Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) would do well to read his denomination’s statement of faith and practice what his church claims to believe.
Hostettler’s General Baptist denomination identifies “practicing tolerance” as one of the core Christian duties, something that the congressman apparently opposes at the U.S. Air Force Academy and avoids on the House floor.
On Monday, Hostettler opposed an amendment to the defense appropriations bill concerning the well-documented religious intolerance at the academy, which the school’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. John H. Rosa, has acknowledged.
An investigation is underway at the academy related to Christian evangelicals proselytizing and a chaplain who said that anyone “not born again would burn in the fires of hell.”
Another chaplain was reassigned after she spoke out about the academy’s pervasive evangelical tone.
During the House’s consideration of the defense bill, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) offered an amendment that referred to “coercive and abusive religious proselytizing” at the academy.
Hostettler opposed the Obey amendment, arguing that “Like a moth to a flame the Democrats can’t help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.”
A member of Evansville’s Twelfth Avenue General Baptist Church, Hostettler said: “The long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. It continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects—the Democrats.”
After Democrats criticized Hostettler’s remarks, he retracted them.
Later in the day, he said, “If you tell Christians they can’t tell others about their faith, then they can’t exercise their Christian religion.”
Hostettler demonstrates muddled thinking about the nature of Christian faith, all too prevalent among those who see the Republican Party as God’s Only Party.
On one hand, he sees his political commitments as synonymous with his faith commitments.
What he fails to understand is that political parties are neither thoroughly moral, nor completely immoral. To claim that one party is the party of God dishonors God and fails to see the universal nature of human sinfulness.
On another hand, he sees church and state as aligned.
State-sponsored evangelism at the academy is okay. Opposition to academy officials pressuring cadets to convert is anti-Christian, suppressing the every essence of Christian faith.
Hostettler fails to understand that authentic Christianity must be practiced without either intrusive proselytizing or state-sponsorship.
Robert Parham is executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics.