. . . you end up with lots to talk about next blogging day.
Now, About The Evangelical “Left Turn”. . .
The Examiner was writing about it as was the WSJ. But that same WSJ interviews Rick Warren in the wake of last weekend’s Forum:
Sitting on a small stone patio outside the church’s “green room,” I question him further — has he heard that the Democratic Party is changing its abortion platform? “Window dressing,” he replies. “Too little, too late.” But Rev. Jim Wallis, the self-described progressive evangelical, has been saying that the change is a big victory. “Jim Wallis is a spokesman for the Democratic Party,” Mr. Warren responds dismissively. “His book reads like the party platform.”
If you’ve read any of the hundreds of articles about Mr. Warren that have appeared over the past 10 years, perhaps you think I’ve got the wrong guy. After all, the leader of the fourth-largest church in the U.S. is supposed to be part of a “new breed” of evangelicals, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and dozens of other publications. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof paid him what Mr. Kristof might consider the ultimate compliment earlier this year, referring to Mr. Warren as an “evangelical liberals can love.”
But there is a misunderstanding by the media, says Mr. Warren. “A lot of people hear [about a broader agenda] and they think, ‘Oh, evangelicals are giving up on believing that life begins at conception,’” he explains. “They’re not giving up on that at all. Not at all.”
So why is most of the press under the impression that Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist, is so different from, say, Focus on the Family president James Dobson? “It’s a matter of tone,” says an amused Mr. Warren, who seems unable to name any particular theological issues on which he and Mr. Dobson disagree.
A recent Pew study reveals that most Americans (barely “most”) think churches should avoid politics. And Reuters reports about Evangelicals:
The latest poll by the Pew Research Center suggests 68 percent of registered voters among this group support McCain while only around a quarter back Obama.
There is even religious trouble at the Democratic convention.
Perhaps the country has not shifted nearly so much as the liberal press would like to say it has.
Writing at Renew America, Marie Jon advocates for a McCain/Romney ticket and The Question plays a critical role in her analysis.
Evangelical Christians have been aware of the dirge sung by those who, for whatever reason, wish to exclude Romney from consideration for the VP post on the Republican ticket. Very well-crafted words are being used to try to induce Evangelicals to withhold their votes from this very qualified man because of his (Mormon) faith.
Apparently some Evangelical pastors won’t cease their whisperings to the press. We get it. They are promoting Huckabee over Romney for the vice-presidency. It matters not how their opinions could dissuade voters from McCain.
If President Bush was practically tarred and feathered by progressive Democrats for his Christian beliefs, how might an outspoken and often comical character like Michael Huckabee be perceived if he became the VP nominee? Only naivete would facilitate one believing that the media would allow Huckabee’s verbal blunders to go unnoticed. They embraced him once, but if he were to play a pivotal role as McCain’s running mate, the gloves would come off.
And interestingly, a recent FOXNews poll on the election asked, as its final question:
As far as you know, do you think Mormons are Christians or not?
Now that is just abysmal. A question to get a metric on the attitudes of voters towards a Mormon candidate would be understandable, but that is an inherently theological question that has no place in a poll of this sort – none whatsoever. From a different source, I would assume this to be a push polling question, but in this instance it is just flat out ignorant.
But while we are on the topic of such inter-religious squabbling, we should remember that there is genuine anti-religious bias out there that sharpens their knives especially for Mormons. The future of our nation with regards to the role or religion in public life can look very bleak.
Lowell: It is indeed disturbing that so many think a mindless cretin like Bill Maher is cute or funny. Every single statement he makes about Mormons on that clip is either flat-out wrong or wildly distorted. All are malicious. What if he were talking about Jews and described The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as unquestioned fact? Would he be so cute then?
And Now, Going Very Deep . . .
John Mark Reynolds puts last week’s Saddleback Forum into some perspective.
John McCain won the Saddleback event by combining his real world experience with his agreement with Evangelicals and other traditional Christians on the paramount moral issue of the day. In that way, if only in that way, he is following closely in the tradition of Lincoln’s campaign for the White House. Senator Obama deserves credit for trying to do so. The difficulty is that Obama rejects protecting the unborn. On that issue, Evangelicals of this day will be as single minded as northern Evangelicals were on the moral issue of slavery.
The good news is that all of us can relax. Both Obama and McCain are mainstream American politicians. Our constitution is not in peril and neither is the historic relationship between church and state. Lincoln’s Union was not theocratic from any sane perspective despite the involvement of religious leaders like Beecher. A nation governed by Rick Warren’s two friends, Senator Obama or McCain, will not be either.
Reynolds argues that things are in many aspects the same now as they were then, and indeed, in some aspects they are, but things have also changed considerably. Daniel Henninger in the WSJ on Friday:
There was a time before the multitude of world views fell from the sky — let’s say every presidential election from 1789 to 1964 — when one could assume that all the candidates shared a basic set of moral precepts, now called “values.” They were Judeo-Christian precepts. Old Testament-New Testament. It was pretty simple. Some past presidents may have been closet agnostics, but when they were growing up, someone “wise” told them what the common rules were. Most people in public life felt no need to challenge this world view.
Too bad if you don’t like those answers. This is what we get in a morally contested world. It becomes necessary to ask presidential candidates everything because we don’t know who they are and we can’t trust them. For better or worse, what the candidate thinks about taxes or Iraq isn’t enough. What, Senator, is your worst failing?
At Saddleback Barack Obama learned this: If you want to be president in the U.S., nothing on God’s green earth is ever above your pay grade.
Henninger’s argument is that with the absence of an assumed shared ethic in the nation things like the Forum are necessary. The argument makes sense, and yet I find it troubling. Too often the reasonable discussion of the Forum breaks down into factionalism. We are a divided nation on political issues, but when we start to be divided in such basic areas, I worry that our system cannot overcome the divisions.
At First Things Joseph Bottum writes a long and excellent essay on the fall of Mainline Protestanism in America and the political ramifications thereof. He makes the case for the concern that I express above. I could spend weeks detailing through this essay with you, but will leave it to you to read the whole thing. I would even recommend reading it several times. Here is a telling sample:
Just as religion is damaged when the churches see themselves as political movements, so politics is damaged when political platforms act as though they were religions. And perhaps more than merely damaged. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the killing fields of Cambodia, the cultural revolution in China: We had terrible experiences in the twentieth century when political and economic theories succeeded in posing themselves as religions.
We’re not on the edge of something that frightening today. But the death of Protestant America really has weakened both Christianity and public life in the United States—for when the Mainline died, it took with it to the grave the vocabulary in which both criticism and support of the nation could be effective.
There is one observation that he makes that bears particular discussion:
Perhaps some joining of Catholics and evangelicals, in morals and manners, could achieve the social unity in theological difference that characterized the old Mainline. But the vast intellectual resources of Catholicism still sound a little odd in the American ear, just as the enormous reservoir of evangelical faith has been unable, thus far, to provide a widely accepted moral rhetoric.
I think the path may be a bit different, but he is onto something here. With the death of Mainline Protestantism there has indeed been a great deal of intellectual underpinning lost, and the Catholic Church remains the best resource from which to regain that vital necessity, but Evangelicalism seems to be mired in endless bickering and minutiae. Frankly much of Evangelicalism would be as opposed to Catholics as they are to Mormons. Oh, how many times I have been treated to diatribes against the “papists” and “Mary worshippers.”
If there is an analog to what mainline Protestanism used to be in our society today it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Growing, not dying – the essential ethos, if not the theological correctness, of the traditional Mainlines is very alive and well in the CJCLDS. Like Evangelicalism, the CJCLDS lacks the intellectual history, depth and resources to see to completion the task Bottum lays out, but unlike Evangelicals, Mormons seems quite content to work with Roman Catholics. Mormons currently lack the numbers to render such a coalition truly effective, but that is something that is changing on a daily basis.
Needless to say, I have my concerns about the eternal destination of my Mormon friends – I’ll trust my God to work that one out. I do, however, think that on a societal level Mormons may represent the best hope our nation has for restoring the consenual ethos that formed, and has sustained, this nation.