Baptists and Booze

A reader comments:

I read with interest the blog entry by Wade Burleson on drinking alcohol that you linked to yesterday. Living in a heavily Southern Baptist area, and being an agnostic myself, it was quite a breath of fresh air to see that there is a respected element within that denomination capable of something approaching reasoned and rational discourse on an issue that is usually discussed with reflexive inflexibility.

One thing disturbed me however. Mr. Burleson at one point wrote that accusing Jesus Christ of personal sin is 'the epitome of liberalism.' Perhaps I misapprehend Mr. Burleson’s meaning. Perhaps he is using what is, to me, a non-apparent definition of liberalism. However, I am not aware that accusing Jesus Christ of personal sin (or indeed accusing Jesus Christ of anything) is any part of liberalism of any stripe, let alone its epitome. In fact I know many extremely religious liberals who would quail at even the suggestion of Jesus Christ as a sinner. I consider myself to be well to the political left of the rank-and-file of the SBC I am almost certainly a liberal unless his definition of the term escapes me and I can assure Mr. Burleson that casting an aspersion of any kind on Jesus Christ is the furthest thing both from my political philosophy and my everyday thoughts. I am also relatively certain that the inerrant Bible does not address this issue in any way.

It speaks something about the level of religious discourse in this country when someone touted far and wide with some justification as a moderating voice in the debate can casually throw out a facially ridiculous canard like that, apparently in all honesty. We still have a long way to go.

We do indeed. It's astonishing that liberalism now has a built-in theological meaning, i.e. "Godless." That's the point of Coulter's latest best-seller, as it was Hannity's in his repulsively titled book, "Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism." The point is to portray your political opponents as part of a Manichean struggle against existential evil. And so "liberalism" is literally demonized. In this way, politics collapses into religion, and the political debate becomes the hunt to expose and punish heresy. That hunt has been around for centuries; and people love it. The left specialized in it once; and still does. But the right has now coopted an entire ancient faith in this gambit. Whatever else this impulse is, it isn't politics; and it isn't real faith. It is, however, what American conservatism has now largely become.