Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal effectively appropriated the most potent attraction of Marxism for the Democratic Party: the perception of compassion.
Democrats care; this party responds to the needs of the poor, the sick and the oppressed.
From my earliest days as a Southern Baptist and a yellow dog Democrat, that connection between political party and perceived compassion flattered my conceits — until it didn’t.
In a 2019 paper, Robert F. Schwarzwalder debunked the oft-repeated assertion that Marxism is a Christian heresy. But no one has exposed the utter incompatibility between Christianity and Marxism so effectively as Paul Kengor did in his incomparable volume, “The Devil and Karl Marx.”
Marx loved the devil (some close to him thought he might actually be the devil) and hated all religion, especially Christianity.
But the view that Marxism is a Christian heresy is not without foundation. It turns upon the undeniable teaching of the Bible that God is the champion of the despised and marginalized and calls his children to imitate his merciful example. Progressive utopian movements from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks to Mao’s Cultural Revolution to the contemporary social justice movement have traded on the potent Christianity-sourced social currency of perceived compassion.
Pre- and post-Marxist political appeal to compassion capitalizes on the words and acts of Jesus to conjure a mirage of compatibility with Christianity and stir the tender consciences of believers.
To those poised to execute a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). When John the Baptist sought confirmation of Jesus’s messiahship, Jesus said, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22).
Today it behooves Christians to ask, “Who are lepers in our time?” Who is deemed “unclean” among us? Whom might we fire or refuse to hire with impunity and be congratulated by the world? Whose voices are shouted down today? Who reflexively and fearfully self-censors their speech at work, school, play, even at home?
Lesbians? Gays? Bisexuals? Transgendered? Politically woke blacks? Woke whites? Clearly not. Indeed, the most powerful institutions in the land, including those lawfully armed with weapons, are publicly and actively committed to the defense and societal advance of these persons.
Lepers in Jesus’ day were required to live apart from society and to shout “Unclean!” for the protection of non-lepers who ventured near them. Icons of the party of compassion taught the nation to identify compassion-undeserving lepers in the land. Former President Barack Obama said they cling to their guns and religion. Hillary Clinton told us they are the “irredeemable” contents of a “basket of deplorables.”
The true lepers of our day are the un-woke, no matter their color, sex, sexual orientation or station in life.
Yet for the last seven years, elites who lead the largest and ostensibly most conservative evangelical denominations not only refuse to show compassion to these outcasts of society, but they have instead recoiled from them.
Where are the Southern Baptist Convention-sponsored panels dedicated to “hearing the stories” of the deplorables? Of conservative blacks smeared as Uncle Toms? The evangelical industrial complex follows the advice of its most influential leader, superstar pastor Timothy Keller, namely, to labor to be found winsome by the very blue communities that hold privilege and wield power to punish the un-woke at every opportunity.
Thus, former chief ethicist of the SBC Russell Moore sat down to “hear the story” not of un-woke black elected leaders within his own denomination, but of same sex-attracted Anglican Sam Allberry. The highest elected person of color in the SBC is the publicly un-woke first vice president, African-American Lee Brand. Accordingly, the current and former SBC presidents, Ed Litton and JD Greear, both white, pretend Brand does not exist.
Brand was not invited to a recent highly publicized “conversation on racial reconciliation.” SBC entity heads (all white men) scratched best-selling, un-woke black author and theological educator Voddie Bacuham from their list of “helpful” black voices when he refused to let the white men determine what he thinks about race, abortion and the LGBT movement.
Race and sex have roiled the SBC for three years. Pastor Bart Barber, establishment candidate for the SBC presidency to be determined in Anaheim next week, says he wants to “actually talk to people” about racial reconciliation, yet shows zero interest in hearing from the Bacuhams and the Brands within the denomination. One candidate for president calls for a change of direction in the SBC and has backed it up by platforming un-woke voices no matter the color of their skin — Florida pastor Tom Ascol.
The evangelical establishment refuses to champion the cause of those who are castigated as deplorables and Uncle Toms by the world and has joined in with the worldly punishers of these modern-day lepers. But why?
Chair of the 2021 SBC Resolutions Committee James Merritt offered the best clue to the answer at last year’s annual convention. In response to calls from the floor to condemn critical race theory as incompatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ, Merritt warned, “The world is watching.”
Establishment-class evangelicals fear the world. So they let the world set the terms of perceived compassion and leper status for them.
Woke Inc. dominates our culture and daily wields its formidable powers to punish the un-woke, especially conservative Christians. A squad-pleasing Democratic Party backed by massive media and corporate partners threatens any un-woke resistance in its way. Merritt is right — this world is watching to make sure Christian leaders comply with its compassion- and leper-identifying dictates.
The result is that evangelical elites heap more and more privilege and protection upon the faux lepers served up by the fearsome party of compassion while sticking it to the true outcasts — conservative un-woke Christians. They punch right and coddle left.
Will the SBC reverse itself next week in Anaheim and direct its compassion toward the true lepers in the land? Time will tell.
Opinions by Mark DeVine is a pastor, former missionary in Bangkok and a theological educator in Alabama. He is the author of “Bonhoeffer Speaks Today” and “Shalom Yesterday, Today, and Forever.”
Reporting by The Western Journal.