Remember when George H. W. Bush promised us a kinder, gentler form of Republicanism?
Did that happen?
We're now being told that the Religious Right is becoming a kinder, gentler political force.
Is that happening?
In fact, core supporters of the Religious Right are moving only one direction -- farther out. And that is exactly where they want to take the country.
Last week, I told you about a sermon given by Bruce Ware, a professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He used the Bible to back up his notion that God means for women to be submissive to men and that men because of their sinful nature beat women who because of their sinful nature aren't submissive enough.
Now I want to tell you about some of the other ideas coming out of this seminary, which has become a primary mouthpiece for the most fundamentalist positions of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the seminary that defended the use of torture in the fight against terrorism. It is also the seminary that is bringing us a new theology featuring what Kansas City Baptist minister Keith Herron calls a religious sexual obsession that links the Bible with "the ickiest viewpoints about sex and procreation and pleasure."
This new teaching is being called "the full quiver theology" and is based on Psalm 127: 3-5 which reads: "Children are a heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. As arrows in a soldier's hand, so are the sons of the young. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them." So the more children, a couple has, the better.
But fundamentalists never stop with what's good. They always address both sides of the question. Obedient insiders get God's blessing. The disobedient get God's condemnation.
According to the seminary's president, Albert Mohler, couples who choose childlessness are guilty of "rebellion against parenthood [that] represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design." God will decide whether to open or close the womb. Using birth control is an act against God's will. The truly Christian couple will allow God to decide whether each act of sex will result in procreation and sex will be returned to its proper place in a Christian's life.
And the Christian woman? She'll submit, of course.
Couples who delay marriage until they are older are also guilty of disobedience under this new theology.
When President Mohler explained the teaching some years ago to the Chicago Tribune, he explained that under-population was a pressing concern.
"We are barely replenishing ourselves," he said. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."
That led Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, to wonder exactly whom Mohler meant by "we." The world's population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. The United States' population is expected to grow to 400 million by 2040.
No under-population there.
But wait. There is one U.S. population that's declining. White people.
If present trends continue Euro-Americans will cease being the majority race in the United States by about 2050. Over the next half century, America will become a predominately non-white nation.
"Hence, the religious call for 'full-quiver' theology is white-supremacy code language advocating for the increase of white babies," writes De La Torre.
"Mohler's call, whether he realizes it or not, is a race-based warning. It is a call for white fecundity, lest America becomes overrun with "colored" children, which would only lead, as Mohler puts it, to 'huge social problems in the future.' "
Oh, yes. And one more point, for decades Southern Baptists have loudly declared that their fundamentalism is the "right" Christianity and pointed as proof to their own growth while mainline denominations were declining. But the Southern Baptist Convention's growth rate has been shrinking since the 1950s, according to new statistics.
It has now fallen enough that the Southern Baptist Convention is recording membership losses.
One reason? Birth rates among Southern Baptists are declining.
President Mohler and Professor Ware back up their contentions with plenty of Bible verses. For some people, that means they are teaching the truth.
But other evangelicals say their interpretations are as wacky as using the Bible to defend slavery, segregation, white supremacy, oppression of the poor and unjust wars.
"Dr. Ware needs to have his head examined. He and the others who share these views need therapy and should be banned from teaching the next generation of ministers who sit at their feet learning about God, about human pain and suffering," writes Rev. Herron.
"Warning signs should be posted at the entrance of the seminary: "Warning! Sexual Obsessions Abound Here ... Enter at Your Own Peril!"
Professor De La Torre writes, "It is the height of biblical naivete to impose modern concepts upon ancient texts." Women and children were considered property when the Bible was written.
When Job's cattle and sheep and goods were taken away, his children were also killed, De Le Torre points out. In the happy ending, God restored them all. The property was interchangeable. Cows dead. Children dead. No real difference. Just get some more.
That was a very different time.
Few commentators are going to be willing to call fundamentalist evangelicals' positions sexual obsessions. Few will be willing to call them racist.
So this could be the only place and the only time that you will see them labeled as such.
These positions, in fact, are unlikely to be broadly brandished as the campaign moves on. But Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a fringe institution. Albert Mohler and Bruce Ware are well respected and their words are heeded. Young people do sit at their feet, learning.
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