When Blind Legalism Pays Off

John Ashcroft’s resistance to the wiretapping program put forth by the White House is a classically Pentecostal way of approaching a problem: strictly by the book, no matter how unhappy it makes people.

Pentecostal churches are best known for exuberant worship, but are have been traditional centres for very strict legalism.  Ashcroft’s Assemblies of God are no exception.   That frequently carries over in secular behaviour.  Liberals, more congenial to a more politicised role from the AG, interpreted his strict adherence to the law as right-wing extremism. Had they grasped this aspect of his religious background, they might have thought differently.

We’ve seen this before.  Back in the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan’s Western Regional Commissioner for the INS, Harold Ezell (another Assemblies of God worthy,) drove immigration advocates nuts with his strict enforcement of the existing law.  But, after the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed in 1986, he turned around and started a campaign to identify and process those illegal immigrants whom had been granted amnesty.  This in turn drove conservatives nuts.  Why did he do it?  Because it was the law, and he was sworn (or hopefully affirmed in his case) to uphold it.  His testimony in 1996 on illegal immigration is worthy of note.

We talk a lot about the "rule of law."  The problem is actually finding people who will actually do it.  But in our day these people are too few and far between.  God has a great sense of humour to have those who come from churches with the least humanly structured worship take the most structured approach when church service is done.

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