Wednesday, July 7, 2010

our house vs. the White House

A huge point made by Dave Stone on Sunday, July 4th.

A decent start before a regrettable discussion of David Barton's grossly-oversimplified case for cause/effect with the Supreme Court decisions with respect to prayer in the early-1960s. (That's another blog posting to itself!) But all of that is outweighed by the turning point of the sermon, about halfway through.

For sermon point #3, "Restore our Nation", Dave starts with the same ol', same ol' points commonly heard in evangelical churches: vote our/Biblical values and send Christians into politics.

But then, he turns on a dime to say that "these are not God's first thoughts" and that "God's list is quite different". Those are good, but they aren't the most important. What is the most important? Individuals, families, and the church getting their acts together!

This cannot be said often enough, especially in a context where pastors and pundits have over-politicized-- putting too much emphasis on politics, even to the point of idolatry. Thanks Dave for redirecting our pursuits from the bad or the good toward the best.


At July 9, 2010 at 12:11 AM , Blogger PianoMom said...

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At July 9, 2010 at 12:37 AM , Blogger PianoMom said...

A decent blog post -- after the regrettable flourish that seemingly condoned the Supreme Court decision to kick God out of the public schools -- but, likewise, I would say your ending saved it for the most part!

Honestly, I agree with Dave wholeheartedly and I believe this to be one of the best sermons of his ministry. The Supreme Court decision made it illegal to corporately acknowledge God in our public schools, did it not? You think he is going to keep blessing a nation that does not want Him?

It's a shame that now even saying the "J-word" out loud in public or even Merry Christmas is becoming taboo. While waiting in a lengthy amusement park line with my kids this week we began practicing their Sunday school memory verse as a time-killer, and then I had the thought that maybe we were offending someone and should stop (we didn't).

In any case, Dave did wrap it up handsomely by hammering home the take-away of the Chronicles verse -It begins in MY/YOUR home!

At July 9, 2010 at 10:56 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I should clarify that I don't think that the SC decision was well-decided. The point I was trying to make is that it shouldn't be tied with such tight causation to the range of social ills that occurred in the 1960s.

At July 9, 2010 at 3:07 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

Fair enough, EC
But if the "social ills" (premarital sex, STD's, violent crime, drug abuse) of the 60's were not caused by rejection of God and his truth for living (evidenced by/culminating in the Supreme Court decision), what do you propose as cause/effect for such contrasting statistics?

At July 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Rejection-- or slow drift from God-- yes. But not a clear cause/effect from godly in 1961 to godless in 1963. I would also point to welfare policies and the parenting of "the godly" in the 1950s...

At July 12, 2010 at 10:59 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

Changes in welfare policy do not adequately explain such a dramatic cultural shift in values, though I agree it's something that does not happen overnight and was probably building through the 50's.

The point is that the early 60's,
(1962 in particular?), are the break out of the cultural/sexual/social revolution, which happens to be the year we made it official that God does not belong in our public midst and that we can do things better all by ourselves.
It seems perfectly logical to conclude a cause and effect relationship here. You may choose not to see it but don't beat up on the "Davids" for suggesting it.

At July 16, 2010 at 10:08 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I'm not saying that the prayer decisions are irrelevant-- either as a signal or a direct cause. But I'm saying that there were many other important changes also occurring (e.g., welfare policy). And I'm saying that a case for simple/clean causality with prayer (alone) is incredible.

Why not point to the failures of the church-- its lukewarmness, in response to affluence in a post-WWII era? Obviously, taken as a group, the supposedly-God (god?)-fearing parents of the 1950s must have been an incredible failure to raise the children and rebellion of the 1960s.

At July 16, 2010 at 6:26 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

I don't think anyone is saying that the 40's or 50's were fabulously scrupulous and then suddenly, in 1962 everyone went nuts, only that it was a turning point of sorts.

By noting Dave's "regrettable" decision to include this discussion in his sermon, you appear to be saying the SC prayer decision has little relevance as a cause/signal of the 1960's cultural revolution. Dave was saying that it may have had more relevance than we realize, which I consider a valid point.

Do any of you "hippies" out there want to agree or disagree with Eric that you were responding to welfare policy? What particularly about welfare policy caused this shift? Don't we see the century's greatest changes in welfare policy during FDR's New Deal in the
30's (no apparent rebellion at that time).

At July 16, 2010 at 10:04 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

Dave does address the role of the church and its possible failure in this area in discussing application of Chronicles. You commended him for it:

"What is the most important? Individuals, families, and the church getting their acts together!"

God is a person who loves us very much, not a philosophy or idea. We, the created beings, took it upon ourselves to eject him from our public affairs -- that is a big deal -- and it appears we see it in the stats.

At July 17, 2010 at 12:46 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Referring to PM's two posts ago: I think it's often sold/viewed in nearly 0/1 terms-- 1950s good and 1960s bad. A corollary of that is seeing an early 1960s SC decision as the chief (or even a primary causal) factor in this outcome.

The change in welfare policy in the late 19th century is probably larger than the change in the New Deal. But the wider spread-- and lowering of standards-- in the 1960s trumps any of that.

At July 17, 2010 at 1:14 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

I don't think you've made your case concerning welfare policy.

Actually if the 50's were just as anti-God (under the radar) as the 60's (sex, drugs and rock-n-roll) then it even strongly makes the case for a trigger event in 1962 that caused the ideas/behaviors to catch fire.
If the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible exists it is reasonable to speculate that, consistent with His character, the event that triggered his withdrawal from our collective midst and subjected us to the consequences of our desires was our decision to outlaw his presence and counsel -- Supreme Court, 1962.

As I said before, maybe you don't buy it, but there is nothing wrong or regrettable with Dave suggesting it.

At July 17, 2010 at 1:18 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

btw - I like rock-n-roll and I also like your blog, Eric :-)

At July 17, 2010 at 1:28 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I don't mind the mention of that factor. But it's regrettable to give the impression that it is the only (or even the primary) factor, based on Barton's case.

There are other problems with his inference-- for example, that some schools had stopped school prayer before 1962 while many others kept prayer well into the 1970s. This greatly loosens any simple cause/effect and requires far more sophisticated research to determine the extent of the impact. Likewise, a number of the cited social indicators involved adults (and would seem to be [mostly?] unrelated to saying prayers in K-12 schools).

On welfare, it's clear that this policy change led to a number of social challenges, including most notably, the incidence of single-parent households. (In the mid-1960s, Moynihan talked about the crisis of the "Negro family" when illegitimacy rates were 25%. Within 15-20 years, the rate was about 70% in the African-American community and 30-35% in the overall population.) Arguably, this has had the largest impact on educational attainment and other ill effects (in the schools and elsewhere) observed since the late 1960s.

At July 17, 2010 at 2:34 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

I do think it could have been God's "primary factor" or maybe "last straw" is a better idiom, so I disagree with you there. I also think your use of the term regrettable, ill-chosen and incorrect.

As far as the effects of prayer, although I believe it to be a powerful and life-changing practice, this decision is more about the idea that we would make it illegal - thus making God illegal.

The single-parent home does not result from changes in welfare policy; it happens because single moms get pregnant or moms/dads check out. This is a result of the immorality of the 50's, not government social attitudes.

At July 17, 2010 at 4:37 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

That might have been God's "primary factor" or "last straw", but that's not Barton's case. He relies on social indicators.

Neither prayer nor God were made illegal; formal, school-sponsored prayer became illegal.

A variety of incentives clearly changed with welfare policy-- and to the point of the data, behavior often changed as well. To your point, immorality became more prevalent given the change in incentives AND an underlying existence of a willingness to do immoral things (if the price was "right").

At July 17, 2010 at 5:34 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

I see no problem considering social indicators; they show the change in behavior and values.

So you think making school sponsored prayer illegal is OK with God?

Still don't see that the early
60's happened because of incentives in the welfare system.

At July 17, 2010 at 11:54 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I can't imagine that He was excited about the motives of those who sought the prohibition!

As for the outcome, I think He would view it as a very mixed bag. To note, what's the biggest impediment to the Gospel: those who believe they're in the Kingdom when they're not. Prayer to the god of civil religion perpetuates that already-frequent and deadly myth.

At July 18, 2010 at 7:43 AM , Blogger PianoMom said...

The school prayer of yesteryear, which Dave recited, was not an invitation to receive Christ or an establishment of civil religion, nor was it an assumed blessing on all civil worshipers; it was merely an acknowledgement of the Creator God and request from his guidance - that's it. Do you agree?

Even "deist" founders, like Jefferson, thought it was a good idea, and let's face it, our country grew incredibly blessed during that time. Then after nearly 200 years, it was no longer acceptable and a threat to civil liberty?

I think God viewed it as a slap in the face.

It is also my belief that Libertarian ideology and the value it places on "freedom" as the answer for humanity (vs. the Creator God) can color one's view of this debate.

At July 18, 2010 at 4:38 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

I agree that the "school prayer of yesteryear" was neither an invitation to receive Christ nor an "establishment" of civil religion. It was on the one hand, an expression of gratitude to God for some people-- and for many (most?), an extension of the American civil religion (worshiping some vague, Creator, deistic god-- dominant at that time and still a big player today).

That "deist" founders should cause one to worry further-- whether they embraced it for utilitarian purposes &/or because it worshiped a lukewarm, non-offensive, non-Trinitarian god.

The prayer was no threat to civil liberty-- and thus, was a bad judicial decision. But the question at hand is whether having it is a net gain or loss for the Kingdom. I think that's a very open question, rather than the slam dunk viewed by Barton and many other socially conservative Christians.

You're right that Libertarian philosophy/ideology is relevant here. The first question, ethically, is whether this is an ethical/biblical means to an ethical/biblical end. The second question is whether this is a practical means to the desired end. A Libertarian is far more likely to ask such questions-- and then to question the ethics and efficacy of govt involvement.

At July 18, 2010 at 6:34 PM , Blogger PianoMom said...

Well --

You say... To-MAY-To
I say... To-MAH-To

Shall we just call the whole thing off?

I have responses for each of your points but I don't think we're getting anywhere.

Good people of the world - decide for yourselves.
Eric, you and I will have to carry on in disagreement, as usual.
We'll find out who's right some day "beyond the blue" :-)


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