Those shrieks you hear this morning are coming from Michigan where in the burgs of Grand Rapids and Hillsdale, author and editors are bemoaning the news that Sarah Palin is not going to run for the presidency. One of the first reviews of From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin at Amazon asserts that the book does not even mention Sarah Palin, as if her insertion in the title were merely a ploy to increase sales. In point of fact, the introduction discusses at some length Palin’s performance as Vice-Presidential nominee during the 2008 elections. But a Palin bid for the GOP nomination in 2011-2012 would have perhaps given more visibility to books with Sarah’s name in the title.
Truth be told, the book devotes a lot more attention to evangelical reflection about the United States and its government than to electoral politics. In fact, one of my frustrations with the interviews I have been doing — most of them pleasant and welcome — is that I have yet to talk about any of the figures in the narrative, such as Richard Mouw, Carl Henry, Ralph Reed, Jim Skillen, or Michael Gerson. I understand the appeal of talking about a race. That’s why people go to the track and play the ponies. But the problem for evangelicals is not simply the possible thinness of the political candidates they produce, but the way that even the smartest evangelicals reflect on American politics, which is a combination of biblicism and moral idealism.
In which case, Sarah’s decision may actually help out the long term sales of the book since she will continue to be a voice that illustrates the weaknesses of the evangelical mind and From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin will be a guide to those defects.
Our favorite PCA blogger (why? He’s more my age than Stellman) has adapted an older article from the Nicotine Theological Journal for his blog, calling it “Bye, Bye Kuyper.” Here is an excerpt:
Christians have come to believe that they worship God as much in their weekday jobs as they do on the Lord’s Day gathered with the congregation to pray, sing, read, and preach. In fact, Monday can be more important than Sunday. Sunday’s gathering is justified not by offering God acceptable worship and dispensing the means of grace, but only if it has some good effect on one’s work and leisure Monday through Saturday.
Ministers who lead in worship, preach the Word, and administer the sacraments are doing nothing more important than the politician or housewife (or husband) or professor of physics or laborer. In fact he may be doing something less important as he provides only the spiritual inspiration for those who really advance the kingdom. The Christian school is as important as the Church, perhaps more important if we want to prepare our young people to conquer the world for Christ.
The whole thing has led to a denigration of the traditional mission of the church. Churches are embarrassed to say that they have no more to offer than the ordinary means of grace. Ministers feel they must apologize if they do no more than preach the Word, administer the sacraments, show lost sheep the way to the fold, and help make sure the gathered sheep have the provision and protection they need as they make their way to the heavenly sheepfold. The world, it is contended, will rightly condemn the church if it does not see the “practical effects” of its existence (hence the church must distribute voters’ guides to promote Christian political agendas, create faith-based ministries to provide cradle to grave welfare, put on get seminars so everybody can communicate and have good sex, and offer concert seasons and art shows to provide the congregants and community with cultural experiences).
I know that not all Kuyperians approve of the way Kuyperianism has been domesticated. But what I am still waiting for is an account of neo-Calvinism that avoids the unhinging of the church that The Christian Curmudgeon describes. It is one thing to say that voters’ guides are a problem. It is another, though, to say that voting is kingdom work. It seems to me that Kuyperians are so reluctant to give in to the spirituality of the church that they end up making the world safe for both Jim Skillen and Jim Wallis.