Shouldn’t Calvinists (even new ones) Understand Clay Feet?

Even if Russell Moore received several tweeted thumbs up for his address at the Gospel Coalition conference on Martin Luther King, Jr., others are raising questions about ERLC head’s commentary on race relations.

For starters, Lorine Spratt, executive assistant to the Pastor of First Baptist Church Bossier City, LA, thinks Moore’s finger on the pulse of Southern Baptist life is numb:

I am a born-again Christian, Conservative, Black attender of a White, Southern Baptist, Evangelical Church in Louisiana. In fact, I not only attend, I also work there and I am very concerned about the narrative that I’m hearing from our ERLC leadership. I am absolutely appalled by the comments made by Dr. Russell Moore concerning racism within the White Evangelical churches.

I, and many other Black congregants, attend a predominately White, Southern Baptist Evangelical Church. We attend there because we are free to do so, we’ve been welcomed, and we’re seen and treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. I truly believe that I could attend any White Evangelical church and be welcomed. However, there are born again Black believers who choose to attend Black evangelical churches and worship within their culture and they are free to do so. We are exercising our freedom to choose. We are not commodities to be bargained with or exploited or used to promote an agenda or boost quotas.

White churches are not advocating racism but Dr. Moore is. He is fueling racial tensions. I view his comments as divisive and antagonistic. His words do not promote unity!

Please, let it be known that Dr. Moore does not speak for me or other Black Christians who believe that great strides and fearless efforts have been made by many throughout the years to abolish racism such as William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr., Billy Graham and many others.

The letter above originally appeared here and the anti-Calvinists in the SBC, truth be told, may relish a chance to catch the New Calvinist, Moore, mangling relations among black and white Southern Baptists.

Then there is the arresting perspective of Bob Gagnon who couldn’t help but notice the way that critics of Trump’s moral failings were noticeably silent about King’s own behavior (in ways that may actually resemble how the “court evangelicals” have overlooked Trump’s character):

Gagnon, a conservative biblical scholar recognized as the foremost traditionalist interpreter on the topic of the Bible and homosexuality, said Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and lead organizer of the gathering, failed to address documented evidence that King lived a sexually immoral personal life.

Gagnon called Moore “the same guy, mind you, who has had no trouble accusing the vast majority of his brethren who voted for Trump in order to avoid Clinton (or who supported Roy Moore in order to avoid Doug Jones) of falling prey to ‘moral relativism’ and ‘consequentialism,’ of being an embarrassment to the gospel because they are not standing up for their own Bible values around sexual fidelity in marriage.”

“He said not a word about MLK’s sexual immorality that was arguably the equal of Trump’s,” the scholar said.

Gagnon said speakers at the “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” confab also tried to explain away “the fact that by any reasonable standard of what counts for essential Christian faith, King was what evangelicals then and today would view as a heretical Christian.”

“He denied Christ’s incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, and second coming; in short, a full sweeping denial of orthodox Christian faith,” Gagnon said in an earlier post. “For King, Christ was an excellent moral teacher and human exemplar of trust in God. No more, no less.”

Gagnon said King’s sexual immorality was arguably worse than Trump’s, not only because he was a minister of the gospel but also because he “was willing to risk the fate of the entire civil rights struggle in order to continue his sexually immoral conduct, week after week, right up to what would be his final night on earth.”

Of course, the way out of these dilemmas is to rely not on heroes or celebrities but on Scripture for moral standards. From Thomas Jefferson to Charlie Rose, exemplary humans are fallen and their lives don’t prove one side or the other in any debate. But if you want to signal that you are on the right side of the cultural divide, lining up behind a social or political icon works as long as you forget that you are living in the #metoo era.

Advertisements

MLK and 2K

Matt Tuininga observes how convenient 2k is for someone who wants to distance their politics from their faith:

Recent evidence indicates that two kingdoms theology explains why some Christians, such as Christian Right pastor Robert Jeffress, support Donald Trump and the Republican Party. As David R. Brockman warns in the Texas Observer, Jeffress “has deployed Two Kingdoms thinking repeatedly since the presidential election” to justify his support for Donald Trump. If you believe Christianity requires that Christians support the Democratic party, that should be deeply concerning.

But wait. Recent evidence also indicates that two kingdoms theology explains why some Christians, such as Andrew White, candidate for governor of Texas, are Democrats. As Larry Ball warns in the Aquila Report, White’s approach “is deduced from what is called two-kingdom theology.” If you believe Christianity requires that Christians support the Republican party, that should be deeply concerning.

These articles advance arguments I have repeatedly heard from the lips of Reformed theologians and pastors. One highly esteemed Reformed scholar told me he is convinced that two kingdoms theology is on the rise because it gives Christians an excuse to support the Republican party despite its unChristian tendencies on poverty and race. Two kingdoms advocates, he believes, are crypto-Republicans. At the same time, numerous pastors have told me they are convinced that two kingdoms theology is on the rise because it gives Christians an excuse to support the Democratic party despite its unChristian positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. Two kingdoms advocates, it turns out, are crypto-Democrats.

Tuininga’s solution is to let the church be the church:

It’s time for the church to be the church. If you are sick and tired of the politicization of the church – if you are eager to see the church faithfully witness to the kingdom and its righteousness as it applies to every area of life, without compromise to any political party – then two kingdoms theology is for you.

Wouldn’t the same point apply to Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why can’t King simply be a pastor who preached the gospel or a political activist who worked with political officials to overturn unconstitutional arrangements? Why turn him into the model of Christian activism? Is Tuininga willing to take on the recent depictions of King that blur 2K?

According to Gary Dorien:

Any reading that minimizes King’s upbringing or graduate education misconstrues him, which is what happens when scholars fail to credit the black social gospel tradition he embraced. King was nurtured in the piety and idioms of an urban, middle-class, black Baptist family and congregation. He absorbed the evangelical piety and social concerns preached by his father. He got a more intellectual version of both things when he studied at Morehouse College, where Mays influenced him, and then at Crozer Seminary in Pennsylvania, where the prominent Baptist preacher and writer J. Pius Barbour was his pastor. At Crozer and Boston University, King adopted a socialist version of social gospel theology and a personalist version of post-Kantian idealistic philosophy, and he acquired a conflicted attraction to Gandhian nonviolence. Throughout his movement career King was committed to democratic socialism, personalist theological liberalism, and Gandhian nonviolence. He fashioned these perspectives into the most compelling public theology of the twentieth century, mobilizing religious and political communities that had almost no history of working together.

Imagine pointing out Jerry Falwell’s (senior) theological pedigree and not objecting to the sectarian or illiberal nature of his political activism.

Or consider Michael Sean Winter’s benediction of King:

King was a great civil rights leader because he was both a great American and a genuine Christian prophet, not the other way round. A prophet does not simply point to some future of his or her own imagining. A prophet calls a people to return to their truest selves in order that they may return to a righteous path.

King did not tell the American people to stop being American. He told them to be true to the ideals that they claimed had shaped our national founding. His message was subversive of the ways those ideals had been betrayed, not of the ideals themselves. King evidenced none of the hatred of America that has marred the politics of the left since his death.

When Robert Jeffress makes such claims about Donald Trump most people object, but is it because Jeffress confuses the kingdoms or because he backed an immoral public figure?

Tuininga actually knows that King’s theology violated 2k:

My concern, however, is to encourage evangelicals to wrestle with King’s determination to allow the Gospel to shape Christians’ civic and political engagement. To be sure, we must take care not to conflate the two. King himself did often conflate the kingdom of Christ and temporal politics in his rhetoric, I believe, as did the broader trajectory of mainline clerical activism that took its inspiration from him in following decades. We cannot use political means to establish the kingdom of God, nor should we confuse the liberation that comes through Christ with the justice that can be accomplished through politics.

That means that baptizing King’s politics as manifestations of the kingdom of God is just as flawed as baptizing Donald Trump’s person or policies.

When You Need a Precedent for Civil Disobedience

Go to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoffer. That’s exactly what David Koyzis does in a curious way for readers of Christianity Today.

But first he clears the obstacle of 2k:

Of course, there was nothing wrong with following Rome’s legitimate decrees. Jesus had said so himself. When the Pharisees tried goading him into speaking against imperial taxes, he surprised them with words that form the touchstone of Christian reflection on civil disobedience: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). Some mistakenly interpret this to mean that there are two kingdoms—one belonging to God and the other to Caesar. But that would put God and Caesar on the same level. In reality, Caesar receives his authority, including his divine mandate to rule, from God. As Jesus affirmed before Pontius Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11).

Whether Koyzis knows better, the point of 2k is not that politics belongs to (the) man and religion belongs to God. For the guhzillionth time, 2k affirms that government of all stripes — family, church, state — comes from God. The issue is whether church and state have different tasks and so different jurisdictions. It sure sounds like even the Westminster Divines thought so. The task of the state is:

God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers. (23.1)

What the church does is not that:

Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto. (25.3)

Oh, that neo-Calvinists could keep straight what 2k is (as if all non-neo-Calvinists look the same).

Then Koyzis pulls an interesting feat. He notices that Protestants have no real tradition of civil disobedience until the Nazis and racism:

The Reformation forced Christians to reflect once again on the limits of Caesar’s domain. In previous centuries, when Western Europe was essentially a single Christian commonwealth, occasional clashes between political and church authorities rarely spilled over into the pews. But by the 16th century, the Reformers would face hostility from both pope and emperor.

Martin Luther may or may not have uttered his famously defiant declaration—“Here I stand. I can do no other”—before the Holy Roman Emperor. But he was certainly skeptical of civil disobedience. Condemning a German peasant uprising, Luther cited Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2, justifying disobedience only when government tries to coerce faith.

Like Luther, John Calvin supported obedience to political authority, which he praised in the highest terms: “Its function among men is no less than that of bread, water, sun, and air; indeed, its place of honor is far more excellent.” He held that Scripture requires obedience even to a bad king, who may be carrying out God’s judgment. Calvin favored constitutional checks on the ruler’s authority, but he opposed individuals launching rebellions.

Two major 20th-century events decisively shaped the church’s perspective on civil disobedience: the rise of Nazi totalitarianism in Germany and the struggle for black civil rights in the United States.

As the church lady used to say, “well, isn’t that convenient.” Too bad Koyzis doesn’t explain how the persecution of Christians by the Roman empire or the wars between Protestants and Roman Catholics or the taxes of Parliament on British colonists were such a walk in the park compared to Hitler and Jim Crow.

Did President Obama Throw Malcolm X Under the Bus?

Now that the missus and I are three seasons into West Wing, I understand that the nation’s presidents cannot say whatever is on their mind. They need to spin for so many different reasons. It’s almost like watching Tom Reagan in Millers’ Crossing.

Even so, President Obama seems to have once again provided a cliched account of Islam in the United States that “makes the rough places plain” so to speak:

Islam has always been part of America. Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim. And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive. A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans. And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions.

Back then, Muslims were often called Mahometans. And Thomas Jefferson explained that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom he wrote was designed to protect all faiths — and I’m quoting Thomas Jefferson now — “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan.” (Applause.)

Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran. Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.” (Applause.) So this is not a new thing.

Generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation. They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants. They built America’s first mosque, surprisingly enough, in North Dakota. (Laughter.) America’s oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa. The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s. Muslim Americans worked on Henry Ford’s assembly line, cranking out cars. A Muslim American designed the skyscrapers of Chicago.

In 1957, when dedicating the Islamic center in Washington, D.C., President Eisenhower said, “I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution … and in American hearts…this place of worship, is just as welcome…as any other religion.” (Applause.)

And perhaps the most pertinent fact, Muslim Americans enrich our lives today in every way. They’re our neighbors, the teachers who inspire our children, the doctors who trust us with our health — future doctors like Sabah. They’re scientists who win Nobel Prizes, young entrepreneurs who are creating new technologies that we use all the time. They’re the sports heroes we cheer for -— like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon. And by the way, when Team USA marches into the next Olympics, one of the Americans waving the red, white and blue — (applause) — will a fencing champion, wearing her hijab, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is here today. Stand up. (Applause.) I told her to bring home the gold. (Laughter.) Not to put any pressure on you. (Laughter.)

Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community. They serve honorably in our armed forces — meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom. Some rest in Arlington National Cemetery. (Applause.)

So Muslim Americans are some of the most resilient and patriotic Americans you’ll ever meet.

In many ways I salute the president for trying to make Islam part of the American narrative but I worry that his story line is one that suits Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce better than a president who ran and won in part because he is African-American. For blacks in the 1950s and 1960s, people that the president’s in-laws would well know (and possibly were), Islam looked more like a way to dissent from the nation’s racism and segregation than it did an on-ramp to the American mainstream. The tension between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. was all about the dilemmas that integration posed for blacks who wanted a separate identity from the one King was cultivating:

“You don’t integrate with a sinking ship.” This was Malcolm X’s curt explanation of why he did not favor integration of blacks with whites in the United States. As the chief spokesman of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim organization led by Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X argued that America was too racist in its institutions and people to offer hope to blacks. The solution proposed by the Nation of Islam was a separate nation for blacks to develop themselves apart from what they considered to be a corrupt white nation destined for divine destruction.

In contrast with Malcolm X’s black separatism, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered what he considered “the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest” as a means of building an integrated community of blacks and whites in America. He rejected what he called “the hatred and despair of the black nationalist,” believing that the fate of black Americans was “tied up with America’s destiny.” Despite the enslavement and segregation of blacks throughout American history, King had faith that “the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God” could reform white America through the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement.

Of course, the experience of most Muslims in the U.S. — namely, immigrants from the Middle East — is distinct from that of descendants of American slaves (like Michelle Obama). But a reminder about Islam’s plausible appeal to black separatists seems necessary for doing justice to both the history of Islam and African-American life in the U.S.

Update: And what would President Obama say to Muhammad Ali, a Baptist turned Muslim, who said this about the U.S. military when refusing to serve in Vietnam?

But who is this white man, no older than me, appointed by another white man, all the way to the white man in the White House? Who is he to tell me to go to Asia, Africa, or anywhere else in the world to fight people who never threw a rock at me or America? Who is this descendant of slave masters to order a descendant of slaves to fight other people in their own country?

We're Closer to Turkey than You Think?

This may be the most important context for considering the controversy over Islam at Wheaton College, namely, that Americans themselves are not all that comfortable with secularity and Islam reveals where the lumps in the mattress are. Rod Dreher quoted a poignant part of Ross Douthat’s column on how the West views Islam, as either as conservatives believe “radically incompatible with Western liberal democracy, and can never be reconciled to it; or, as many liberals believe, it is capable of assimilating to become as tame and non-threatening as most forms of Christianity and Judaism in the West.” In the Protestant world, either Larycia Hawkins or Tim Bayly. According to Douthat:

The good news is that there is space between these two ideas. The bad news is that we in the West can’t seem to agree on what that space should be, or how Christianity and Judaism, let alone Islam, should fit into it.

Devout Muslims watching current Western debates, for instance, might notice that some of the same cosmopolitan liberals who think of themselves as Benevolent Foes of Islamophobia are also convinced that many conservative Christians are dangerous crypto-theocrats whose institutions and liberties must give way whenever they conflict with liberalism’s vision of enlightenment.

They also might notice that many of the same conservative Christians who fear that Islam is incompatible with democracy are wrestling with whether their own faith is compatible with the direction of modern liberalism, or whether Christianity needs to enter a kind of internal exile in the West.

It almost sounds like Turkey’s war between Islamic friendly politicians and secularists, from a piece quoted sometime back from Mustafa Akyol:

As you probably well know, Turkey has long been stressed by political tension between religious conservatives and secular nationalists, the latter also known as the Kemalists. However, that main fault line is somewhat passé these days given the emergence of a new kind of tension between the religious conservatives who had triumphed together in (OR: previous) tension from years gone by. This time, it is the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government and the powerful Fethullah Gülen Movement that are at odds with each other. . . .

The term I translated here as “referee” (“hakem”) is a powerful word in Islam, referring to a neutral and fair judge who can settle disputes. And it is interesting that Ms. Eraslan, a pious, headscarf-wearing Muslim, thinks that this “referee” may be none other than secularism. Of course, this would not be the type of secularism that Turkey’s Kemalists have imposed for decades. That peculiar ideology, called “laiklik” (from the French laïcité), was based on the assumption that there was something wrong with religion and therefore it needed to be suppressed by the state.

What Ms. Eraslan probably implied, and what Turkey indeed needs, is a more American-like secularism. In other words, it should be based on the recognition that there is a problem not with religion, but with the concentration of political power.

Unlike Turkey, though, and the conflict between religion and laicite, could the struggle in the U.S. be the one that animated fundamentalists and modernists during the 1920s? The political left in the United States, like modernists, does not advocate the removal of religion from public life. They like religion (think Martin Luther King, Jr.). Jim Wallis is not a threat to them.

So too, the right also likes religion of the right sort (see what I did there?). It used to be Jerry Falwell and James Dobson. Now it’s Rick Santorum and Kim Davis.

The problem is that both left and right embrace a form of American exceptionalism that needs religion to endow the United States with a righteous or holy purpose.

In that case, if we are still living with the dynamics of the fundamentalist controversy, has the United States learned lessons it can pass on to the Muslim world?

Hearing (all about) Me Speak

As Zrim has already indicated, pronunciations matter. If you say the word evangelical with a long e in the first syllable, as in “egads,” then according to popular wisdom you are one, that is, a born-again Protestant. If you pronounce it with the short e in “whatever,” then you aren’t ehvangelical.

The same goes for conservatism. If you slip in an extra syllable, as in “conservativism,” then you are likely unfamiliar with the discussions about what it means to be a conservative. But if you say the real word, “conservatism,” then you’re in the ball park of knowing something about the American Right even if you are not a card-carrier.

A twist on correct pronunciation came for me as my wife and I were driving to Washington, D.C. last week for the Round Table on the future of evangelical politics hosted by Brian Lee and the saints at Christ Reformed Church (URC). Scanning the dial in hopes of finding a voice different from Sean’s, we stumbled upon the local affiliate of the EWTN radio network which broadcasts the Al Kresta show weekdays at 4:00. This particular day found the host away at a conference and the show re-airing the “best of” Al Kresta. Imagine my (all about me) surprise when my wife and I heard Al introduce the hour-long interview I did about From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin on September 20, live in the Ann Arbor studio. Imagine my (all about me) further surprise to hear me babble on like a surfer dude. Which raises the question, if you sound goofy, can you really call yourself a confessional Protestant or a political conservative?

But misgivings about my voice and diction did not prevent a thoroughly enjoyable event with Michael Gerson and Terry Eastland thanks to the great hospitality and event planning of Brian and Sara Lee. The audio for the event is here (though you will need Quick Time to listen). Future events still include David VanDrunen this Thursday night (October 20), and Dave Coffin preaching(Sunday, October 23).

I believe the biggest difference to surface between Mike Gerson and me was his willingness to appeal to higher law (justice and human dignity) in thinking about a Christian understanding of politics and my reluctance to jump over existing laws, institutions, and powers for the sake of a higher good. I also believe this is one of the most profound difference between evangelicals and confessional Protestants in the sphere of religion, and between evangelicals and conservatives in matters political.

Consider, for instance, the willingness of revivalists to circumvent ordained clergy in order to bring the gospel to people (some of whom are already church members). George Whitefield and Gilbert Tennent did this. The Gospel Coalition is still doing it. Think too of the way that evangelicals will appeal to the Bible to circumvent the authority of creeds or confessions with Scripture functioning as a higher law above man-made doctrines.

In politics evangelicals will appeal to Christian morality usually without considering such matters of state sovereignty. This happens when evangelicals look to the federal government to implement laws that state or local governments have not adopted, or when born-again Protestants seek to intervene internationally without doing justice to the existing governments in place. I know, I know, these matters are difficult and the complexity of the situation can lead to pacifism or even indifference. I also concede that folks like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr., neither of whom used a long e when saying the word evangelical, also appealed to the higher law for the Declaration of Independence and Civil Rights. Still, evangelicals appear to me to be largely indifferent to existing governmental structures and laws when political forms get in the way of eternal truths. And every conservative (both religious and political) knows that this is a recipe for revolution.

This is not to say that Gerson espouses such radicalism, but only to point out that implicit in the appeal to a higher law is an impulse that makes evangelicals insufficiently aware of the restraint and stability that conservatives hope to preserve.

What's Good for the Immanentizer is Good for the Post-Millennialist

Alan Jacobs pushes back against Andrew Sullivan’s recent denunciation of Christianism. According to Sullivan:

Christians will look back on this period, I believe, with horror. The desire to control others’ lives and souls through politics is so anathema to the Gospels it will one day have to be exposed and ended. Until then, we just have to keep our spirits up and attend to our own failures as Christians, which, of course, are many.

Jacobs thinks he has the perfect antidote to Sullivan, and his name is Martin Luther King, Jr. Jacobs seems to think that King was doing what today’s Christians are doing, namely, arguing for conformity between the law of God and the laws of the United States:

[King] could have stayed in his prayer closet instead of politicking; he could have attended to his own failures as a Christian, which of course were many; he could have forgiven white Southerners instead of judging them. But no. He became an “outside agitator,” marching into ordinary American communities and telling them that their local laws, and indeed in some cases federal laws, were not to be obeyed — and why? Because they conflicted with the law of God! Notice the arrogance with which he associates his cause with God Himself. He even asserts that “human progress” only happens when “men [are] willing to be co-workers with God.” His whole vision for America is Christian and Biblical through and through: in his most famous speech he simply identifies the American situation with that of the Biblical Israel: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; ‘and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'” Talk about “the desire to control other people’s lives and souls”!

Well, I’ll take the bait. King’s immanentized political theology and identification of the United States with Israel was as bad as Jerry Falwell’s or now Rick Perry’s. That doesn’t stop Jacobs who explains, “After all, Dr. King’s faith commitments were at least as encompassing in their scope, as universal in their claims, as publicly political as Rick Perry’s . . .” Thinking of the United States as the New Israel is wrong no matter who is doing it and no matter what the cause.

But Jacob’s comparison is far fetched for at least three reasons. First, the Christian or Religious Right has not faced the same sorts of obstacles that African Americans did and IN some cases still do. Trying to glom evangelical politics on to the Civil Rights movement is just plain bad form (and this is from someone who doesn’t care for the increased power of the federal government that came with Civil Rights legislation). Second, King was not running for president. sponsoring a prayer rally around the same time that you are contemplating entering the Republican bid for the presidential nomination is almost as tacky praying before a NASCAR race and thanking the Lord for a “smoking hot” wife. Third, King’s appeal was much more common at a time when mainline Protestants dominated public life and appealed to Christian theology for social reform. For some reason, evangelicals don’t seem to understand that the United States has changed a lot since 1963, along with the etiquette governing public speech about the United States as a Christian nation. If not everyone, including the media elites, believes the United States to be a biblical polity, then maybe you don’t bring up the Bible if you want to persuade the media elites. Maybe also you don’t pray in public with a humongous U.S. flag at your back.

One last point: when Christians enter the public square and start using theology for political purposes, Christian doctrine always, always, always suffers. It happened with the Social Gospel. It happened with Martin Luther King, Jr. It happened with Reinhold Niebuhr. And it’s happening with Rick Perry. Consider the following from a report about the recent prayer rally:

The lineup of speakers at The Response reflect the impact of new charismatic and Pentecostal movements, especially those emphasizing spiritual warfare and round-the-clock prayer and worship, and which have produced another sort of army. That one is not particularly intrigued by the horse race of politics, but rather focused more exclusively on the supremacy of Jesus and preparing for his return.

That caused some controversy for the organizers of Perry’s event, which included speakers and endorsers who follow the New Apostolic Reformation. The NAR’s strident language of spiritual warfare and emphasis on prophecy, signs, and wonders, has drawn scrutiny. But it has the same dominionist aims of the old religious right, even while employing some new rhetoric.

The NAR has also drawn criticism from conservative evangelical “discernment” ministries that consider it heretical—a criticism that Response organizers dismissed. A week before The Response, Marsha West, a conservative writer and editor of the website Email Brigade, wrote a scathing blog post; which she published on the website of Response host the American Family Association, and which was subsequently taken down. West complained that the NAR, which she considers unbiblical, was involved in The Response.

West told me in an email that she was “thoroughly disgusted with Christian Right leaders who have joined forces with a group that is, by definition, a Christian cult. Because of CR leader’s lack of discernment, the NAR is now becoming mainstream.” (According to her website, West also considers Mormonism, the emergent church, new age spirituality, word of faith, homosexuality, and more to be unbiblical.) In the NAR, she particularly identified Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer, who played a big role in The Response. “[T]hese people are what the Bible calls ‘false prophets’… not true Christians,” West wrote. When I asked Garlow [Jim Garlow heads Newt Gingrich’s nonprofit, Renewing American Leadership]about West’s complaint, he shrugged it off, saying that he was not familiar with the term New Apostolic Reformation, even though he knew its founder, Peter Wagner. “I have a lot of confidence in him spiritually,” Garlow said of Wagner.

“There are a lot of theological differences here, but we’re focusing on one issue: Jesus,” Garlow added. “It’s not about whether Perry becomes president, it’s about making Jesus king.”

Does Jacobs actually believe Garlow? Can he not see that Sullivan is just a little bit justified in being skeptical about today’s “Christian” politics?