process to promote “Christian” legislation or “Christian” leaders. Not that either of those is necessarily wrong, or that they are never helpful…they are just not the point. No kingdom of this world is or can be truly Christian (Christ-like, Christ-ruled), including the USA. And it is not our job to change that. It is our job to represent the new Kingdom.

        I get the feeling you agree…I’m just ranting now 🙂

  11. Back in the late eighties or early nineties my wife had a vision of America and we were tethered to it, sort of like a derrigible is tethered to the earth with a multitude of small cords. In the dream the cords were breaking one by one. In retrospect, that is much of the story since that time. The Lord distanced from impulses in us that were birthed in the American dream, we had a Mennonite phase with modesty and distancing us from the institutionalized voyerism of the Culture, we transitioned through 28 Prayerbook Anglicanism as we grappled with the Church as both Visible and Invisible, until we made a paradigm shift totally out of the Protestant world, out of the sola Scriptura environment, out of juridical dominated justification, and into the Theological world and praxis of Eastern Orthodoxy, where the Doctrine that the Church is Visible and One and the pillar and ground of the Truth, was fleshed out in every direction. We entered then a community whose entire structure of time and its architecture had been reconstructed by the Gospel, and it was a community with two thousand years of continuity and spanned cultures vastly different from our own.
    As concerns the Visible Church, not all who are in the visible Church will be saved, and, as the saying also states, and not all outside the Visible Church will be lost. In another place Kallistos Ware, author of the Orthodox Church, says, we know where the Church is, but we do not know where it is not. Since I am Orthodox I accept Orthodoxy as the Church, in all explicitness, but know many believers out there not in Orthodoxy- whom I consider to be in a sort of modern equivalent to the Jewish diaspora, separated from the Land and the Temple Cult and Rites, but of it in nevertheless. The Jewish synagogue system built around teachers and the Scripture, emerged in that time as a sort of ad hoc solution to the diaspora and it is interesting to see that many if not most Protestant assemblies are also centered about Scripture, and not so much Communion, that is to say, the once and for all sacrifice offered in anamnesis in the Church.
    An article on the Visible Church.. http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/church.aspx

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