I don't know whether Bergdahl was a deserter or a collaborator, or whether he, like Cacciato in Tim O'Brien's great Vietnam-era novel, just simply decided to walk home. I don't know.
But I do tend to believe the people I trust, and, for better or for worse, I trust his preacher. Why? Because the man is OPC--that's Orthodox Presbyterian, a tiny denomination whose biggest churches, I believe, are in Oostburg and Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, where I grew up. I went to grade school with whole gangs of OPC kids. Few of them were flaming liberals.
The OPC had only recently broken ties with the mainline Presbyterian Church, their quarrels led by a learned prof named J. Gresham Machen, who left Princeton Seminary in the Thirties fearing what we used to call "modernism," which questioned most anything truly miraculous in Bible, from the parting of the Red Sea to the Virgin Birth.
J. Gresham Machen wasn't about to allow empty orthodoxy to rule.
Christian experience is rightly used when it helps to convince us that the events narrated in the New Testament actually did occur; but it can never enable us to be Christians whether the events occurred or not. It is a fair flower, and should be prized as a gift of God. But cut it from its root in the blessed Book, and it soon withers away and dies.I've been to Synods of the OPC, where men--which is to say, men only--fight long and hard over theological questions so obscure you need an M.Div. degree to read the scorecard. When it comes to theology, OPC preachers are precise. They're not lefties, believe me.
So it turns out that Bowe Bergdahl and his family are OPC, and that a OPC preacher named Pastor Phil Proctor has been mentoring the family, on and off, for the five years that have passed since young Bergdahl left his post and got himself interred by Afghan Taliban. How does Rev. Proctor see the whole story?
"This whole thing is the dog of politics wagging the tail of the conservative Christian conversation," he told Christianity Today. "Folks are failing to recognize that this is a political football and was from the beginning. The Bergdahls are just the flavor of the week, and next week it's going to be a different scandal. That's politics."
Wow. I think I can hear coals popping to flame beneath him on Fox and Friends.
Rev. Proctor isn't finished.
But these are brothers and sisters in Christ. We can have political views on whether Bowe should be in prison, or whether Bob should say the Arabic version of "shalom," but to adopt the rhetoric of the day and use it to guide conversations among Christians about another self-professed Christian--I'm saddened by that.If you find all of that shocking, you should remember what lots of Christians are saying these days: we live in an evangelical world in which theology is far less important than politics, where talk radio makes heartier converts than the church down the block.
But here's Pastor Proctor on grace and peace:
We live in the grace of God and as we are immersed over and over again in appreciation of his grace to us in Christ; it lives out in peaceful relationships. I would hope that we as believers can be more eager to pursue peace.CT asked him if he thought Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter. "I honestly don't know," he said, and drew an analogy: "If we saw a Christian couple whose daughter had gotten pregnant or whose son got caught with a bunch of cocaine, we would cry with them and we would help them to walk through the valley," he said. "Right now, we're watching a lynch mob, and Christians are getting engaged in the lynching. In any other situation, we'd be hugging the parents and weeping with them."
I got history with the OPC. I trust them.
I don't trust Steve Doocey, and I don't trust Rush either. Sorry.
No I'm not.