Sunday, December 19, 2010

Faith in America:

At the New Republic, there is an article about the Democrats' attempt to woo Christians, which was successful for a while, but has mostly evaporated by now. Of interest is this observation by a commenter:
Sorry, but looking at religious voters from a 19th century social gospel perspective won't do it with today's evangelicals. The parables in Matthew 25 (that's the Gospel of Matthew for you non-Christians) are right out of the social gospel, as is the mission statement for the charitable organization Matthew 25 ("inspired by the Gospel mandate to put our faith into action to care for our neighbor, especially the most vulnerable"). One would think that, after almost 500 years since Martin Luther and the protestant reformation, Democrats would have a better understanding of evangelical Christians. I will offer two hints. First, it's not the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that evangelicals look to for guidance; it's the letters of Paul. Second, forget "good works" (the social gospel) as the basis for living a Christian life; it's faith alone in Jesus as savior that is the one true path ("one way") to the kingdom of God ("justification by faith"). The Democrats' failing with evangelicals has nothing to do with "messaging"; it's due to a fundamental misunderstanding of their faith.
That strikes me as correct. I occasionally check in with evangelical sources (web, radio) and for the most part they adhere to a view that is opposed to the social gospel. As the commenter suggests, they are more driven by what St. Paul wrote - along with Pauline thinkers like Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.

That Paul holds so much influence within Christianity has always been something of a puzzle. He never knew Jesus, yet his writings often trump the thoughts and exploits of Jesus and the other apostles (in the four Gospels). The short answer is that Paul has influence because it was his "branch" of Christianity that triumphed over the other variants that were around in the first three centuries.


I've long thought that that was the real reason for their campaign against The Last Temptation of Christ many years back: not the sex scene but the scene where Paul sneeringly rebukes Jesus when Jesus challenges the things Paul is saying about, well, him (Jesus). I think that's actually the most controversial scene in the film, and I was reminded of it upon reading your post.

Categorical Aperitif

By Blogger nash, at 12/19/2010 6:14 AM  

It isn't Christianity the evangelicals practice, it's Paulism.

"...Paul sneeringly rebukes Jesus..."

As noted above, the apostle Paul never knew Jesus.

By Anonymous Screamin' Demon, at 12/19/2010 11:46 AM  

Yes, but in the film, in the context of the temptation, an aged Jesus encounters Paul. Methinks Kazantzakis and Scorcese had the difference between Christianity and Paulism in mind as well.

Categorical Aperitif

By Blogger nash, at 12/20/2010 3:34 AM  

AFAICT, Paul is the figure who took what was a Jewish sect and turned it into a non-Jewish religion. So that's why Paul is so central.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/20/2010 6:55 AM  

Post a Comment