Will Rupert Murdoch Go To Seminary?

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Merdoch: America’s Spiritual Director 

Some vaguely-associated vignettes as Congress prepares to vote on the revised tax reform package, supported by only a sliver of the American populace.

Vignette Number One

A Facebook friend doesn’t muffle his sarcasm:

Congratulations to my friends who are among the wealthiest 1% in the country: You get 83% of all the benefits of our huge new tax cut and deficit debt! Wow! In the old Senate bill, you only got 62% of all the gravy. You had to share 38% of the benefits with those other 99% of peasants and laborers. But now, almost all of the good stuff is yours. Those other people, 330 million of them, only get 17% of the goodies, even though they’ll be stuck paying down the debt!

What a country! Congratulations!

In another post, he quotes Isaiah 10:1-4:

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives
or fall among the slain.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
his hand is still upraised.

Vignette Number Two: Why?

That quotation hovers as we ponder: Why are white, so-called “evangelical” Christians in America among the last remnants supporting Donald Trump and the Republican Party? The GOP, after all, does not exactly display poster children for the Gospel (nor do the Democrats, but that’s another issue). Amy Sullivan, who still bravely identifies herself as an evangelical despite her left-leaning political views, probed that very question in a recent New York Times op-ed headlined, “America’s New Religion: Fox Evangelicalism.” Her point: Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s owner and publisher of British newspapers notorious for their ill-clad Page Three girls, now influences white “evangelicals” far more than the Bible.

I use quotation marks around “evangelicals” in light of Sullivan’s most telling paragraph. Fox News delivers an avalanche of messages that “conflate being white and conservative and evangelical with being American.”

The power of that message may explain the astonishing findings of a survey released this month by LifeWay Research, a Christian organization based in Nashville. LifeWay’s researchers developed questions meant to get at both the way Americans self-identify religiously and their theological beliefs. What they discovered was that while one-quarter of Americans consider themselves to be “evangelical,” less than half of that group actually holds traditional evangelical beliefs. For others, “evangelical” effectively functions as a cultural label, unmoored from theological meaning.

As I’ve said before, today’s white “evangelical” (those quotation marks again) is often not an evangelical. Many who now flee the term are far more orthodox.

Vignette Number Three: Doing the Math with Apples and Oranges

Which sparks thought about Ed Stetzer’s recent tweet. Stetzer, definitely one of the good guys, said this:

When you hear someone say evangelicalism is dying, keep in mind three things: 1. That’s simply not true statistically and no real research (or researcher) anywhere says that. Not one. 2. They may mean it another way (theological, integrity, etc.). 3. They may have another agenda.

File me under Category 2 – with emphasis. Pews in white “evangelical” American churches may be crammed and money may pile in the collection plate, but what good is that when Murdoch shoves out Jesus?

Vignette Number Four: Look at the Panorama

But, finally, a fragment of hope. I wrote yet another despairing piece on December 11 about evangelicals abandoning the “e” word. My friend, the Reverend Joseph Delahunt, dropped in a wise comment:

Two observations: One is that this is a parochial American issue. There is a world evangelical movement that is very vibrant and relatively free of these American aberrations. The second is Carl Henry’s report (in Henry’s autobiography) of Jerry Falwell’s boast, “We have hijacked the evangelical jumbo jet.” American evangelicalism has been largely swallowed back up by the fundamentalism it was trying to free itself from.

Some background: In the mid-twentieth century, leaders influenced by Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham, and Carl Henry began to free themselves of hackneyed, anti-intellectual Fundamentalism. They called themselves neo-evangelicals. The “neo” was eventually dropped and “evangelical” became a popular term for more broad-minded back-to-the-Bible Protestants. Falwell was not representative of the Ockenga-Graham-Henry school, but religiously-ignorant reporters failed to distinguish evangelicals from fundamentalists when he rose in the early 1980s.

Yesteryear’s fundamentalist would probably have not voted for Trump-influenced Republicans, but Delahunt’s first point must be remembered: The world-wide faith is robust and strong. So prepare for missionaries from Kenya, China, Latin America, and the Philippines. And find hope in those growing congregations among African Americans and Latinos.

Personally, I’m confident that a revitalized, biblically-centered, spirit-empowered faith will return to white America and implement social and environmental justice, among other things. Its practitioners may not call themselves “evangelical,” but they’ll be more evangelical than many filling today’s pews. I have that confidence because such a faith always hinges on God’s strength, not ours.

So yes, hope by all means – especially in this season of hope.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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2 Comments on “Will Rupert Murdoch Go To Seminary?”

  1. Brandon Adams Says:

    The key to discussing whether the tax bill matches up with orthodox, Jesus-centered Christianity lies in discussing its effectiveness (and that of its opposing viewpoints). Before we go around applying Isaiah 10 applies to American businessmen, we have to first make sure that the application is proper. I have misgivings towards the GOP, but this tax bill isn’t one of them.

    Reply

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