Ephraim’s Idols

Hosea 14:1-9

O E’phraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

Hosea 14:8-9

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Luke 6:46

When I was in High School I had a pastor who was very into the whole “Moral Majority” thing. That may be meaningless to some of my younger readers, but it was a group that wanted to “Make American Moral Again.”  They wanted laws passed that would force everyone in public to appear to be Christian. I’ve been told that this was only in public, because they didn’t want their children to see certain things, but I lived through the time. It is true they didn’t want their children to see (eg) two women kissing in public, but neither did they want to imagine that someplace someone was having immoral sex in private. If someone was having such sex, they wanted it to be illegal so that someone could go to prison for violating laws set down in the book of Leviticus. These folks worked to elect politicians who claimed to adhere to the same positions. And, when all was said and done it was of no effect at all. This is the both the beginning and the constantly replicated prototype of the “Cultural Warrior” form of Christian Politics.

What I find most odd in all of this is that the politicians are the ones that win: they get to say certain things and, by saying them, they win the votes of these “moral majority” people, the Cultural Warriors. But when they fail to follow through, no one seems to notice. When the next election cycle comes around, the entire process starts over again. The “moral majority” people, the CWs all demand politicians who say X, Y, and Z.  These politicians arise saying X, Y, and Z. They get elected. They blame other politicians for failing at X, Y, and Z. And they get elected again.

X, Y, and Z get further and further from the radar of the politicians because they see that all they have to do is say they will X, Y, and Z. The voters are so rabid that they will do anything at all for anyone who merely says they will X, Y, and Z. A member of the Roman church asked me who will defend us if we don’t elect pro-life Republicans. I had to remind him that we’ve had nothing from these so-called pro-life Republicans since Roe v Wade. He said “The courts stymie things” and I replied that the majority of judges in our system had either been appointed by Republicans and/or been approved by Republican legislatures all to no effect. We pay no attention to history: the past evaporates and we try again.

It seems CWs have made idols out of our political system and out of our politicians. To these voters God says, O E’phraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit. From God himself comes all of our blessings. Why are we bothering with idols?

To the politicians themselves, our Lord says “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”  They build their moral house on sand – which is right and just for a politician who must change his talking points like the sand at every turn of the wind so as to attain an electoral victory. But Christians have no business paying any attention to such people.

Our Lord says the same thing to us: he has told us what to do as well. We are to go into all the world and make disciples of all people and teach them to obey all that God has told us. Go. Make. Then teach. Jesus never said to pass laws to make people look like Christians. We skip over the hard part – go, make disciples (students) of Jesus and then teach them. So why do we say “Lord, Lord” and build our world on Sand?
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These are very difficult time for people who participate in American political life and for people around the world who are affected by American political life. In fact, as Christians, I would say we hold a greater obligation to that second group – those without voice in our system who are affected most by our system. Let’s face it: apart from a Zombie apocalypse (which I deem highly probable after November of this year – but that’s another post) America will just continue on. The day after the election we will shop at Wal*Mart and consume too much food and make too much garbage and will continue on our egotistical way regardless of who we elected the night before.

But things will be very different in other parts of the world, where they have no voice, no say in our process. I remember in 2008 how the rest of the world rejoiced with the election of President Obama: joke’s on them, however, because see Hosea and all preceding American Politicians.  But the point is well made: our elections cause events around the world to change.

As Christians, I think we need to be mindful of that. What intrinsic evil will we be causing in the third world?  What moral decline will we precipitate in Africa? What injustice will we cause in Latin America?

Since the election is on everyone’s mind recently, it is unsurprising to find posts on this topic around the net.  I found one to be very helpful here. The part that is most helpful is this list of points from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (Our Orthodox bishops, meeting in Synod last week failed to say anything at all about the election beyond lamenting the crisis in civil discourse.)

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.
A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as  

– abortion,  

– euthanasia,  

– assisted suicide,  

– deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions,  

– redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning,  

– or racist behavior,  

if the voter’s intent is to support that position.  In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil.  

At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

I added formatting and emphasis to make it clear: there is a whole list of things that are not abortion… these are not posted to invite an Orthodox-Catholic debate or additional commentary on our current failed crop of candidates, but rather to note: it’s not a case of lip service to X, Y, and Z. And Christians should not use one point to ignore the fact that all the other points are also important.

Read the entire document from the RC church if you wish: it contains a lot of good, solidly Christian advice even if one is not Catholic. I would ask you to pray, however, that Orthodox Bishops could get over their infighting long enough to offer such good advice. In American Orthodoxy’s chaos the most vocal of our clergy are still fitting into the CW group, having failed to learn any lesson at all since 1980.  I know Orthodoxy is slow – let’s not be hasty.  But the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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