Robert Meyer
Lifest: "social justice" invades midwest
By Robert Meyer
August 14, 2010

In a recent letter to the editor of my local newspaper, Valley Scene columnist (a liberal arts and entertainment tabloid) Mr.N, a prominent local atheist, castigated historian Dr. Jake Jacobs for his expose of Lifest speaker Jim Wallis.

For readers unfamiliar with this event, it is an annual Christian music festival, held in Oshkosh Wisconsin, which features contemporary Christian music and acclaimed Christian speakers. Jim Wallis was invited to speak by Life Promotions president Bob Lenz, the promoter of Lifest, to the consternation of certain local Christian clergy and laity. The concern is because Wallis preaches a doctrine of "social justice" which promotes the idea of wealth distribution through government coercion, rather than exclusively through charitable volunteerism.

Some also cite research into Wallis' past that link him to support of revolutionary socialist movements, as well as claiming Wallis holds unorthodox views on certain basic Christian doctrines. Obviously, all this is of great importance since the festival is attended primarily by highly impressionable teenagers and young adults.

A peripheral issue, but one equally important, is the bewilderment over why Mr. Lenz would invite such a controversial figure considering the composition of the Lifest audience. Mr. Lenz has had a sterling reputation for his interaction with youth, so the invitations to Wallis and other controversial presenters, leave some people who know Lenz, scratching their collective heads. The 64 million dollar question is whether this establishes a trend for future Lifest events, or whether Mr. Lenz will seek the advice of discerning critics before repeating similar decisions.

Mr. N and others, aren't always clear whether they deny Jim Wallis' past controversial connections, or if they acknowledge them, but claim they are somehow consistent with Christian biblical orthodoxy. As I have dialogued with a handful of Wallis apologists, many of whom are non-Christians, or at best, nominal Christians, I have noticed they often use a few boilerplate scriptural passages in support of their polemic. Most of them are outright non-sequiturs, making implausible leaps of logic to support their conclusions about biblical economics.

N's piece for instance, was quite ironic. Not long ago in his postings, he was articulating the theme of the "schizophrenic Jesus"(scriptures that refer to the judgment of Jesus, as well as those that refer to His affinity for peace and love)," which he recycles frequently in his numerous editorials. Now, in making his own point about economics, he wields Jesus' sayings as authoritative. Mr. N is an artisan of sophistry, and as such, engages masterfully in the gambit of "special pleading." Mr. N holds a very low view of Christian scripture, but never hesitates to quote it in order to embarrass or manipulate the thinking of people who do take it seriously.

One can only wonder then if he holds in esteem biblical warnings to unbelievers as well?

His piece is a complete non-starter. How does one jump from biblical warnings against the unfaithful wealthy of the day, to a mandate whereby contemporary government ought to coercively redistribute wealth? Forced redistribution is not charity, and as such, is a big theological stumbling block for both him and Wallis.

We should ask why someone with an obsessive bent on discrediting Christianity, is suddenly ardent in defending the dubious biblical orthodoxy of one particular iconoclast? In doing so, we should observe that both he and Wallis hold to a similar worldview of statism — one waving a godless banner, the other wrapped in a religious flag. It should make circumspect Christians think twice, before recklessly aligning themselves with this perspective, and wake up one morning to discover they were duped as "useful idiots" for an unanticipated agenda.

During his presentation, Wallis said something about people adhering to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John(fine as far as it goes), rather than those of Rush, Sean, Bill and Glenn. One commentator asked rather naively, why would Wallis criticize political commentators who are generally accommodating toward religious expression in public? The answer is simple: As Obama's spiritual advisor, Wallis wants to cast a pejorative pall on those who vocally oppose Obama, thus sneaking a political message into what was thought to be an apolitical presentation.

In his defense of Wallis' appearance, Mr. N mentions that he was once invited to participate in a debate with a local pastor at Lifest, regarding the Virgin Birth. Even he should see the difference between a naked, unchallenged presentation and interactive debate, allowing for rebuttal, cross-examinations and asking of questions. Instead he pretends that it is at best a distinction without a difference. Of course others have attached themselves to this theme, suggesting that a diversity of ideas within Christianity is somehow healthy, as if one chooses doctrinal positions the way they choose dress shoes.

The support for Wallis by secularists and liberal Christians is predictable, though it underscores an interesting policy contradiction. A few years ago, a local High School hosted a fashion show that emphasized modest dress for young women. Apparently, the program was sponsored by a group tied to a religious organization. There was profuse objection by the usual suspects who smelled a proselytizing rat lurking behind the curtain. Now of course, the same secularists want to weigh in about what ideas should be promulgated in religious venues.

Mr. N quotes scripture to validate his economic ideology, while at the same time he supports groups advocating public religious suppression, wanting to abolish demonstrable vestiges of Christianity from open society. Talk about a philosophy divided against itself!

Naturally, Mr. N will cry foul and claim he is only concerned about deterring government endorsements of religion, but his advocacy taken to its logical conclusion can only result in affirmative action for atheists. Mr. N will claim that nobody is preventing people from attending the house of worship of their choosing. Of course not, but such sentiments seem to indicate that he confuses "tolerance of worship" with the "free exercise of religion," which encompasses much more than personal devotions and corporate services.

If Marx and Jesus have the commonalities as he proposed in his letter, why are so many Marxists anti-theistic in their orientation? They are anti-theistic largely because leftist-leaning philosophies ultimately deify the state.

It is interesting that secularists who otherwise wish to absolutely separate church and state, anxiously merge them back together if such a union can be used as a pretext for promoting a leftist political agenda.

© Robert Meyer


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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)


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