By David Beilstein
OFTEN times evangelicals who are against gay marriage, find themselves in the precarious station of being an unpopular special interest group, playing the world’s smallest violin to unsympathetic pagans, while the culture around them scoffs. In fact, evangelicals portray themselves publicly as suffering-servants pushing a boulder up a scabrous, molten hill, only to watch it roll down the other side.
In due course, evangelicals constantly whine about such circumstances — as the persecuted camarilla they are. Sweeping generalisations, however easy, are not always the best way forward.
Now this. It dropped sometime yesterday, via the Drudge Report. The oft-conventional wisdom, in light of such developments, creates some serious doubts in previous illustrated cliché. Even so, it reminded me of something D.G. Hart wrote awhile back on his blog, Old Life Theological Society — a point I’ve used as an addendum throughout Crede, ut Intelligas’ short-lived life.
Old Life’s D.G. Hart makes a point evangelicals who are politically conservative, should note:
Minority groups in the United States do oppose homosexuality and they do so without any noticeable threat. For instance, Muslims are not keen on gay marriage, nor are orthodox Jews, or African-American Protestants for that matter. And yet, the thought of the state threatening these groups with penalties for their stances on homosexuality seems far-fetched.
One can already hear the screams from the anteroom. But according to the Detroit Free Press, Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, the 79-year-old controversial leader of Black Muslims, “opposes same-sex relationships. He says he isn’t “homophobic” and isn’t “afraid of people who choose a lifestyle that’s different” but rather is afraid for them.”
Cultural warrior evangelicals will probably go fright wig crazy; scratching their heads about what Farrakhan possesses they themselves do not.
Of course, D.G. Hart elaborates,
The problem for evangelicals is that they are the minority who thinks like a majority. It would be one thing to look at the numbers, recognize you [don’t] have the votes, and look for ways to protect your own sideline institutions. This was the approach to public life in the United States by Roman Catholics and they found their political outlet in the multi-cultural Democratic Party.
But evangelicals have readily identified as the mainstream tradition in the United States, with claims about the nation’s Christian founding, and an accompanying political theology that says God loves republics and freedom. Evangelicals have also tended to approve of the Republican Party’s efforts to impose cultural uniformity on the nation. In which case, evangelicals may like to think that they are a minority only seeking toleration for themselves what other minority groups want (or have). But they have a uniformity-by-majority disposition that seeks to establish their norms as those of the nation.
Could it be minorities, and originations like the Nation of Islam — though without religious sanction — are more faithful to a dualistic conception of the separation of “mosque” and state, than evangelicals?
Could it be squared, such communities desire a particular kind of character and behaviour in their own environs, but are reasonably understanding of our nation’s inherent pluralism — allowing for communities within communities — when it comes to the overall cultural in general?
It seems to me — I’m not brilliant, I’m not even smart, really — there is a good chance this is correct. Americans have been conditioned for a millennia, unconsciously so, the nation’s cultural, politico-pluralism, is a good thing.
Christendom didn’t work, and through extensive exegesis and hermeneutical development, was proven to be unbiblical. Likewise, theocracy, seen in Islam, and mediaeval Christianity was also less than good for populations consisting of believers and non-believers. Smarter than many give them credit for, especially religious conservatives, the framer’s understood history.
They wanted and built something different. A society where religion and politics were decoupled. Not for anti-religious sentiment (as too often the progressive left intimates), but for a better realisation of religion and politics in America’s national life.
Evangelicals, regardless of personal piety, have removed the meaning of their faith from the church. As such, the nation — typified by early 20th century progressivism — has become the “church” for evangelicals. Having stated that, then, the church has become society. Plainly, much that is permitted in society should never be permitted in the church, hence the need for evangelicals to collapse such thinking as a guide to the secular polity.
The Protestant Reformation’s decoupling of the state and church was wise. Problem is, must evangelicals are not Protestant in any meaningful sense. Those who are, too often echo theological liberal premises — the unique “otherworldly” sphere of Christianity is thus denied by theological liberalism.
Christianity without the centrality of the church at its core of piety becomes an oscillating religion, where dividing lines become broken down. Christianity becomes another earthly dynamic guided by whim and muster, not revelation. This is not to say Christians should not desire the prosperity and peaceful improvement of society, generally. It is to say, however, the state is the wrong place to look for the theology, piety, and practise, belonging to Christ’s Church.
America’s fortunes can only improve when America’s Church’s are reformed — attesting to the kind of piety and Kingdom of God ethics, imagined by Holy Scripture. The easier way of putting this, is, what evangelical’s generally look to politics to do (renewal, Biblical fidelity), what the state ought to be, should be sought in the church — where Christ mediates her in a redemptive, supernatural way.
Evangelicals should view the state skeptically. Its duties are beneath and below the Sacred. What can be achieved through politics is secular-minded, or profane, meaning common. It’s always circumspect — where compromise is made to conserve — animating the overall good, not the paradisiacal.