Social Gospel Coalition Unraveling?

Would the Pope attend Bobby Jindal’s Prayer Rally? I don’t think so.

Jindal, a self-described “evangelical Catholic,” epitomizes the political and religious coalition of evangelical Protestants and Catholics in Louisiana.

“Evangelical Catholicism,” if we are to use Jindal’s phrase, is a peculiarly American creation. It’s a version of Catholicism with roots in the anti-communist movement of the post-World War II era, when prominent Catholics like Bishop Fulton Sheen adopted a style of pro-America rhetoric that matched Protestant revivalists like Billy Graham. This partnership was codified in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, as Jerry Falwell launched his “Moral Majority” and quickly discovered that Catholics comprised roughly a third of the political action group’s membership.

Prominent politicians have continued to embrace this brand of Catholicism, including lifelong Catholic Rick Santorum and Catholic converts Jindal, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich and Sam Brownback. Then there are non-Catholic politicians like Mike Huckabee — a former Baptist minister and governor of Arkansas — who reacted to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate with the announcement, “Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now.”

It’s hard to imagine Pope Francis ever attending “The Response.” Unlike the organizers of the prayer rally, the pope doesn’t endorse American exceptionalism, creationism, biblical literalism or the rapture. He also doesn’t encourage AFA-style animosity toward LGBT people. Asked about his position on homosexuality, the pope responded, “If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge? They shouldn’t be marginalized.” Compare this to Jindal’s defense of the AFA’s support for “The Response,” an organization with a leader that believes “being an active homosexual should disqualify you from public office.”

But more telling, American Catholics don’t share the same history as evangelical Protestants. A church of immigrants, Catholics in the 19th and early 20th centuries were the targets of religious persecution and xenophobia at the hands of a Protestant establishment. Back then, many believed the nation was in crisis because of the perceived menace of the Catholic Church to American values.


6 thoughts on “Social Gospel Coalition Unraveling?

  1. sdb, the author writes:

    There needs to be a place where we are told uncomfortable truths about ourselves, our world and even about God — where we ask the questions our pop culture ignores or caricatures, and where we can look for answers. Where we pause — and reflect theologically.

    Isn’t that why we have HBO?


  2. Given the prevalence of MTD type thinking in our culture, it seems to me that the straightforward presentation of the Gospel entails telling uncomfortable truths about ourselves (prayers of confession), our world (it isn’t the church and not every thing you do is worship), and God (his is a righteous wrath that can only be appeased by Christ’s work). A church that sticks to Gospel proclamation and avoids pulpit politics/pop-culture issues will be a place of refuge for the believer and an uncomfortable (or at least counter-cultural) place for the non-believer.

    Anyway, I don’t think we are in any danger of mainliners seeking to join the OPC in droves, but I found it interesting to see some pushback against social-gospelism from a congregationalist.


  3. Jindall & Santorum represent an American Catholicism which exists in only their own minds. For the umpteenth time, Rome of today is NOT theologically conservative. It embraces quasi-universalism, scriptural errancy, the divine fatherhood of all, a denial of regional sin, etc etc. It remains culturally conservative in that still opposes … um, I *guess* abortion. Otherwise, it is all about a fuzzy gradualism that says we are all trying and trying to be good is good euff, in Jesus. At Vatican II the revolution was accomplished. Everything since then is smoke and mirrors, and Bryan Cross it the Little Engine That Thought He Could. Except that Francis represents Thomas the Train, and his steam power prevails. A nice gay priest is preferable to an uptight conservative Catholic. However that is translated into Argentine.The social Gospel is not unraveling, but it has unraveled the Catholic Church. See histories and critiques by Romano Amerio, Thomas E Woods, David Wells, and Robert De Mattei. They depressingly obliterate all the playground chatter of the likes of Weigel, Cross, and bad boy Michael Sean Winters.


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