If the Gypsy Curse is “May You Receive What You Want”. . .

Is the evangelical curse, “May Your Vote Count”?

That seems to be the outcome from the Tea Party’s Revolution, according to number four in Christianity Today’s Top Ten Stories of 2010. Pro-life groups had targeted Democrats – even pro-life ones – who voted for President Obama’s health care package because of its apparent allowance of federal funding for abortion. The effect is to make the GOP the home of pro-life candidates, and to make abortion a more contested issue and therefore attract more publicity and debate.

This may be good for Republicans but if you want to restrict abortion, do you want it to be more partisan or might it be wiser for a consensus to emerge. As the CT story reported:

“To the extent that the pro-life movement tries to restrict the definition of being pro-life to the Republican Party, unless the stars realign and the Republican Party becomes two-thirds of the electorate, they’re cutting themselves off from the possibility of building the kinds of alliances that might be able to advance the pro-life agenda,” he said. “If you want to do something about stem-cell research, or make progress on the whole of the pro-life agenda, you’re going to need some Democrats to come along. Going after pro-life Democrats is not going to help the pro-life cause.”

And so after the elections, half of the approximately forty pro-life Democrats lost their seats. According to a story at Politics Daily:

. . . the same wave that swept GOP candidates to a takeover of the House on Tuesday also washed away half of the 40 or so pro-life Democrats who had given the movement unprecedented influence in their party and in Congress.

Moreover, many of those pro-life Democrats, including such stalwarts as Rep. Steve Dreihaus of Ohio’s 1st District and Kathleen Dahlkemper from Pennsylvania’s 3rd District, were in fact targeted for defeat by major pro-life organizations like the Susan B. Anthony List, which argued that those Democrats had betrayed their cause by backing health care reform and so deserved their fate.

Some of which is to say that politics is a very crude device for changing the world, two-party politics all the more so. So for those neo-Calvinists who think that having a vote is virtually the same has every Christian voter a Christian magistrate, they may want to re-think just how valuable democracy is for bringing Christian convictions to bear on public life. If my vote for a Republican pro-lifer only serves to ratchet up the divisiveness of abortion, am I actually making a difference?

Maybe a better strategy would be the old Southern one of gaining control of a state and seceding. California may not be the most desirable of places for pro-lifers to live, but given the state’s bleak economy, the United States may be willing to let the Golden State go.

Having Your Constitution and Obeying It Too

One of the notable inconsistencies of so-called social conservatives in the United States is the disparity between wanting government to legislate morality and wanting government to be small. This isn’t simply a question of “gotcha” politics, it is a serious matter of political theory and historical inquiry. Is the ideal of American government one of keeping the state under check, or is a far-reaching state fine as long as it supports and enforces the morality that I believe is good. A recent exchange at On Faith explores this tension within the ranks of the Tea Party. This populist effort seemingly favors limited government but if it attracts social conservatives who want the American government to enforce their moral convictions it’s policies may not be so limited.

Contemporary conservative Protestants are equally implicated in this glaring problem. On the one hand, they long for a magistrate who will enforce both tables of God’s law. And shortly thereafter they will upbraid President Obama for violating American notions of limited government.

How can you possibly think you stand in continuity with the framers of the American political order who instituted checks and balances to guard freedom from tyranny and also believe, with the original Westminster Confession, that the magistrate has the power to “call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.” Let’s get this straight. The magistrate has power to call synods of the church, and to ensure that whatever happens at them – this from a lay person, no less – conforms not to Scripture but to the “mind of God.” What magistrate has that kind of spiritual insight? What people wants to give a magistrate that kind of power? One obvious answer — not the American people, and that is why they have a Constitution that not only divides the magistracy up into executive, legislative, and judicial helpings, but also prevents the legislature from enacting laws that govern religion.

But despite the disparity between an Erastian magistrate and the American form of government, Presbyterians in the United States continue to think that their big magistrate in religious matters goes with a limited government over the rest of life. Take the example of the Baylys.

First, here’s an excerpt from a sermon which includes exhortations to President Obama from David Bayly (though it may have originated from Doug Wilson):

President Obama stands as our head. He is our representative not just under our federal form of government, not just in earthly terms, but in heavenly terms, before the throne of God. He stands before God for all the righteousness and wickedness of our nation. He either opposes the sins of the nation and reaps blessing from God, or stands in affirmation of them and reaps their judgment.

And in this regard I call on us to declare and President Obama to hear the Word of God.

President Obama, you have promised not to make abortion a litmus test in nominating judges to the Supreme Court. The King of kings, Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, however, has declared the murder of innocents a high sin, a sin so vile that even after Manasseh repents of his butchery of the innocent and is followed by the righteous Josiah, God will not turn back his judgment on Judah. President Obama, you are not the first American political leader to embrace this slaughter. Others have gone before you in this. Others bear equal or greater responsibility. But you are president today. And you are the leader of a nation which is at war against God in this, President Obama. We have rejected the Word of God and the Lordship of Christ in this matter. You must oppose abortion in obedience to the King of kings for whom the murder of innocents is indeed a litmus test of righteous authority.

President Obama, in your declaration of June 1, 2009, “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third. BARACK OBAMA.”

President Obama, you speak of “the year of our Lord,” yet you honor what God despises, declaring a matter of pride that which is an abomination to God. In declaring good what God has judged wicked you are in rebellion against the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

President Obama, in your speech in Cairo last Thursday you said, “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.”

In that same speech you also said, “I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

But I say to you as a minister of the Gospel you claim to believe: Scripture tells us God hates all false gods and that Jesus is earth’s sole Lord of lords. When Moses, Elijah and Jesus stood together on the mount of transfiguration and Peter suggested building tabernacles for all three, God thundered from heaven the unique authority of His Son. You proclaimed yourself a Christian in your speech. In so saying you claimed to accept the authority of Jesus Christ. Surely any Christian knows that Scripture teaches the unique authority of Jesus.

You, Barack Obama, by using your office to defend the impostor Mohammed, and to suggest that Jesus and Moses are equals, usurp the authority of Christ and are in rebellion against King Jesus.

Reading this you’d almost think Obama was a king (of Israel, no less). But the American rebellion was against monarchical forms of government. Go figure.

And when figuring do take into account another Bayly post which faults Obama for not following the Constitution:

During his State of the Union Address with the justices sitting under his nose, President Obama shamed them for their recent decision overturning unconstitutional campaign reform laws. Note how little the Constitution matters to this former law professor at University of Chicago and editor of the law review at Harvard. His issue isn’t that their decision was wrong, constitutionally, but that its consequences are bad for America. He might have said “with all due respect First Amendment to the Constitution,” but he didn’t.

Whatever in the world happened to the Constitution? Among these public masters, finding submission to their vow to uphold the Constitution is like a “Where’s Waldo” game.

I know consistency is the hobgobblin of small minds, but wouldn’t President Obama after reading the Baylys, be a tad confused about knowing when he is supposed to obey the Constitution and when he’s not? Do the Baylys (and their defenders) really think you can have the Constitution without the First Amendment? Do they also think you can have the original Westminster Confession or Calvin’s Geneva for that matter and have the Constitution of the United States? If the Baylys want to uphold limited government along the lines of the American founding, then how can they support an expansive government with power to pry into personal beliefs?

This is the plight of contemporary American political conservatism. It is populated by people who, thanks to their confusing the spiritual and temporal kingdoms, also confuse 1640s England with 1770s America. That leaves American Protestants of an allegedly conservative bent lurching for policies, laws, and officials that veer markedly from the limits that those not-so-Christian founders placed upon American government. Ironically enough, the sort of limited government practiced in the United States and upheld by political conservatives grants loud-mouthed ministers the freedom to mock and ridicule authorities instituted by the very God they profess to serve. And people think Obama is un-American!