By John Pierce

During his recent trip to Africa, former President George W. Bush responded to a reporter’s question about the conflict or compatibility of gay marriage with his Christian faith by continuing his post-presidential plan to no longer weigh in on controversial matters.

Referencing Matthew 7:3, Bush said simply, according to Christian News Network: “I shouldn’t be taking a speck out of some else’s eye when I have a log in my own.”

Whoa! That’s not the kind of response culture war Christians who embraced Bush as one of their own want to hear.

So Bro. Bush was put in place by Scott Brown of Wake Forest, N.C., a Baptist preacher, elder and leader in the family-integrated church movement.

“Mr. Bush has actually misinterpreted the verse and applied it wrongly, most likely because he is unaware of the whole counsel of God on the matter of judgment,” Brown said to Christian News Network.

So Dubya’s gracious, confessional response — and attempt to avoid political sparring — actually revealed that he is a poor interpreter of Scripture and “unaware of the whole counsel of God” on the subject of judgment. Nice.

Likewise, Alan Chambers, also a longtime darling of the religious right, caught the heat of Southern Baptist culture war king Al Mohler recently.

Chambers, the president of Exodus International announced that the organization was closing its doors and he apologized for the damage done to gay and lesbian persons through attempts at “reparative therapy” — the idea that sexual orientation could be changed through prayer and counseling — and other actions.

According to a Religion News Service report, Chambers said his core beliefs about sexuality have not changed — but rather his ways of ministering to gay and lesbian persons would be kinder and different.

That was not enough for Mohler, who took Chambers’ “I’m sorry” to be an abandonment of a prize culture war cause.

Mohler told Baptist Press: “The statements from Alan Chambers and Exodus International indicate that they have lost confidence in both the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Wow. Chambers’ new perspective is nothing less than a loss of confidence in the Bible and Jesus, according to Mohler.

The tragedy is that it is not hard to understand why fundamentalist Christian leaders like Brown and Mohler react so harshly when one of their own doesn’t stay in lockstep.

They are losing the culture wars — and becoming a fainter minority voice. Such was never in their plans.

They thought their stinging columns, radio and TV ranting and indoctrination of their minions would enlarge the troops. Instead they have watched public opinion go in the opposite direction — and have been stunned that even those they once counted on for cover might break from the pack on occasion.

Finding themselves on the losing side of yet another culture battle, it is devastating to see former allies finding the grace that they cannot.

What they do not understand or simply cannot allow themselves to see is that fundamentalism does not define the Christian gospel and it is a losing proposition. And nothing is more threatening to those who lead such movements than to see their power diminished.

So some of the harsh rhetoric usually aimed at the most obvious enemies is fired at those who once could be counted on for full agreement. Heroes becomes goats — who have “lost confidence” in the Bible and Jesus.

What fundamentalist leaders also fail to see is that fellow conservative Christians like Bush and Chambers might have simply lost confidence in them and their strident ways. Or, perhaps, that they are free now to say what they’ve long believed.

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