Thursday, May 12, 2005

Politicizing Church Discipline

Al Mohler has been cozying up to politicians for so long that he is now confusing church discipline with political party discipline. In an article entitled "Should a church discipline members over politics?" Mohler says,
The right form of the church requires a common commitment to certain shared convictions. These commitments are irreducibly theological, but come with inevitable political consequences. Until recently, our domestic political debates have failed to reach a point of crisis with regard to these consequences, but crisis cannot be rejected as a possibility. In such cases, the church must maintain its witness and convictional commitments. A church should exercise discipline against a member who, while claiming to be a Christian, would vote for Adolf Hitler -- or David Duke.

It has long been a practice of political parties to discipline its members over how they vote. Until the recent sad events at East Waynesville Baptist Church, to my knowledge, it has never been the practice of Baptist churches to discipline members over how they vote. That is the chief reason why when Baptists send representatives to associational, state and national conventions we call them "messengers" and not "delegates." Historically, Baptists have strongly advocated and respected the right of persons to vote in accord with their own conscience.

Frankly, it is not out of the realm of possibility that some members of the church that I pastored in Houston did vote for David Duke during a presidential primary. While I strongly disagree with the way they voted, they are not accountable to me or their church for the way they cast their ballot.

For people living in a democratic society, the voting booth is sacred space. Each person must examine his or her own conscience and give an account to God alone for the way they cast their ballot.

If Mohler and others on the Religious Right would ever learn to recognize that, in a democracy, the right to vote is a sacred duty and a solemn responsibility, then both major political parties would surely be united in demanding that every citizen have equal access to the ballot box, that every vote be counted, and that every ballot be tabulated by accurate and publicly verifiable means.

It's the democracy part that hangs them up. Their theocratic impulses blind them to the link between the inalienable rights of conscience and the sacredness of the ballot box.


Dr. Mike Kear said...

Thank you, Dr. Prescott, for a well written article.

Dr. Mohler's statement, "A church should exercise discipline against a member who, while claiming to be a Christian, would vote for Adolf Hitler -- or David Duke," is truly frightening to me. A Baptist leader saying that there should be religious enforcement of political ideology is almost unfathomable to me. God help us.



Alice Clay said...

Bruce, I just read Mohler's article a few minutes ago. I cannot believe him! I find this hugely hypocritical...For someone so bent on reforming the SBC and forcing conformity, now he wants to claim autonomy for this poor, embattled church & pastor!! How convenient...

You know....I'd love to write more, but I need to take a few minutes to breathe...deeply...

Joe G. said...

It's truly frightening. I plan to blog about labeling such folks as the "theocratic right" (as suggested by Theocracy Watch dot org). The quote seems to confirm this troubling tendency. Thanks for post.

Greek Shadow said...

Adolf Hitler, David Duke, George W. Bush, is there any difference?

jtr said...

Mohler's comments are truly disturbing. As a wanna-be and hopefully soon pastor in the inner city, I cannot imagine disciplining (or even being concerned about) a member for how he or she voted. I cannot conceive of having an "official" church position on a political issue. That whole chapter about not wrestling against flesh and blood and principalities thing keeps coming to mind. Bizarre. I have yet to find the passage about God's view of free trade or steel tarrifs or tax rates.

Greek Shadow,

Do you really have trouble distinguishing between the evils of Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush? I am not a big supporter of Bush (I only support him on a couple issues; on just about everything else he is wrong), but I have a lot of trouble hearing him compared to one of the most evil men in history. Was your comment tongue-in-cheek?

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...


I took Greek's comments about Bush as hyperbole.

The comment was over the top.

Greek Shadow said...

Hitler burned down the Reichstag and blamed the Communists using it as an excuse to silence all opposition and taking total power.
Bush used the 911 attack to silence all opposition at least until he could get re-elected. Hitler repealed Habeus Corpus and started arresting people and holding them indefinately without charge. Bush has detained an undisclosed number of people from all over the world, including American Citizens, without charge so far indefinately. Hitler approved the use of torture. Bush has approved the use of torture, smoke screen of piety does not remove the reality of our outsoucing the dirty business, or the fact that Rumsfeld has not had the buck stop at him, and the atorney that wrote the brief rationalizing the use of torture is now our Attorney General. Hitler launched a war of aggression. Bush launched a war of aggression against a country that had done us no harm. Some things are different Hitler wanted Poland's land, Bush just wants Iraq's oil.
You be the judge, doesn't sound like hyperbole to me.

Greek Shadow said...

Oops forgot one other point.

Psychologically speaking Hitler and Bush are both Egomaniacal Magalomaniacs.

Anonymous said...

Can a church tell its members how to vote and retain its tax exempt status?
I think this is the only reason the SBC didn't wholeheartedly support this.