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Baptizing Prejudices: How Bush’s War Drags Down the Religious Right


Charles Marsh, a professor of religion at the University of Virginia, has written a great essay published by the Boston Globe. You can find it here.

He notes the near-universal support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq by white American “evangelicals,” and the near-universal condemnation of it by all other Christians around the world (including the Episcopal Church):

Why did American evangelicals not pause for a moment in the rush to war to consider the near-unanimous disapproval of the global Christian community? The worldwide Christian opposition seems to me the most neglected story related to the religious debate about Iraq: Despite approval for the president’s decision to go to war by 87 percent of white evangelicals in April 2003, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts poll, almost every Christian leader in the world (and almost every nonevangelical leader in the United States) voiced opposition to the war.

He quotes Christian Bonhoeffer, the German Christian executed by the Nazis, who foresaw the complete irrelevance of “evangelical” Christianity:

“The time of words is over,” he wrote. “Our being a Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action.”

Professor Marsh might have done just as well to quote LGBT people today—because we have told the world for decades that what the religious right does is to baptize prejudice.

But no, Dr. Marsh can’t get his mind around that, or maybe he’s smart enough to know that he can’t quote Gay people to “evangelicals” and hope to get a hearing.

Yet what is that, but baptized prejudice?

I’m glad he’s finally decided that maybe progressive Christians in the USA have something to say, something worth listening to, about the Gospel and state-sponsored terrorism. Bush’s War has hurt the United States as much as it’s destroyed Iraq. Americans will spend decades cleaning up after this Worst President in History. And who gave us George W. Bush? The self-proclaimed “evangelicals.”

Their movement is dead. Americans don’t believe a single thing TV preachers say anymore.

What made these empire-builders think they could get into bed with the Republican Party and not get screwed? Governments have always loved religion when they can use it for their own purposes. That’s been true for millennia! What made “evangelicals” think they’d be any different?

“Evangelical” Christianity is run by hucksters who get rich off baptizing and exploiting popular prejudice. From Ted Haggard to Richard Roberts to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, the landscape is littered with lying crooks. How many times do we have to tell you?

To hear the actual voice of prophecy, you have to go to a nation’s most despised minorities. They’re the only ones who can tell you the truth about your country.

Marsh drags out Martin Luther King Jr. again; Marsh is one more White Southerner saying (40 years late), “Oh, I found out we were wrong. How disconcerting.” Why don’t you quote someone alive today, Dr. Marsh?

I can take you to Gary, Indiana; you can talk to all the Black folk you want. They’ll tell you exactly what’s happening, right here and now. All you have to do is show up and ask, on any streetcorner in town.

Or I can take you to the Castro (before the Straight people completely take it over) and let you talk to some Gay folk; come on, it might be fun. You’re a former “canon theologian” at an Episcopal cathedral; don’t be scared.

A hundred years after we’re all dead, your Southern Baptist Convention may get around to apologizing for its constant support of war and Gay-hating bigotry; or maybe not. How many Southern Baptists voted for George W. Bush? Did you, Dr. Marsh?

The “evangelical” movement is finally starting to go green—in part because they need a socially-aware issue to distract from their homophobia and war-mongering. A new generation of “evangelical” leaders is starting to replace the old, tired dogs of the past. But why didn’t they listen when Episcopalians talked about stewardship over creation 40 years ago?

Now mind you, Dr. Marsh is not the problem; he’s written an important essay. I think he veers away from the best possible conclusion when he says “evangelicals” ought to take up with concerned atheists and humanists, although he’s right; but first they ought to listen to their fellow Christians.

Start with Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Roman Catholics, Dr. Marsh; we’ve been telling Baptists the truth this entire time. But you haven’t had ears to hear.

Once you listen to professed Christians in the mainline, to the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, take a little time to talk to the nearest LGBT person you can find. In five minutes they’ll make your ears burn. You’ll find out “evangelicals” have been as wrong about Gay people as your family was about Black folk in the ’60s; and as you’re now telling us, four years late, “evangelicals” were wrong about Bush, wrong about the war, and wrong about Jesus Christ.

Pick up the pace, Dr. Marsh. It’s easy to criticize the war now that it’s already lost.++

5 Responses

  1. Right on Josh.
    This is a good blog. I am glad to see you covering so many angels. I’ll be back.

    Just one thing… the banner… The Episcopal church only welcomes those it really likes. Terms and conditions DO apply. It’s a little misleading for a straight shooter like you.


  2. Josh, I thought you were an evangelical. Maybe this is a matter of semantics. Are you the same person as Josh Thomas who posts over at Fr. Jake’s?

    There’s a diversity of thinking among orthodox, evangelical Christians just like there is among the progressives.

    Peace, brother.

  3. Grace, I am not under any circumstances “an evangelical.” But if you ask is evangelism important to me, I’d say heck yeah! Why do you think I’ve posted the Daily Office every day for the last three years? It’s not just for the in-crowd, it’s for the searcher, even the desperate.

    As you say, this is a matter of semantics. I am evangelical as an adjective, but not a noun. I don’t want to be “an evangelical,” since those folk are homophobic warmongers.

    I am also catholic and completely orthodox. I believe every word of the Nicene Creed and I’m 100% in agreement with the Council of Chalcedon. If I weren’t Gay I’d be the most conventional Christian alive. Grace, I’d be your twin brother!

    But I am Gay—and I’ve never believed the New Testament supports slavery and the suppression of women. I was born of a woman who didn’t take guff from anybody, who had to fight for her right to an education and fight to be taken seriously and paid equally on the job.

    I’m a justice fighter. I’ve read Amos and Hosea and Isaiah, and I know from them that God is at least as concerned about national morality as he is about personal morality. Therefore I’ve been opposed to the war in Iraq from the minute Bush started rattling his sabers after 9/11.

    Like most people I’m not easily labeled by others. I call myself Gay and Christian.

    I call you a friend and my sister.


  4. I love you, too. ((Josh Thomas)) You are my twin brother. You are my definition of an “evangelical.” (LOL)

  5. I was not one of the “Christians”thatvoted for Bush. He had ran on an abortion issue and plenty of people jumped on the band-wagon.In the past,there has been ill-gotten thoughts towards homosexuality. Instead of calling myself christian,I would rather be called a Believer. I believe in God,His Son Jesus, and the Spirit of God.While Jesus walked this Earth, in his last 3years, Jesus showed great amounts of love for the hurting, the downcast, and heavey-laden. HE loved people, for people. It did not matter whether leper, demon possesed, taxman, and even the meanest of the mean. HE wanted us all to love as true humanitarians. No one is any more special than the next.We each sin in some way. I ask for forgiveness regularly because I am human. For the most part, I have family who are homosexual(politically correct)? It has hit me within the last few months how sad it has been that I have not stood up for them.God loves us all. The Word says,”HE knew us in the beginning”.I ask people,please forgive me too.

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