Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

  • Deep Thoughts, Perhaps Too Deep

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:09 am, April 29th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    It has long been argued that the left holds their political philosophy in a religious fashion.  This argument is often used in Christian apologetics, and even creeps into the political discussion as the Christian view is pushed from the public square as being “religious,” while the left view is thought to be purely “rational.”

    Well, enter a British court case:

    In the landmark ruling Tim Nicholson was told he could use employment law to argue that he was discriminated against because of his views on the environment.

    The head of the tribunal ruled that those views amounted to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, 2003, according to The Independent.

    The plaintiff seeks redress for what the court has now ruled is essentially religious discrimination.  It is going to be fascinating to see how this one plays out and if it makes it into the American legal system.  There is little question that much of the liberal philosophy is held as a matter of faith more than rationality.  The court of public opinion in this nation has typically drawn the line between religion and irreligion at the line between the natural and the supernatural.  “Climate Change” while held out of faith (the evidence is just to thin for an anthropomorphic element at this point) is purely natural.  It involves no dieties or miracles.

    “Religious” people have long countered that there is much more to religion than just the supernatural, a fact on which this ruling relies heavily.  And were its manner of thinking to make it into the greater public consciousness, it would represent a radical change in the general public perception of what is and is not religion.   But this provides us with an interesting opportunity to put the shoe on the other foot.

    Suppose “Climate Change” became the  key issue in an election and the conservative candidate won.  Could the left cry religious persecution?  Should they?  How would a Democratic primary look under such circumstances?  Would it look like the showdown we experienced in ’08?

    And now the really interesting question – would people try to delegitimize the issue since it is “religious”?

    This is why it is terribly important that we attempt not to eliminate religion from the public square, but to place it in its proper focus.  As Romney supporters in the last election, we worked to neutralize his religion as a factor.  And I am sure that in the hypothetical posed here, we would not care what the candidate believed about Climate Change, we would try limit our concern to the policies they proposed, but I do think this hypothetical gives us an opportunity for a gut check on this issue.

    Lowell notes:  Let us remember Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s now-immortal words in Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct:

    At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

    Doesn’t that sound like a description of religion?  And yet the good Justice — a Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan — was writing an opinion about sodomy laws.  It’s not a very big step from that loosey-goosey reasoning to the very result John describes. 

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    Where Are We Headed?

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 05:24 am, April 27th 2009     &mdash      7 Comments »

    It is reported that even the much vaunted Southern Baptist Convention is now shrinking:

    Southern Baptist churches baptized fewer people in 2008 for the fourth year in a row to reach the lowest level since 1987, and membership in the country’s largest Protestant denomination fell slightly as well.

    As a “convention” and not a denomination, the SBC  has bridged the gap between the mainlines and the independent Evangelicals and until recently had a great deal of success in doing so.  This is, more than most things, proof that the traditional Christian institutions are ossifying.  That does not, as we have discussed at length, mean the end of religion in the nation – only a reinstitutionalization of some sort.

    Speaking of which, it seems that one of the guys that started this whole discussion, Al Mohler, is arguing with himself.  He discusses a piece by Stephen Prothero in USAToday and comments:

    Well, in that sense they (and Professor Prothero) are certainly correct.  American public culture is suffused with references to the Christian Bible.  Most American politicians identify, in one way or another, as Christians.  And, Prothero asserts, “the United States today has more Christians than any other country in human history.”

    So, with whom do I agree, Stephen Prothero or myself?  Actually, both.  I do not argue with the basics of Professor Prothero’s analysis.  In the sense that he speaks of the influence and presence of some form of Christianity in America, he is surely right.  No one should argue that the atheists and agnostics are about to overrun or outnumber the Christians in this nation.

    But my own concern is very different than that of Professor Prothero.  The Newsweek article rightly quoted me on the analysis of a Post-Christian turn in the culture.  I not only stand by those comments; I would gladly expand upon them.  The real issue here is that I define Christianity in very different terms than those of either the ARIS study or Professor Prothero’s minimalist use of the term.

    My concern lies less with cultural influence than with the vitality and integrity of Christian witness.  My comments may sound elegiac, and in some sense they are, but my concern is with the very trends Prothero himself identified.  The transformation of American Christianity into just a Christian-branded “spirituality” is part and parcel of my concern.  My central concern is evangelism, not cultural influence, and my definition of Christianity is unapologetically tied to an embrace of the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.”

    Mohler, and those who think like he does, suffer from an extraordinarily misguided vision of what America has been, and from an amazing inability to separate culture and Christianity.  Mohler here is concerned that “cultural” Christianity is somehow standing in the way of people discovering a “genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.”  And yet, his approach to the the last election has radically confused the two.

    First of all:  America has always been “Christian” only in the cultural sense.  It has never been a Christian nation in a theological sense.  Heck, the colonies were in large part divided by theological differences.  The northeastern vision of a Puritan theocracy battled intensely the southern culture which nodded to Anglicanism, but never took its faith too  seriously.  From that clash was born both the establishment and free expression clauses of the constitution – it was an attempt to make room for both (and more) in a nation divided by same.  [Lowell interjects:  There’s a reason the First Amendment was first in the Bill of Rights, and that the freedom of religion was the first topic addressed.  Religious freedom was literally the first order of business as the nation undertook the passage of the promised Bill of Rights.]

    In the distinction Mohler attempts to make, he acknowledges the divide the constitution established.  But then, as Lowell reminded us a couple of weeks ago:

    The most egregious and unforgettable example is Mohler’s statement during the 2008 GOP presidential primaries that he struggled with whether to vote for Mitt Romney “as a matter of Christian discipleship.”  If Romney became president, Mohler argued, that would tend to “mainstream” Mormonism and could have cause many people to accept that faith, thus imperiling their souls.  (I am not making this up.  We’ve posted about this many times, including an in-depth analysis here.) 

    Here, Mohler seems to think that culture and “real evangelism” are deeply linked.  And that linkage, combined with his recent comments, is a little scary.  You see, if evangelism demands that we have a culture so deeply “Christian” that we cannot afford to vote for a candidate that is culturally nearly indistinct from us, but theologically very diverse, and if evangelism is our primary– in fact, seemingly only– concern, then the only option open to us that I can conceive of is precisely the “Christian,” or is it Southern Baptist, theocracy that the left so fears from us!  If this is really what Mohler thinks – I doubt it is, I just think he is talking more than he is thinking – then no right-thinking Christian American of any faith has much choice but to repudiate him and those that think similarly. [Lowell again:  I fear that is exactly what Mohler thinks.  It may not be sound thinking, but it’s his just the same, and is consistent, as far as I know, with everything he’s ever said on the subject.]

    The fact of the matter is that culture and faith are distinct, but related.   Forgive me for getting Biblical here, but I seem to recall some parable of Jesus about planting seed in different soil (Matthew 13:3-23).  The American culture is part of the soil into which evangelism plants seeds.  The more Christian influence is evident in that soil, the better opportunity to flourish the seeds have.  What our Constitution provides is a means to govern where we can create such soil without having to choke out other religious expression.  Best of all, our religion has flourished under it, unlike any other period in history.

    Contrast the vibrancy of faith expressions in our nation with the European nations where you are of the nation’s official religion or you simply are not.  Consider Tony Blair’s recent “conversion” to Roman Catholicism.  Blair had been attending mass for near forever, but could not give up his affiliation with the Anglican church because such would have ended any opportunity he had to serve as Prime Minister since it is constitutionally required in England that the Prime Minister belong to the Church of England.   How vibrant and genuine was Blair’s Anglicanism?  How confused was his faith and his culture?

    The simple fact of the matter is you cannot have it both ways as Mohler seems to demand.  Wanting vibrant and genuine faith DEMANDS freedom of choice about religion.   Which means, when it comes to elections, we elect the people that will best preserve that freedom, whether they agree with us religiously or not.  Instead, Mohler shot off his mouth about “matters of Christian discipleship” and contributed to landing us a President that is, to pick up our analogy again, making the soil rockier and rockier, as we looked at Friday.

    Albert Mohler has, I fear, forgotten the first rule of holes.  If I were in his shoes, I would get quiet for a while. (I know that’s difficult for a radio guy, but he sure could change the subject.)   He could then think thngs through very carefully, and then come out with something more comprehensive.

    Speaking of confusion:

    Are Catholics The New Mormons…?

    begins the headline of a piece that is so misunderstanding of religion and so narcissistic as to defy reason.  Of course, it is all about “gay rights” and the author claims Catholic credentials of some sort, but this diatribe makes so little reference to the teachings of either church that it defies understanding of both.  It is typical of the gay rights movement, and therefore unserious to the point of not being worth mention, except that that headline is just too funny.  Methinks Richard John Neuhaus is spinning in his grave.

    And Dan Gilgoff is writing quite well lately at his God & Country blog:

    The second major theme of comments in the gallery is the allegation that Obama’s faith is a farce. As one reader writes puts it:

    His faith is as phony as teleprompter.

    I find it hard to believe that so many people buy that line.

    Obama has written at length about coming to Christianity in the 1980s and the huge role it played in his life. He titled one of the two books he has authored after a sermon that his longtime pastor wrote. His association with his pastor was Obama’s single biggest stumbling block to winning the Democratic nomination last year. And people still need more evidence that he’s genuinely faithful?

    Folks on the left sometimes do the same thing when I write about politically conservative Christian figures—they go beyond differing with the figure’s political views to questioning whether that person is “truly” Christian. I think it’s a cheap and offensive line of attack, no matter which side it comes from. [Emphasis added.]

    Have to agree with that!

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    Where Religious Identity Politcs Have Gotten Us

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:40 am, April 24th 2009     &mdash      1 Comment »

    This post is a little out of the typical range of this blog, but circumstances seem to demand it.

    The “morning after pill” is now going to be available to 17-year-oldsCurbs on stem-cell research have been reversed.  On same sex marriage, a change of tactics is in the air.  Instead of seeking to stop it, some are now seeking to simply provide an exemption for religious conscience.  One must wonder if the culture wars have been lost.

    Dan Gilgoff says “no,” and his reasoning is sound.

    On abortion, besides the president’s overturning the Mexico City policy—which prevented funds from going to family planning groups that endorse or provide abortion—what other victories can pro-abortion rights activists point to? Obama’s Mexico City reversal simply turns the clock back to the Clinton policies.

    [...]

    Sure, liberals have racked up a few recent victories in the culture war. But the tide ain’t turning in a haven’t-seen-this-in-decades kind of way.

    But such is, to my way of thinking, too surface of an analysis.  The scariest thing I have heard in a while was an interview Hugh Hewitt Did with Randy Barnett on yesterday’s program.  Podcast here, transcript unavailable.  Barnett was big news yesterday publishing an op-ed in the WSJ calling for a movement in the states to call a constitutional convention to send forward a federalism amendment.  In the course of the interview, Hewitt brought up his current favorite bug-a-boo, Obama’s decision to consider prosecution of former administration lawyers that advised on the legality of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques.  Like any decent, thoughtful constitutional scholar, Barnett responded that the idea was outrageous, but he then went on to say something I found profound.

    Barnett commented that it was a tendency of the left to attempt to criminalize any policy stances that they disagreed with.  INDEED!  Consider that the left has put most of the issues that social conservatives are upset about into play.   Liberalization brought abortion into the political fray.  Liberalization brings same sex marriage into play. And so it goes.  And each of these moves have brought with it some level of criminalization of opposition.  Hence, for example, the need to seek religious exemptions in same sex marriage legislation.

    Recall a couple of weeks ago when we discussed “The End of Christian American,” and looked at the what C.S. Lewis called the “pre-evangelistic” idea that there is an independent standard of right and wrong written into the universe.  When such an idea is abandoned, then the only way left to establish right-and-wrong is politics.  (Please, I beg of you, read this book to get a full understanding of this idea.)  Obama’s policy regarding prosecution of policy advise is a part of the progression away from this pre-evangelistic idea – and one far more revelatory than the same battles being fought on the same battleground that, like the trench warfare of WWI, have marked only little gains and corresponding losses for decades.  Obama’s irreligious advisors must criminalize this policy on more than simply political grounds – thy honestly believe such is the only way to achieve justice since there is, in their minds, no justice greater than that which the government can despense.

    On the deepest levels, this decision by the Obama administration may be the most irreligious made to date.  And it is one to which religiously motivated conservatives must respond.  The first thing we must note is that the pre-evangelistic idea is shared amongst religions.  Mormons, Evangelicals, Catholics must unite along these pre-evangelistic  lines.  It is an idea we all share.  We divided in ’08 over battles and now we see ourselves losing the war.

    Secondly, we must be smarter about how we engage in the war.  Frankly we let the media define the battles, and to some extent the war, for us.  We cannot let that happen again, and the new media age finally gives us the tools to do so.   Chaput’s comments of last week regarding the press’ lack of capability to cover religious matters are incredibly insightful.  At best, like Gilgoff above, the press covers the little picture.  They have missed the big picture entirely.

    It is time to quit jockeying about leadership positions and start to simply come together.   I would call for some sort of virtual summit of Christian political leadership, but somehow I think it would break down into a turf war over whose web site should host it.  Rather, this one is up to us – you and me.  Engage – Read, write, blog, twitter – call Congress, call the White House – call your friends and neighbors.  Trust me, Christian political leadership will stop bickering and start listening, if we start giving them something worth listening to.

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    Stuff Worth Reading

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:03 am, April 22nd 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    The “Religious Right” Broadens…

    Kenneth Vogel at Politico looks at religious defense offered to the thrice divorced, philandering and pro-choice Rudy Guiliani.

    The religious right, which vehemently opposed Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, is rallying to the former New York mayor’s defense against attacks from gay rights groups.

    And USNews’ religion/politics beat guy Dan Gilgoff, whose work we discussed at length yesterday, lists the Republican presidential frontrunners for ’12 and declares:

    2012 Republican Front-Runners All Christian Conservatives [emphasis added]

    The list includes Romney! (Which any list of ’12 front runners must.)   We spent most of ’06 and ’07 wondering if Mormons would be accepted as Christians and now they are bunched in the same group with Sarah Palin?  What happened?  Certainly Prop 8 wasn’t that big a deal.

    This one is simple.  Winning matters in politics, otherwise it is just hot air.  If the Religious Right is going to learn anything from 2008 it has got to be that they need to be a little broader minded when it comes to who they back and who they work with.   Otherwise, they got nothing.

    Not to mention the fact thatnow that they are squarely defeated and on the ropes – the old mediacrowd does not need totry and drive wedges into potential divisions to weaken them.

    Meanwhile, In The Deep But Important Background…

    The London Telegraph looks at the Reformation and the relationship of Christian religious diversity and political freedom.

    Peter Leithart looks at the Pauline writings and political activism.

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    Journalistic Wishful Thinking

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:42 am, April 21st 2009     &mdash      Comment on this post »

    Dan Gilgoff, over at USNews’ God & Country blog, reports that reports of the demise of the Religious Right may be ‘slightly’ overstated:

    In this moment of widespread speculation about the Christian right’s disintegration, I’d like to expand on this cautionary note.

    Now that, all by itself makes Gilgoff’s reporting here head and shoulders above the rest, but his argument falls short of the mark.  Here is that argument in three parts:

    First, the transition of leadership from Falwell to Robertson to Dobson wasn’t as seamless as is often portrayed.

    [...]

    Second, for a movement on the verge of collapse, the Christian right ain’t doing too bad so far as influencing policy goes. 

    [...]

    Finally, to Silk’s question about whether white evangelicals will be as “mobilizable” as in the past: If 2008 is any indication, they’re more mobilizable than ever.

    Now these are all good points, but I think they miss the forest for the trees.   The biggest problem the Religious Right has had is the appearance of a monolithic leader like Falwell, Robertson, or Dobson.  Such leaders coalesce a movement, but they also limit its growth.  Could the coalition that passed Prop 8 here in California have survived if such near-fundamentalist leadership were significantly at play?  The Dobson organization did in fact send quite a bit of money this way (three times more in fact that the CJCLDS – but that is another story) but Dobson remained fairly low profile.  Given his ham-fisted handling of Mormon-related issues in the past, I doubt the coalition would have survived had he taken a more active role.

    As the conservative, religiously motivated movement is gaining in influence, it has to expand beyond the boundaries that can be defined by a single leader, particularly one as wedded to a theological understanding as a Falwell, Robertson, or Dobson.  Forget Mormons for a moment, there is deep hesitation amongst the most theologically conservative of the movement to partner with the “heathen” Roman Catholics – something which, as big portions of Evangelicalism liberalize, is an absolute necessity.

    Journalists love to portray things like the Religious Right as a monolithic movement, it makes their job really easy.  “Call Dobson’s office, get a quote” and their job is done.  But, like everything else, the religiously motivated conservative movement is settling into the new media age quite nicely.  Heck yeah, they are still effective on policy issues and are mobilizable.  That is what new media does best – mobilize at a very grass roots level.

    Gilgoff’s later two points kind of get this, but his first points seems to indicate a longing for the old media days and the easily obtainable quick quote.  Those days are, I believe, long past.   There will be no “charismatic leader whose organization provides the movement with national infrastructure,” there will be coalitions of Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Catholics, Mormons, Mainlines and Emergents that form around an issue or a candidate.  The internet will be the infrastructure, and the network will disappear into cyber space as soon as it is no longer needed.

    I for one have never liked being pigeon-holed by the media or monolithic movements.  I am deeply opposed to abortion but Jerry Falwell never really spoke for me – nor Robertson, nor Dobson.  I am far from alone in the world of politically engaged Evangelicals, and Catholics, and Mormons, and . . . .

    It’s a new day, and the old media best wake up to it or they will find themselves looking for work somewhere else.

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    Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About . . .

    Posted by: John Schroeder at 06:16 am, April 17th 2009     &mdash      2 Comments »

    . . . he said, quoting the Bonnie Raitt song.

    Looks like Michael Gerson agrees with us:

    The religious right, at least in its cruder expressions, is indeed a phenomenon without a future.

    While Archbishop Charles Chaput is talking about the press and religion.

    “Journalism is a vocation, not a job,” said Chaput. “Pursued properly, journalism should enjoy the same dignity as the law or medicine because the service that journalists perform is equally important to a healthy society. I really believe that. You form people. You form the way they think and the way they live their lives. So journalists have a duty to serve the truth and the common good.”

    [...]

    When it comes to journalism, Chaput knows the good news and the bad news.

    [...]

    Alas, the journalists think they are writing about the rights of politicians, while some Catholic bishops want to discuss the salvation and, yes, damnation of souls. If journalists insist on describing this conflict in strictly political terms, he said, there is no way the public will ever understand what is happening.

    “No one ever has a right to the Eucharist, and the vanity or hurt feelings of an individual Catholic governor or senator or even vice president does not take priority over the faith of the believing community,” said Chaput.

    Thus, while journalists are under “no obligation to believe what the church teaches … they certainly do have the obligation to understand, respect and accurately recount how she understands herself, and especially how she teaches and why she teaches” these doctrines.

    Too often, said the archbishop, inaccurate news reports about this controversy have left the impression that “access to Holy Communion … is like having bar privileges at the Elks Club.”

    Oooh, that’s gonna leave a mark.

    But the real stem winder for discussion comes to us courtesy Al Mohler discussing a religious anti-defamation resolution in front of the UN.   I agree that the resolution should be opposed based on this statement:

    The only religion mentioned in the text of the resolution is Islam.

    That is a huge problem.   If religious anti-defamation is not universally applied then it is in reality religious discrimination, if not religious oppression.  But that is not the argument that Mohler puts forth for his opposition to the resolution.  Rather he begins this way:

    Intellectual integrity requires that we evaluate ideas and truth claims on the basis of their truthfulness and credibility, and not on the basis of who asserts the idea or claim.

    Now there is a loaded gun.   Religious truth can never be ultimately established – it is the wrong basis for evaluating a religion, from the perspective of a state.  Now, Mohler is taking aim with this set-up specifically at Islam, even though he allows that Christianity has the same fundamental issue:

    Again and again, Islam is referenced as the only religion singled out for protection against defamation.  The reason for this is central to the identity of Islam, which is an honor religion.  Thus, in the Muslim dominated world, in which blasphemy is a serious legal matter.

    Anti-blasphemy laws have a long history.  Classical Christianity must take both blasphemy and heresy seriously . . .

    So having finally arrived the real issue, Mohler gets to the crux of the matter:

    . . . but the church should not call upon the state to prosecute charges of blaspheming God or corrupting the truth of the Gospel. Heresy and blasphemy must be answered by the church, not by the state.

    [...]

    From the very beginning of the Christian church, believers have had to bear the offense of the cross.  Our Lord was Himself despised and rejected of men, ridiculed and scorned.  So also were His apostles, and all who would follow Christ faithfully.

    We are called to defend the faith, but not to defend the honor of the faith, much less our own honor.  We are confident of this:  God will vindicate His own name, and Christ will judge the nations in righteousness.  Until then, we are not to seek laws that protect our beliefs from defamation.  Instead, we must seek laws that protect our right to share and to preach the Gospel.

    You see the issue here?  By having dug himself in this “evaluating truth claims” hole Mohler has missed the point.  The problem is not defending the faith versus the honor of the faith, that is an intellectual distinction most people, myself included, cannot really make.  Where is that line?  Rather, the problem lies in the “how’s” of defending your faith, or when a state is doing the defending simply, faith.

    What America has chosen to do is to regulate behavior, not belief.  The American system allows you to believe whatever you want to believe, provided your belief does not lead you to behavior dangerous to the preservation of the society.   Thus you are allowed to believe in Islam, but honor killings are forbidden, as is obviously terrorism.  Thus there should not be a problem with being FLDS, but there is a problem with being polygamous.  From the prespective of the state, the truth or falsity of the religion is not an issue – only the overt, actionable fruits of it.

    Defaming faith, any faith, is a means of oppressing adherents to that faith.  For a state to condone such defamation is indeed for the state to participate in unwarranted opression.  Christians, who stand at the very core of the fight against oppression in history, should indeed stand against defamation of any faith.

    Mormon history is a classic example.  Mormon belief should never have been a problem in our nation.  The practice of polygamy was a problem, but not the faith.  Mormons were persecuted for what they believed, and that was wrong.  I have said it before on this blog and I will say it again.  Historically, Mormons should simply have been prosecuted, legally, for the practice of polygamy, but they should not have been driven from the nation, nor suffered the acts of intolerance that they were forced to suffer.

    That is a tall order and difficult to execute as we are seeing in the current legal efforts directed at the FLDS.  But note how the current efforts are carefully aimed.  Prosecutions are selective, for real provable crimes.  Otherwise, as distasteful as much they enagage in may be, they are left to their own devices.

    Which brings me back to Mohler. Individuals should indeed choose their beliefs based on their personal evaluation of the truth claims of a religion.   But the state simply cannot, since those truth claims can never be established to certainty.  To use truth claims as the basis for arguing against anti-defamation action is to leave the door open for religious oppression.  In point of fact, anti-defamation generally applied, is protecting “our right to share and to preach the Gospel.

    Mohler is correct to oppose this resolution put forth by the UN, it is oppressive and discriminatory, based on its specific citations of Islam.   But the truth or falsity of Islam have nothing to do with the matter.

    What do you think?  Comment moderation is off for the weekend.

    Lowell’s late post-script:

    Al Mohler strikes me a sincere and dedicated proponent of his point of view.  But it is important to remember: that’s who he is.  He is a prominent and leading voice for many culturally and politically conservative evangelical Christians.  He is not a spokesman for Christianity. 

    I don’t think Mohler sees himself that way, however.  He regularly speaks as though he is an authority on what Christians should believe.  That tendency shines through in the Mohler statements John analyzes above.  The most egregious and unforgettable example is Mohler’s statement during the 2008 GOP presidential primaries that he struggled with whether to vote for Mitt Romney “as a matter of Christian discipleship.”  If Romney became president, Mohler argued, that would tend to “mainstream” Mormonism and could have cause many people to accept that faith, thus imperiling their souls.  (I am not making this up.  We’ve posted about this many times, including an in-depth analysis here.)  So like John, I am very leery of anyone setting himself up as the one who decides the “truth” of a religion, and then tells his followers how to act in the public square based on his conclusion.

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