When Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was confronted with demands last summer that some of its buildings be renamed, because they honored slaveholders whose white-trash theology served as an engine of southern slavery and racism, I briefly sketched the political problem confronting the school’s president, Albert Mohler.
If the Southern Baptists were not the authors of so much human misery, I would almost feel sorry for him; after all, he is between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He operates within an infrastructure of religious tradition which has long been the primary engine of southern racism and, however desperately its leadership wishes to change that because it is indispensable to the denomination’s very survival, the laity who pay his salary and once threw rocks at the freedom marchers aren’t going to be good sports about being told they were and are wildly, morally, wrong.
He has a further problem: The Southern Baptists, often with unseemly aggressiveness, claim to be the keepers and guardians of Eternal Truth — which cannot lightly be updated.
Now that evangelicals are flocking to the racist and xenophobic Donald Trump, Russell Moore has been the point man for explaining to them that, No, Christians can’t support the kinds of things he is saying.
W-h-e-e-e-e — you read it here first, folks.
[H]e wrote an article filled with passive-aggressive shots at the Christian electorate who support Donald Trump for president or are sympathetic to some of the ideas he has put forth. In particular, he went after “white American Christians,” as he categorized his audience late in his article. Sadly, instead of addressing the Christian electorate straightforwardly, Dr. Moore chose to confront his audience through implication, innuendo, and insinuation, causing the reader to have to connect the dots a bit, but once the dots are connected, the article was indeed “a rather stinging critique” not really of the Trump candidacy but of those who support the Trump candidacy or are at least sympathetic to some of his ideas. In doing so, Dr. Moore’s rhetoric went too far.
It’s kind of like the College Boys vs. the Good Ol’ Boys, with neither side bound by reality. How can you not love it?
There are some important political lessons in all this.
The evangelical leadership are not kingmakers. The next time any of these hot dogs presumes to go to somebody like Mitch McConnell, say, and tell him he has to do this or do that if he wants the evangelical vote, McConnell is going to laugh in his face. Good. Laughter is all they deserve from grown-ups.
The evangelical right is not animated by theology; it is animated by malice toward anybody who is … other. Nietzsche knew that 125-years ago, H.L. Mencken knew that 75-years ago — but by the time Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, that had somehow been forgotten. The electoral chaos we have today is the result.
Yes, they have the right to believe whatever they like; there is no natural-born, built-in right to be taken seriously, however. That has to be earned — and these clowns don’t have what it takes.
People like Moore and Mohler don’t even know who is sitting in their pews and classrooms, and they are so used to automatic deference that they’ve never bothered to find out. It’s going to be ugly when the Southern Baptists meet-up this summer.