‘Brother Al, you confuse evangelicalism with white, male America’

Miguel De La Torre’s aggressively honest response to Southern Baptist Archbishop Al Mohler’s commentary following the election is pretty devastating.

Writing for Associated Baptist Press, De La Torre offers a point-by-point reply to Mohler’s assertion that Election Day was “an evangelical disaster.” That claim, De La Torre says, is based on the assumption that “evangelicals” are all old Southern white guys who share Mohler’s stunted, old-Southern-white-guy vision of ethics, justice and politics.

Read the whole thing. Here are some highlights:

Brother Al, you confuse evangelicalism with white, male America. Continuing to fuse white/right political leaning with the message of Christ does a disservice to the gospel.

Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler is smiling in this photo because it was taken before he learned of Miguel De La Torre’s reply to his remarks.

A majority of Christ-believing Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, women and the young — a good number who are evangelicals — saw this election as a blessing from God. Most of us feared Romney, because he was very open about his allegiance to the Golden Calf of Wall Street and capital. We were shocked by your support for those who follow such false gods.

… The message of Christ was not rejected, just your interpretation of the message of Christ — a subjective interpretation based more on your social location than what the gospel calls for.

… You can’t say you believe in the sanctity of life and oppose universal health care. You can’t say you believe in the sanctity of life and support war or torture. You can’t say you believe in the sanctity of life and remain silent as the undocumented die crossing the desert.

You can’t say you believe in the sanctity of life and support a tax structure or an economic system that contributes to an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. You can’t say you believe in the sanctity of life and support capital punishment. I invite you to come join us who believe in and follow the God of life.

Phew. And, also too, amen.

  • histrogeek

    That should leave a mark.

  • Kirala

    I was enjoying the De La Torre article until I got distracted by one sentence: “If you are against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry a man.”

    As a heterosexual woman, I’m very opposed to same-sex marriage for myself. Does this statement mean I’m supposed to stay single? Or (if I’m allowed because I support allowing equal marriage in general) is this a clever plan to reduce the number of homophobes by denying them breeding females?

    (Doesn’t really affect the article as a whole, IMO, I’m just highly distractable.)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     I was enjoying the De La Torre article until I got distracted by one
    sentence: “If you are against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry a
    man.”

    He was directly addressing a man in an open letter.  Had he been writing an open letter to Alice Mohler I’m sure it would have read, “If you are against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry a
    woman.”

  • Kirala

     See, this is where distractability can be a problem. I had totally managed to forget that in the … *counts* three sentences since it had last been indicated.

    … Never tell my English students this is how their teacher reads recreationally. I promise, I pay better attention when I have a particular purpose in reading.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    That was great. I love seeing the tone of matter-of-fact-righteousness that Mohler and many of his allies tend to evoke used against him for a change:

    “We were shocked by your support for those who follow such false gods.”

    “I invite you to come join us who believe in and follow the God of life.”

    I hope Linda Harvey and David French get a chance to read De La Torre’s rebuke as well.

  • Carstonio

     At the risk of going too deep into the weeds, are there really individuals who believe that it would be immoral for themselves to marry someone of the same sex, but who hold no such position for others? I would guess that almost all straights and gays either regard the other type of marriage as simply something they don’t like for themselves, or are categorically opposed to it for everyone.

  • Kirala

     Morally, I would suppose no reasonable person could have a different stance for themselves than others in theory*. However, the principle on which I deeply oppose same-sex marriage for myself is the principle that in a culture where people are free to marry for love, people ought to marry for love, and I am free to marry for love and do not (nor, as far as I can tell, ever shall) love any woman that way. Same principle on which I oppose pressuring homosexuals to marry the opposite sex, even if they have no other romantic prospects.

    *It’s amazing how much people can manage to twist principles in application!

  • http://anton-p-nym.livejournal.com/ Anton P. Nym

    “he was very open about his allegiance to the Golden Calf of Wall Street ”  He ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie there…

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v338/sumpca/random/bullprayer2.jpg

    That’s a copy of a Reuters shot from Oct 2008.  (I tried to link to the original, but can’t find it again.)  Yes, it is indeed a bunch of prosperity gospel types praying before (arguably to) the Merril Lynch golden bull in hopes of a market rebound.

    It’s like they’ve never actually read the Bible or something; pity no one showed up dressed as Moses and chucked a few tablets.

     – Steve

  • Kirala

     Seriously? I’m not sure if I’m more appalled as a Christian that people claiming my faith would do this, or more disappointed as a storyteller that the tablet-chucking opportunity was passed up.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Yes. Christians and Muslims who believe their religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong, but do not want their religious doctrines enacted into law. Amish don’t think other people shouldn’t use advanced technology. 

  • Morilore

    It’s like they’ve never actually read the Bible or something

    Or even the Ten Commandments.  Or even watched Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.

  • http://anton-p-nym.livejournal.com/ Anton P. Nym

    “Or even watched Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.”

    Truth be told, as an agnostic it was that scene in the movie that flashed into my mind when it happened.  That a “godless heathen” like me should be able to pick it up when they apparently didn’t doesn’t speak well for either their Bible studies or their PR sense.

     – Steve

  • Magic_Cracker

    Brother Al looks stoned. to. the. bone.

  • Donalbain

     I was enjoying the De La Torre article until I got distracted by one
    sentence: “If you are against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry a
    man.”

    As a heterosexual woman, I’m very opposed to same-sex marriage for myself.

    1) No. Because the comment is addressed to Al, not you. You are not the you in question.

    2)  You are not against same sex marriage, you just dont fancy it.

  • Donalbain

      I hope Linda Harvey and David French get a chance to read De La Torre’s rebuke as well.

    This. This. This. Thissity this this!

  • LL

    Eh, “Miguel De La Torre” sounds like a suspiciously non-white name. Sounds like one of them not-real Americans to me. Therefore, his opinion doesn’t count. He just got bought off by Obama. 

  • Carstonio

    But those particular Christians and Muslims could still believe that homosexuality is wrong for everyone, even while refusing to enshrine this view into law. So that’s not comparable to the Amish stance on technology. 

  • Carstonio

    While I respect that principle, you’re not denying yourself something that you might want, or obligating yourself to something that you might not want. I’m asking if there are people who believe they must abstain from homosexuality if they found they were attracted to it, but hold no such belief for others. I suspect this would be a very small group.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    We were shocked by your support for those who follow such false gods.

    Honest question, here: Really?  Was anybody, no matter their religious leanings, really surprised that conservative Christians were drawn to the candidates of misogyny, homophobia, and a “screw you, we’ve got ours” attitude towards money and health care?

  • Dan Audy

    Not necessarily, there is a relatively large contingent of the ‘pro-marriage’ faction that doesn’t have any fundamental opposition to gay unions that grant all of the same benefits and restrictions that hetero-sexual marriage does but also believes that ‘marriage’ is a religious act and must adhere to Biblical standards (though why they don’t then support polygamy is, from a logical standpoint, beyond me).  They are largely not heard because the gay-hating faction is louder and co-opts their message to hide their own extremism. 

    For a example I can speak to personally, I know the Baha’i faith holds that homosexuality is morally wrong and that homosexuals must be abstinent to be in good standing with the faith.  However they don’t believe that non-Baha’i’s homosexuals are morally obliged to be abstinent or not get married any more than they are morally obliged to say the Daily Obligatory Prayer.

  • Carstonio

    That contingent is still advocating discrimination even though they might not see it that way.

    And the Baha’i position is deeply confusing. Since moral principles have universality by default, it doesn’t make sense for that religion to teach that homosexuality is universally wrong and to also teach that non-Baha’i have no responsibility to abstain from homosexuality. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Things are a bit muddled wth respect to christianity (or really, “the dominant religion in any region that has a strongly dominant religion”) because the whole “Not only is same-sex marrige immoral for members of our religion, it should also be forbidden for people outside our religion” is not *really* what’s at the root of the issue. The issue is thatthey don’t think anyone should have the right to *not be (their kind of) christian*. They don’t come out and say it  because they know it won’t fly, but all these religiously-motivated legal things boil down to “We’d like to require everyone to be (our kind of) christian. And failing that, to legally declare anyone who isn’t (our kind of) christian to be a second-class person who still has to abide by our authority and be bound by our rules just as if they were members of the faith.” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Not forcing others to obey your moral principles can also be a moral principle. Sounds like the Baha’i have a rule that they don’t force non-Baha’i to obey Baha’i rules. Probably something to do with adherence to their rules requiring faith to be meaningful, rather than fetishizing the rules themselves over the faith as happens so often with those who want to impose their in-group’s rules on outsiders.

  • Dan Audy

    And the Baha’i position is deeply confusing. Since moral principles have universality by default, it doesn’t make sense for that religion to teach that homosexuality is universally wrong and to also teach that non-Baha’i have no responsibility to abstain from homosexuality.

    I can see how people used to the cultural hegemony of Christianity and Islam might find the idea not forcing your morals on outsiders to be confusing but it is a relatively common trait among non-dominant religions.  

    It might help to think of it in terms of secular national law.  A nation passes a law because they believe that a particular act is harmful and should be discouraged or that an act is beneficial and should be encouraged.  This belief reflects a attitude about how the whole world should operate, however they only have the right to insist upon and enforce this on people within that nation and that other nations which don’t accept those laws aren’t obliged to follow them.  

  • Carstonio

    Those rules aren’t the same as moral principles. There are sound reasons why the use of slurs against a given ethnicity is immoral only for people outside the ethnicity, because of the harm that causes. But there seems to be no logic behind something like homosexuality bring objectively immoral for some and not for others. If Baha’i teachings have a sound moral reason for deeming homosexuality immoral, then logically it should apply to everyone. And if it’s a rule for Baha’i only, then by default it isn’t a moral principle.

  • P J Evans

     And that bronze bull is golden from all the people petting and rubbing it, presumably wishing for good luck.

    Yeah, missing something fairly large there.

  • Carstonio

    You’re the second person who has interpreted my point as being about forcing morals on others, which is not the case. The legal analogy is not quite accurate because laws involve issues of government interest, of balancing the rights and needs of the individual with those of society. Right and wrong aren’t subjective concepts. Assuming that the person who labels an action as right or wrong has a sound argument for this judgment, there’s no reason to grant exemptions for others in the same circumstances. Someone who asserts that homosexuality is objectively immoral should present reasons for this, otherwise they’re simply passing off personal preference as morality.

  • Madhabmatics

    like can you seriously not imagine a situation where a religious person can say “Yeah that is immoral but it’s even more immoral to coerce someone into behaving according to my system of morality when they disagree so whatever”

  • vsm

    Religious ethics don’t necessarily need arguments to support them. If God says you shouldn’t do the gay, but it’s okay for people not in the club to do the gay, there’s not a whole lot of room for argument.

  • Carstonio

    I guess my point is really about the principle that one’s right to swing one’s fist ends where another’s nose begins. Any assertion that homosexuality is objectively immoral is an assertion that gays and lesbians are metaphorically hitting others’ metaphorical noses. And to turn around and say that it’s not one’s place to condemn homosexuality in others – I hope they don’t take the same attitude if they see someone being beaten on the street, because they’re putting homosexuality in the same general category.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Moral rules don’t have to be based on direct, physically harmful actions. The opinion that homosexuality is immoral, but others should not be forced to refrain if they’re not believers, is an opinion that a gay person is harming their self, but it’s not your responsibility to force them to stop because the actions required to make that prohibition stick are more immoral than just letting it go.

    Comparing a violent beating to gay sex is insane troll logic. You should intervene in a beating because you’re stopping one person from hurting another. You shouldn’t intervene in someone having consensual sex with a same-sex partner even if you consider it immoral because nobody’s actually hurting anyone but themselves, and that’s ultimately between that person and God. It’s the same reason why it’s not a practicing Jew’s place to forbid Gentiles from eating bacon, nor a Christian’s place to tell an atheist what to do on a Sunday. (Not that some of the latter don’t try, but it’s still not their place.)

  • Carstonio

     

    Moral rules don’t have to be based on direct, physically harmful actions

    Why not? Morality is about how one treats others and about whether one’s actions help or harm others. And I’ve never heard any variety of the “gays are hurting themselves” argument that didn’t sound like a rationalization of either squick or dogma. Plus, many of the people who insist that homosexuality is immoral aren’t using religion as a basis.

  • Dan Audy

    You can be an absolutist all you want, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to accept your framing of morality.  Morality for many faithful is about our personal relationship with God* rather than that of other people.  Our obligation is to obey the dictates of our faith be that no pork, no advanced technology, no gay sex, no alcohol, no divorce, no consumption of meat, or no dancing.  We are not obliged, however, to require others to follow these same dictates because that is part of their relationship with God.  Our role is to obey and worship not to act as enforcer or judge on God’s behalf.

    *Or Gods since much of the world is not monotheistic (and even some of those like Christianity implicitly accept the existence of other Gods).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Why not? Morality is about how one treats others and about whether one’s actions help or harm others. And I’ve never heard any variety of the “gays are hurting themselves” argument that didn’t sound like a rationalization of either squick or dogma. Plus, many of the people who insist that homosexuality is immoral aren’t using religion as a basis.

    To the first point: masturbation has been considered immoral in various strains of conservative thought for rather a while now, both Christian and non, with medical claims cropping up in the mid-1800s about how harmful it is. It has been euphemistically described as “self-abuse” and “self-pollution.” The focus on masturbation’s immorality hasn’t been on how it hurts others, but hurts the self. There’s no other victim, it doesn’t help or harm others, but some strains still establish moral principles that forbid masturbation as a matter of policing the moral purity of their own.

    Second, I never said a rule against homosexuality wasn’t a rationalization of squick and/or dogma. But even if it is a dogmatic teaching, that doesn’t mean they have to force it on others to be internally consistent to their dogma, so long as they also believe that the act of forcing the prohibition on others is even worse.

    And you’re also shifting goal posts, now. We’re talking about a specific religious argument and principle, and its execution. Pointing out that people do the same thing for other, non-religious (or different religious) reasons doesn’t invalidate what I’ve pointed out about a particular religious reasoning.

  • MaryKaye

    A religion can have ceremonial laws as well as moral laws, and homosexuality might be a violation of ceremonial rather than moral law.  It would then be no issue for someone not a member of your ritual community.  There are certain actions that I regard as morally neutral but don’t do myself because they violate my personal ceremonial laws.  I don’t find that contradictory.

    You could also regard something as immoral for yourself but moral for another because you are a different person from them.   I might hold that  I should not eat meat while holding that my cat is perfectly entitled to eat meat, because I am a human and he is not.  A monk might be celibate because he believes he should, while not at all believing that *I* should.

    Judaism, if I understand it correctly, holds that some of the Ten Commandments are universal moral laws that everyone should follow, and some of them are specifically for Jews.

    Or, for a Pagan example, if person A is dedicated to Thor and person B to Kuan Yin, it would make a lot of sense for person B to abstain from meat both in diet and in offerings, but there’s no reason they should expect the same of person A.

    “Morality is universal” is a postulate, not a fact:  you can believe it, but not everyone does believe it.  I don’t think I do.  There may be universal principles on a very abstract level but when they play out in the manifest world, there’s tremendous diversity.

  • SisterCoyote

     

    I’m asking if there are people who believe they must abstain from
    homosexuality if they found they were attracted to it, but hold no such
    belief for others. I suspect this would be a very small group.

    It might be larger than you think – but I suspect it’s also transient. Kids still discovering their sexual identity and religious identity, for example. I went through that miserable, lonely phase before realizing how weirdly self-hypocritical it was. I’d be surprised if a whole lot of raised-fundegelical kids didn’t hit the same thing.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Judaism, if I understand it correctly, holds that some of the Ten
    Commandments are universal moral laws that everyone should follow, and
    some of them are specifically for Jews. 

    Not quite, but similar. You’re thinking of the Noahide commandments.

  • Leum

    This discussion of morality as  individual rather than universal is fascinating. As far as I can tell, the basis for saying “x is wrong for me to do, but not wrong for you to do because I’m in a relationship with A and A’s asked me not to do x.” So it would be immoral for a Jew to eat pork because she’s in a relationship with a God who’s asked her not to as a condition of his relationship with her, but a Gentile can because God either doesn’t have a relationship with him, or hasn’t asked him not to eat pork as a condition of that relationship.

    Likewise, it would be immoral for my dad to sleep with his next-door neighbor because he’s married and his wife has asked him not to sleep with other people as a condition for their marriage, but not for me because no one’s made that a condition of their relationship with me.

    IOW, it seems like individual morality is almost contractual in nature, whether the contract is explicit (as in Judaism or marriage) or implicit (I have a moral duty to serve on a jury if called, someone who isn’t a citizen of a country with random jury selection doesn’t).

    Obviously this could even be extended to relationships with your self. A person recovering from alcoholism might think it’s immoral for her to drink, since it could put her back into addiction, but not for her friend who doesn’t experience alcoholism.

    So, my question is this: is an individual moral law contingent on a relationship? Or can a case be made that it’s wrong for A to do x but not for B despite neither being in a relationship where they’ve been asked not to do x?

  • Dan Audy

    So, my question is this: is an individual moral law contingent on a relationship? Or can a case be made that it’s wrong for A to do x but not for B despite neither being in a relationship where they’ve been asked not to do x?

    I think so, at least for some definitions of wrong.  

    My wife has a disability that sometimes makes sex an impossibly painful activity.  She has explicitly given me permission to have sex outside the relationship as long as I take appropriate precautions and don’t hide it from her.  Despite having both permission and opportunity I choose not to have sex with other people because it would be wrong.  It would be wrong because I have significant difficulties separating sex and love and by placing myself in a situation where these can be confused I’m disrespecting our relationship and my commitment to it.  For other people it might not be wrong to have sex with a single horny friend or visit a prostitute with their spouses knowledge and permission because it would just be sexual release without entangling deep emotions in it.

  • wendy

    Some religions recognize a difference between “universal moral principles” and “the terms of our tribe’s contract with our God”. 

    Observant Jews are forbidden to mix meat and dairy; an Orthodox mother would be more angry at her kid for eating a cheeseburger than for smoking pot. But nobody’s ever suggested the laws of kashrut are any kind of universal, nobody’s the least bit bothered that gentiles don’t follow them. 

  • Carstonio

    I see the concept of  morality as applying only to one’s interactions with others, and it could be that I’m really describing ethics instead. One’s treatment of one’s self, or one’s relationship with whatever gods one believes in – these don’t necessarily involve interpersonal morality, or at least they seem to be something other than morality. At least self-treatment involves a type of consequentialism.

    When I say that morality is universal, I’m not talking about specific notions of right and wrong, but very broad principles involving the immorality of causing harm to others. Two people can agree on those principles while disagreeing on their specific application for a particularly knotty moral problem. I’m leery of using the morality concept for things outside interpersonal interaction, because that would indeed imply that the faith dictates that you mentioned would apply to everyone.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Was anybody, no matter their religious leanings, really surprised that conservative Christians were drawn to the candidates of misogyny, homophobia, and a “screw you, we’ve got ours” attitude towards money and health care?

    I took De La Torre’s statement as a sardonic mirroring of the “shock” shown by conservative Christians that African-American and Hispanic evangelicals would support the party of baby-killers and marriage-destroyers.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I generally treat “X is wrong” as an approximation, in the same way that a measurement of “10 centimeters” might represent an actual length of 10.1, or 10.001, or even 11 or 8.

    For example, if someone says “adultery is wrong” I usually understand “adultery” to be a simple one-word handle for a complex set of states of the world that has fuzzy edges, and that if we were to have a more detailed conversation about what exactly X is, why it’s wrong, whether it would still be wrong if the situation were different in various ways, and so forth, I would develop a richer understanding of what their moral position actually is. Possibly, so might they.

    But every once in a while I run into people who reject the whole enterprise. “Adultery is wrong,” for them, is not an approximation of the more-complex answer their morality returns when evaluating a situation; it is a premise, an absolute stricture to be understood as perfectly precise.

    I think this is about as silly as treating “10 centimeters” as meaning 10.00000000 cm, but people do it. “Adultery is wrong”, they recite, “and this is adultery and therefore it’s wrong.” (And of course the converse: “This is OK, so it’s not really adultery.”)

    I’ve never quite known how to engage with these sorts of people. I try to treat it as a way of signaling a lack of interest in discussing the subject with me. When I’m feeling particularly cynical, I tend to treat it as an expression of an unwillingness to think about the subject clearly at all.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    For other people it might not be wrong to have sex with a single horny friend or visit a prostitute with their spouses knowledge and permission because it would just be sexual release without entangling deep emotions in it.

    And in other open marriages (like, say, ours), the spouses see nothing wrong with each other forming deep emotional bonds outside the marriage, irrespective of whether sexual release is a part of that. For us, we’d feel that restricting the other from acting upon love for others would be wrong. It would feel like telling each other we couldn’t have deep friendships outside of the marriage – we’d both feel pretty squicky trying to tell each other that.

    I love this idea of thinking of certain aspects of morality as contractual and dependent on relationships morality. It makes a lot of sense.

  • Demonhype

     In theory, people shouldn’t have special moral codes for themselves vs others.  In practice, however….

    Probably done to death by now, but “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” springs instantly to mind.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think people do have different moral codes for themselves vs others. What we have is different perspectives. I need this. That will help me or mine. She doesn’t need this, she’s just saying she does. That won’t help anybody, he’s just saying it will, or it’ll hurt me or mine [more than it'll help them or theirs] and therefore isn’t worth doing.

  • renniejoy

    I’ve just started reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Johnathan Haidt, a moral Psychologist. 

    On page xiv, he writes “…there’s more to morality than harm and fairness.” [italics his]  His Part II is going to talk about “moral intuitions…related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.”

    I’m only on page 63 so far, but it might be relevant to your interests. :)

  • Carstonio

    Not sure what he means by moral intuitions if these are different from the moral sense. I would say that the goals of morality are reducing suffering and promoting fairness and liberty. Loyalty and sanctity don’t necessarily lead to these, and neither does obedience to authority for its own sake. Certain types of obedience can lead to the goals, but it shouldn’t be automatically assumed that obedience is best.

  • renniejoy

     I don’t know either; I haven’t gotten there yet.
     

  • Makabit

    I was enjoying the De La Torre article until I got distracted by one sentence: “If you are against same-sex marriage, then don’t marry a man.”
    As a heterosexual woman, I’m very opposed to same-sex marriage for myself. Does this statement mean I’m supposed to stay single?

    I took that to be advice aimed specifically at Mr. Mohler.


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