The Baptists are coming. The Baptists are coming. But these aren’t your real Baptists. These are the religious left masquerading as evangelicals.
Allegedly 20,000 of them are meeting in Atlanta this week. Don’t actually believe that though. I’ve got a number of sources within this group who tell me that internally the numbers have fallen well short of expectations, but if they send out a press release saying 20,000, the media will report it.
This is important because the Democrats are trying to get back into the faith game. They have decided to wage a fight against the Southern Baptist Convention and legitimate, principled organizations of faith.
In essence, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are trying to build a base of religious voters for the Democratic nominee. And who is helping them?
Porker-in Chief Chuck Grassley, the openly closeted Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham, and green con-artist Al Gore. Gore’s attendence is obvious. Graham and Grassley helped organize the thing and are participating because they want to assist in marginalizing the Christian right — something they see as a pernicious influence in politics.
The issues discussed sum up where they are headed:
the Celebration will feature special-interest sessions focusing on topics such as racism, religious liberty, poverty, the AIDS pandemic, faith in public policy, stewardship of the earth, evangelism, financial stewardship, and prophetic preaching. . . . They specifically committed themselves to their obligation as Christians to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.
Let’s hope there is no talk of Darfur or Israel, lest Jimmy Carter be put in an awkward position. And let’s not actually be fooled. They’ll discuss evangelism to dodge some criticism, but they are actually there, with Bill Moyers too, to recast Baptists, not as Christians leading people to the Lord, but as social workers leading people to a bowl of food. In their mixed up priorities, they think the social justice work is more important than evangelizing.
Now, all of this brings me back to Michael Gerson, who has wanted the Republican Party to take on all of this under its umbrella — really become a Christian Democrat party. A friend reminded me of a passage from one of my favorite books. I will stop here now and just let Screwtape tell you the rest:
Looking round your patient’s new friends I find that the best point of attack would be the border-line between theology and politics. Several of his new friends are very much alive to the social implications of their religion. That, in itself, is a bad thing; but good can be made out of it.
You will find that a good many Christian-political writers think that Christianity began going wrong, and departing from the doctrine of its Founder, at a very early stage. Now this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition. In the last generation we promoted the construction of such a “historical Jesus” on liberal and humanitarian lines; we are now putting forward a new “historical Jesus” on Marxian, catastrophic, and revolutionary lines. The advantages of these constructions, which we intend to change every thirty years or so, are manifold. In the first place they all tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical. The documents say what they say and cannot be added to; each new “historical Jesus” therefore has to be got out of them by suppression at one point and exaggeration at another…. In the second place, all such constructions place the importance of their Historical Jesus in some peculiar theory He is supposed to have promulgated. He has to be a “great man” in the modern sense of the word—one standing at the terminus of some centrifugal and unbalanced line of thought—a crank vending a panacea. We thus distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did. We first make Him solely a teacher, and then conceal the very substantial agreement between His teachings and those of all other great moral teachers. For humans must not be allowed to notice that all great moralists are sent by the Enemy not to inform men but to remind them, to restate the primeval moral platitudes against our continual concealment of them. . . .
The “Historical Jesus” then, however dangerous he may seem to be to us at some particular point, is always to be encouraged. About the general connection between Christianity and politics, our position is more delicate. Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game,
Your affectionate uncle, SCREWTAPE
(Chapter 23, C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters)