Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century.
(New York Times photo of National Cathedral Dean and Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C. preparing for gun control press conference.)
The National Cathedral is making gun control its new big focus and is hosting an interfaith press conference Friday morning, December 21 to showcase how religions supposedly are uniting behind gun control after the Newtown horrors. A United Methodist and Episcopal bishop will be there, plus the Islamic Society of North America, and former National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) lobbyist Richard Cizik. No surprises, and whatever happens to gun control politically, these groups will probably have negligible influence. The United Methodist Church has advocated abolition of handguns since at least 1972, with no appreciable impact on its own members, much less the nation. Recall that Methodism’s last truly successful political crusade was Prohibition, ratified in 1919.
A New York Times article on this event more interestingly quoted NAE President Leith Anderson saying NAE has no official stance on gun control but might now “take a harder look.” He cited King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
“Mary and Joseph fled. It’s a part of the story, and they took decisive action. This is now a part of our story,” Anderson said, referring to shooting rampages, “and we need to take decisive action.”
So will Anderson now push NAE to join liberal, old line Protestant elites in prioritizing gun control? NAE keeps sliding leftward under Anderson, so stay tuned. But as NAE follows marginalized Protestant groups in no longer representing its own constituency but instead loftily speaking to it, its own influence will continue to recede. These political pronouncements will also be accompanied by poor and strained biblical exegesis, claiming the Gospel backs a specific political remedy in sync with whatever fashionable cause du jour. Instead of learning lessons from the implosion of old line Protestantism, NAE seems increasingly determined to follow its unfortunate example.Google+