I alluded briefly to Frank Schaeffer’s fatwa (calling for “a way to expose and stop deluded evangelical evildoers”) in Thursday’s potpourri, which was released in RSS at 4 am. By the time I rose at 5:30, concerned that I had let my chronic irritation with my evil twin Franky get the better of me, I revisited and edited my characterization.
In any event, the story he was getting the vapors over is one in a loosely-related series of similar charges, and deserves more than brief allusion.
The story is about the alleged nexus between American Evangelicals and African anti-homosexual legislation and violence. My Evil Twin and I both have concerns about the Evangelicalism from which we came. Mine results in pointed barbs, intending to induce repentance. His results in vicious slander, intending to produce suppression. But then, Schaeffer has always had issues with anger and with scapegoating. Only the identity of the scapegoat varies.
It’s notable to me that Schaeffer’s stridency was much greater than that of the documentary filmmaker whose video he embedded. But the video he embedded is disturbing on many levels, of which what follows are a few.
In the U.S. scenes, the “International House of Prayer” is disturbing because what they’re doing is not recognizably Christian worship in any historic sense. A Christian from anywhere in the world, from any portion of the first millenium-and-a-half, if time-transported to the International House of Prayer and given the gift of understanding foreign languages, simply would not know that he or she was in what purports to be Christian worship. I hope, but do not know, that this sort of contrived emotional frenzy – a sort of orgy with clothes still on – is not what has become of “mainstream” Evangelicalism.
We then are whisked away and invited by implication to consider some Ugandan assemblies a counterpart, if not an actual sister congregation, of the International House of Prayer. The Ugandan scenes are disturbing for the same bizarre worship style plus a literal call for a show of hands of those willing to kill homosexuals. That’s awfuller than the awful worship stateside.
Third, the video is disturbing because it alleges, but quite thoroughly fails to demonstrate, any nexus between the U.S. scenes and the African anti-homosexual extremism. The only demonstrated nexus is two-fold and very weak:
- The soft-spoken, clerical-collared African exile narrator. He claims that American Evangelicals, perceiving that they’ve lost the culture wars here, are seeking to establish Biblical Law™ as civil law in majority-Christian countries in Africa.
- A female American missionary. In a clip lacking any real context other than the filmmaker’s juxtaposition, she says she would support leaving some criminal penalties (penalties she did not specify) in a Bill that in fact included a mandatory death penalty for recidivist homosexual offenders. At least I’m supposed to think that’s the Bill she was referring to. I really don’t know.
Other scenes simply show no nexus in any sense.
The U.S. scenes included a man saying he doesn’t think homosexuality is consistent with God’s law and a young woman winsomely saying God’s law guides us to fulfilling lives. Nothing in those sentiments necessarily eventuates in criminalization of anything, and the filmmaker doesn’t even claim it does.
The U.S. scenes where people are trying to raise money for African missionary activity include no inducements whatever to give because the gifts will support establishment of Biblical Law™ in Africa, let alone the establishment of laws criminalizing homosexuality. They are pretty straightforward calls to support missions in areas where the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
What the filmmaker claims through the soft-spoken narrator is that historic Christian opposition to homosexual behavior can be turned into an ideology of violence and legal repression of homosexual persons. That true. Ideology can produce terrible distortions and excesses. But that does not warrant stopping American support of missionary activities.
When you let go of a dollar for any charitable cause, you lose control of it. You can be prudent. You can question just what version of “Christianity” the recipients are promoting. But nobody has the right to forbid you from giving without exercising such diligence.
Finally, lest I forget, the International House of Prayer looks to me like a charismatic or pentecostal assembly. That’s one kind of Evangelicalism. There are others.
But the supporters of Biblical Law™ that I have known – and I have known some who were trying 30 years ago to draw me into their circle – clearly were not mainstream Evangelicals at all. They were what I would call hyper-Calvinists. Their worship, if filmed, would be four boring bare walls and a Bible. There would be no musical instruments. The only singing would be somber Psalm settings, perhaps from the Genevan Psalter. Their guiding lights are not Pat Robertson or his ilk, but Rousas John Rushdoony.
So I remain very skeptical of the chorus of claims, almost as if orchestrated, that places like the charismatic International House of Prayer have become powerful proponents of hyper-Calvinist Reconstructionist ideas, or that anyone has picked up those ideas in numbers sufficient to constitute a real threat to freedom.
But I’m out of that whole world for more than 15 years now, so you may take with a grain of salt my skepticism — provided you take the video’s insinuations with equal skepticism.
What I ended up with about Schaeffer was “calling for ‘a way to expose and stop deluded [mainstream] evangelical evildoers’ from supporting Christian missions in countries where there has been violence toward, and efforts to criminalize, homosexual behavior.” The RSS version had ended with “sending money to Africa for missionary activities that may include some ugly surprises.”
The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. And this blog entry.
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