I still remember my baptism. I walked down the aisle of my church, talked with the pastor, and then made my public declaration that same-sex marriage should be illegal.
Well, that’s not actually how it went. But that vision of what defines Christianity matches the theology of Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Last week on his podcast “The Briefing,” Mohler criticized those within the United Methodist Church advocating for welcoming and affirming LGBTQ persons. That is not a surprise. If you’ve paid attention to Mohler or other Southern Baptist leaders for more than a few minutes, you’re used to hearing such rhetoric.
However, in this discussion Mohler went even further. He called the two camps divided by their position over LGBTQ inclusion “two different religions.” He didn’t attack liberals over their different biblical interpretations (or for being nitwits), which would acknowledge that each group honors the power and value of scripture even while applying it differently on this issue. Rather, he cast them as outside the Christian faith completely. His litmus test isn’t whether they proclaim Jesus as Lord but where they stand on a topic to which Jesus didn’t even speak.
“Just to state the obvious, you’re looking not only at two different positions, as we will understand, you’re looking at two different religions and those two different religions cannot possibly continue to exist in one church or in one denomination,” Mohler claimed.
Two different religions.
Just to state the obvious, Mohler is defining which religion someone adheres to based on their position on LGBTQ issues. He moves the debate beyond merely doctrinal disagreements or different biblical interpretations. He assumes the authority to determine who can be called a Christian. Mohler draws the line over this issue as one would between Christianity and Buddhism.
Perhaps Mohler is right.
Anyone who defines Christianity based on LGBTQ acceptance and not the affirmation of the lordship of Jesus is teaching a different religion. There is historic Christianity, with its various nuances and disagreements over various issues. And then there’s the genitalia-focused religion Mohler espoused on “The Briefing.”
We are looking at two different religions. But unlike what Mohler claimed, his position doesn’t reflect historic Christianity or, to use his term, “evangelical orthodoxy.” His beliefs reflect the old-time religion at Southern Seminary. A faith that rejects the personhood of those created in God’s image.
Despite the fact that the four founders of Southern were all enslavers, Mohler still insists in affirming their “biblical orthodoxy.” Thus, he rejected calls to remove building names and other honors to those founders since they provided the “founding vision” and injected “their theology into the lifeblood” of the school.
Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery, criticized “the slaveholding religion of this land” as something different from “Christianity proper.” Douglass understood there were, as Mohler put it, “two different religions” operating at the time.
“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked,” he explained in a book published the same year that enslavers broke away from the national Baptist body to create the Southern Baptist Convention. “To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”
“Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity,” Douglass added. “I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.”
The problem for Douglass wasn’t a liberal faith but the libel one.
Mohler will continue denigrating those who practice a faith that contradicts his own. He’ll defame their beliefs in the most uncharitable of ways. But while he’s worried about excluding people from the Church, the rest of us will continue proclaiming Jesus is Lord of all.