Brenda put your bra on, it’s just gettin’ good

Brenda put your bra on, it’s just gettin’ good March 18, 2024

OK, here’s a lefty site dunking on Rep. Lauren Boebert for her bungled attempt to describe something like sola fide: “The internet reacts to Boebert’s theological musings.”

“On a recent livestream,” that post summarizes, before piling on, “Boebert quoted a scripture from 1 Timothy and then opined that God is not pleased with works, but only faith.”

Lauren Boebert has done a lot of damage to Colorado, Congress, and the whole country during her time in the House of Representatives, and we should all be glad to see her go, hopefully to some less public, less consequential role where the potential scope of her damage will be much smaller.

But for all of that, piling on Lauren Boebert at this point almost seems like punching down. She’s still a member of Congress, and she’s still a member of the disastrous “Freedom Caucus” of MAGA Republicans who are actively wielding power to make life worse and harder for millions of people. But thanks to the timing of Ken Buck’s resignation, and to the non-stop drama of Boebert’s train-wreck personal life, it’s almost a certainty that her political career is now ending.

The very public details of her spiraling personal life — the messy divorce, the arrests, the theater handies — are why she’s now posting livestream videos about faith and salvation and Jesus and church instead of about white panic and the latest QAnon theories about what’s on Hunter Biden’s laptop. I don’t just mean that this public performance of piety is a cynical attempt to counter the damaging publicity from her hot mess of a personal life — although I’m sure it’s partly that. But I think that also her self-inflicted circumstances have gotten so bad that she’s realizing she needs to go back to church, because that’s what white evangelicals do when their lives and families are falling apart.

And, yes, I think that Lauren Boebert is a born-again, Bible-believing white evangelical Christian. Boebert may seem like a character from an Ashley McBryde song

— but all of those characters are white evangelicals too. All the cussing, smoking, drinking, gossiping, and fornicating in that song doesn’t change the fact that, come Sunday, all of these folks — Brenda, Marvin, Tina, the local cops — will be in church.

And there, at their white evangelical church, they will hear songs and sermons assuring them that sinners can be saved, by faith and faith alone, not works. Hallelujah, amen.

I think rmj at Adventus makes the most important point about Lauren Boebert’s sketchy ideas about theology — that those sketchy ideas aren’t hers at all: “Boebert was ridiculed for her venture into theology, but she’s only repeating what she’s been told.”

Yep. I appreciate all the chapter-and-verse citations people posted in response to Boebert’s claim that “faith” — whatever that means in such a context — is the only thing that matters. It’s always good to see people reciting all those wonderful passages from the Gospels and from James and from Paul’s epistles. That’s worth doing. Whenever anybody cites Ephesians 2:8-9 to proclaim the White Jesus soteriology of Americanized sola fide it’s always worth telling them to keep reading the very next verse: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

And when Boebert cites 1 Timothy 6:12 — “Fight the good fight of faith” — as the basis for her faith in faith alone, it’s probably worth encouraging her to read on through the rest of that chapter, including, for example, verses 18 and 19: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

And if I’m talking to some devout white evangelical who’s a little brighter than Boebert then maybe I’ll try to talk about pistis Christou — about the difference between “faith in Christ” and the “faithfulness of Christ,” and get into a whole E.P. Sanders 101 thing about all the reasons the old perspective on Paul was a huge mistake and how first-century Judaism was not at all analogous to Luther’s view of 16th-century Roman Catholicism and how that confusion has led to some Very, Very Bad Things. That’s all also important and worth doing.

Here, though, I just want to talk about how Boebert’s faith and life and choices seem to be the product of “what she’s been told” and of what she’s been taught about faith and works and salvation.

The reassuring thing about the idea that our “good works” are meaningless is that it also suggests that our bad works are meaningless. That’s a helpful idea for someone who wants to think of themselves as a good Christians while simultaneously enslaving others or walking past King Philip’s head on a pike just down the road, which is why it’s a core belief of white evangelicalism to this day.

But if our good works are meaningless and our bad works are meaningless and all of our “works” are meaningless then our lives are also, as a whole, meaningless.

That is a central, explicit tenet of this otherworldly theology: The next life matters; this one does not. When what you’ve been told is that your life means nothing and others lives mean nothing, then your choices and your conduct will reflect that, no matter what other sort of pious sheen gets layered on top of that meaninglessness.

The untenable separation of “faith” and “works” also creates the strange notion that one can “believe” something despite never acting on that belief. It twists the meaning of “belief” and “sincerity” and “integrity” into their opposites, ultimately equating “faith” with bad faith. When all that matters is what you “believe,” then your beliefs no longer matter to what you do, which is to say that your beliefs no longer matter at all. You become someone who simultaneously believes nothing and believes anything. And thus you become someone who might do anything.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up trashing the trailer park like Tina and Marvin, or that you’ll end up as a 37-year-old grandmother trying to get to third base while watching the musical Beetlejuice. But there’s nothing about this end-stage White Jesus sola fide theology that’ll stop you from doing any of that. Nor will it stop you from being a vicious Great Replacement Theory racist MAGA cheerleader for a wanna-be dictator.

“She’s only repeating what she’s been told.” And she’s only acting accordingly.

 

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