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“Corporations are people, my friend” — Hobby Lobby and religious freedom

By Aaron Weaver

Less than two years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s most significant legislative accomplishment, “Obamacare” is set to be back before the High Court next month. Oral arguments for Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. are scheduled to begin March 25.

This high-profile case centers around David and Barbara Green, the Baptist owners of Hobby Lobby, a national chain of arts and crafts stores, and their children. The Green family objects for religious reasons to a federal regulation that mandates coverage of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. They specifically take issue with four of the 20 Food and Drug Administration-approved medications and devices, which they consider to have the potential to terminate a life.

The Oklahoma family claims that complying with the mandate infringes on their religious freedom and that the harmful impact on their consciences represents “one of the most straightforward violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [the Supreme Court] is likely to see.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is, of course, the legislation that the Baptist Joint Committee helped shepherd through Congress in the early 1990s. RFRA provides that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless the burden is the least restrictive way to further a compelling governmental interest.

Many commentators and advocacy groups have sided with the Greens. Denny Burk and Andrew Walker, two young conservative evangelical thinkers (the latter being a friend of mine), wrote recently in a column that the contraception mandate “represents one of the most egregious violations of religious liberty in American history.”

Declarative statements that begin with adjectives like “egregious” and conclude with the phrase “in American history” are normally more fiction than fact.

The whipping that Obadiah Holmes received strikes me as egregious. Ditto for the Mormons expelled from Missouri in the mid-19th century. Nativists didn’t exactly go easy on Catholics then and later. Jehovah’s Witnesses have never enjoyed a religious freedom red carpet. And Muslims in Murfreesboro needed the intervention of a federal judge to get their mosque opened in the summer of 2012.

Unfortunately, hyperbole has reigned supreme in this latest church-state conversation, if it can be called that — more of a culture war-esque shouting match.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the Green family and view them as fellow Baptist Christians committed to living out their faith with integrity. I respect that and also have a real respect for their religious liberty claims. I just don’t see their case as “straightforward” as they do.

As someone who has studied church-state issues for a number of years and published on the Baptist birthing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I have sincere questions about whether for-profit corporations should be entitled to religious freedom.

Judge Ken Starr, president and chancellor of my alma mater Baylor University, recently penned a thoughtful analysis of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby from the perspective of a committed conservative and as a former U.S. Solicitor General. The Judge’s engaging piece points to the clear complexities of this case.

Starr distinguishes Hobby Lobby from publicly-traded corporations like General Motors and Google, describing the arts and crafts chain as “five individuals carrying on a family business under the umbrella of a closely held corporation.”

Yet, the characterization of Hobby Lobby as a sort of mom-and-pop family enterprise does not persuade me. Yes, Hobby Lobby got its start on borrowed money in the garage of David Green in 1972. Thirty-two years later, Hobby Lobby boasts more than 550 stores and 16,000 full-time employees, not to mention the thousands of part-time workers.

When I think of a “family business,” Hobby Lobby doesn’t come to mind.

RFRA was intended to protect persons. The coalition of religious liberty advocacy organizations that demanded RFRA 20 years ago certainly did not have corporate personhood in mind.

I share the concern of others that if for-profit corporations are granted free exercise rights under RFRA, the important act would transform from a shield to a sword — injecting employers into the private medical decisions of its employees.

How would we respond if a Jehovah’s Witness-owned corporation was allowed to deny blood transfusion coverage for his employees? What if a Tom Cruise-owned corporation was allowed to refuse its employees mental health coverage, in the name of being faithful to sincere Scientologist convictions?

And what if a Hindu or Muslim-owned corporation refused coverage to a wide array of medications and medical devices containing bovine or porcine products? More than 1000 medications would qualify.

Church-state issues are just plain complicated.

In a recent column at a popular Catholic legal theory blog, noted legal scholar Alan Brownstein expressed his worry that “political and cultural polarization is making it harder for all of us to see and appreciate the legitimate concerns of claimants who from one perspective or the other are on the wrong side of the culture war dividing line.”

“We have to work hard at not seeing religious liberty issues through the red and blue prism of contemporary culture wars,” Brownstein wrote. “Most importantly, we should be careful not to allow our sympathies for interests aligned against particular claims prevent us from acknowledging and empathizing with plaintiffs whose concerns warrant our respect.”

Brownstein’s words are helpful. The politicization of religious freedom definitely does no favors for American society. We all share guilt here — some more than others.

When it comes to taking seriously the conscience claims of those with differing views, there is much room for improvement. The sincere conscience claims of the Greens deserve our respect and understanding, even if we ultimately disagree with them on how this complicated case should play out.

This post first appeared on the ABPnews/Herald blog.

Georgia gun bill functions as state regulation on churches, interferes with affairs of faith communities

Back in late February, EthicsDaily.com ran my column titled “Georgia Bill Would Allow Concealed Weapons in Churches.” That controversial bill – HB 875 – passed the Georgia House and headed to the Senate for a hearing earlier this week. I joined a group of about 25 Baptists from Georgia in endorsing a statement on this bill. I also drafted a statement of my own that was delivered to the Senate hearing on March 11. Read the text below of my letter and read the latest national news update on HB 875.

 

March 11, 2014

The Honorable Jesse Stone, Chairman
Judiciary Non-Civil Committee
Georgia State Senate
Atlanta, GA 30334

Re:  HB 875 — Safe Carry Protection Act

Dear Senator Stone and Judiciary Non-Civil Committee:

My name is Aaron Weaver and I am a resident of Tucker, Ga. I grew up in southeast Georgia in the Vidalia City School system and graduated from the University of Georgia in 2004. After completing two graduate degrees in Religion and Political Science at the Baylor University in Waco, Texas, I returned to my home state to work for a Baptist missions organization headquartered in Decatur, Ga.

I write to you today as a Georgia resident and as a person of faith to express my opposition to HB 875. Following the mass shooting on July 20, 2012 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, James Martin, a widely respected Jesuit priest, wrote, “The question is not so much how lives are ended, but how to make it more difficult to end lives.”

I write to respectfully ask that you and the members of your committee consider this vital question. In doing so, I urge you to consider the perspectives of Georgia faith leaders like Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Decatur, who has described the removal of the prohibition on firearms in houses of worship as “an intrusion into the life of faith.”

As a Christian committed to living out my faith, I feel strongly that guns have no place in the house of the Prince of Peace. Please allow these places of worship to remain sacred spaces. This time-tested prohibition has served our state well for many years and has made ending lives more difficult. The system is not broken. Government should limit itself to fixing only that which is in need of repair. Nothing here needs fixing.

HB 875 would force congregations to decide whether to permit or prohibit guns on their campuses and in their facilities. This would be an unnecessary and unwelcome interference into the affairs of faith communities on the part of the state of Georgia. HB 875 would function as a new state regulation on churches. It is constitutionally not the business of the state to regulate the church. I am sure you agree.

I write also as a lifelong Baptist to offer a word of caution regarding Baptist leaders claiming to speak on behalf of other Baptists. Mike Griffin, the new public policy spokesman for the Georgia Baptist Convention, testified last month in support of HB 875. In his testimony, Mr. Griffin claimed to the committee to speak on behalf of 1.3 million Georgia Baptists.

With all due respect to Mr. Griffin, he does not speak for me nor can he. Baptists simply cannot speak for other Baptists as we are committed to both individual and congregational autonomy. That is our shared 400-year-old theological conviction. Mr. Griffin speaks only for himself and presumably his employer. There has been no movement of Baptist clergy across the state for guns in pulpits and pews. While some Baptists such as Rep. Jasperse support HB 875, many like myself certainly do not. Please hear our concerns.

Sincerely,
Aaron Douglas Weaver, Ph.D.

Pope Francis: A humble man with a theology of exclusion

This column first appeared in the February edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin, the online publication of the Baptist History & Heritage Society. Learn more about BHHS here.

By Aaron Weaver

For much of the past year, there has been a tremendous amount of online buzz about Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the man the world now knows as Pope Francis. Week in and week out, Pope Francis is a subject of conversation in virtually every outlet imaginable from cable news to local news, conservative talk radio to NPR, Facebook to Twitter, and the list goes on.

The new pope clearly has captured the attention of millions and millions.

And, Pope Francis has impressed more than a few Baptists. The title of a recent Associated Baptist Press article sums up this sentiment: “For growing numbers of Baptists, Pope Francis is drawing admiration.”

The article quotes Barrett Owen, a Georgia pastor, who penned a blog post titled “#PopeCrush” that listed 10 reasons why the pope is so popular.

“What amazes me about his intrepid faith is that he manages to make Christianity look attractive, hopeful, loving, empathetic and meaningful. His serve-first mentality resonates with Boomers, Xers and Millennials,” Owen wrote.

The ABP article also quoted Jonathan Merritt, a Southern Baptist and columnist for Religion News Service, who has written about Protestants falling in love with Pope Francis.

Like Owen and Merritt and millions more, I too have been impressed.

“Who am I to judge?”

Those five short words from the new Bishop of Rome in response to a reporter’s question about gay priests prompted many to take notice. With his response, one thing was made clear — Francis was definitely no Benedict.

I cannot confess to having had many positive thoughts about Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. His past profession as heresy-hunter while Cardinal Ratzinger was a sure turn off and his connection to pedophile priests scandal did not win him any points with the masses.

Pope Francis’ booting of the “Bishop of Bling,” washing the feet of juvenile offenders, embracing an extremely disfigured man, and his critique of unfettered capitalism as a “new tyranny,” as well as his modest lifestyle are just a few reasons why I’ve been impressed. (Side Note: What does it say about the state of Christianity that we experience authentic admiration for a faith leader who makes the conscious choice not to live like Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar?)

While Pope Francis is certainly deserving of admiration, critique and caution are in order too.

Just eight months into his papacy, Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortationEvangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) — on November 26, 2013. There are parts of this document, dubbed “the manifesto of Francis,” worthy of praise, including the pope’s attack on capitalism that sent Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives into a tizzy.

But, there is at least one part that should cause egalitarians to take note.

“Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded,” Pope Francis wrote.

“The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.”

“Not a question open to discussion.”

Those six words should harsh the mellow of many — especially those who have embraced women as pastors.

A theology of exclusion that says women cannot serve as priests is likely not one that resonates much with equality-minded Boomers, Xers and Millennials. I find little intrepid about a faith that is closed even to a discussion about an equal role for women and men alike.

There is nothing courageous or fearless about excluding others.

In the midst of all the buzz, perhaps Baptists and other Protestants ought remember that, to quote a recent article by religion journalist David Gibson, “Yes, the pope is still Catholic” — the head of a massive global religious institution and sovereign city-state, who is more likely to cling to tradition rather than implement meaningful reforms. Pope Francis’ own words in Evangelii Gaudium speak for themselves:

“Not a question open to discussion.”

Just War Theory – What’s it good for?

An earlier version of this column first appeared in the September issue of the Baptist Studies Bulletin, a monthly online publication of the Baptist History & Heritage Society. You can subscribe here.

By Aaron Weaver

Just War Theory. What’s it good for?

With the fragile situation in Syria and the continued possibility of military intervention in Syria in the future, this is a question that I’ve been asking myself lately.

Many Christian ethicists must believe Just War Theory is, indeed, good for something. Christian Post recently ran an article titled “Would US Intervention in Syria Be a Just War?” Both Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, and Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative think tank, answered with an adamant “No.”

Numerous Catholic leaders have spoken out too, declaring that U.S. military action in Syria does not satisfy the criteria of Just War Theory. Several Baptist ethicists have also weighed in.

Russell Moore, the newly-inaugurated president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service: “The first principle of a just war, that of a just cause, has been met in this case. Assad’s regime is lawless and tyrannical, and rightly provokes international outrage. That said, there are other principles missing here, both to justify action morally and to justify it prudentially….Saving national credibility is important but it does not make a war just.”

Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., actually disagrees with Moore. He does not feel that the first principle of just cause has been met. “I see here no legitimately interpreted just cause sufficient to justify the United States going to war with Syria merely because parties in a civil war are doing bad things to each other,” Heimbach said.

Since the Iraq War, I have grown increasingly skeptical of the value of Just War Theory. While I find immense worth in the principles laid out in the theory itself—just cause, just authority, last resort, just intent, probability of success, proportionality of cost, just means, clear announcement—I don’t see the usefulness of Just War Theory as an ethical creed to test whether military action in a specific situation is morally acceptable.

I can’t name a war in my lifetime—30 years—in which prominent Christian leaders have not publicly utilized Just War Theory to reach polar opposite conclusions. When the U.S. and NATO began its bombing campaign that launched the Kosovo War, Richard Land, then president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, invoked Just War Theory to support military action, just as he had done during the Persian Gulf War almost a decade prior. “I believe this is clearly a situation where just-war doctrine is met. This is a last resort,” Land said.

But, some Baptists did not agree including leaders of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz released a statement expressing hope that his fellow Christians would “make a strong statement to the world that only in Jesus Christ can the world find peace. We worship him who said that they who use the sword shall perish by the sword. We are called upon to be peacemakers. Therefore, of course, we want the bombing to cease, for refugees to return, for an end to violence and ethnic cleansing.”

Notable Christian voices once again applied Just War Theory differently during the Iraq War or “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” While Parham outlined how the pre-emptive war did not meet just war criteria, Land and other Christian conservatives did the exact opposite. The “Land Letter” articulating support for the war using Just War Theory was signed by Bill Bright, D. James Kennedy, Charles Colson and of course, Richard Land. That letter did much to help give moral legitimacy to the 2003 invasion.

And more recently, moderate and liberal Protestants have differed on military action during the Obama presidency. In 2011, Parham argued that President Obama “bypassed the time-honored rules of just war” in attacking Libya. Yet, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, contended that the attack on Libya was indeed just according to the international security and human rights norm known as “Responsibility to Protect.”

Given the varied interpretations and applications of Just War Theory, why should I, as a Baptist who cares deeply about social justice and Christian ethics, cling to a theory that seems to have lost its usefulness?

How does Just War Theory really remain “time-honored”? From my vantage point, it seems that Just War Theory has been sorely dishonored.

Perhaps it’s time for more Christian ethicists to start invoking a new, fresh set of criteria,  and begin utilizing Just War Theory less as a rigid test, in which a perfect score is required, and more as a set of moral principles to help guide us through the complexities of the age we live in.

Recent Posts:

Religious liberty as a two-way street—A response to the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (9/23)

 

Religious liberty as a two-way street – A response to the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act

By Aaron Weaver

Religious liberty is a two-way street.

This is a point that far too many conservative Christian leaders can’t seem to grasp.

Rep. Raul Labrador – a Republican who has represented the 1st Congressional District of Idaho since 2011 – recently introduced a bill called the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” to protect individuals and organizations “from discrimination by the federal government” when it comes to viewpoints about same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

Labrador’s bill, which he deceptively calls a “narrowly-tailored piece of legislation” is a response to the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision earlier this year, striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional per the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. This latest conservative attempt to safeguard the religious liberty has the support of more than 60 House Republicans and even several Democrats, including Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Dan Lipinski of Indiana.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act has the backing of the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, National Organization for Marriage, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation writes in a column endorsing the bill: “Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage. Policy should prohibit the government from discriminating in tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting against such groups and individuals.”

This quote from Anderson sums up the rationale behind the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. Public policy should protect opponents of same-sex marriage from discrimination, with discrimination being defined as the opponents of same-sex marriage perceive it.

I’ve long believed that we should put a face to public policy. Academic-speak should be shelved. Public policy discussions should be real.

So, I’ll be personal. Keep Reading →

Baptists and Immigration Reform

My latest Baptist Studies Bulletin column is up over at the Baptist History & Heritage website.

Stop by and read the entire column on Baptists and immigration reform.  I’ve included a snippet below:

A look at history shows us that broad-based coalitions of “odd bedfellows”
sometimes are indeed able to work together to achieve a big goal.  An excellent
example is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law 20
years ago.  Baptists—notably the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious
Liberty—played a critical role in that process to ensure that government not be
allowed to infringe on an individual’s religious freedom in the absence of a
compelling state interest.

However, RFRA almost did not become a reality. The idea of a legislative
remedy to the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling in Oregon Employment Division
v. Smith
united diverse faith communities. The tricky part came when a
specific bill was introduced. RFRA was initially met with resistance from
pro-life groups.  Nearly three years lapsed before Congress finally passed RFRA
and the religious liberty bill was signed into law by President Clinton.

Sometimes, however, emerging movements and broad coalitions fizzle and fall
apart. Just a handful of years ago, national newspapers and magazines were
declaring the greening of evangelicalism. High-profile conservative evangelicals
were vowing to be better stewards and promising to mobilize their communities to
take political action to combat climate change.  In the end, the bipartisan
Climate Security Act, designed to modestly regulate greenhouse gas emissions of
corporations through a free market “cap and trade” system, was defeated.

In light of this historical backdrop, Baptists who are hopeful for
immigration reform should proceed with cautious optimism. Baptists did not quit
on RFRA when it died in 1990 and again in 1992. Rather, they participated in the
resurrection of RFRA on the third try.  Hopefully, Baptists and other Christians
will not abandon the cause of comprehensive immigration reform if confronted
with political roadblocks similar to those of the past that have led so many
briefly-energized evangelical voices to shamefully desert the environmental
arena since the supposed “greening” of evangelicalism.

Read the rest here.

Baptists Lead Charge Against Predatory “PayDay” Lenders

Check out my recent column in the March edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin on some Baptists fighting the good fight against predatory or “payday” lenders in states like Texas.

Here’s a snippet:

Abortion, homosexuality and church-state separation.  These are all issues on which Baptists have made their diverse opinions loudly known to the public.  But predatory lending is definitely not an issue that many associate with Baptists.

Yet, Baptists in several states have been fighting against the wealthy and powerful multi-billion dollar predatory lending industry in recent years.

At a regional meeting of the New Baptist Covenant in Oklahoma City in 2009, participants learned about the dangers and growing popularity of payday loans, especially among the working poor.  Participants heard from Stephen Reeves, public policy director for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, who offered the example of a military veteran who took out a $4,000 loan against his truck in order to help his daughter.  Unable to pay off the loan in full, the veteran was charged a $1,200 penalty fee per month. “He could pay $1,200 per month forever and never pay off that loan,” according to Reeves.

Keep reading here.

Usury – specifically usury that is legal  – is a rather important issue of fundamental fairness and justice that simply has not received the amount of attention and active emphasis that it is owed.  Let’s change that.

 

A New Year: Baptists and Climate Change

Take a look at my latest column for the Baptist Studies Bulletin of the Baptist History & Heritage Society.

Here’s snippet:

With the nation’s economy on better footing, will more attention be paid to environmental issues such as climate change in 2013?  Will churches and denominations once again discover that climate change is a challenge that is not going away?  Will all involved begin to move from words to action?  Will Baptists begin to collectively make good on their past promises and commitments to care for all of God’s creation and be active participants in the search for solutions to environment-related problems?

I am hopeful that the answer to all of the above questions is yes.  And when speaking up, we Baptists should recover the language of eco-justice.  Forty years ago, American Baptists coined that term after attending an historic United Nations summit on the environment in Stockholm, Sweden.  American Baptist leaders such as Owen Owens and Jitsuo Morikawa invested much time and energy in the early 1970s to giving eco-justice theological meaning rooted in the Baptist tradition and our commitment to individual freedom.  Merging the concepts of ecological wholeness and social justice, American Baptists pursued an effective form of environmental engagement.

This type of environmental engagement would again be beneficial to Baptists looking to transform verbal commitments of days past into concrete action in the public square.  It is time for Christians in general and Baptists in particular to be leaders rather than followers when it comes to caring for God’s creation.

Be sure to read the entire column here and let me know what you think below.

Alabama Baptist Convention Committee Rejects Resolution Welcoming Immigrants

Rev. Alan Cross is the senior pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  Cross submitted to the resolutions committee of the Alabama Baptist Convention a resolution titled “Calling for the Affirmation of Alabama Baptist Churches to Provide a Welcoming Hospitable Environment for the Immigrants and Aliens in our Midst.”  This resolution comes in the aftermath of Alabama’s adoption of a controversial, draconian anti-illegal immigration law known as HB 56.

Here is a short excerpt from that resolution:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that though we are to submit to the governing authorities and live quiet, peaceful lives (1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-6), we are to first show love and concern for all people according to God’s higher law as we love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage Alabama Baptist churches and individual Christians to care for all of those in need as God places them in our path whether they are here legally or not; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all people in all circumstances praying that all come to salvation in Christ; and

The resolutions committee has apparently rejected the resolution.

From Cross on details about the rejection:

I spoke to several people who were in the room and I heard their response as to why the resolution was dismissed. I will not share specifics, but it appeared to me (and this is just my judgment – I might be wrong) that the concern for the law of the state was higher than concern for God’s command to actively love all people, regardless of the consequences.

It also appeared to me (again, I could be wrong) that they were more concerned with having political access to Republicans than they were with clearly affirming a path of action for Baptists to obey the clear mandate of Scripture to love their neighbor as themselves.

I am not saying that all on the committee thought this as I believe that some wanted to approve the resolution. But, it seems that the voices against it were louder than the voices for it since the resolution did not make it out of committee.

Read the entire post here.

History tells us that Rev. Cross’ judgments are much more likely to be right rather than wrong.  Southern Baptists—especially at the state level—have many of the same problems as the Republican Party.

And in Alabama, Jim Crow has been replaced with Juan Crow.  Southern Baptists were instrumental in making that happen.  So, it comes as no surprise that Alabama Baptist leaders have rejected this resolution.

Alabama needs more Southern Baptists like Rev. Alan Cross.

A Young Conservative Critiques the Evangelical Post-Election Freak-Out

Conservative evangelicals are in freak-out mode.  The sky is falling.  The sky is falling.

Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary declared the 2012 election to be “an evangelical disaster.”  Dr. Denny Burk, also of Mohler’s Southern Seminary, called last Tuesday night “a disaster for social conservative causes.”

However, Mohler & Burk are getting a little push back from fellow evangelical Matthew Anderson of the popular blog Mere Orthodoxy.  Anderson is a younger conservative thinker who has demonstrated an ability to critique other conservatives.  In his latest post titled “The Election Disaster? Social Conservatives and Hope,” Anderson wrote:

1)  The willingness to dub this a “disaster” actually reinforces the identification of evangelical conservatives with Republicans in the public square, an identification that seems like is bad for everyone involved….

2)  It actually may be a pretty unsophisticated analysis….While Mohler dubbed this election a “seismic moral shift in the culture,” that presupposes not much had gone on in America since in between the last election.  And that this election happened out of nowhere.  The reality is that this game has been afoot for a while, and taking one election and responding like this simply confirms for most people how out of touch conservative evangelicals actually are.

And here is Anderson’s prescription:

What conservatives need is someone who can speak with authority about conservatism, who understands it well enough that they can cheerfully and graciously interact with those who disagree with us and win them to our team….What people want is not handwringing when things don’t go “our way,” but hope.  And a sober and serious assessment of how things look along with something like a strategy to turn them around that stays true to our principles.  Or maybe I speak too broadly.  So let me narrow the scope:  that is what I want from an evangelical leadership, not the sort of handwringing that we are currently experiencing.

…In the suggestion that this election was a “disaster” for social conservatives lay the seeds of fear and the beginnings of a less-than-cheerful oppositionalism to the President’s policies for the next four years.  But we as Christians are called to a politics of hope and that must frame our public discourse.  Not the sort of sentimentalized bastardization of hope that attaches it to the rise and fall of political, social, or moral orders.  But the hope that endures well beyond them, that cheerfully faces a world that is hardly to our liking and entrusts our children to the providential care of the loving and triumphal God.

Politically, there is likely very few areas of agreement between myself and Anderson.  Yet, I can respect someone who calls out his side for sounding a bit silly.  Unfortunately, both sides—left and right, Democrats and Republicans—have a penchant for overreaction.

Hyperbolic “chicken little” rhetoric harms the cause of civil discourse in the public square.  And a lack of civility makes pursuing the common good rather difficult.

Take for example Denny Burk’s reply to Anderson in which he doubled-down and asserted that  ”America–with wide-eyed realism–reelected the most…anti-religious liberty candidate in American history.”

I realize it’s cool to say someone is the most something in American history.  Such a comment—if meant to be taken seriously—reveals someone who would be well-served to take a Poli Sci or History course or two.  Do conservatives like Burk have any inclination about the state of religious liberty in this nation prior to World War II?  Sheesh.

Again, this type of rhetoric is not helpful.  Kudos to Anderson for reflecting on the rhetoric of his conservative friends in the aftermath of last Tuesday.

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About BDW

Dr. Aaron Weaver is a blogger, author, editor, advocate and historian who writes at the intersection of religion and politics. He lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife and toddler son.

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