Trinitarian politics is the best predictor of an individual’s votes — not the belief in Christianity’s doctrine of the Trinity but adherence to the holy alliance of biblical literalism, free-market ideology and hostility toward science.
“One in three, three in all” seems a fitting motto for conservative evangelical Christian politicians like Paul Broun — a Southern Baptist, a Republican congressman and a global-warming denier, who voted last week against America taking action to address climate change.
A member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., Broun’s faith credentials are well-established.
A YouTube video clip shows Broun praying with Rob Schenck and Patrick Mahoney, two Christian right leaders, in a service in the U.S. Capitol, where they anointed with oil from the Holy Land the doorway through which President-elect Barack Obama would walk to the inauguration platform.
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” began Schenck, as he placed anointing oil on the doorposts. With hand raised and palm open, Broun repeatedly uttered, “Yes, Lord” and “Thank you, Lord.”
At the end of the clip, Broun said, “We just need to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in everything that we say and all that we do.”
Broun introduced four months later a congressional resolution asking Obama to proclaim 2010 as “The National Year of the Bible.” He wanted all Americans of faith to apply the “timeless message of the Holy Scripture.”
A critic of the separation of church and state, Broun said too many duties have been turned over to the government: “What we are doing in our society is not according to God’s instructions.”
“[T]he Holy Bible is true,” said Broun. “It’s literal and it’s God’s direction to us. … It directs every aspect of life.”
Last week, he accused the scientific community of deception, denied global warming and spoke against taxes.
“Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus,” said the Georgia congressman, claiming wrongly that the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” would cost the American family thousands of dollars in taxes.
Broun had attacked the bill, advanced by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), weeks earlier as “the largest tax increase in American history.” He urged Americans “to see the Waxman-Markey legislation for what it really is: an economy-crippling Wacky-Marxist Tax-and-Cap bill.”
The Marxist smear paralleled Broun’s smear of President Barack Obama as the “steamroller of socialism.”
Biography as theology is one way to understand how Broun, a medical doctor by training, has come to embrace trinitarian politics.
“I had been living a prideful, sinful, self-centered lifestyle,” said Broun, confessing on the House floor to several broken marriages and financial problems.
He recalled seeing a copy of a Bible in his office, remembering a sign with John 3:16 on it at a football game and picking up the Bible. He then quoted John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son for whosoever shall believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Broun said, “My heart was pricked.”
“God really came into my life and he has changed my life,” said Broun, who professed his faith in Jesus Christ in November 1986.
Broun’s profession of faith is a classical Baptist story and a positive testimony to the power of salvation to reorient a life.
Broun’s conversion to Christianity was apparently accompanied by a conversion to the Republican Party. Even though his father was serving as a Democratic Georgia state senator and had done so since 1962, Broun ran as a Republican congressional candidate in 1990. He lost several more campaigns before being elected to Congress.
“The reason I ran as a Republican is, well, because of the moral issues more than anything else,” said Broun. “My faith is very important to me.”
By his own words, faith has shaped his politics, albeit in a questionable direction on the environment.
The text that pricked his heart should have pricked his moral conscience on the environmental front, if he actually read the Bible literally.
A key word in John 3:16 is the word “world.” In the original language of the text — Greek — the word for world is “cosmos,” the root for the English word cosmos, not “anthropos,” the root for anthropology or man. The text is literally saying that God so loved the entire created order that he sent his son Jesus Christ to redeem it.
Unfortunately, too many fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals who claim to read the Bible literally read the Bible with an anthropocentric or man-centered agenda, especially John 3:16. Their spiritual self-assuredness and private self-centeredness enable them to dismiss the scientific consensus about global warming and be indifferent to long-term moral obligations such as earth-keeping. That leaves them with a singular concern with lower personal taxes.
Trinitarian politics threatens the common good.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.