What Do Bill Maher and A Southern Baptist Pastor Have in Common?

They both think a religious set of beliefs not theirs is enough to disqualify someone for public office.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign Bill Maher was interviewed on NPR about his film “Religulous.” Just before the ten minute mark, Teri Gross asked Maher his thoughts on the mixing of religion and politics. In response, Maher makes reference to the infamous YouTube video in which Sarah Palin was given spiritual protection against witches and deems that witchcraft, then says: “It’s pretty frightening to me that it’s the year 2008 and we’re considering for the second most important job in the United States of America someone who’s being ministered to by a witchdoctor?” He later wonders if we really want someone who holds fervent religious beliefs like Palin’s with her finger on the button.

And now Texas SBC Pastor Robert Jeffress seems to seriously wonder if someone, like Mitt Romney, who is a “good moral person but is part of a cult” is preferable to someone “who is truly a believer in Jesus Christ.”

Both assertions share some assumptions it seems. First, American politics are really, really super important. Second,  religious belief really, really matters when it comes to being qualified to be at the helm of really, really super important politics. Third, anyone who has religious beliefs that seriously diverge from one’s own are enough to disqualify that person from such an office. And, fourth, the way to get that point across and cast doubt in peoples’ minds is to play the fear and loathing card. Maher’s card is “witchcraft” and Jeffress’s is “cult.” Some might say that both men, ironically enough, are two sides of a skewed Constantinian coin. The same might wonder what religious bigotry looks like if not these two suggestions. It is quite true that Sarah Palin’s particular beliefs and practices are enough to keep her from the Lord’s Table in any confessing Reformed church, but what isn’t very obvious is how those beliefs and practices disqualify her from public office (insert cheeky remark about incompetence being the fulcrum here).

Jeffress also seems to take some pride in breaking the rules of politically correctness and deem Mormonism a cult. But that really isn’t very politically incorrect, because ever since Walter Martin the broad evangelical world the good pastor inhabits has agreed that Mormonism, along with other Christian sects and false religions, is part of the “Kingdom of the Cults.” Cue the scary music. But what may be more politically incorrect is to suggest that in the post-Jonestown age Walter Martin has seen his day and that it is hardly fitting, decent and becoming to describe mainly good citizens and neighbors as “cultists.” To the extent that a cult is a society of people that exist on the fringe of general society and are actually much more anti-social than anything else, it may be that our neighbors who think they will be deified instead of glorified and wear secret magic skivvies aren’t anymore cultists than we who believe a man who was conceived within a virgin floated up to the sky after he rose from the dead and told us to eat his body and drink his blood until he comes back to judge the world. See, it’s pretty easy to make people sound weird and suggest along the way that they should have no part in regular society. But the thing about religion is that it is supposed to be odd to the natural ear. I would hazzard that folks like Jeffress and Maher likely presume that religion is supposed to be rational and useful for the good of general society, and as such shouldn’t contain beliefs that are, well, strange. But one can’t help but wonder if that’s just a way to say that the only religion good for civil virtue is one’s own and the kind that should strike relative fear in the hearts of people is the other guy’s. But for those who might suspect this is all a form of religious bigotry there is an alternative view: religious belief is irrelevant to civil polity in the first place.

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This entry was posted in Church and State, Civil religion, Constantinianism, Culture, Mormonism, Presidential campaigns, Southern Baptists. Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to What Do Bill Maher and A Southern Baptist Pastor Have in Common?

  1. AZTexan says:

    Mormons are cultists, just like Roman Catholics, Russellites and so many other pseudo-Christian reprobates. Jeffress clarifies his use of “cult” here.

    I’m just amazed that an SBC pastor – especially one as cartoonishly slick and phony as this little weasel Jeffress comes across – not only got something right but actually had the sack to state it bluntly in full view of the media. It would seem, sad as it is, that men like Jeffress are the thin membrane holding the SBC together and slowing its inevitable declension into an apostate cult unto itself. Kudos to Jeffress…this time.

  2. "Michael Mann" says:

    AZ, I visited your site. Very creative use of words like “maggot” and “whore.”

    (Having tried to give some kind of compliment, MM looks at the pictures on the wall, wondering how long AZ is going to stay in the room.)

  3. AZTexan says:

    @Michael Mann:
    Thanks for stopping by. I enjoy your movies.

  4. Zrim says:

    MM, I was particularly taken with AZ’s impression of Jeremiah Wright, calling down God’s damnation on the anti-Calvinists (the way Wright did on America). Little wonder he’s a fan of the c-word (speaking of which, I struggled with whether or not the pic should be a shot of the Bluth family boat for any Arrested Development fans out there).

  5. AZTexan says:

    >>… calling down God’s damnation on the anti-Calvinists << Um, no. Not "calling it down" but merely agreeing with it.

    And what “c-word”?

  6. AZTexan says:

    Oh. Do you not agree that the LDS is an aberrant theological cult?

  7. RubeRad says:

    If you read the words in the post, you will see that Z is distinguishing among “aberrant theological cults”, those which are socially cults vs. common-grace good neighbors. In this other sense, there may be perfectly orthodox Calvinists who are socially cultic in that they live in a walled compound in Montana, armed to the teeth with AK-47s and canned corn. That’s the kind of “cultishness” that should disqualify one from public office. Now if Mitt Romney tried to get ordained in the PCA, I would be screaming “Cult!” along with the loudest of them, but why would Mormonism automatically make him a bad president? (You lump RC in with cults as well; I agree they are theologically aberrant, but does that invalidate JFK’s presidency?)

  8. AZTexan says:

    >>If you read the words in the post, you will see that Z is distinguishing among “aberrant theological cults”, those which are socially cults vs. common-grace good neighbors.<<
    Precisely. As you'll see in my original remarks, Jeffress clarified that he meant cult in the former sense and not the latter. So he was absolutely right. So I don’t understand all the pushback to my comments here.

    >>You lump RC in with cults as well; I agree they are theologically aberrant,…<<
    Then you and I – and Jeffress, I hope – are in total agreement.

    The assertion for which Jeffress should be taken to task is not that LDS is a [theological] cult (it most certainly is) but that Rick Perry is "truly a believer in Jesus Christ." HA!

  9. AZTexan says:

    Clarifcation: Above I mean that Jeffress explained that Mormons are “common-grace [what’s that?] good neighbors,” as you put it, RubeRad.

  10. Zrim says:

    AZ, Mormonism is unorthodox. That should be a sufficient choice of words. My point here is that “cult” is a way of overstating and even emotionalizing matters. It’s almost as if a comment on orthodoxy is insufficient. Can you bring yourself to describe Mormonism as simply unorthodox, or do you have the need to use the c-word?

    I just think that in our time and place “cult” is a word that sticks to a very narrow group of people and should be used conservatively. I am reminded of how the word “addiction” is over-used and applied by people who don’t suffer so much from a real pathology as they do from a lack of moral fortitude.

  11. RubeRad says:

    As you’ll see in my original remarks, Jeffress clarified that he meant cult in the former sense and not the latter.

    So I’m listening to your link from your first comment, and yes he does make exactly that distinction. But later (starting about 1:45) he still uses Mormonism’s theological cultishness as a demerit for public office:

    I would vote for Mitt Romney if the choice was Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, but I believe, guys, when we, as Evangelical Christians, have the choice to select a leader to unseat Barack Obama, we ought to give preference to a Christian, instead of someone who doesn’t embrace historical Christianity

  12. AZTexan says:

    Unorthodox is wholly inadequate in my opinion. I guess there’s the real crux of our disagreement.

    Would you object as strenuously to such “loaded” terminology outside of a high-profile, high-stakes political context? Not implying anything here; just curious.

  13. AZTexan says:

    Indeed, ain’t it just like an oily political hack to assert, pander, backpedal, doublespeak and pander a little more, all with the practiced poise and palpable arrogance of the true sociopath. Perhaps Jeffress will run in 2016 or 2020.

    And I’d forgotten that Jeffress went so far as to affirm Obama as a Christian. What more justifcation, I ask you, does one need to dismiss these clowns and their circus?!?

  14. RubeRad says:

    Yes, it’s funny to see Jeffress squirm around the very difficult question of who is “more Christian”, Romney or Obama. It illustrates very well how that is just the wrong question to be asking in this political context.

  15. Zrim says:

    AZ, yes, that is likely the crux of our disagreement. For my part, since an assessment of orthodoxy holds more sway, if I were called unorthodox it would cause more angst than being called a cultist since the latter is way off the mark so as to be silly.

    Yes, I think the terminology is bad form even in the most mundane settings. When my Baptist neighbor suggests our Mormon neighbor is a cultist I’d still wonder how the term fits. So while all cultists are unorthodox, not all unorthodox are cultists.

    But I wonder if it helps you to know that I would consider my Baptist neighbor to be unorthodox? Sacramentology counts just as much as christology. But he’s no cultist.

  16. Zrim says:

    That’s more the larger point of my post. Jeffress is as Constantinian as Maher.

  17. AZTexan says:

    >>So while all cultists are unorthodox, not all unorthodox are cultists. But I wonder if it helps you to know that I would consider my Baptist neighbor to be unorthodox?<<
    Precisely my point: because that is the case, “unorthodox” is too broad, too nebulous and, frankly, too charitable a term. Mormons aren’t just unorthodox Christians in the sense that interpretive dance is unorthodox worship or southpaws are unorthodox boxers. Mormons aren’t Christians at all while, arguendo, your Baptist neighbor presumably is.

    Also, consider the formal markers of true cults/-ists: aberrant theology; continuing revelation; man-centered and/or personality-driven; rigidly authoritarian/controlling/possessive/manipulative; wildly exclusive; isolationist (not necessarily geographically); use of systematic mind control/brainwashing; and on, etc. Your Baptist neighbor does not belong to an organization that fits the bill, but Mormons indubitably do.

    Monsters like Crowley, LaVey and Aquino don’t hole up in remote compounds or stand in airports handing out flowers. In fact, particularly in the case of the latter two, these devils are usually considered upstanding, polite, brilliant men – “good neighbors” – by those outsiders who know them superficially. But they are cultists to the core. I’m not suggesting that Ma n’ Pa Mormon down the street are Michael Aquino and Lillith Sinclair; I’m suggesting you reconsider your conception of cult and cultist.

  18. Zrim says:

    AZ, you’re being too easy on credo-baptists. I wouldn’t commune a credo, and if one doesn’t have visible membership then his invisible membership is in question. I suspect sacramental latitudinarianism on your part.

    And if the formal markers are all that then what if my neighbor is Fred Phelps?

  19. AZTexan says:

    If Fred Phelps is your neighbor, then your neighbor is a cultist in my estimation.

  20. Zrim says:

    Right. But most Mormons, though unorthodox (or of “aberrant theology”), simply don’t meet the larger balance of your own markers: personality-driven; rigidly authoritarian/controlling/possessive/manipulative; wildly exclusive; isolationist (not necessarily geographically); use of systematic mind control/brainwashing.

    I mean, wherever I have lived one would be pretty hard pressed to honestly describe the local LDS church in this way, as well as the RCC which I believe you also classify as a “cult.” So while I appreciate your suggestion that I reconsider my conception of cult/ist, I’d return the favor. And for good measure, isn’t there something to be said for protecting the reputation of our neighbors, even those we’d anathematize?

  21. AZTexan says:

    >>… one would be pretty hard pressed to honestly describe the local LDS church in this way, as well as the RCC …<>And for good measure, isn’t there something to be said for protecting the reputation of our neighbors… ?<<
    I have very little concern for their reputation when their eternal destiny is at stake.

  22. AZTexan says:

    For some reason my reply was cut in half. Here’s the full text of what I said:
    *… one would be pretty hard pressed to honestly describe the local LDS church in this way, as well as the RCC …*
    Hard-pressed? How? All the traits I mentioned are very present in “the local LDS church… as well as the RCC,” just not in the (apparently) Jim Jonesian way you envision. LDS, RCC, JW, SDA, Christian Science, UCofC, etc., all possess those qualities in spades. Do you not consider Scientology a cult, based on your conception of the term? I guess we’ve hit a wall here.
    *And for good measure, isn’t there something to be said for protecting the reputation of our neighbors… ?*
    I have very little concern for their reputation when their eternal destiny is at stake.

  23. Zrim says:

    AZ, yes, a wall indeed. My suspicion here is that you’re thinking the absolute worst about whoever doesn’t share our faith and practice, which is actually pretty black and white (read: fundamentalist).

    And I understand that to the fundie mind it seems pious to disregard others’ provisional reputation when their eternal destiny is on the table, but to my Reformed thinking redemption simply doesn’t swallow up creation—we still owe those who are created but not redeemed a better charity. And when we do so it only lends that much more credibility to our redemptive conclusions of them. One worry I have with your outlook is that it can imply that only good and well behaved people are orthodox, since to be unorthodox always means you’re guilty of “personality-driven; rigidly authoritarian/controlling/possessive/manipulative; wildly exclusive; isolationist (not necessarily geographically); use of systematic mind control/brainwashing.” So, I guess if I’m none of these then I’m Christian, which means I’m heaven bound and never vulnerable any of those things. Sounds good, but that just isn’t the real world I inhabit.

  24. AZTexan says:

    You misunderstand my position completely. But we don’t know each other, so that’s understandable. Unfortunately this ain’t the place to gain intimate understanding of the nuances of our respective views. Let’s leave it here, shall we?

    Thanks for having me, and for taking the time to engage. 🙂

  25. RubeRad says:

    Wait a minute, AZ, you’re quitting before the discussion devolves to going round in circles? I’m not sure the internets is the right place for your kind…

    Really though, thanks for dropping by and interacting. (I’m trying to be sincere here, not sarcastic, but I’m not sure that’s coming through with just ASCII)

  26. Paul says:

    I may be missing something. I’m generally in agreement with a view that supports a pretty robust bifurcation between one’s politics and one’s religion. But it seems that there’s a more austere view in place here, as if someone’s religious views should never be taken intro consideration when voting one for public office. Ideas do have consequences after all, and it’s hard for man to keep his beliefs all neat and tidy and compartmentalized. Now, I’m not sure if belief that one will one day become a god of his own planet is sufficient to warrant worry over handing over the keys to the whitehouse, but there sure seems to be some religious views that do. Someone who held the religious belief that Jesus would only return if something like WWIII were started, would sure cause me to raise a couple of eyebrows. Is it the position here that one’s religious beliefs should *never* properly be taken intro consideration as warrenting a political check the “No” box?

  27. Zrim says:

    Paul, I wouldn’t put it quite that way. What I am questioning is the notion that religious views really have the kind of direct and relevant bearing on political behavior that some, like Maher and Jeffress, suggest.

    If GWB, whose favorite philospher is Jesus, had said we should invade Iraq in order to protect Israel because as a Dispensational believer he thinks Israel is still God’s chosen nation and it’s every other nation’s duty to protect them, then I would be bothered not so much by his Dispensationalism as by his doctrine of pre-emptive war. And if his opponent had campaigned by saying that God is giving him a word of knowledge that we should get out of Iraq, it wouldn’t bother me because I agree that we should. While both the Dispensationalism and the Pentecostalism are enough to vote “no” on Reformed church membership, I don’t see why they should bother me politically.

  28. AZTexan says:

    The pleasure was mine, RubeRad. Thanks. 🙂

  29. Paul M. says:

    Yes, I’m in *general* agreement with that, but it seems to me that there are some religious views which not only disqualify one for president as well as membership in Reformed churches. For example, take your latter example. I’d be worried that we’d be subject to ever-changing, and who knows how weird or dangerous, “words of knowledge,” and the uncertainty of where the train would go would ipso facto rule out said candidate. So I take the via media. I don’t think any and all religious views have the direct relevance on political decisions as Maher &c. might believe, but I also don’t believe that *no* religious view does or could have said bearing.

  30. Zrim says:

    I understand. But, to my cessationist mind, since “words of knowledge” tend to not be much more than baptized human opinions, it really doesn’t bother me so much. What I’d consider is what sorts of “words” were being gotten. If they were generally and regularly sane and I agreed with most then so what?

    So I wonder about your automatic assumptions that such “words” are “weird and dangerous.” If they were weird and dangerous, and I didn’t agree with them, then probably mark “no” in the ballot box. But the weird and dangerous comment sounds a lot like what Jeffress wants to suggest about people who don’t share his theological convictions (Mormons) and must therefore be suspect politically. But Penties aren’t anymore weird and dangerous than Mormons. They’re not orthodox, but again, what’s that got to do with civil rule?

  31. Paul M. says:

    I agree that they’re human opinions. But it’s still a theological belief the guy has, and to his continuationist mind, they’re authoritative thus sayeths. So I think there could be some cases where a guy generally and regularly “receives” sane utterances, and I guess a hard look at the track record would need to be looked at. Still, I’d be a little learly given that power corrupts and absolute power corrups absolutely.

    Regarding your wonderings, I have no such assumption, wutomatic or otherwise. That’s why I said “who knows how weird and dangerous?” However, by that I didn’t mean weird beliefs like thinking you’re gonna be a little god of your own planet and have sex with multiple wizes making Platonic pre-existent souls out of which the world will be populated. That’s weird, not dangerous. And I said weird *and* dangerous? I don’t think Mitt’s beliefs are any more “dangerous” than an Appalachian pentecostal’s.

    So for me, as always, it’s a case-by-case thing. I don’t feel comfortable making sweeping generalizations about theological beliefs *never* being a cause for a political “no” vote.

  32. Paul M. says:

    Weird thing happened with my name, could Rube or Z fix it for me?

  33. Paul M. says:

    And oops, “leery’ not “leary,”

  34. Zrim says:

    Well, I’d say those Mormon beliefs are more unorthodox than weird. Like I said at the end of the post, you can make anything sound weird, even orthodoxy. Then again, isn’t religious belief supposed to be sort of odd? But if I don’t much care for how the Romans tried to frame us as cannibals for “eating flesh and drinking blood” and therefore bad citizens since cannibalism isn’t good for society, then I’m not comfortable with suggesting Romney’s weird beliefs disqualify him for office like Jeffress seems to be doing. I’m pretty sure you’d agree.

  35. Paul M. says:

    Well, maybe you say toe-may-toe and I say toe-mah-toe, but I think it’s a weird belief; but that may be due to my familiarity of all that’s entailed in making said claim. Other than that, our worldviews determine what counts as weird or not, and given my Christian worldview, it’s a weird belief. They may think my conception of the Trinity is weird. Fine. But I know that assessment is based on a false worldview. In any event, I don’t think religious belief is “supposed” to be weird. There may be some weird beliefs, but I don’t think most fall into that category. In any case, I don’t think Romney’s Mormonism disqualifies him for office. So we’re agreed there.

  36. RubeRad says:

    Is it the position here that one’s religious beliefs should *never* properly be taken intro consideration as warrenting a political check the “No” box?

    No, I think around here we would abhor candidates who have a religious belief of anti-2K, i.e. they would self-consciously and intentionally drive their presidency (and the country) according to their religion.

  37. Paul M. says:

    Rube, that’s fine, but that rather seems to negate Zrim’s comments. Perhaps that’s why you’ve playfully labeled his position z2K?

  38. RubeRad says:

    Well yeah, the nickname Z2K does indicate I think Z takes it too far sometimes (two more than W2K!), but I think Z would agree with that sentiment. The question is whether Mormons in general, or Romney in particular, should a priori be suspected of anti-2K, which is kind of the same as asking whether they are an anti-social cult.

  39. Zrim says:

    For political office, vote “no” on the theo since I oppose executing idolaters and sexual deviants. For ecclesiastical office, vote “no” on the theo because he’s a theo.

  40. Paul M. says:

    Z, You wrote, “I’m not comfortable with suggesting Romney’s weird beliefs disqualify him for office like Jeffress seems to be doing” and “What I am questioning is the notion that religious views really have the kind of direct and relevant bearing on political behavior that some,”

    I thought it was your view that theological beliefs shouldn’t disqualify one for office, and I came in and said, “Well, *some* beliefs should, some shouldn’t.” We went back and forth for a bit, only to now find out you agree that *some* theological beliefs have a bearing on qualifications for office.” You don’t think belief that God has a penis and one day the believer will become his own God disqualifies one for public office, but you do think that someone who is “anti-2K” and would self-consciously and intentionally drive the country according to their religion (like thos Penti’s??) is so disqulified.

    I see, clear as mud 🙂

    P.S. If Todd is reading, sorry for the emoticon.

  41. Zrim says:

    Paul, I am assuming that a theo’s platform would include the execution of idolaters and sexual deviants. It’s that political conclusion that I would oppose, not his theonomy. So if a Mormon or Pentie somehow had the same platform I’d still oppose him but not because he’s a Mormon or a Pentie. I’d oppose the unrepentant Mormon and Pentie from having church membership because of his Mormonism and Pentecostalism, and I’d oppose the theo having ecclesiastical office because he’s a theo.

    If a theo wasn’t consistent and his platform didn’t include the execution of idolaters and sexual deviants then he’d have a better chance with me (depending on what other things he did conclude, of course). So, you’re right in this latest set of comments. Rube may oppose a theo coming to power because he’s a theo, but I don’t. It’s like I said before: I wouldn’t oppose a Pentie because he thinks God told him to commit pre-emptive war, I’d oppose him for his doctrine of pre-emptive war. And even if he thinks God told him to do something I agree with politically, I’d still oppose his church membership because he’s spiritually unorthodox.

    Frankly, in terms of theos coming to political power I don’t worry much about it because by the time any theo came to any real and serious candidacy in this country he’d realize he’d have to choose between his theonomy and the modern arrangement which rejects the sorts of political conclusions his theonomy brings him to, and he’d either have to behave more like a 2ker or disappear into theonomic irrelevancy (which is where most reside–if only the church had a way to make them go away). This is what folks like Maher or Hitchens don’t seem to understand as they fret over the dominionist backgrounds of some of the candidates. The American arrangement has an uncanny ability to ferret out the theos or at least break their wills. It’s also why folks like Jefferess worry for no good reason.

  42. RubeRad says:

    Frankly, in terms of theos coming to political power I don’t worry much about it because by the time any theo came to any real and serious candidacy in this country he’d realize he’d have to choose between his theonomy and the modern arrangement which rejects the sorts of political conclusions his theonomy brings him to

    Except we have to account for places like Dearborn where a theo (read: Shariah) politician may have strong local support for an anti-2K position.

  43. Paul M. says:

    Zrim,

    I hear you. So you think that if a theological position will lead to unsavory political and civil consequences, then that’s enough to take it into consideration and oppose its coming to power via your “No” vote. The problem here that you’ll need to wrestle with (and I agree with you in principle, and frankly don’t think belief that God has a penis has much carry over in terms of unsavory political and civil consequences) is who gets to say what counts as “unsavory consequences.” This reminds me of the Rawlsians who invoke the “harm principle” to decipher just when government should and shouldn’t infringe on liberties. As anti-Rawlsians have pointed out, what counts as “harm” is open to serious debate and so the principle is essentially useless, being a smokescreen to smuggle in normative positions that have been ostensibly ruled out by Rawlsians (this being just an illustrative example of my more general point about how your demarcation principle avoids charges of arbitrariness).

  44. Paul M. says:

    Oh, and I agree that those with extreme views either way won’t come to power, unless they lie . . . like Obama did! Muuahahaha

  45. Zrim says:

    Rube, Dearborn has theos and Grand Rapids has neos. Is there no place for a Michigan 2ker to rest his head?

    Paul, good thing I’m not solving all the philosophical problems in the world and just trying to articulate my view of it (did I just say I have a “worldview”?). But actually what I am saying is that I would politically oppose what I consider an unsavory political opinion, regardless of what it flows from theologically. I see no need to take into consideration the theological view attached to a political opinion in order to make a political conclusion about it. Sure it’s interesting in plenty of other ways, but theology isn’t relevant politically. This also works in the reverse: I don’t take into consideration one’s political views when evaluating his ecclesiastical fitness, so someone can disagree with me politically but if he susbscribes doctrinally to the Reformed faith we’re good.

    P.S. I know it’s an outhouse but please quit saying p-e-n-i-s. I die a little inwardly each time you do.

  46. Paul M. says:

    Zrim,

    Sorry for the reference to the mail organ, but I figured that since you didn’t think believing that one day you’d become a god of your own little planet was weird, perhaps you’d think believing that God has a ______ is weird. Maybe you just think that’s unorthodox too. I go for weird and unorthodox.

    In any case, I can’t see how you’re not objecting to a theological belief. What you’re saying is that someone’s theological belief has unsavory political consequences, and the consequences of said *theological* belief are enough for you to vote “Nay.” I can’t get my head around how it’s otherwise, semantics excluded. (Btw, no one’s asking you to solve philosophical problems. Actually, the issue I raised is a live and important and currently debated legal and political issue. Answers to which help determine whether our articulation of the way we see the world is at all cogent.)

  47. Paul M. says:

    Duh, I mean “male” organ!

  48. Zrim says:

    Paul, I’m not sure how you’re getting that when the issue is political I would object to the attached theological belief. That is exactly not what I am saying. I’m saying I would politically oppose or affirm a political view, regardless of any purported theological reasoning by its adherent. If a Pentecostal candidate said he opposes pre-emptive war or affirms that states should be allowed to govern themselves on abortion because God told him these were good policies then I could politically affirm him, because I agree with his baptized human opinions. I reject that God revealed to him directly anything, but it’s irrelevant because I agree with what he thinks he was told.

  49. Paul M. says:

    Zrim,

    Let’s recall the context of dialogue. I wrote:

    “Is it the position here that one’s religious beliefs should *never* properly be taken intro consideration as warranting a political check the ‘No’ box?”

    Rube replied:

    “No, I think around here we would abhor candidates who have a religious belief of anti-2K, i.e. they would self-consciously and intentionally drive their presidency (and the country) according to their religion.”

    I then said,

    “Rube, that’s fine, but that rather seems to negate Zrim’s comments.”

    So, just to clear things up, I’m right in the last comment, correct? Rube’s claim about “the position here” isn’t your claim; you and he disagree, right?

    Next point: Since the guy’s theological and political belief are inseparable, this means you’re objecting to the theological belief, regardless of whether you want to draw arbitrary lines and say you’re not doing that. The case you bring up, the theological belief is a meta-level belief about how the guy (supposedly) receives his second-order political beliefs. In the other case, the two are one and the same. See the difference?

  50. Zrim says:

    Paul, l’ll repeat what I said above: Rube may oppose a theo coming to power because he’s a theo, but I don’t. So, yes, it appears we disagree.

    Yes, I understand your point as far as it goes. But what I don’t get is why it’s a given that the guy’s theological and political beliefs are inseparable simply because you (and he) say so, yet when I say I am only considering his political beliefs it’s just wrong. If a guy says he thinks 2 + 2 = 5 because God told him so, I am not rejecting his theological reasoning when someone asks if I agree with his math and I say no. And if I agree with another who says 2 + 2 = 4 because God told him so, I am not affirming his theological reasoning when someone asks if I agree with his math and I say yes. When the question is simply mathematical or political, theological reasoning just doesn’t matter. But if someone asks me if I affirm either’s theological reasoning and I reject it then I am commenting on his theology. I am flummoxed as to why this is so hard.

  51. Paul M. says:

    Zrim,

    Thanks for saying it, but I didn’t see you say it exactly, so I’m not sure if this is again. In any event, I appreciate the straightforward concession.

    On the second point, of course it’s not that they’re inseperable “simply because I say so.” The inseperability is borne out through analyses of the belief under question. I had pointed out that on your example, there was a first-order belief and then a *meta* belief *about* first-order beliefs. On my example, the political belief *just is* the theological belief. Your new example commits the same fallacy. 2+2=5 is not in any straightforward sense a “theological” belief, though his *mea-level* claim that God told him so, *is* a theological belief. However, take this: God told me that Jesus is just a prophet, and I believe that. Now, here I have the meta-level belief, i.e., the one God told me, and I *also* have a first-order, i.e., that Jesus is just a prophet. That belief, unlike the 2+2 belief, *just is* a theological belief. So here you’d disagree with a theological belief.

    So, to put this in perspective, the claim that God told me to impliment the 9-9-9 plan is like your 2+2 example. The theological belief can be objected and the taxation belief accepted (or rejected) quite apart from any theological concerns. For the 9-9-9 plan just isn’t a theological belief. In other cases, a man may have a theological belief which translates to a political belief where the political belief *just is* a theological belief. The only way I can see you rejecting this is if you hold that it is impossible for any political belief to also at the same time be a theological belief. But this claim is false, for we know many political beliefs that are simultaneously theological beliefs (OT Israel is case in point).

    I’m not sure if that clears it up for you, but if you still don’t understand then I’ll just thank you for the time and space to give my view of the world, for I don’t know how else I could put the point any simpler. I would hope that you can see the point though. I have my doubts you’ll conceed, for you’ve already committed yourself to the position that no political belief could be a theological belief in your admission that you disagree with Rube.

  52. Zrim says:

    Paul, I do see your point and it is fair enough. But you are also right that I have committed myself to a distinction between political conclusion and theological outlook, as opposed to the antiseptic principles of logic. I wish to preserve the principles of liberty in both directions, which is to say I don’t want to see politics judged theologically or doctrinal devotion judged politically. I know as a logician this irritates you, but once again it may be a case of the Reformed confessionalist-Reformed philosopher variety hour. Thanks for the friendly exchange.

  53. Paul M. says:

    I won’t respond other than to say that your desire doesn’t irritate me, respecter of logic or not.

  54. Jed Paschall says:

    Holy Smokes, I can’t believe I have missed out on this one. Follow political and econ blogs for a week or two, and this is what happens.

    Paul,

    I get where you are going with the meta level of belief, and the inseparability between meta’s and more practical outworkings such as political positions. I certainly think that there is something to this. However, while landing somewhere between you and Zrim (which happens all too often) I also tend to Zrim’s arguments here, since we must, in a sense (hate that phrase, but will use it in all of its vague glory) we have to sequester meta level beliefs from second order beliefs in the political/secular sphere, simply because we must vote or opine on the positions given to us, regardless of what motivates them.

    I’ll use Gary North for example. Let’s say he is running for political office. I am ideologically averse to his Reconstructionist convictions, however I also respect a great deal of his ability to analyze political, economic, and social issues. I would have to then sequester his theonomist leanings from some of his second order political positions, and decide how to vote. We all have to make these sorts of trade offs in the voting process, since it is highly unlikely that we will ever encounter candidates who’s worldviews converge identically with our own. Does it help to understand the epistemological bases of a candidates political views, yes; but does his theology function as an automatic disqualifier for my vote? No. Admittedly, these first-order beliefs might in some cases make me stray away from voting for an individual, but usually this still has more to do with the policy positions that flow from his convictions. So yes, if a Huxleyian or Orwellian type figure appears with designs for a brave new political social reality, I am likely to be suspicious, and I am likely to make my decisions while looking at the whole picture, but in the real world, it is less likely that we run into candidates who possess such diabolical consistency between a suspicious worldview and policy that they would enact to shape the world according to these designs.

    The on-the-ground reality is more of a mixed bag that generally requires at least a soft bifurcation between fundamental beliefs and political positions. Plus, you show me a politician who doesn’t shy away from fundamental assumptions about the way the world should be, and we will both be looking at a fringe figure like Nader, or Paul, or Bernie Sanders. It’s rare for politicians to have much political loyalty to any centralizing ideal, which is part of what is wrong with our political system today, but that’s another discussion entirely.

  55. Paul M. says:

    I agree sometimes we can sequester, other times we can’t. For example, if the political belief is *identical* to a theological belief, and we know the identity relation. I think to oppose my argument is to affirm, like Zrim seems to want to, that no religious belief *can* be a political one. I just think that’s false, and obviously so.

  56. Copperchips says:

    I totally agree that religion should not be the basis of qualification for civil polity. Even so, I’m having a tough time swallowing your thought process, Zrim. It seems that our zealous, outspoken pastor may revealing more than some would like to stomach when it comes to public opinion. It’s not suprising to me that individuals like Pastor Jeffress feel obligated to speak out against religions like Mormanism when he, and millions of others, adhere to scripture passages like John 14:6 or John 8:12, which testify to the exclusivity of the lordship of Christ, both imminently and transcendently. Steadfast adherence to biblical standards, such as the exclusivity of the Gospel, will cause one to become politically incorrect, in a sense. I understand that Jeffress may be using his religious stance as a political crowbar to strike fear in the minds of apethetic voters. I don’t agree with spiritual mud slinging when it comes to politics. This, to me is a private issue. I’d much rather have a economically and politically saavy president who listens to the people, and happens to be a Mormon, than ram-rodding a “Christian” into office who doesn’t a thing about running a country. My thoughts are simple. The Gospel is either the Cornerstone, or the stumbling block. It will create schism with those whho believe the whole of the Bible and those who don’t.

  57. Zrim says:

    CC, if you agree that religious belief is irrelevant to qualify for political office then what exactly are you having hard time swallowing in my thought process?

  58. Pingback: Comparing Moralist Apples and Heterodox Fruit | The Confessional Outhouse

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