Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Who John Stott Is [Archival Material]
By Thomas Riggins

This people draweth nigh unto me
with their mouth, and honoureth me
with their lips; but their heart is far
from me.-- Matthew 15:8

David Brooks, my favorite ultra-right New York Times op-eder, asked "Who is John Stott" in his 11-30-04 column. John Stott is an Anglican evangelical homophobic bigot of whom Mr. Brooks recommends politicians, "especially Democrats," take note. Brooks is upset with Tim Russert for having Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton on "Meet the Press" ("these two bozos") to talk about religion and politics. Later he includes Pat Robertson (a third bozo?).

These people do not represent the real world of evangelical Christians, according to Brooks. If the blue staters want to open up to "people of faith," to appeal to them, they will have to concern themselves with someone like John Stott who is "actually important."

The Rev. Mr. Stott is an important evangelical voice – with over 40 (nonsense) books to his credit. Brooks finds his voice "humble and self-crtitical, but also confident, joyful and optimistic."

Brooks evidently finds of some of Stott’s teachings, such as his rejection of homo-sexuality "as a legitimate life style", his support for the death penalty, his anti-choice and anti-abortion positions, examples of optimistic humility. With views like these it is no wonder Stott maintains "that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus." Not the teachings of Jesus? No indeed! What is important is the Passion, the life and sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t want to be burdened with any inconvenient teachings. The golden rule might get in the way of good Christian homophobia, or make our hands shake when we need to administer a lethal injection.

The most important part of Stott’s teaching may be his rejection of any idea that he could not know just what the Truth is (yes, with a capital T). Down with the notion that different religious traditions or other faiths could have a share of the Truth. "Truth has been revealed."

How lucky for us. Was it revealed in the Koran? Don’t even ask!

Confronted with these views, Brooks has the nerve to exclaim that there has "been a lot of twaddle written recently about the supposed opposition between faith and reason."

But the "thoughtful" Rev. Stott belies this. Twaddle? What is the difference between Stott’s homophobia, anti-woman and pro-death penalty positions and those of Falwell and Robertson. I leave out Al Sharpton because he is definitely not in this company.

In his 1958 book Basic Christianity, Stott writes that God "is altogether beyond our comprehension." This didn’t stop the good reverend from writing forty books about him, but it takes "reason" off the table. You can’t reason about the incomprehensible. Stott still claims that "The Christian doctrine of revelation is essentially reasonable." More reasonable than the Islamic or Jewish? We are not in the house of reason when we make statements about religious fundamentalism.

Stott doesn’t want to submit religion to the scientific approach, but he does want to use the religious approach in science. "The empirical method is largely inappropriate in the sphere of religion," he writes. But what about science. There the empirical method has its rightful place – unless it contradicts revelation. Stott will go along with the "theory of evolution" – some type of evolution, but not Darwin! In Understanding the Bible he writes"any theory of evolution which is presented as a blind and random process must be rejected by Christians as incompatible with the biblical revelation...."

This is twaddle and implies that regardless of where the "empirical method" takes you in scientific investigation an extra-scientific dimension ("revelation") is the ultimate judge of truth.

So, enough of John Stott and and David Brooks’ twaddle. The point is that Christian fundamentalism in its conservative dress is what is being pushed. No one on the left should fall for Brooks’ position that by polishing up the rough edges of the Falwells and Robertsons with a classy substitute (the very British Mr. Stott) the attitudes and political consequences of evangelical fundamentalism are in any way changed.

There are plenty of progressive and mainstream Christians and even evangelicals who can be won over to left political programs. The notion, sanctioned by Brooks and proclaimed by Stott that "the teachings of Jesus" are not what is important should be a wedge issue for the Christian left. Those teachings are much more congruent with the socialist and communist world outlooks than they are with the capitalist world globalization movement that is being pushed by writers such as David Brooks.

--Thomas Riggins can be reached at pabooks@politicalaffairs.net.

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