by David Beilstein
AFTER attacking Anne Coulter in a previous column for a comment she made, endorsing another Republican “conservative” candidate—Ms Coulter lamented one qualification for the unnamed GOP candidate was that he was a “big” Christian—D.G. Hart, over at Old Life Theological Society, pitched a strike-out with a hard thrown post of his own.
The recent wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Boy Scouts’ interest in changing its policies about excluding homosexuals reminded me that long before social conservatives considered turning on the Boy Scouts for tolerating gays, confessional Protestants were giving the troops a thumbs down for very different reasons. They had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with the civil religion the Scouts wove through their materials and self-identity.
Contrarian professorial maestro, Dr Hart hit all the right notes—melodic, precise, syncopated, when he completed a serious bit of orthodox, confessional Christian reasoning, completely at odds with the civil religion idolised in Republican/so-called conservative, circles.
What the OPC’s report indicates is that social conservatives have a very different understanding from confessional Protestants about when the Scouts went (or may go) wrong. For the former, the issue is mainly about sex, which is not an insignificant consideration but hardly the first sign that the Scouts may not be on the side of the God of the Bible. Confessional Protestants, less hung up over sex (maybe), actually take God-language seriously and inspect an organizations claim’s on behalf of religion. For them, faith is even more important than sex.
In which case, contrary to James Davison Hunter’s argument about the Culture Wars, the “orthodox” party in the United States is actually divided. It is not the case that conservative Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews represent an orthodox counterpart to the liberal party in the culture wars. In point of fact, the believers for whom religion matters most, the truly orthodox, take issue with the sham orthodoxy that informs questions about marriage, homosexuality, and the family. Again, sex and families are important. But they are part of the common culture, not matters of religious orthodoxy.
To fail to see this difference is to have confused the politics of the civil kingdom with the politics of the eternal one. Put differently, civil religion is a poor imitation of ecclesiastical religion.