Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Disturbing words from a prominent Southern Baptist...

Richad Land was interviewed on NPR concerning the Restoring Honor gathering in Washington D.C. Dr. Land is one of the most influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. His commendation of the rally highlights what troubles me about the same event. As you will see, Dr. Land seems to have no trouble gathering together with Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jewish Rabbis and Muslims for a religious event (You'll notice Land's insistance that the event was not political). "The answer is spiritual renewal and rebuilding a civil society one person, one family, one church, mosque, synagogue, temple, and one community at a time." Is this what Christians are called to pray for? How does Dr. Land propose that Christians pursue "spiritual renewal" with Muslims, Mormons, and Jews? It seems to me that Dr. Land is unwittingly demonstrating how such an event can distort the nature of God, the gospel, and the purpose of the church.
Dr. RICHARD LAND (President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention): Well, thank you. It’s good to be with you.

SIEGEL: Let me ask you about that rally: a very partisan political figure, a man who has accused president Obama of being a racist, then questioned his Christianity, holds a big rally with, among others, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Is the message here that God wants the Republicans to win in November?

Dr. LAND: Well, that certainly would not be the message you got from the rally. Therally did almost everything it could to not be political and to be as ecumenical as possible.

We had rabbis praying. We had Catholic priests praying. We had Muslim imams praying and participating. We had Protestant Christians. And he kept saying over and over again this is not a political event, and politics is not the answer. The answer is spiritual renewal and rebuilding a civil society one person, one family, one church, mosque, synagogue, temple, and one community at a time.

SIEGEL: Are you concerned about what Glenn Beck has said, for example, on “FOX News Sunday,” yesterday, more pointedly than from the podium on Saturday, that Americans do not recognize President Obama’s brand of Christianity? And you share that belief, by the way.

Dr. LAND: Oh, I recognize it. To me, he’s a very typical, mainline, liberal, Protestant Christian. I know lots of people like the president and who have been deeply influenced by liberation theology.

I think liberation theology is wrong. I reject collective salvation as an oxymoron.

SIEGEL: And Mr. Beck’s assertion that most Americans wouldn’t recognize the kind of Christianity that President Obama practices obviously you would disagree with. You say we know what that is.

Dr. LAND: Well, I do. I do know what it is. And I disagree with it. But, you know, it’s a free country, and that’s one reason we have freedom of religion. There were lots of differences of religion that were present at the rally. I mean, you know, you had Jewish rabbis, and as you can imagine, I would have some differences of opinion with Jewish rabbis and with Muslims and with Catholics.

But we were all there together talking about the fact that we need we believe that America needs a return to a greater faith in God, that this country is in trouble, and it’s in trouble at a very basic level. And it’s going to have to be rebuilt at a very basic level and that politics is not the answer.

SIEGEL: Glenn Beck is a Mormon. Is that brand of Christianity as distant or more so from yours than the National Council of Churches mainline Protestantism you…

Dr. LAND: Probably more so.

SIEGEL: More so.

Dr. LAND: And look, Glenn knows this. He said, look, I’m a Mormon. Most Christians don’t think that I’m a Christian. And so, you know, I’ll quote the pope, when he’s talking about liberation theology.

I do not think Mormonism is an orthodox Christian faith, with a small O. I think perhaps the most charitable way for an evangelical Christian to look at Mormonism is to look at Mormonism as the fourth Abrahamic faith.

SIEGEL: Not a Christian faith.

Dr. LAND: Not a Christian faith. (Online source)


Belle Geary said...

As I said yesterday, I don’t believe this event is causing this confusion, it is simply bringing to light a very real problem that already exists. Americans do not have a real grasp of what Christianity is and is not. What is sad is just how many so called Christian leaders do not understand the Gospel and buy into this “we all worship the same god” mentality.

Harley A. said...

I heard this interview on NPR on Monday. The problem is that Richard Land DOES know better. He did briefly mention that Mormonism is not Christianity. After that, for the rest of the interview, he came across as a deist. It was disturbing to me and hopefully not the position of the SBC. Hopefully, he just did a bad job of making his points clearly.

Todd Pruitt said...

I had the same reaction as Harley. Richard Land knows that Mormonism is not Christianity. Unfortunately, based upon what he said, he has no problem with partnering with Muslims and Mormons in 'turning America back to God.'

Note to Richard Land:
Mormonism is not "the fourth Abrahamic faith." It is an extraordinarily strange cult that is less than 200 years old.

Jerry F said...

As I have said before, I am a conservative, but I am not going to forego my faith to worship at the alter. Chist paid far dear a price for me to treat Him as just another God.

Jase and Melissa said...


I sincerely appreciate and respect your concern and motives over this issue.

I think Land is being misunderstood. Land states: “And he [referring to Glen Beck] kept saying over and over….” When Land then continues with the next sentence (with which you take issue) “The answer is spiritual renewal…one church, mosque, synagogue, temple…” Land is referring to and describing Beck’s views, rather than advocating (in part) for increased faith in traditions that contradict Land’s Christian faith. Land later says we need to return to God, and I think he means this only in a Christian context.

The suggestion that Land demonstrates how such an event distorts the nature of God, the Gospel & the church is broad, and I don’t see the evidence. This is basically the unintended endorsement argument. Conservative Christians have argued against this theory for years when it comes to prayers at public school events or other official government functions. We claim, against the ACLU: “ just because a Christian minister prays at such an event doesn’t mean that the school district, govt, or students endorse the minister, his faith, or beliefs.” Yet the moment that a non-Christian is to pray at such an event, or an event like Beck’s, we’re to change our tune? Why must we conclude that if a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, & Mormon pray on the same stage for a political event or a high school graduation, that they must all espouse the notion that “we all worship the same God.”

To me, the danger is not that we give some unspoken, unintended message of supporting universalism, but rather that we disengage from our culture and fail to be a light and advocate for our Father where we have the chance. Jesus never bought the charge that by mingling with sinners, tax-collectors, speaking to prostitutes, that he was condoning their sin or disbelief. And that to me is the essence of these arguments. Doesn’t the fact that ministers representing different faiths and praying at the same event reflect the fact that they have different beliefs, and that they represent and advocate for those beliefs by their presence.


Todd Pruitt said...


Thanks for the conversation on this important subject.

I think we will have to agree to disagree about the nature of Dr. Land's comments. Having been a Southern Baptist for the first 41 years of my life I have heard enough from Richard Land to stand by my interpretation of what he said.

The situation you raise about Christians praying in public events is an interesting one. It is actually the reason why I believe Christians must be very careful about opportunities to pray at civic events. For instance, if I pray before a football game have I unintentionally domesticated God in the eyes of the gathered crowds? Have I unintentionally prayed to the god of civil religion? Certainly not in all cases. But I can't count the number of prayers I have heard at civic events by Christian ministers that were little more than a well-worn tradition that had much more to do with what good Americans do than it did with a genuine address to a God who is holy and demands full allegiance.

I must not appear in civic events to pray along side Muslims, Mormons, or any other pagans. To do so is to acknowledge (in the eyes of the gathered crowds at least) that there is something legitimate about their belief system. It is to participate in a prayer service to false gods.

I cannot imagine Elijah or Ezra or Paul gathering with worshippers of Baal, Ashera, or Dianna to pray for the people of Israel, the surrounding Palestine, or Rome to "return to God."

I am enthusiastic about political conservatives organizing to gather support for sane economic policies and the protection of the unborn. I love it when people who love this country gather to celebrate what is right with America. May their tribe increase! I am among those who love this country and want her to continue to prosper. But I cannot gather with pagans to send out a general call to return to a general god. Nor could I gather with pagans at an event where I pray to my God and stand by while they pray to their idol.