Politics and Inerrancy
by Martin E. Marty
“From a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God,” the biweekly glossy World (November 15/22) asks at almost issue-length what went wrong with the Republicans in the recent elections. To the editors’ credit, they do not spend much space in a blame game on what went wrong because of Democrats and liberals, but instead in self-examination of Republican faults. Decades ago wags said that the Episcopal Church was “the Republican Party at prayer,” but in elections in our time it has been said that “inerrant Word of God” factions tended to find Republicans to be inerrant. No more. Let’s look at World.
Up front, founder Joel Belz reflected that the “trouncing at the polls was thorough, painful, and unambiguous,” a confirmation that “the conservative coalition…has all but disappeared.” In 2000 and 2004 “razor-thin victories prompted us to think we had more clout than was ever really ours,” so “we” acquired the habit of brash pretense. Question: Should we take lessons on being a confirmed minority from “our Jewish friends” (see the seventh verse of Deuteronomy 7, Belz suggests: “the Lord loves you…”)? “Wouldn’t it be a good thing to humble ourselves-” and not wait for a new political cycle?
At the back, editor Marvin Olasky looks ahead with “plans to rebuild…an alliance between evangelicals and fiscal conservatives by emphasizing three C’s-community, civil society, and compassion-that would bring back into the fold young evangelicals…” Promote community with efforts “to limit government through expansions of the voluntary, nonprofit organizations that make up civil society.” Then: “[Governor] Palin…is a natural to run with [the] understanding” of compassion “in opposition to the greed she and others have decried.” So, “Bottom line: Once, the business of America was business.” Government more recently became our god, “but it failed.” A new understanding is beginning to appear: “Do not fear.”
Contributors include Princeton’s Robert George, who says it is a “daft and dangerous idea” to retreat from politics. Rebuild, emphasizing opposition to “abortion and embryo destructive research.” Dayton’s Larry Schweikert, on the other hand, says “some of the conservative Christians” will have to subordinate the issue of abortion for a while, and work to “bring us together” to oppose “wealth redistribution,” which is “fundamentally unscriptural and unbiblical.” Wendy Wright wants to keep fighting for “every pro-life protection.” Senator Rick Santorum blames many among “principled conservatism and Christian conservatism for having “lost our way on some things.” “We got wrapped up in the idea that government can solve problems…”
Public relations expert Mark DeMoss accuses his side of looking at things “completely black and white,” and of failing to back values-candidates with money. “We stand up” for candidates who support our values, “but we don’t give them money.” Pastor Tony Evans accuses fellow conservatives of having “often been too disconnected from where people really are, and that showed up in the economic crisis.”
The only cheering vote, to publishers of World, was Joe the Plumber’s victory over Brad Pitt, as three “marriage-protection initiatives” won in three states. Writer Lynn Vincent credited a new coalition, including evangelicals, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and many Christian denominations, and hoped that such a cluster could “impact the culture with Judeo-Christian principles.” Inerrantly. Will the programs of these notables rally straying or young evangelicals and heir kin? Wait and see.
Martin E. Marty’s biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.