Rules for Radicals & the War on American Christianity

by Donavon L Riley


In the recent history of American culture, one book has had a most profound and often divisive impact: Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” While Alinsky’s work is typically associated with political activism, its influence has extended into the realm of religion, particularly Christianity, having been weaponized against Christians, using ridicule, moral scrutiny, and polarization as tools of spiritual warfare.

The Luciferian Dedication

At the outset, it’s crucial to address the controversial dedication of Alinsky’s book to Lucifer, “the very first radical.” This dedication raises eyebrows, particularly among Christians. It aligns Alinsky’s tactics with a figure known for negating truth and sowing discord. The parallel is stark, as Jesus Himself declared, “I am the Truth.” Alinsky’s dedication, consciously or not, hints at a blueprint for spiritual warfare against Jesus and His followers. It sets the stage for a clash between opposing worldviews, where the battleground is not only political but also spiritual.

First Rule: Moral Scrutiny and Hypocrisy

Alinsky’s first rule, “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules,” has been particularly effective in undermining American Christianity. It operates by continually calling out the perceived discrepancies between Christian faith and morality, and the seeming contradiction between the two. The weapon here is not an attack on the core beliefs – that sinners are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – but rather an assault on the perceived hypocrisy within the faith.

In recent years, we’ve seen an uptick in public scrutiny of Christian leaders and institutions. Allegations of misconduct, financial impropriety, and moral failings are amplified to create a perception of rampant hypocrisy within the church. While accountability is vital, and calls to repentance necessary, this tactic aims to tarnish the reputation of American Christianity by magnifying individual shortcomings. It creates a chasm between the teachings of Christ and the actions of some believers, leading to disillusionment and distancing from the faith.

Second Rule: The Potency of Ridicule

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon,” Alinsky asserted. This rule encourages the relentless mockery of opposing views, and when it comes to American Christianity, it has not been sparing. Faith, family values, and traditional beliefs have all been targets of mockery in popular culture and media. The message is clear: Ridicule any position that stands against the cultural tide.

This tactic has a destabilizing, demoralizing effect on Christians, especially the younger generation. It makes them hesitant to voice their beliefs for fear of being ridiculed and ostracized. It perpetuates the notion that faith is antiquated, irrational, or even laughable. The result is a silencing of Christian voices and a growing secularization of society.

Third Rule: Polarization and Demonization

Alinsky’s third rule, “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” has been wielded to great effect in polarizing the Christian community and the wider culture. By focusing on specific instances of perceived oppression or injustice within the faith, it ignites passions and mobilizes the masses as a battering ram against the Christian “establishment.”

The danger here lies in the oversimplification of complex issues. Instead of engaging in thoughtful dialogue and seeking solutions, this rule reduces debates to black-and-white, us-versus-them scenarios. It fosters division and demonization of those who hold differing views. In the context of American Christianity, this has fueled division between denominations, political factions, and generations.

A Call to Spiritual Vigilance

In the face of Alinsky’s rules, American Christians must remain vigilant. They must recognize that the battle extends beyond the political arena; it’s a spiritual struggle for hearts and minds. It challenges Christians to preach a militant Gospel that refuses to apologize to culture. Also, to pray fervently for the conversion of those who attack them for their faith. Third, to live out the teachings of Christ humbly confessing their need for constant forgiveness, and to thus respond to moral scrutiny with humility and a confession of sin that awaits Jesus’ promised forgiveness. And finally, to endure ridicule with grace, seeking unity in the face of polarization, trusting that God will provide and protect them through whatever attacks come.

As Mephistopheles declared in Goethe’s Faust, Lucifer is “the spirit that negates.” In a world where the Christian faith is increasingly challenged, believers must stand firm in their conviction that Jesus is “the Truth.” They must pray that God will instill them with his teachings accompanied by an unwavering faith, demonstrating that they are the possessed by the light of Christ that shines even in the darkest corners of the culture war.

By Donovan Riley

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for 1517. He is also a co-host of Banned Books and Warrior Priest podcasts. He is the author of the book, "Crucifying Religion” and “The Withertongue Emails.” He is also a contributing author to "The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms" and "Theology of the Cross".

One thought on “Rules for Radicals & the War on American Christianity”
  1. Alinsky *dedicated* Rules for Radicals to his wife Irene. His rather tongue-in-cheek characterization of Lucifer (who he intimates is mythological) is the third of three epigraphs. The preceding epigraphs are quotes by Rabbi Hillel and Thomas Paine.

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