Yesterday we did a post on Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa’s article in the Vatican-sponsored journal La Civilta Cattolica ripping American evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Read it here to get up to speed.
Over at the Catholic website Crux, Father Raymond J. de Souza responds to the Spadaro and Figueroa
Here is a taste:
If Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro was not the editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, his recent attack on the “ecumenism of hate” he diagnoses in the United States never would have been published in that venerable journal.
Indeed, had such a commentary on the theological roots of contemporary American politics been submitted to the Jesuit magazine America, the authors would have been invited to give it a major re-write, or better, to choose another topic altogether on which they had some expertise.
Wrong on Protestant history, ignorant of contemporary Catholic life, tendentious in its analysis, patronizing in tone and damning with faint praise the very policies of the Holy Father it seeks to defend, it is hard to understand what ambitions were had for a piece that does not even rise to the level of mediocrity.
Pope Francis deserves much better from those he has entrusted to interpret his thought.
Authored with Marcelo Figueroa, a Protestant pastor personally chosen by Pope Francis last year to be the editor-in-chief of the new Argentinean edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the article argues that what they consider the hate-filled politics of the Trump administration has its roots in an unholy alliance between “Evangelical Fundamentalism” and “Catholic Integralism.”
Read the rest here.
After reading Father de’Souza’s piece I went back and re-read the original article in La Civilta Cattolica. I now offer the following take:
- I understand what Spadaro and Figueroa are doing here. They want to call attention to the kind of dominionism or “Christian Reconstructionism” that often lurks behind a certain brand of conservative politics and Christian nationalism in the United States. Readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home know that I have written about some of this approach to politics, both here and elsewhere.
- In trying to make this point, Spadaro and Figueroa get very sloppy in their history. For example, they try to draw a direct line between The Fundamentals and the kind of dominionist theology taught by the likes of Rousas Rushdoony and the alt-Right ideas of Steve Bannon. Let’s be clear: It is possible to embrace the theological teachings of The Fundamentals and reject Christian nationalist politics. It is also possible to embrace the theological teachings of The Fundamentals and support the Civil Rights Movement, religious pluralism, the rights of women, and modern life. I have not read The Fundamentals in a long time, but I think I am safe in saying that I would sign-on to many of the theological beliefs espoused in these pamphlets. At the same time, I am no fan of Christian nationalism, dominionism, Rushdoony, Bannon, or Trump. And there are a lot of people out there like me.
- What originally attracted me to this piece was the way Spadaro and Figueroa used Catholic social teaching to critique the prosperity-Gospel, Christian fear (of immigrants and Muslims), climate change denial, and Christian nationalism. A lot of these ideas seem to be driving White House policy and the words (and tweets) of our current President. In this sense, I applaud what the authors are trying to do and I support Pope Francis.
- Finally, it is important to note that the 81% of evangelicals who elected Trump have differences on a lot of these issues. Some believe that I live in an ivory tower and cast my anti-Trump posts without listening or understanding those who voted for the POTUS. This is not true. I actually spend a lot of time talking with Trump voters. For example, the other day I was talking to a Trump supporter who rejects the idea that the United States is a Christian nation, believes in climate change, and thinks the prosperity-gospel is a betrayal of Christianity. She voted for Trump because she is pro-life and wants the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. She also hates Hillary. So let’s not pretend that the 81% are all on the same page when it comes to some of these issues. I am afraid Spadaro and Figueroa paint with a very broad brush here.