Saturday, May 12, 2007


Strange news out of Waco--better known as Jerusalem on the Brazos--Texas today. It seems that prominent Evangelical Chrstian leader and tenured Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith has announced that he is re-embracing the Catholic faith into which he was baptized. That's akin to the kind of turnabouts we're talking about with Sadat going to Jerusalem, Nixon going to China, Sam Brownback acknowledging that Mrs. Clinton isn't the Antichrist, that sort of thing. Evangelical Protestants take quite a dim view of Catholics, and I think the enmity is mutual in many cases.

The question is, what does this mean in the big picture? It's beyond me why people would fight wars over whether or not individuals have a sort of natural right to God's grace, or whether you have to work for it, earn it through your deeds. The only religion I embrace is the Sermon on the Mount in the gospels, where you are urged to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The rest of it, as they say, is just details. But these theological fine points are very important to Ph.d theologists like Beckwith, so when he turns his back on one deeply held set of beliefs and re-endorses another, that's kind of a big deal.

There's one very significant hint as to What This Means in a cosmic sense: apparently Beckwith was deeply affected by the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict the l6th. Ratzinger is and was a staunch conservative in all social questions. In fact, he and Pope John Paul II established most of the current trends in the Catholic church, i.e. opposition to abortion and euthanasia, regardless of the circumstances, opposition to gay marriage, even homosexuality itself, opposition to stem cell research, and active condemnation of Catholic politicians who take issue with the church's position. If all that sounds familiar, it is: the Catholic church's main preoccupations nowadays are nearly indistinguishable from its Evangelical Protestant counterparts'.

So maybe this heresy isn't so heretical at all: Beckwith is a symbol of a broader trend in religious and social history, maybe the FIAD, Fundamentalist Imperative Across the Denominations?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of this leaves me in almost as much confusion as Sunni/Shiite. I was born into the Methodist church, but honestly, can't tell you if there's a difference in their theology and that of a dozen or more other mainstream protestant crews.

6:08 PM  

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