Sharpton: Those Who Really Believe in God

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Al Sharpton has once again gotten himself into trouble, but I think this time those who are critical of him have gotten him way wrong. His actual words:

As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that; that's a temporary situation.

Evangelicals for Mitt has the video. EFM is playing this as anti-Mormonism. This post and commenters at Race 4 2008 seem to take it the same way. Sharpton denies that he meant that Mormons don't believe in God. I believe him. After all, look closely at what he said. He said people who really believe in God will vote against Mitt Romney. That means the people who don't really believe in God are not Mormons but people who would vote for Mitt Romney. In other words, Republicans and conservatives, particularly social conservatives, do not really believe in God. It has nothing to do with Mormons. It has everything to do with those who disagree with him politically. If you don't agree with his political views, you must not believe in God. It's that simple.

This isn't new to Sharpton. He's said it before about supporters of President Bush. So of course he can say that it wasn't meant as a statement about Mormons. It wasn't. It was a slam against all Christians who happen to be politically conservative. This kind of irresponsible statement would be grounds for excommunication in the first-century church. From Sharpton's perspective, he must think it's a good thing that we've strayed so far from biblical teaching about the consequences of this kind of divisiveness. Of course it would be better for him if he were held accountable, because then he'd have a greater chance of seeing how serious his insult to Christ really is.

Disclaimer: There are conservatives who do the same thing. I'd say the same about them. There clearly are people who claim to be Christians who demonstrate by their actions or words that their Christianity is extremely thin and doesn't amount to much of what I know as Christianity. I think John Kerry's identification with Christianity is largely cultural because of his Catholic upbringing. I suspect the same is true of Newt Gingrich on the Republican side. My point isn't about never being able to wonder whether someone's faith is genuine. It's about making sweeping claims about people's political affiliation as proof that they don't genuinely believe in God, which is nonsense.


If Sharpton's statement about those who support policies opposed to Christian love, for the poor in one's own country or one's enemies in places like Iraq, would have been grounds for excommunication in the 1st century, then why weren't the biblical authors James and John excommunicated for James 1:27 and 1 John 3:14-18, 4:20?

I'm not disputing that those with no love have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. That's the point James and John are making. But it's quite another thing to assert that one humanly-conceived method of showing love (particularly one whose consequences is disputed) is the only way someone with genuine love could display it, therefore concluding that anyone who favors other ways of showing love must be a nonbeliever. Sharpton seems to be in the habit of seeing his proposed policies as the only ones a loving person could come up with, and he infers (whether seriously or merely rhetorically) that the person isn't really a Christian.

Well, I accept that there may be other ways of showing love than the policies Sharpton might approve of. But I don't accept that continuing to wage an aggressive war, especially one with no hope of victory and no plausible exit strategy, can possibly be understood as a way of showing love. While I wouldn't go so far as suggesting that supporters of the Iraq war have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, I would suggest that there is a profound and highly disturbing mismatch between their Christian profession and their political views.

I contend, on the other hand, that it is contrary to all sense of moral responsibility to start a war in a country that leaves it in pretty bad shape and then insist that they handle the situation themselves. I can see how someone can be misled into thinking that's the loving thing, and thus I wouldn't question their faith for advocating such a policy, but I think it's not the view love leads to when the moral issues are carefully considered. So I'm with you on the meta-question even though I'm on the opposite end in terms of policy. My complaint is that Sharpton is not in agreement with us on the meta-question.

I can of course agree that "it is contrary to all sense of moral responsibility to start a war in a country that leaves it in pretty bad shape". As for leaving the people to handle the situation themselves, since that is what the vast majority of them want to do, I consider is "contrary to all sense of moral responsibility" to insist on continued intervention - and all the more so when (as predicted) that continued intervention is inflaming the situation rather than leading to a solution. But I suppose you are right that we are in agreement on the meta-question.

the vast majority of them want to do

The elected government of Iraq holds a different view. They have insisted that they do want the continued contribution of the allied forces. President Bush has said many times that if the government of Iraq asks him to pull out he will do so. They haven't and have in fact asked for the opposite.

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