As one would expect from any book which carries Mark Noll’s name on its cover, the work is meticulously researched, very clearly written, and exhibits a generosity of spirit that will be disarming even to its critics, among whom it will be clear I number myself. The insights it contains are also fascinating. For example, as a foreigner on American soil, I found the book extremely useful in outlining and explaining the history of Catholic-Evangelical relations in US society. It is, after all, puzzling to an outsider that as late as 1960, a presidential candidate’s Catholicism was seen as an electoral liability, particularly with reference to the conservative Protestant sections of the electorate; and it is arguable that Kennedy won the election despite his religion and then only because he managed successfully to distance himself somewhat from it; yet in 2004, it was John F. Kerry’s perceived failure to be a consistent Catholic on issues such as abortion and sanctity of life-related matters which was seen as the electoral problem, particularly with that same, conservative Protestant core. Much of the answer to this conundrum, of course, lies with Roe vs. Wade and the way in which the abortion debate in America has polarized society, politicized the judicial process, placed moral issues at the center of politics, and driven religious conservatives, Catholic and Protestant, into an unlikely alliance which fifty years ago would have seemed inconceivable. Now it seems (at least to an outsider) that much of the evangelical hopes, culturally and politically, hang on the decisions of Catholics such as Roberts and Scalia on the Supreme Court. Indeed, if, as this change perhaps implies, evangelicalism functions for some, or perhaps for many, of its adherents not so much as a statement about God but rather as an idiom for protesting the moral chaos in America, we can expect to see yet more rapprochement and maybe even significant numbers of conversions from evangelicalism to Rome, especially given the potential for clear moral leadership by the Catholic Church under the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Trueman on Catholic-Evangelical Relations in Voting for a President
I followed a link back to Carl Trueman's old review of Noll's Is The Reformation Over? and came across this socio-political tidbit, which to me, appears to apply as well to conservative Roman Catholics and Protestants voting together for a Mormon: