When the GOP nominated Mitt Romney as its presidential candidate in 2012, I thought we had seen an effective end to religious bigotry. I was wrong. Not only is it still around, but forms of it long thought dead are still alive and kicking. Consider the Politico Magazine piece from last weekend on Marco Rubio and religion.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER – I do not have a dog in the hunt yet, not backing anyone, have not contributed to anyone. This post is not about Rubio – it is about what people are saying about Rubio.
Rubio has a long and varied religious history, “Catholicism to Mormonism back to Catholicism to a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated evangelical megachurch and finally back to Catholicism.” If religious bigotry was going to raise its ugly head, one would think it would be about his brief and boyhood sojourn with the Latter-day Saints. But no, quoted in the article is this:
“I’m fully, theologically, doctrinally aligned with the Roman Catholic Church,” Rubio had said—and for people like Joe Brown, the influential leader of the Marion Avenue Baptist Church in rural Washington in the southeastern part of the state, that no-wiggle-room declaration was a deal-breaker. “Most pastors and evangelicals do not believe you can be a Catholic and be an evangelical at the same time,” Brown told me.
Later in the piece:
“I would not say anything derogatory about Catholics, but Marco Rubio is very open that he is part of the Catholic Church,” said Brown, the Marion Avenue Baptist pastor, who has spearheaded the effort to get pastors in all 99 of Iowa’s counties to endorse Cruz. “When you say you’re doctrinally aligned with the Catholic Church, it really is contrary to what most evangelicals in Iowa believe.”
That is straight-out bigotry. Rubio is disqualified on the basis of his faith affiliation, no examination of his political positions, no examination of where his personal faith might deviate from the official Catholic line, simply “Nope, he’s Catholic, not gonna do it.” One must assume that after eight years of political correctness and egalitarianism-of-outcome run amok, the only result is hardened hearts, not the elimination of bigotry.
One is tempted to refute the outrageous claim that Catholic doctrine is “contrary” to evangelical belief, but the statement is so without factual basis that there is no point. (There are differences, of course, but “contrary?” – Please!) One is tempted to ask people like this where they think they would be without Catholicism being the only form of Christian expression for the first 1500 years of Christian history, but it would be futile. If someone actually thinks like that, no argument is going to change their mind. Nonetheless, in 2012 such a statement would have gotten the person making it pilloried from all sides. The net result of Obama and the progressives campaign to eliminate such talk has been to make those prone to it emboldened. In the Bible they call that “hardening of the heart.”
Here’s the thing about bigotry like this – it is from the heart, not the mind. The only way to eliminate it is a change of heart which does not happen as a result of argumentation. This nation needs a new president, desperately – but it needs so much more. Presidential elections reflect the heart of the nation, they do not change it. For now I pray that people of good faith get busy working as God’s tools on hearts like Pastor Brown’s. I don’t want Pastor Brown to become a Catholic – I’m not a Catholic – but if Christians of all stripes are going to return this nation to its founding footing we need to get out of the circular firing squad. I also pray that Pastor Brown represents a tiny minority of Iowa Evangelicals, not because I want Rubio to win, but because Evangelicalism is deeply harmed by such hard hearts.
Christ said He did not come to change the Law. And He did not change it. The standards remain unchanged; what was a sin before Jesus is a sin after Jesus. But He did come to soften our hearts. We are not to be known by our standards, but by our love. Christ has made it so that we can be more than mere believers in God, we can be lovers of God. When our hearts are hard we are missing the point, and that is harmful to our politics, our witness and our souls. God save us from ourselves.