Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reports of Michele Bachmann's demise....

Despite his oh so obvious liberal leanings, Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman is a regular read for me. I would even go so far as to say I have enjoyed some of his musings. Unfortunately, his worthwhile efforts are all too often overshadowed by his condescension, belligerence and flat out ignorance.

Mr. Coleman manages to indulge in all three characteristics with his latest offering.

Weirdest. Election. Ever.

And there are still three weeks of campaigning to go.

More evidence that the country is off its rocker comes with news that a Twin Cities pastor named Mac Hammond has endorsed congressional candidate Michele Bachmann from the same TV stage he uses to promise salvation to the faithful and worldly riches, too.

First offering from Nick: Condescension.

As if there is something wrong with worldly riches.

Jesus himself said in John 10:9-10 “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Hammond calls himself a businessman and presides over the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park. I haven't heard him preach, but I know people who love his upbeat Bible-based message that the Lord wants us all to be "winners" and that he will help us find earthly success while we await our heavenly reward.

Hammond calls his program "The Winner's Way" (poor people, I'm afraid, are not just losers, but sinners, too).

Now Mr. Coleman throws in a small dash of belligerence.

Genesis 1:26-27 says “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

I would venture a guess that the Almighty hardly considers Himself a loser. Therefore, all humans (rich or poor) would definitely be considered winners all around. When God gives of his only son so that we may not perish but have eternal life, it appears we’ve already won. It’s now our choice whether or not we live in the abundance He desires us to have.

(Hammond) also sells books and videos about the Rapture and the soon-to-come end of the world. Bottom line: We better hurry up and find worldly success, because time is running out. For all of us. Including Michele Bachmann.

Uh, define worldly success there, Nick. Bachmann had a prestigious career as a tax litigation attorney and her husband has been quite successful in his own independent business. By the world’s standards, they epitomize success. In your view, I suppose a position of power (i.e. member of Congress) is merely another way to augment her worldly success. Yeah, I guess it’s totally out of the realm of possibility that Bachmann is running for Congress to … oh, I don’t know….faithfully and passionately serve the people in the 6th CD.

Time may be really short for Bachmann: There are just 20 days to the election, and polls show the conservative Republican falling behind Patty Wetterling, a DFLer, in the race for the Sixth Congressional District seat.

You mean that poll in your newspaper? Yeah, that’s credible.

I'll miss her.

Bachmann is rich material, and is known for her controversial stance on outlawing gay marriage and her role in organizing pray-ins at the State Capitol. She once held hands in a prayer circle around the desk of an openly gay state senator. She was also caught spying on a Capitol gay rights rally while squatting behind a bush.

Maybe the bush spoke.

Well, if you can determine that is Michele Bachmann in that photo of the aforementioned “gay rights rally” then you should be able to read the license plate number on that gray pick-up near said bush.

Bachmann gave Christian "testimonies" at services in Hammond's church last weekend, discussing her faith and revealing that Jesus "called" her to run for Congress. This falls into the category of personal belief and merits no comment, or judgment, from anyone else, least of all me. Everyone has their beliefs. But here's where it gets troublesome:

Rev. Hammond, urging his flock to vote (registration materials were on hand in the lobby), strongly endorsed Bachmann's candidacy, saying he intended to vote for her. He says he was only expressing his personal opinion, but to do so in church may have been a violation of IRS rules against churches making political endorsements (a complaint has been filed with the IRS).

Bachmann is running for Congress, the legislative branch of government. This is a position designed to make laws. Romans 13:1 says “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

You said it yourself, Nick. Everyone has their beliefs. Wouldn’t it behoove Rev. Hammond to support a candidate who he believes would operate under the purview of God’s authority?

Besides, I don't recall a complaint being filed after a certain Democratic candidate for President spoke at a Baptist church in October 2004. In fact, Rev. Gaston E. Smith of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Miami endorsed Kerry, saying, "To bring our country out of despair, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."

Here's what I think: 1) If Rev. Mac says Bachmann is part of the Winner's Way, and, 2) She says the Lord has called her to Congress, and, 3) I hope to find success in this life before the Rapture comes, well, then, 4) I better not take any chances.

I have begun to think the end really is near, by the way. And not just the end of the election. Something is up. For one thing, the battle over whether it would be wise to preserve the separation of church and state is over. The church won.

Bachmann's supporters sometimes literally have thumped Bibles on the heads of secular citizens inside the Capitol. (Such an indignity was visited in 2004 on Sue Rockne, the well-known women's rights activist, who died last year.) And Bachmann has been among the leaders of the religious right in her party who have tried for years to break down the church-and-state barrier. Their campaign has been so successful that maybe Rev. Hammond thought the battle was over.

"I don't want any more letters about 'Church and politics don't mix,' " Hammond scolded his congregation after Bachmann spoke, almost daring anyone to object. "If [a belief in separation of church and state] is your opinion, then you need to get saved."

There you have it.

If you are a believer in separation of church and state, you will find yourself in the burning pit. Pretty simple.

Ah, the favorite liberal myth: Separation of church and state, something they believe is in the Constitution. With that, Coleman has completed the trifecta with his ignorance.

What the Constitution in fact says is that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Churches cannot mandate the way members of a congregation will vote. And that is certainly not what Rev. Hammond was advocating. At the same time, the vast majority of Christians believe strongly in the sanctity of life. I am quite certain they would appreciate in knowing the caliber of people they are sending to Washington to make laws.

Oh, and the religion has already been established at Living Word: It’s called “Christianity.” And the government had nothing to do with that establishment.

A lot of us need saving, then. And we better get at it, because the end is near. The election is Nov. 7, and not everyone will wake up the next day on "Winner's Way."

Some will wake up losers.

I hate to break it to you, Nick. My salvation is not predicated on who wins elections.

Is yours?


Ben Bush Jr said...

"Bachmann gave Christian "testimonies" at services in Hammond's church last weekend, discussing her faith and revealing that Jesus "called" her to run for Congress."

I was wondering if Jesus forgot to tell her about his command about not swearing oaths, such as oaths of office?

Brad Carlson said...

The following is the oath taken by members of Congress:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

I fail to see how Jesus would take exception to an oath which clearly calls on the intervention of the Almighty.

Ben Bush Jr said...

Does this mean, then, that, as long as we call on the interevention of the Almighty, we can break any commandment we choose to?

Isn't this nothing more than calling on the intervention of God to help us sin?

If your exception is true, then the commands of a holy God are nothing more than conditional suggestions entirely dependent upon the motives of the individual acting in the name of God. Any cause, as long as it is undertaken in the name of and for the glory of God, receives his approval.

Is this the type of life Christ has called us to?

Brad Carlson said...

Does this mean, then, that, as long as we call on the interevention of the Almighty, we can break any commandment we choose to?

Ahhh, No. We have laws in this country and the men and women in Congress are law MAKERS. Therefore, I don’t see a major problem with taking an oath to make laws which are in line with God’s commandments.

Isn't this nothing more than calling on the intervention of God to help us sin?

That’s not what I was trying to say. Laws of this country were first established based on the writings of the Ten Commandments. Again, if the people in Congress are asking for guidance to MAKE LAWS which are in line with how laws were first construed, what’s the issue?

If your exception is true, then the commands of a holy God are nothing more than conditional suggestions entirely dependent upon the motives of the individual acting in the name of God. Any cause, as long as it is undertaken in the name of and for the glory of God, receives his approval.

I agree that people will loosely interpret God’s commands. However, I happen to know that Michele Bachmann takes God’s commandments very seriously. As such, she will constantly seek His guidance and intervention.

Is this the type of life Christ has called us to?

As Christ said in Matthew 22:37-40 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

I know if people follow this Commandment, especially members of Congress, their path would be directed properly.

Ben Bush Jr said...

I noticed that you haven't responded to my previous comment. That could be for different reasons, one of which is that you haven't had the time. In the mean time, I will pose another question.

Would Jesus accept a position of political power if it meant He had to break one of the Ten Commandments?

Brad Carlson said...

Would Jesus accept a position of political power if it meant He had to break one of the Ten Commandments?

OK Ben, I'll bite.

No, I do not believe that Jesus would accept a position of political power if He had to break one of the Ten Commandments. But that's a bogus question to begin with since the breaking of a commandment would be sin and we all know Jesus was without sin.

You may now commence with your "What about 'thou shalt not kill?'" response I'm sure you have prepared. After all, Congress can declare war and war involves killing others. Is that where you are headed?

Anonymous said...


Your respondent is not the first person to raise the question of oaths and the Bible. The swearing of oaths has been controversial among Christians for centuries. It has been deliberated by many, many people much smarter than me (or Ben). I know that many solidly-Biblical Christians have studied this problem and found oaths of office compatible with Christianity. Those who cannot reconcile them don't run for office.

The controversy about oaths is because some consider it taking God's name in vain. The point of an oath is placing yourself under the wrath of a higher power should you fail to uphold the promise you make. It's similar to the equally-ancient concept of a vow. (And how many people, even Christians, take those seriously enough?)

The case against oaths is generally based on these two scriptures:

Matthew 5:34-37: But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

James 5:12: Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.

Some fundamentalist Christians take a very hard line on this and take these two scriptures out of the context of the entire Bible. There were many, many oaths taken in the Bible by people God loved and blessed (see for a few examples), and they were not cursed for swearing them. I'm certain that Jesus and James were driving at something beyond the mere statement of an oath.

How does an oath differ from a vow? Vows seal a Christian marriage, with God as both the enabler of the union and the judge of its participants. Ruth swore to Naomi, "May the Lord’s worst punishment come upon me if I let anything but death separate me from you!" (Ruth 1:17) People who break an oath or a vow bring judgment on themselves, so oaths are very serious and dangerous things for Christians to make.

On subjects like these I tend to side with the apologists, who studied the entirety of Scripture with a historical understanding of the law. Augustine addressed oaths in this letter: The Catholic Catechism specifically addresses swearing of *false* oaths and "magical" use of God's name here: I have not studied this to any extent, but frankly I trust that if oaths were inherently incompatible with Christianity, they would have long been abolished and probably forbidden by the founding fathers themselves.

I suspect you (Ben) do not personally have a problem with oaths, but are merely looking for some clever twist with which to trap Christians with their own faith. Christian doctrine is more comprehensive and intellectually honest than you give it credit for. I don't have all the answers, and I don't have to. That's what trust in God and the heritage of the faith is about.

What was your next topic? Political power? Jesus did not seek political power, but he respected it. He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's." Governments are sanctioned by God, according to Scripture. Jesus told Pilate, "You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above." The message of Christianity is that those in power on Earth answer to a higher power.

What was the point of your question? That God wouldn't call a person to run for political office? To that I say if your motive is personal power, then no, that call does not come from God. If your motive is service - to help others, promote justice and compassion, restrain evil, and testify to truth - then we're talking about the same motive that calls some people to missions, some to military service, some to business, and some to political office.

Senator-elect Bachmann, who you seem determined to deride directly or indirectly, never said God called her to *be* a senator, but to run for senate, which is to use the talents God gave her to do His work in a suitable field. It's not a declaration but a step of faith: "Lord, I will go, and if you place me here, I will serve you here."

It's not hard to understand. It's just hard for sad, faithless cynics like Nick Coleman to respect the sincere convictions of those who believe differently.

Ben Bush Jr said...

Mr Carlson,
I will respond to you and Greg at the same time.

First of all, in no way have I derided or intend to deride, directly or indirectly, the motives or desires of Senator Elect Bachmann. To the contrary, I presume that they are of the highest quality.

Is is true that I am not the first or only person to raise the issue of oaths. It is also true that smarter people than I have raised, written and spoken more eloquently on the issue.

Fortunately, being smart is not a requirement for knowing, understanding and practicing Scripture. Neither is motive or desire. We have the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said "would guide us into all truth."

As respected as many historical figures are within Church History, they are not the final arbitors of Truth. In no way does this preclude us from learning from them, but their statements are still subject to the Final authority of the Word of God. As a system, so is Christianity.

Now, to the question at hand.
Would Jesus accept a position of political power if it meant He had to break one of the Ten Commandments?

Fortunately we need not resort to conjecture about such a situation. Jesus was actually offered such legitimate power when tempted by Satan. Satan offered to tranfer such power to Jesus upon Jesus giving Satan the proper worship. Of course, Jesus responded by saying,"It is written Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou worship." He refuse to accept earthly political power by breaking a commandment. Ironically, as has been pointed out, He later reminded Pilate where his authority to act originated, "from above." This makes it more significant that Jesus refused to take the reigns of earthly power by breaking a commandment.

Jesus is also on record as saying "if you love me keep my commandments." One of his commandments is to "not swear an oath." If you will look at Matt 5:33, Jesus refers to the Old testament practice of vows and oaths. He refers to this before he unequivocally prohibits oaths for his followers. The important aspect of this prohibition is his reference to the longstanding practice of oath taking. We can't ignore the context established by Jesus.

Basd on this , I a required to have a personal problem with oaths. This is no attempt to trick anyone with their own faith. In fact, how can it be a trick for anyone to obey Christ. Can the trick be found in disobeying our Lord?

I agree with you in the fact that Scripture is comprehensively and intellectually honest. Even though I may not possess all the answers, I have the assurance of God that if I lack wisdom and ask him for it, He will provide it.

In this instance, if the mnotive for political power is to serve others, then the example of Jesus comes to us again. Jesus himself said and demonstrated in different ways that he came to serve. This was what he came for. In spite of that motive, he refused political power if it meant that he had to break a command. He would not serve the higher power if it meant breaking the law of the higher power.

Jesus is our example. Are we to ignore his words and actions simply because we have taken up the mantle of a noble cause? Do we rationalize and distort in order to convince ourselves of our rightness. Or do we let the Word of a Holy God speak to us? Do we choose to live out this Word? Do we take a path our Lord refused to take?

Look what Jesus and his disciples accomplished without the benefit of political power held by the World! Maybe we could learn much!

Brad Carlson said...


I think what it boils down to is that politicians have forgotten they are in effect "serving" their constituents. Unfortunately, many figures in politics today are more absorbed in how they can maintain some sort of perceived power. That said, I can understand why some Christians have trouble reconciling Jesus' commands and taking an "oath of office."

I appreciate your thought-provoking comments! In all sincerity, I thank you for your contributions to this post.