Speaking Truth to Power in the United States Senate
Published on: October 16, 2013
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  • Anthony

    “…the big booming voice of a strategically placed preacher may just possibly provide a nudge in the direction of sanity (if not of non-partisan patriotism).” We can only hope Peter Berger – with God’s grace.

  • gerald

    . The Democratic Party has become the favored political habitat of people who want religion to be out of politics (people I like to call Kemalists). Republicans, on the other hand, have typically defended a public role of religion: Here they are hit by someone playing just such a role.

    Actually, there are many democrats who liberally mangle scriptures when talking to religious audiences and are given a pass by the MSM: Pelosi’s “Mary as an unwed mother” comes to mind, totally ignoring the incredible devotion and equally challenging obedience of Joseph to score cheap political points. Point out the scriptural basis for that, and the libs come out protesting.

    Fuzzy reasoning abounds: there is prattle that “Jesus would have supported the ACA”, when even a cursory reading of the Gospels indicates that, if He were here, He would have rolled up his sleeves and healed the people Himself. The healing miracles continued with the Disciples after His Ascension. When it comes to helping the poor, Paul, in Acts 20:34-35, boasted to the leadership that he worked with his own hands to provide for the poor, and stated that he did so to leave and example for them to do the same. And need I point out that Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything HE had (not someone else) and give it all to the poor? Here is Congress demanding exemptions from the ACA for themselves while requiring that people poorer than they are (how many DEMOCRAT millionares are there in the Senate? There’s a reason Harry Reid didn’t make public HIS income tax returns during the presidential campaign while insisting that Romney disclose his) be forced to “contribute” to health insurance to support those poorer than they are: what difference is there between THAT and Nathan’s parable to David about the rich man who took the poor man’s lamb to feed a guest of his? When David declared that the rich man was worthy of death, Nathan didn’t counsel David to be considerate and appreciate the hospitality of the Rich man, but said “YOU ARE THAT MAN!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7) The lesson took: During a national crisis, David insisted on paying for the land to sacrifice to the Lord when it was offered to him free, saying “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God of that which cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24) Oh, and it was Peter, not me, who referred to “old testament prophets”. I’m just letting you know not only HOW they denounced sin, but ALSO WHAT they denounced.

    I am aware of the protests that “BUT PEOPLE NEED HEALTH INSURANCE! YOU JUST WANT TO MURDER THE POOR!” Those making these protests simply ignore the moral aspects of voluntary action versus forced compliance. Besides, how is that accusation, apart from proof, NOT “bearing false witness”? Why are they acting like Satan the accuser? Do such truly believe that they can “do evil that good may come?” Paul condemned that attitude. (Romans 3:8).

    Let me finish by saying that every man, not just Jesus Christ, has to run the SAME three temptations He faced in the wilderness. The first was whether he would sell out to fill his belly, and there are many who steal, kill, and destroy to provide comfort and security for themselves. The second was whether he would sell themselves out for popularity by performing wild stunts or awesome acts, and there are many, Miley cyrus (sp?) among them, who are doing just that.

    The third temptation is to sell out to get control, or greatly influence, worldly powers and governments. In presenting this temptation, the devil only changed the price that must be paid to “get access” to that power. A good strategy, for it is obvious that there are many “christians” who have said YES to the devil when they were presented with this temptation.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    As of this writing news reports indicate there is a bipartisan deal in the works to avert a default and thus re-open the 17 percent of the Federal government that has been shut down due to an impasse in Congress.

    I don’t know if the Rev. Black’s equal opportunity tongue-lashing of both Republicans and Democrats had anything to do with resolving the impasse. But that Black didn’t blame the Tea Party faction or the intransigent Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate that also has not passed a budget in the last 4-1/2 years, vindicates the role of civic religion in the halls of power.

    The liberal Huffington Post framed the federal debt limit battle in religious terms. On Oct. 1 it ran an article “The Theology of Government Shutdown: Christian Dominisim” blaming Tea Party leader Ted Cruz’s belligerent stance as due to the influence of his charismatic Christian father who is a pastor with Purifying Fire International (PFI). Reportedly, PFI has been campaigning against Obamacare. Ted Cruz is quoted as seeing Obamacare in what might be called Durkheimian terms as not necessarily an attack on religion but an attack on God and the traditional family.

    Little known is that Rev. Black is apparently also a charismatic Christian of the Seventh Day Adventist variety. While Seventh Day Adventism is domesticated and either plateauing or declining in membership in the U.S. and Europe, it is growing wildly in South American, Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia. The Oct. 13 issue of the Adventist News reports its membership has reached nearly 18 million with baptisms having reached 1.1 million per year.

    Seventh Day Adventists have experienced dramatic growth in Latin American, Southern Africa and Asia as part of the worldwide charismatic Christian movement. Adventists claim 1.1 million baptisms per year. The Adventist Church has plateaued in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. American Adventism falls into the category of slow growth or decline.

    It ends up that libertarian Sen. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz may have been more absolutist about the Federal debt limit than Rev. Black (on this point one might read “Why Aren’t Neo-Anabaptists Libertarians?” in the Oct. 14 issue of the “Juicy Ecumenism” blog of the Institute of Religion and Democracy). The ethics of responsibility of Rev. Black seems to have won out over the ethics of absolutist conviction of the Tea Party, libertarian Republicans and liberals who failed to pass a budget even when they were in near total power (see Max Weber on the “ethics of responsibility versus the ethic of absolute conviction”).

    Adventists have a history of advocating for non-combatancy from the Civil War onward, even though their members have often served in combat roles in war. They can hardly be said to favor big government, socialized medicine, or many aspects of the welfare state. Adventists have historically operated their own system of hospitals for decades. So it can hardly be said that Charismatic Christians such as Rev. Black reflected the same moral absolutism of other conservative Christians, libertarians, the National Council of Churches, or the obstinate Democratic Party.

    So if someone had prophecied that a Black Seventh Day Adventist minister might have had a role in the resolution to the debt impasse we would have been skeptical. But apparently religion, even charismatic Christianity, ended up playing a role in the pending resolution of the crisis.

    • gerald

      Seventh day Adventists Charismatic? To this former Seventh Day Adventist (Born SDA, Raised SDA, went to School SDA, taught computer science in an SDA college) turned Charismatic Pentecostal, that’s news to me. The only thing “charismatic” about them is their belief that one of their founders, Ellen G. White, was a prophetess, but after a couple of “successors” that turned out to be “false”, the search for new prophets was terminated within a couple of years after EGW died. Speak in unknown tongues? Its considered demonic if the tongues is unknown, and it is discouraged in worship services. They claim to preach the Gospel of Grace while simultaneously preaching the necessity of worshipping on the Jewish Sabbath (sundown friday to sundown saturday). They identify sunday keeping as the Latter Days “mark of the beast”, and Seventh Day sabbath keeping as the “seal of God”, when Paul, in the book of Ephesians, notes that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise. A REAL Charismatic Seventh-Day Adventist would be saying that an Ephesian reading Revelation would have immediately connected mention of a “seal” in that book with the “seal” of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Book of Ephesians that they had gotten earlier from Paul. Heck, *I* said that, and I wasn’t Charismatic at the time, and the “song and dance” around the obvious was something to behold.

      However, I did not leave because I became a charismatic, but left when I was convinced that they did not really preach the full Gospel of Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ ALONE. See “The Shaking of Adventism” by Paxton. Its still around, since I just googled it. When it came to helping me overcome pornography, they were of ZERO help.

      Before anyone replies disputing what I say, please see my precis at the beginning of this comment: I am not lying. I am not joking, and after all the suffering under the condemnation of the law they put on me that did NOTHING, and after the revelation of grace and the gift of the Spirit started doing something, I am not in a condescending mood.

      • Wayne Lusvardi

        Thanks for the correction Gerard. I should have clarified that the growth of Christianity in the Third World is generally considered as part of the Charismatic Movement but that 7th Day Adventists, especially those in the U.S., are far from “holy rollers.”

        The point of my article was that an Adventist chaplain sent a transcendent message to both houses of Congress rather than politicize its message. Perhaps Rev. Black should be called a minor prophet in more than one sense of the term.

  • Michael McKegney

    Your pro-Republican bias is showing, Prof. Berger, as it often does! “Stubborn pride” DOES indeed describe the Tea Partiers – but NOT Pres. Obama – who instead has admirably (if belatedly) grown a “backbone” and some “cojones” in this stupid unnecessary “crisis”

    • Tom

      Berger has a pro-Republican bias?

      • Wayne Lusvardi

        Prof. Berger a pro-Tea Party-ite? Not if you have been reading this column very long. Neither does he care for the Occupy Movement. Or any other social movement. If he has a bias toward the Republican Party it is based in consequentialist ethics not ideology.

        • Tom

          That’s my point.

    • That’s a lot of stupid in a brief paragraph. Aren’t ‘backbone’ and ‘cojones’ synonymous with stubbornness? Before you hurt yourself, yes they are.

  • FrankArden

    As a conservative Episcopalian, my only criticism of Dr. Berger’s essay would be found in it’s title about speaking truth to power when it is really about speaking Power to truth (with a little “t”).

    I have heard the Reverend Black’s invocations and they sound much more clear and comforting and hopeful than the power grabbing verbal posturing and useless babbling in either house of congress.

    Reverend Black’s invocations before the US Senate do not represent the soul of the senate and I doubt this good man would elevate his importance otherwise no matter what he.

    They represent the soul and the hopes and prayers of God fearing and faithful American People.

  • xf100t

    Question: Why is Harry Reid’s acknowledgement of a God so unusual? Mormons are just as willing to pray as any other religious faith, we begin and end our meetings both in public and in private with prayer. I’m surprised that an advocate for greater religious involvement in government would be so misinformed about LDS beliefs considering Mitt Romney’s nomination. We are perfectly tolerant of others’ praying, many of us are deeply saddened by the movement within our government to rid God from public discourse.

    If observing a Mormon giving reverence to prayer is surprising to you, you should attend an LDS meeting before making any further remarks about our faith. Visitors are always welcome, we’re happy to take questions and clear up misinformation.

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