by S.J. Reidhead cross posted from her blog The Pink Flamingo
The Christianity which is practiced by far too many members of the evangelical right is almost unrecognizable to what ‘evangelical’ churches practiced up until about 1978. That was close to the cut-off point, when things began to change. One of the very real problems is that I’m like the average Christian in this country. I was living in a fool’s paradise. Sure, I knew that things were getting a little flaky, but like everyone else, just chalked it up to things getting a little flaky. Like just about everyone else, I never realized there was a very overt agenda, a planned take-over of the country, using a heretical version of Christianity as a way to manipulate and brainwash good people into becoming a massive voting block. Unfortunately, that’s now what has happened. Not only are they starting to stretch their political muscle, controlling nearly half the state houses, but they control the far right in both the House and the Senate. They control numerous individuals running for POTUS as Republican.
This is not the Christianity normal Christians have known for 2000 years. It is a hybrid, created by R. J. Rushdoony, continued by his son-in-law, Gary North, and branded into society by Bill Gothard, who has trained millions of foot-soldiers for his brave new world. It is a world where men are men, in complete control of the world, the way God intended for godly men to be. Their submissive little home-making wives pop out one child after another, even if they can’t afford them. The object is to be fruitful and multiply, filling the world with godly children, raised up
white right. Now in control of much of the political agenda in this country, they are stretching their muscle, and making plans for a new Constitutional Convention, to re-make the nation the way God intended for it to be. What you are seeing in Indiana and in Arkansas is just the beginning – one nation under God, their God, their way.
One of my big problems with the movement, and, trust me, I have many problems with it, is that this brave new Gothard Religion is heavy on rules and regulations and short on Christ.
“…“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord,” reads one of the biblical selections. Emphasis is placed on “courting” rather than “dating;” on women obeying their husbands; avoiding the “addiction” of all forms of music except for those written and/or approved by the IBLP; preserving marriage at all costs; and on the need for Christians to respect, obey and submit to church and government. These institutions and their rulers, as the workbooks explain, exist because of God’s will.
Again, here is the fundamental premise: what the IBLP hopes will come of these myriad efforts on secular and religious fronts is a patriarchal, hierarchical Christian government that truly has no place for dissent, for disbelievers, or for those whose character qualities fall short of expectations. Government, from this viewpoint, is akin to the right hand of God: Nothing or no one should stand between the two entities, or question their right to rule over our lives.
“God ordained government to carry out His will in matters of justice. Rulers are to praise those who do well and punish those who do evil,” reads the IBLP’s Power for True Success. “Because civil authorities derive their power from God, they will be judged if they violate the Laws of God.” Church leaders, fathers and husbands, and even business leaders, are given nearly the same power in this conception of a well-ordered society: “Employees are to obey employers with wholehearted service.”
As Bill Burtness writes in a book sold in both the CTI’s bookstore and through the IBLP, The Third Alternative: Christian Self-Government, civil government is “an institution ordained and given by God … [and] Christians are the stewards of civil government as an aspect of their stewardship of society.”
All a family needs can be purchased from Gothard’s organization. They can educate their children, from birth all the way to unaccredited programs where they claim to teach everything from law to aircraft maintenance. They even have a fake front, where bust-head, libertarian-leaning parents can have their paranoia fed. Their kids don’t need a degree. They just need Gothard.
This is the problem. Anyone who is a normal Christian knows about the importance of the Sermon on the Mount. But, if you delve into the curious world of Christian Reconstruction and its ruins, it soon becomes terribly interesting that this brave new world doesn’t spend much time on Christ. You see very little about the Sermon on the Mount. I could never understand what any refugee from ATI has had pounded (and in many horrific cases, literally whipped) into them. Bill Gothard used the Sermon on the Mount as his outline for his 49 what-evers, which eventually morphed into character counts, which has nothing to do with Christ.
“…The Wisdom Booklets focus on Biblical concepts and themes to which all academic disciplines relate. The subjects of linguistics, history, law, science, and medicine are presented in balance to their relationship to Scripture. Through this method, comprehension and long-term retention are heightened, because subjects are related to one another around a central theme of learning.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) is the basis of the Wisdom Booklet unit studies. Each Wisdom Booklet is based on one concept in Christ’s teaching and is studied over one month. Fathers, mothers, and students learn and apply the ways of the Lord as a family, growing closer to one another over a common monthly theme rather than pursuing unrelated courses of study. The students then apply what they have learned through assigned projects at their age levels….”
Gothard’s book on “Blessed are those who mourn” is a piece of work. What Gothard did, wrote, is beyond my comprehension. But, I finally, last night, came to understand why the Beatitudes just aren’t that simple anymore.
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Gothard manipulates the passage about mourning, basically plagiarizing from numerous commentators and writers, turning the mourning into how we are upset over the state of our sinful soul. The problem with the commentaries he uses is that they are heavy on Calvinism and are lite on Christ. He turns it into a condemnation of how evil we are. Now, contrast that with Pope Francis.
“…“I would like to recall with you one of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” Francis said. “With this prophetic word, Jesus refers to a condition of life on earth, from which no one is spared. There are those who mourn because they are not healthy, those who mourn because they are alone and misunderstood. The reasons for suffering are many. Jesus experienced affliction and humiliation in this world. He gathered human suffering and assumed them in his flesh, he lived them profoundly, one by one. He knew every type of affliction, moral and physical: he experienced hunger and fatigue, the bitterness of misunderstanding, he was betrayed and abandoned, flagellated and crucified.” But, the Pope emphasized, “by saying “blessed are those who mourn”, Jesus does not intend to declare an unfortunate and burdensome condition in life to be happy. Suffering is not a value in itself, but a reality that Jesus teaches us to live with the correct attitude. There are, in fact, right ways and wrong ways to live pain and suffering. A wrong attitude is to live pain in a passive manner, letting go with inertia and resignation. Even the reaction of rebellion and rejection is not a correct attitude. Jesus teaches us to live the pain by accepting the reality of life with trust and hope, bringing the love of God and neighbour, even in suffering: and love transforms everything.”…”
In other words, according to Pope Francis, a man I feel is a hell of a lot closer to God than Bill Gothard could ever be, thinks that the passage is also about a spiritual attitude adjustment. If you read one of the sermons the Pope gave on the subject, you won’t see any character traits.
“…Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day which focusses on the Beatitudes, Pope Francis described them as a “programme”, the “identity card of a Christian”. If you ask yourself how to become a good Christian, this is where you can find Jesus’s answer, an answer – he said – that points to an attitude that is currently very much against the tide: Blessed are the poor in spirit. Wealth – Francis pointed out – offers no guarantee, in fact – he continued – when the heart is rich and self-satisfied, it has no place for the Word of God: “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted”.
The world tells us that happiness, joy and entertainment are the best things in life. And it looks the other way when there are problems of disease or pain in the family. The world does not want to suffer, it prefers to ignore painful situations, to cover them up. Only the person who sees things as they are, and whose heart mourns, will be happy and will be comforted. Thanks to the consolation of Jesus, not to that of the world. Blessed are the meek in this world which is filled with wars, arguments, hatred. And Jesus says: no war, no hatred. Peace and meekness.”
Pope Francis continued saying “if you are meek in life, people will think you are not clever”. Let them think that – he said – “but you are meek because with this meekness you will inherit the Earth”. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness”. It is so easy – the Pope observed – to become part of the corrupt and referred to “that daily approach of ‘do ut des’. Everything is business”. How much injustice does that approach cause – he noted – and how many people suffer because of injustice. And Jesus says: “Blessed are they who fight against injustice. Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy”. The merciful – the Pope said – “those who forgive and understand the mistakes of others”. Jesus – he pointed out – does not say “blessed are they who seek revenge”.
“Blessed are they who forgive, who are merciful. Because we are all part of an army of people who have been forgiven! We have all been forgiven. That is why blessed is he who undertakes this path of forgiveness. Blessed are the pure of heart, they who have a simple, pure heart without dirt, a heart that knows how to love with purity. Blessed are peace-makers. But it is so common amongst us to be war-makers or perpetrators of misunderstandings! When I hear something from one person, and I go and say it to someone else in a second, enlarged, edition… the world of gossip. People who gossip, who do not make peace, are enemies of peace. They are not blessed”.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness”. How many people – Pope Francis said – have been persecuted, “and continue to be persecuted simply for having fought for justice”. And recalling the Beatitudes, the Pope pointed out that they represent “a programme for life offered to us by Jesus”: “So simple and yet so difficult”. And he said: “if we are searching for more, Jesus gives us other indications” as written in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was ill and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me”. With these two things – the Beatitudes and Matthew 25 – “one can live a holy, Christian life”.
“Few words, simple words, but practical for all. Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced. If you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. At the beginning there are the Beatitudes; in chapter 25 the rest. And it will do you good to read them once, twice, three times. Read this programme for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message”…”
Sorry, but I don’t see where Bill Gothard managed to create his heresy. You might wonder how a study on ‘astronomy’ links to peacemaker, but only Gothard knows for sure.
“…Diane’s daughter, Johanna, is presently studying Astronomy. Using God’s word, the Wisdom Book answers its own question, “How Do Stars Illustrate the Glory of Peacemakers?” Her chart of Orion, will eventually have 12 stars, each to explain a key fact about the star and how it relates to being a peacemaker….”
What a bloody mess.
SJ Reidhead blogs at The Pink Flamingo She is a lover and student of fashion, opera buff and author of two novels. SJ is also a leading expert in life of Wyatt Earp and Tombstone Arizona history as well as an ardent admirer of cowboy culture. She lives in New Mexico.