Can We Get a Little Moral Clarity Here?

In the light of Newt Gingrich’s recent surge in the polls, let’s see how the fortunes of the Religious Right are developing:

A weak week ago Mitt Romney was leading in the polls and some even talked about his sowing up the nomination after South Carolina and Florida.

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife did an interview this week in which details of Newt’s infidelities were in full view.

South Carolina may be the most evangelical state in the union, prompting some to call for Christians to migrate to the Palmetto State.

Today, pundits are calling the South Carolina Republican primary a toss-up between Gingrich and Romney, despite Romney’s obvious practice of family values and Gingrich’s marital past.

So where does this lead? First, evangelicals rally behind Tim Tebow who disregards the fourth commandment. Second, evangelical leaders tried to identify Rick Santorum, a Roman Catholic who doesn’t even number the Ten Commandments (let alone interpret them) as evangelicals do (or used to). Now, apparently some evangelicals are willing to overlook the seventh commandment in favor of a conservative Republican.

I personally don’t care how evangelicals vote. Voting is not an act of devotion and is a matter of Christian liberty. But I do grow weary of the constant refrain of faith’s importance for politics when it is so obviously untrue, when a paucity of political ideas forces believers to wrap politics in Christian language. All of us are hypocrites. But not all of us make such a big deal of calling attention to our hypocrisy. If the Religious Right wants the rest of America to take them seriously, they need to acknowledge and explain their selectivity. I have advice — adopt 2k theology which means that you recognize the fallenness of the world and its politicians and so make the best of a bad situation. But if you’re going to insist that religion forms the only adequate basis for morality, and if you’re going to demand political candidates who have a faith that produces the kind of character needed for holding public office, then you better have a ready explanation for your vote for candidates who openly violate the Ten Commandments.

And it would also be good to explain how your identification of political acts with Christian devotion is not a violation of the First Commandment. Admittedly, Karl Barth had his problems as an interpreter of the Reformed tradition. But he certainly recognized the damnable error of investing political parties with religious significance (beyond the indefinite meanings supplied by providence).

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  1. GAS
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    They don’t care if the emperor has no clothes. They just want empire any way they can get it.

  2. Posted January 21, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    But that would really put a damper on Sanctity of Life sermons tomorrow. Can we start next week?

  3. Posted January 21, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    GAS, how about Boardwalk Empire on HBO? Will that work?

  4. mark mcculley
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a good idea and all, zrim, but you need to be responsible about it. We don’t want to ignore the “not yet”. So can you please be patient with us and let us have a little longer extension? Not only next week’s sermons in which we congratulate ourselves for having defeated the practice of abortion through federal legislation passed by Ronald Reagan, but give us until after November because then we can Immanentize the eschaton by getting rid of Obama and go back to being the country we used to be, where rich white colonialists had a vision. Oh for the good old days when there were no food stamps and no anti-colonial behavior by polygamists.

    And if we still had slaves like Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Jefferson had, perhaps we would not need serial monogamy. And Nancy Reagan the second wife would never get to be the first lady.

  5. Posted January 21, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Sorry, Marky McMark, I couldn’t understand one word of that. Could you please remove your tongue from so deeply within your check?

  6. Mark Van Der Molen
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    A weak ago ….

    FYI, this slipped past the Old Life editors. :-)

  7. Posted January 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I didn’t know you read Old Life so carefully or that you cared.

  8. Todd Rundgren
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    sanctimonious is a word that comes to mind…

  9. Posted January 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Darryl, Glad to see your post on this. I support Newt for reasons not to do with the faith, but policy. I encounter lots of folks online who poo-poo Newt because of the reasons you mention. I think they wonder how i can support him, because, after all, he’s a philanderer. Yet, I think the 2K view helps us sort these things out better than the “values voters” have – and currently – do. If I read your post correctly, are you saying that it is not immoral to support a candidate with questionable morals, due to the kingdom distinctions?

  10. Posted January 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Extended bumper sticker?

    I’d rather be ruled by a competent philanderer than an incompetent monogamist…

    or something like that.
    (apologies, Martin)

  11. Posted January 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    There’s Sanctorum Sanctimony, i.e., rhetoric about RS being *the* Christian choice, but I’m not seeing that kind of talk about Gingrich. The politico-evangelicals in favor of Newt tend to talk about knowledge, skills, experience, etc. Now that sounds more 2k but then they also feel obliged to say Newt is repentant. So they’re waffling on what kind of criteria they’re using. Just for the sake of playing this out, I’d like to see Gingrich and Sanctorum battle through a few more states to compel a little more clarity on whether the politico-e’s want The Most Christian Man or they want a man skilled in this particular common kingdom activity. Who knows? They might even learn something and remember it next election cycle. I know, probably not.

    The bellwether endorsement for Newt? Chuck Norris, who supported Huckabee last time around. Look for the Walker, Texas Ranger and martial arts communities to make the difference.

  12. Alberto
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    One thing you may be overlooking Dr. Hart is the way African Americans would react to Romney, if not in general then at least to some significant extent. I know a few who dislike him because of his religion’s former view of the role of black people in their religion. I know about how his father being different, but tell that to people who don’t take this into account.

  13. Lily
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Re: …doesn’t even number the Ten Commandments…

    Well, dear friend, now you’ve done it. You’ve quit preaching and done gone to meddling. ;P

  14. L
    Posted January 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I think you mean “sewing,” not sowing.

  15. GAS
    Posted January 22, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Hart: I have not seen the show but reading about it… ya, that seems about right. We can’t have BO run the turf. This is about brand name. Despite the fact that the empire is run essentially the same under both brand names… it’s ABO doncha know?! So what if Romney, Gingrich, or Santorum would run the empire the same as BO… They’re our mob bosses and carry our brand name! We’re in the age of branding, man! Our brand name is Sanctified!

  16. mark mcculley
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  17. Posted January 23, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink


    I have advice — adopt 2k theology which means that you recognize the fallenness of the world and its politicians and so make the best of a bad situation.

    *Sigh* If conservatives read more of your books, this might actually happen. Isn’t your agent pushing for a Daily Show interview – you know some 2k triumphalism so that your pot-stirring can touch a wider base?

  18. David
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Bravo D.G. Hart –– at least someone is writing pieces like this –– because so much of political punditry veers far from a common sense approach. It’s radically interesting why more voters don’t appreciate this kind of lens to view political discourse and election politics. Being a radical anti-statist, I certainly would not want to force a perspective on anyone. But alas, 2k theology does solve – and illumine the many elaborations and elements of this world, this side of glory.

  19. Warren Hill
    Posted January 23, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    As a South Carolinian who voted for Gingrich this past Saturday, I need to confess a certain delight in seeing the impotence of the ‘evangelical endorsement’ by Dobson, Perkins, etc. I guess I sinned.

  20. Posted January 24, 2012 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Jed, are you interested in being my press agent? Could you work pro bono?

  21. mark mcculley
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    To quote a Lutheran,Kierkegaard, from Works of Love—“If you are embittered toward those who do you wrong, you are really embittered towards God, for ultimately it is God who ordains wrong to be done to you. If however you gratefully take wrongs from God’s hand, as “a good and perfect gift”, you will nor become resentful.”

    Why are Republican “evangelicals” so angry about “elites”, especially when they come from New England?

  22. Posted January 24, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink


    Haven’t done much pro bono work, but I have been known to trade work for beer from time to time, and when beer is not available, food, usually involving meat of some kind.

  23. Brad
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’ll bet Jed doesn’t have the ‘stache to work sonny bono.

  24. Jed Paschall
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Ouch Brad! My current employer does not allow facial hair. But I enjoy doning the stash a few weeks a year as that is all my wife will tolerate.

  25. GAS
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Hart: I can give you a venue to push your book in front of Republicans and Evangelicals AND you can book a ski vacation at the same time. When’s spring break at Hillsdale?

  26. Posted January 28, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    GAS, middle of March, but I’ll be commemorating Princeton’s bicentennial both in South Carolina and New Jersey.

  27. mark mcculley
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 4:30 am | Permalink
  28. Mary Katherine
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Oh my. Mr Hart, when exactly do you start “respecting the conscience and interpretations of other believers?” I didn’t know quite where to make this comment, so I will just put it here:

    I’m sure that your mama loves you all, and that all of you are the smartest guys in the room whenever you are among other Christians. Wait. Are you around other Christians?
    All the cyber high-fives and sniggering at all “those” Christians that just don’t get it like you all do is unworthy of you, all of you. Is this really what you want to spend your time on? With a lost and dying world out here, where all “those” Christians are living and doing their absolute best to love the Lord God with all of their hearts and love their neighbors? Doing their best to live and function in this lost and fallen world while they love their spouses, raise their children, go to work and care for their
    aging parents? Kinda like you are doing.
    I’ve been reading many of the posts and comments, and the running theme is the generally the same.
    Is all of this the result of your higher educations and seminary training? Is this what you aspired to be, back in the day? Back when you you were thirsting for more of the Him and more of His Word.
    Did you ever imagine that you would come to this level of cynicism and low-grade mockery of just about everybody else? Do you mean to make sport of so many fellow believers?

    You are all clearly well educated and intelligent. Is that the point? Just to put your knowledge and education on display? To demonstrate your dizzying intellect and theological prowess? To show how cultural relevant you all are? All of those theology books and biographies have altered how you view all of us out here in the fields. With so much knowledge and education comes a responsibility to reach out to the lost and dying intellectuals all around you. Not this. Not whatever this is.

    Do you not see that?

  29. Lily
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Mary Katherine,

    Re: “Do you not see that?”

    While I think I understand your objections, I also think you may not understand Old Life’s place in the public forum. This is a place to debate both doctrines and practices in all of their flavors and nuances. A place where iron sharpening iron is at work and where “intellectuals” can be “saved” from their follies. Please do not despise that which you do not understand.

  30. Mary Katherine
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s not uncommon to be accused of “not understanding” when there is a strong disagreement with someone.
    Did you think I’m just not intelligent enough to ‘get it’?
    Since I don’t ‘get you’, I just don’t understand about doctrines and flavors in all of their ‘nuances’. Nuances…is that what they call it these days?
    To disagree with how things regularly go around here is that I’m just too unsophisticated, I guess, to
    track with all the brilliant ‘iron sharpening iron’ stuff. Yeah, that’s it. I despise what I can’t possibly understand, what with all the dazzling, nuanced debate that goes on here. Now you’re just being silly. Unless you were just teasing. Were you just teasing?

    I actually own many of the books on topic on this blog, and I’ve read them, too. AND I’m Reformed. Surprised?
    If your place in the public forum is to argue about how many angels can dance on the head of
    a pin and congratulate one another over all those intellectuals that are being saved by reading all of
    this REALLY smart stuff…um, carry on.
    Your jump to the conclusion that I did not understand rather made my point, didn’t it?
    And, clearly, you didn’t see anything.

  31. Lily
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    First a conniption. Then a hissy. Shoot. Who licked the red off your candy?

  32. Mary Katherine
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    You make this too easy, Lily.

  33. Lily
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Well shut my mouth. It’s everyone else’s fault that you pitch fits. I should’ve known.

  34. Posted February 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Mary Katherine is to Old Life what Old Life is to “conservative” Protestantism.

    Welcome, Mary K., to the dissenters’ club.

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