My daily fishwrap has a front page story on the demise of the Religious Right (I’ve linked to the same story in another, non-firewalled publication, just FYI.) I found the story interesting but it’s also nothing we haven’t talked about here for years.
So, check this out:
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a national Religious Right leader, said the election was an “unmitigated disaster.”
He believes the country will become much more secular and look more like Europe. “It is going to be a chastening, humbling moment for American Christians to realize that we are going to be in the position across this country of speaking as a minority,” Mohler said. Today, about 1 in 5 Americans has no religious affiliation.
That doesn’t mean that the faithful will give up on politics or on trying to shape American culture to fit their values. But it does mean they need to pay more attention to the Bible and less to the GOP, said author and speaker Stephen Mansfield.
To remain relevant, Mansfield said, conservative Christians also have to learn how to express their views in a way that appeals to the general public, not just like-minded believers. They can’t just hold up the Bible and expect people to agree with them, he said.
No, that’s absolutely wrong. The problem is not the way you express your ideas. The problem IS your ideas. Many of which, let me point out, are not even Biblical, nor are they the church’s historical position. For example, back in the ’60s, evangelicals were pro-choice:
In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:
“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”
The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.
I would love to get my hands on a copy of that vintage 1968 Christianity Today, wouldn’t you? I bet it’s been purged from the archive.
Isn’t that interesting, though, that what is considered a cornerstone of conservative Christianity today — being “pro life” — is a complete reversal of what the church believed 40 years ago? I find that fascinating. I guess, like Scott DesJarlais, conservative Christians have “evolved” on this issue. (Wait — I thought they didn’t believe in evolution?)
The church changed for political reasons, not theological ones. Until Jerry Falwell came along, Christians largely stayed out of politics — it was, in fact, a guiding principle of Southern Baptists and other denominations to not get involved in worldly things like lobbying Congress and launching boycotts and showing up on the evening news in a frothy lather over some imagined offense like a War on Christmas. Falwell changed all of that, and 40 years later the church finds itself no longer relevant. To think these two things aren’t somehow connected is ludicrous.
And before Al Mohler starts fearmongering again about European-style secularism destroying Christianity, he needs to read this old post of mine. I wrote it after another of his anti-Europe rants in 2009:
Mohler and his kind are most ignorant in their favorite tactic of using Western European countries as their warning of what’s in store for America if we don’t DO something, quick, like stop teaching evolution in public schools and outlaw abortion. These folks like to talk about how secular Western Europe is, all the tolerance for nasty things like teh gaii, but they fail to mention that many of their worst secular offenders (Scandinavian countries, for example) have a state religion!
This astonished me when I was in “secular, liberal” Norway last spring. In fact, it was just one year ago next week that the Norwegian government changed its constitution, so that the Lutheran Church is no longer the state religion.
Yes, that’s right, up until last year, every person born in “secular, liberal” Norway was automatically born a Lutheran. If you wanted to raise your kids Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist or atheist, you had to petition the government. Can you believe that?
The Norwegian government still finances the Lutheran Church, and until last year appointed church bishops. In other words, the government had authority over the church. Can you imagine? Can you imagine your tax dollars funding church salaries?
The surest way to kill a religion is to make it your state religion — to remove that wall of separation. A generation ago religious people in this country knew that, they knew the wall separating church and state protected the church from the state, as much as the other way around. But along came Jerry Falwell and the rest of the ignoramuses of the Moral Majority, and here they are.
I find it all incredibly, hilariously ironic.