It Is Better That One Man Should Stand In For The People

Morning’s Minion:

And You Wonder Why I Criticize Evangelicals So Often…

During the election season, I made frequent references to the kinds of evangelical leaders who publicly supported McCain, people like Hagee and Parsely who believe that the US is the instrument of God against evil in the world, actively condoning bloody war. Rick Warren is supposed to be a moderate. And yet when Sean Hannity called for the US to “take out” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Warren had this to say in response:

“Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped…. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.”

God help us.

What interests me about the post above is the title. I have no interest in defending Mr. Warren’s wrong-headed exegesis, but I think this method of indictment is problematic.

You see, the point of the post, as its title indicates, was not to express (legitimate) disagreement with Rick Warren; it was to justify disparagement of a large class of individuals described as Evangelicals based on the statements of Mr. Warren. Such generalizations about Evangelicals are commonplace in U.S. newspapers and elite American society generally; it is one of the most glaring lacunae in the tolerance education Americans are fortunate enough to receive from elites on a daily basis.

My questions to Morning’s Minion are: Do you think it is legitimate to cite one unflattering example as a stand-in for millions? If so, do you think Ms. Pelosi should be cited as a pretext for dismissing leftist Catholics? Archbishop Chaput for all Catholics? Should Catholics, often the target of such unflattering treatment in the U.S. historically, be more cautious about making such generalizations themselves? Is it instructive that many of the comments following the post were of the ‘there are some that are alright, but most of them…’ variety? Could you explain what is wrong with the following: “And you wonder why I criticize Blacks/Gays/Jews/Mormons/Muslims/Illegal Immigrants so much. Would you believe what one of them just said? He said….” and why your statement is different? Is that a ‘some of my best friends are…’ defense I hear in the distance?

33 Responses to It Is Better That One Man Should Stand In For The People

  • Dale Price says:

    Actually, Warren is correct about what the Bible says. The application is what makes it dubious, or worse.

    MM’s writings about evangelical Christians are nothing short of phobic. Evangelicals are a pox, unclean, irreconcilably Other, a cancer threatening a proper understanding of Catholicism in the U.S. His continuing use of “apostate” to describe the born-Catholic Sarah Palin is very telling.

    Given the consistency of his rhetoric, even the craven “some of my best friends” is not available to him. If he has a single evangelical friend, he compartmentalizes to a degree rarely seen.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Do you think it is legitimate to cite one unflattering example as a stand-in for millions?

    The answer, as always, is “it depends.” If there is sufficient evidence that the unflattering example is indeed characteristic of the millions, then it is certainly legitimate. The burden, though, falls upon the accuser to show that the unflattering example is widespread enough to be considered the norm. As a mathematician, I know how to construct proofs of the nature “For all x in D, P(x)”. To an extent, I even have some clue of how, in an infinite domain, to qualify “For most x in D, P(x)”. But how to extend that to people, I’m not sure.

    The true issue, of course, is the extent that we all do this. To a large extent, it seems natural to make generalizations, especially if a significant portion of the people we do sample seem to adhere to one position or another. But then, the problem is whether or not our samples are biased. If the only Native Americans I see are the ones at the bar, getting blitzed, who leave their kids on the doorstep, I might be inclined to extend that to all Native Americans, but the fact that I took my sample from those at the bar means my sampling methods are a little skewed.

    For a more personal example, my sister, who is fairly far Left, is upset any time anyone makes a generalization, because of the nameless masses that are unjustly swept under the rug. Now, I could generalize from her and assume that everyone on the Left decries making these kind of generalizations, which then makes Morning Minion’s post hypocritical. But that does MM an injustice because he might feel that making such generalizations are good and practical, and thus there is no hypocrisy.

    From personal experience, I know that it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid making generalizations. But we should, to be charitable, explain that we realize we’re making generalizations and offer some justification for why that generalization is representative of the whole.

  • John Henry says:

    “From personal experience, I know that it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid making generalizations. But we should, to be charitable, explain that we realize we’re making generalizations and offer some justification for why that generalization is representative of the whole.”

    Agreed, and I would add this is particularly important when we are making unflattering generalizations.

  • S.B. says:

    It amazes me that some of the Vox Nova crowd display a level of contempt for their Protestant brothers and sisters than they would never show towards Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, pro-choicers, etc.

  • “His continuing use of “apostate” to describe the born-Catholic Sarah Palin is very telling.”

    Being a child, she probably cannot be accused of apostasy. But her parents are apostates, absolutely. The problem with you guys is that you have lost sense of an authentic Catholic culture that does indeed have major theological issues with the evangelicals. Part of the issue if your polical marriage of convenience. Part of it is the sheer number of Protestant converts turned Catholic apologists who still wear their Protestant-tinted lenses when they see the world. It’s a very American problem.

  • Gerard E. says:

    Easy on the criticism. We will need their help in the event that FOCA becomes law. Pro-life activities have been wonderful in bring religious leaders and folks together who previously had no contact or weird biases against one another. Don’t get too divisive. Leave that to the leftist groups awaiting the Coming of The Messiah- on January 20.

  • Part of the issue if your polical marriage of convenience.

    Indeed. It’s another case in which the Republicatholics place their horrid political allegiances above their faith.

    It’s telling that they would never, ever, under any circumstances defend Episcopalianism/north american Anglicanism in this way, in the name of “ecumenical understanding” with our “Protestant brothers and sisters.”

  • And no, I don’t share MM’s disgust for “Evangelicalism” as a whole. They are of course wrong on a great number of things. But in my studies I’ve met countless Evangelicals who shake up the stereotypes and who would never in a million years forge alliances with the likes of the american Catholic blog.

  • AND many of them really respect Catholicism and are drawn to it for all the RIGHT reasons, namely its unbroken connection to the Lord and the Eucharist, as opposed to right wing Evangelicals who tend to be drawn to Catholicism for the power of the Magisterium alone which, in the wake of the challenges of modern biblical criticism, gives them a more powerful source for their deep-seated fundamentalism. Instead of the bludgeon of sola scriptura, we get sola magisterium.

  • John Henry says:

    The problem with you guys is that you have lost sense of an authentic Catholic culture that does indeed have major theological issues with the evangelicals.

    MM- I find it ironic that your reply is steeped in the type of generalizations the post criticizes. But, since you leveled the charge, I would invite you to point to a passage in my or my fellow contributor’s writings that denies the theological divides between Catholics and Evangelicals.

    Part of the issue if your political marriage of convenience. Part of it is the sheer number of Protestant converts turned Catholic apologists who still wear their Protestant-tinted lenses when they see the world. It’s a very American problem.

    I appreciate the diagnosis, but let’s identify the problem first. America is not, and has never been, a Catholic culture. It is not surprising in a two-party system in such a country that there will be challenges for Catholics supporting either party. To discuss the issue as if right-leaning Catholic’s marriage of convenience with Evangelicals because of abortion, is a significant, pressing problem, but left-leaning Catholic’s alliance with the party of Planned Parenthood is not, is to strain credibility past the breaking point.

    As an aside, your supercilious, “I’m from Ireland, and therefore have a better appreciation for Catholicism,” tone is as off-putting as it is unjustified by the lack of charity towards Evangelical Christians in your writings. Whatever your background, you have not learned to discuss differences between Christians charitably.

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Morning’s Minion,

    I never knew that an authentic Catholic culture included acting uncharitably to non-Catholics. I won’t disagree that the theological differences between evangelicals and Catholics are not only serious and problematic, but also very explanatory of what is going on, but I never read anything that prohibits us from working with non-Catholics (be they heretics, apostates, or what have you) towards a common goal that is objectively good.

    Now, before you launch into a tirade about what goals have been worked for, and how objectively good they are, I just want to caution that I’m not speaking of anything in specific here. You undoubtedly would want to argue against this “political marriage” by way of the War in Iraq and economic policies. If we hashed out those topics specifically, we might find ourselves sharing more agreement than we originally thought. But then, we might find our difference exacerbated, instead. But that’s not what I’m after. All I’m saying is that I’m a Gator’s fan, and I’m calling… I mean, all I’m saying is that the “political marriage” with evangelicals is really a neutral matter, and depends on what goals that marriage intends to accomplish.

    I also think you oversimplify, if not completely miss the mark, when you talk about former Protestants who have converted and yet still see things through Protestant-tinted lenses. But then, I don’t know specifically who you have qualms with, and what they’re saying that you find objectionable.

  • Dale Price says:

    “Being a child, she probably cannot be accused of apostasy. But her parents are apostates, absolutely.”

    Absolutely not.

    Apostates completely reject the Christian faith, in toto. Evangelicals do not. Take a look at CCC 2089 and 818.

    It’s the sloppy laziness of your hostility which continues to astound, and is at odds with VN’s tenor toward other Christians and non-Christians.

  • Dale Price says:

    I imagine most posters here would have no problem defending Episcopalians and North American Anglicans who hold fast to the Traditional creeds. Ditto the renewal wings in the struggling mainline. The pluralistic/denial of biblical inspiration/purely social “gospel” wings…not so much.

    Likewise, I doubt that American Catholic would ever be a soapbox for the defenders of the Hellish prosperity “gospel.” If it ever does, I’ll repudiate it wholesale.

    It’s possible to make distinctions and hold fast to what is good. MM never does.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Apostates completely reject the Christian faith, in toto. ”

    Bravo Dale! That is why we say Julian the Apostate, but not Luther the Apostate. Of course that particular line of attack in the last election by Catholics supporting a man in favor of abortion on demand up to the time that the cord is cut had a certain charming Alice in Wonderland devouring camels and drawing the line at gnats quality about it.

  • Obama’s Minion hates evangelicals for only one reason: they, by and large, do not share his left-wing politics.

    That’s changing. And fast.

    I imagine most posters here would have no problem defending Episcopalians and North American Anglicans who hold fast to the Traditional creeds.

    Do you hold Evangelicals to the same standard? I know Evangelicals (some of them with great politics) who essentially could care less about the creeds.

  • John:

    You are right that the US has never been a Catholic culture. But, to put it bluntly, should Catholics care so much about national boundaries? The US once had a vibrant Catholic sub-culture, largely among the immigrant communities of large cities. There were many socio-economic forces that drove greater integration, which was for sure not always a bad thing. But much has been lost.

    The main point I want to make is that the political marriage of convenience with the evangelicals has simply led to blurring boundaries, much to the detriment of Catholic culture and outlook. This nation is very Protestant, and its Calvinist individualism is alluring. We must hold the line, by outlining the differences, and that thinking with the fullness of Catholic faith.

    Look, I am not saying that evangelicals are some “other” (that in itself is a Protestant way of thinking). Nor am I saying that we should not work with them to achieve common goals– I think we should work with anybody to achieve the common good, and that includes Obama, George Bush, Vladamir Putin, or Hassan Nasrallah. But do not get blinded by the sun. For example, how many Catholics supported the Iraq war in 2002 because they saw the e world in dualistic Calvinist terms? (And this is not just me speaking by the way, many at the Vatican said exactly the same thing at the time– see here http://vox-nova.com/2008/02/01/calvinism-in-america-vatican-voices/.)

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “That’s changing. And fast.”

    Hah! After two years of Messiah government you gentlemen will be lucky to get a majority of the atheist-anarchist vote.

  • Steve Golay says:

    Dear M&M,

    And as the Islamists come swinging their Sharia Sword (let alone the Jihad one!) who will be standing at your side defending your “catholic culture” (ok, remanants thereof) – or, at least, standing nearby to collect your beheaded head?

    [ed. This comment is off-topic and somewhat offensive. Please refrain from making similar comments]

  • Dale Price says:

    “Do you hold Evangelicals to the same standard? I know Evangelicals (some of them with great politics) who essentially could care less about the creeds.”

    Sure. “Oneness” (read: denying the triune nature of God) Pentecostals are problematic for precisely that reason. Ditto those who don’t practice trinitarian baptism.

    Also, I think there’s an important distinction between “caring less about the creeds” and denying the underlying definitions (for lack of a better word). I was a Methodist, and while the Nicene Creed was not in any sense authoritative as such, we didn’t deny that it was an accurate summary of Christian faith. It was even in our prayer book. Sadly, the same cannot be said for all Methodists, including influential leaders in that body, such as retired bishop C. Joseph Sprague of Chicago, who flatly denies the Resurrection, for starters.

    Those are the kinds of distinctions that have to be made. In other words, I wouldn’t write off all the members of the UMC because Bishop Sprague makes a hash of the Gospel. From the comment above, it looks like MM can do the same with evangelicals, which is heartening. Just wish he’d do it more often.

  • From the comment above, it looks like MM can do the same with evangelicals, which is heartening. Just wish he’d do it more often.

    I wish many of the contributors here at Americanist Catholic would do so as well instead of assuming that all Evangelicals have regressive political beliefs in the manner of republicatholics.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP says:

    “Look, I am not saying that evangelicals are some “other” (that in itself is a Protestant way of thinking).”

    MM,

    Your not saying evangelicals are some ‘other’ because that is an attitude those other guys have?

  • John Henry says:

    The main point I want to make is that the political marriage of convenience with the evangelicals has simply led to blurring boundaries, much to the detriment of Catholic culture and outlook. This nation is very Protestant, and its Calvinist individualism is alluring. We must hold the line, by outlining the differences, and that thinking with the fullness of Catholic faith.

    Certainly I agree that Catholics need to maintain a distinctive identity. However I am struggling to see the connection between maintaining a Catholic identity, and speaking so uncharitably about other religious groups. One of the reasons Catholics had a separate identity historically in this country was because they were treated as ‘the other,’ and being Catholic was often a social and political liability.

    It is odd to me that you should select Evangelicals as the exemplars of ‘individualism’ and ‘Calvinism’. Certainly, many evangelicals are Reformed, but it is far from being the dominant feature of Evangelical theology, which tends to be all over the map. It seems to me that the individualism of people like Pelosi, Biden, Cuomo, Giuliani, etc. is a much larger threat to well-educated (but not well-catechized) Catholics, and it is unlikely they were influenced by Evangelicals. Name the last prominent Catholic intellectual or politician who became an evangelical. I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Being a faithful Catholic is challenging regardless of political persuasion, and both parties have their faults. But scapegoating Evangelicals is unhelpful.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    The Catholics who make common cause with evangelicals politically tend also to be those Catholics who most clearly understand and appreciate the theological gulf between Catholics and evangelicals. I regularly work with all types of Protestants at the crisis pregnancy center in my county for example. They are great people and I admire them intensely. Doesn’t make me have any doubts as to the efficacy of the Sacraments, the role of Mary as Queen of Heaven, the infallibility of the Pope, etc. As to the Protestant culture of this nation, nonsense! The country’s culture is an eclectic mishmash and has been since at least the beginning of the last century. Perhaps those Catholic countries that have less than replacement rates, Spain, Italy, etc could learn something from us, at least in producing segments of the public optimistic enough about the future to want to have kids, something those countries seem not to be very good at.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    As an aside, your supercilious, “I’m from Ireland, and therefore have a better appreciation for Catholicism,” tone is as off-putting as it is unjustified by the lack of charity towards Evangelical Christians in your writings. Whatever your background, you have not learned to discuss differences between Christians charitably.

    John Henry: I agree with this assessment, and your original point that negative generalizations about Evangelicals are commonplace and tolerated in a way that derision and condensation toward other groups would never be. Good post.

    There is much we could learn from Evangelicals, especially when it comes to charity. Few groups are more charitable and kindhearted as a whole, something I also admire a great deal about Mormons, another group it seems perfectly acceptable to go after full force.

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