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The Party of Faith

Dr. Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the organizers of the looming "Justice Sunday" broadcast at which it will be explained that Senate Democrats hate religious people. He also believes that the Roman Catholic Church is "a false church and it teaches a false gospel . . . the pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office." Sadly, the Pope "has actually embraced all monotheists, both Jews and the followers of Islam, as long as they're sincere within the penumbra of the gospel, within the canopy of the gospel . . . and that is just unbiblical, and by the way, not very pleasing to either Jews or to Muslims." Now I don't really blame Mohler for holding to such views. After all, I think the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, a false church teaching a false gospel. Likewise, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a false church teaching a false gospel, as are all Christian churches.

But this, of course, is the problem with trying to turn the Republican Party into some kind of generically "religious" party -- the different religions are incompatible. The GOP can certainly be the anti-abortion party, and thereby gain the electoral support of various people who are, for various reasons (largely faith-based ones) opposed to the availability of legal abortions. But to try and sell yourself as the party "of faith" as such is to necessarily bind yourself in all sorts of contradictions and nonsense. I wonder at times who it is the Jacobites over at The National Review think it is they're in coalition with.

April 22, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

lol

Posted by: praktike | Apr 22, 2005 11:58:26 AM

One of the reasons the Republican Party is successful for this is many on the Left haven't learned to point out, for instance, the anti-Catholicism of some member of the right-wing coalition without feeling obligated to mention things like this in virtually the same breath:

After all, I think the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, a false church teaching a false gospel. Likewise, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a false church teaching a false gospel, as are all Christian churches.


Posted by: cmdicely | Apr 22, 2005 12:06:57 PM

I find this very interesting, because if you go to the Justice Sunday website, they have a link to some 'Real Women' conference, but almost all of the speakers for that conference are RC.
What gives - do they like 'em or not?

Posted by: justa grata honoria | Apr 22, 2005 12:11:51 PM

The different religions are incompatible, true--but the idea of a "Party of Faith" isn't necessarily nonsensical because of that. There is a strong perception among religious people of all kinds that certain portions of the society are actively hostile to their attempt to live lives that are based on their religious values; that society should be neutral between religious and unreligious bases for action would greatly benefit religious people of all kinds. (For example, the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" and it's progeny). For a much better exposition than I have time for, see Steven Carter's "The Culture of Disbelief."

Posted by: SamChevre | Apr 22, 2005 12:14:30 PM

Actually they can be a religious party, and are, because religion is changing. There used to be a tradition in this country that religion was not a good topic for conversation because it was assumed that everyone had a strong commitment to a particular set of theological beliefs and would insist on arguing them. Now that Jerry Falwell can ignore the pope, and Opus Dei can ignore the lack of a pope as long as they are all drinking from the well of gay-bashing they can get along quite well. To do thing you need to boil Christian (and Jewish and maybe even Islamic) theology down to nothing more than anti-modernism. Matt seems to take the whole theology thing pretty seriously, and so thinks this can’t work. Dr. Mohler takes theology seriously and so doesn’t want it to work. It seems to be working, however.

Posted by: AlanB. | Apr 22, 2005 12:14:59 PM

For a brief but disturbing history of how the Right learned to love the nuclear option, see:

"The Conservative Theory of Evolution"


Posted by: Jon | Apr 22, 2005 12:24:38 PM

I wonder at times who it is the Jacobites over at The National Review think it is they're in coalition with.

They think they are in a coalition with a bunch of dumb, gullible, easy-to-manipulate idiots. The best kind of coalitions.

Posted by: abb1 | Apr 22, 2005 12:27:06 PM

Re: It seems to be working, however.

For how long though? An how far? There’s strong disatisfaction among Protestant Fundamentalist types that the Roman Catholic Church is on the other side in the Evolution controversy and that Rome’s economic and foreign policy pronouncements are very much to the left of the American political center. Catholic theocons have their own beef with their Protestant allies, notably that even the most conservative Protestants have made their peace with divorce and birth control and some are even willing to consider female clergy. Plus every now and then you get some throwback from the Reformation insisting on the old Whore-of-Babylon stuff or, on the Catholic side, “extra ecclesiae nulla salus”. On abortion and gay issues the two groups sing the same tune, but when you move away from those two issuse they aren’t very compatible and the alliance falls apart.

Posted by: JonF | Apr 22, 2005 12:38:05 PM

Now I don't really blame Mohler for holding to such views. After all, I think the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, a false church teaching a false gospel. Likewise, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a false church teaching a false gospel, as are all Christian churches.

Says you, Jesus-murderer!

I kid, I kid.

Posted by: drjimcooper | Apr 22, 2005 12:38:29 PM

It does strike me as a little ridiculous to come out in support of "faith" in the abstract. What exactly is the principle here? "I don't care what you believe, or whether it contradicts what I believe--just so long as you believe in something that lacks an empirical basis."

That, of course, is a strawman and does not reflect the views of the "party of faith." "Faith" is a codeword for conservative Christian morality, and "people of other faiths" are members of other religions exactly insofar as their beliefs line up with those of conservative Christianity.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Apr 22, 2005 12:38:54 PM

Mormons, Catholics, Moonies, and fundamentalist / evangelical Protestants. They all really hate one another. The Rev. Moon claims to have superseded Christ, of whom he seems to have a rather dim view.

But they all hate you, me and Matt more than they hate each other.

Posted by: John Emerson | Apr 22, 2005 12:45:54 PM

OT, Matt, but this sounds like it's right up your alley:

Langdell North, Thursday, April 28 at 7pm: Steven Johnson will speak about his upcoming book and spirited defense of videogames, television, and reality programming, "Everything Bad Is Good for You: Why Pop Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter." Johnson is currently a contributing editor for Wired and a monthly columnist for Discover magazine, writing about politics, media, science, and technology. He was the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Feed, the revolutionary Internet magazine that managed to blend technology, science, and culture. He is the author of the national bestseller, "Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life," and an author of Best Book of the Year and New York Times notable book, "Interface Culture." Johnson was also named by Newsweek as one of the "Fifty People Who Matter Most on the Internet."

Posted by: praktike | Apr 22, 2005 12:47:54 PM

Well, the Republicans can bill themselves as "the party that doesn't like gay people," a position which has surprisingly wide traction among the various religions.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Apr 22, 2005 12:48:31 PM

How long and how far? Jeb Bush's second term as POTUS. There are lots of things that could break this coalition up if they start talking about theology, but as long as they focus on a common dislike of the modern world they should be fine. The center of the movement is not theology or Jesus, but dislike of hippies. Lots of people can agree on that one.

I suppose a crack-up would be inevitable if they really had absolute control of the entire national establishment (Fox News as moderates, Senator Savage criticized for weak stance on terror, Colonial Office purges unpersons) but they are just focused on winning the next couple of elections and will worry about how to win the ones after that later

Posted by: AlanB. | Apr 22, 2005 12:52:23 PM

Here's a couple good quotes about this weekend's political pseudo-Christian event....

From the National Jewish Democratic Council..." Frist will be leading the charge, using this telecast to help divide Americans while exploiting faith and feeding religious discord...playing the religious card is as unacceptable as playing the race card."

From Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas)...."It is presumptuous of them to think that they represent all Christians in America, even to say they represent all evangelical Christians." Pryor has considered himself an evangelical christian for 25 of his 42 years.

And my fave, from Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois)..."I cannot imagine that God--with everything he has or she has to worry about--is going to take the time to debate the filibuster in heaven."

Posted by: Deborah White | Apr 22, 2005 1:03:56 PM

There is a strong perception among religious people of all kinds that certain portions of the society are actively hostile to their attempt to live lives that are based on their religious values...

When the media in Alabama need someone on TV to oppose Judge Roy Moore, they never find another religious person who disagree with him, they always go find a member of some atheist society. Or an ACLU lawyer.

Posted by: Kiril | Apr 22, 2005 1:14:12 PM

Ah, yes, "Reverend" Mohler. The man who achieved control of the Southern Baptist Seminary, then began a purge of those who do not believe in predestination, and those who support the "priesthood of all believers." The first is just the old argument about how we can have free will if God is all-knowing. The second is an extension of Luther, whereby a believer is supposed to read the Bible and try to figure at least some things out for himself. The priesthood of all believers and denial of strict Calvinist predestination were acceptable components of Southern Baptist doctrine throughout the twentieth century, and espoused by the presidents of the seminary. Until now. Now the one true Southern Baptist faith apparently embraces the notion of the "elect" of the Dominionists, and a strict obedience to doctrinal interpretations handed down from on high. So not only are Roman Catholics questionable, so are Southern Baptists who trained at the Southern Baptist seminary any time in the last century. I actually consider this a hopeful sign if it produces more fractures in the fundamentalist coalition.

I will close with some choice quotes from the 2000 "Baptist Faith & Message" at the Southern Baptist Convention website:

Church and state should be separate.

In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others.

The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.

Posted by: mds | Apr 22, 2005 1:14:32 PM

I don't see why there can't be an "overlapping consensus," on a large number of public policy principles between traditional faiths with otherwise incompatible beliefs: Abortion, gay marriage, pornography, euthanasia, promotion of marriage, government funding for faith based social work. Doctrinal differences won't make a difference for any of these. If we were talking about religous instruction in schools, then you'd see the coalition break down on points of doctrine, but that's not on the table and otherwise they'll do fine, even if they quietly think most of their brothers in arms are going to hell.

Posted by: rd | Apr 22, 2005 1:17:22 PM

Ah yes, the ecumenical right hand reaching out to other churches while the left holds the dagger of arrogance. Yet another reason why organized religion is the bane of our existence.

Posted by: j swift | Apr 22, 2005 1:30:55 PM

The various types of TheoCons (and a large part of the Republican party) seem to exhibit this particular definition of faith:

Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

I think this says that much of what they believe is in 'the minds of the beholders', so we shouldn't be surprised that lots of different views of any matter would be prevelant.

What will they do when gays/lesbians are either eliminated or pushed deeply into the closets (including church closets) and abortion is made not only illegal but punished by capital punishment for the patient and doctor?

Well, then they can go back to arguing about whether salvation is attained by good works or by faith alone, or whether predestination or free will is 'true', or whatever. As far as I can tell, their only really unifying theme is the concept of God - but not even what God wants and does.

When neither logical proof or material evidence is required for belief in something (like balanced budgets, or going to war), then pretty much anything goes.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 22, 2005 1:41:21 PM

Speaking of people of faith, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins has joined the American Taliban...

Posted by: Jon | Apr 22, 2005 1:43:16 PM

Tony is Will Perkins kid, right? Will Perkins is a right wing fundie nutjob from Colo. Spgs and has been a member of the American Taliban at least since I first started hearing about him 15 years ago (before anyone started calling them Taliban). Sonny boy is just following in his shoes and was American Taliban raised. You can't spit in colo spgs without hitting a fundie, unless you are standing on the Colorado College campus. Okay I exaggerate... a little.

Posted by: j swift | Apr 22, 2005 2:04:17 PM

Don't worry Matt, I'm sure the media won't actually go to any lengths to explore those contradictions or problems, and will go to great lengths to spread the meme of Republicans as the "party of faith." I honestly don't understand the modern discourse without assuming there is a rightward slant, since it seems to me that drumming up the religious conflicts within the Republican Party is (1) relevant (2) obvious and (3) controversial and great T.V. And yet, they get a complete pass... It seems like the press must be pro-Republican or pro-common-wisdom that is pro-Republican, because they seem to avoid tons of issues like this in a way that seems to benefit Republicans.

Posted by: MDtoMN | Apr 22, 2005 2:08:43 PM

Ah, yes, "Reverend" Mohler. The man who achieved control of the Southern Baptist Seminary, then began a purge of those who do not believe in predestination, and those who support the "priesthood of all believers."

Is this why I find myself driving by the "____ Free Will Baptist Church" these days? It's all coming together now ...

I suspect that the FW Baptists, like Kant, insist on free will as a logical prerequisite to punishment. "One can't be damned to Hell for eternity if one didn't sin freely; thus, one must enjoy free will," a frightening enthymeme if ever there was one.

Posted by: Anderson | Apr 22, 2005 2:39:40 PM

I think AlanB's first comment is pretty dead on in describing what's going on here, with one exception:

"To do thing you need to boil Christian (and Jewish and maybe even Islamic) theology down to nothing more than anti-modernism."

I'm not sure I'd say they've boiled theology down to "anti-modernism"--That's in some ways and abstract idea, and there are elements of modernism that at least some parties to the fundie convergence do embrace. I'd instead argue they've boiled theology down to nothing more than sexual ethics and gender politics. Look at the issues that get their panties in a twist--is there one that can't somehow be linked to sexual ethics or a particular conception of gender roles?

Posted by: flip | Apr 22, 2005 3:11:02 PM

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