This month’s #EpicChristianFails entry will take us on a journey into the natural habitat of that most genteel of all subspecies of evangelical, Christianus evangelicus respectabilis, the common name for which is the respectable evangelical. All members of this subspecies are, inexplicably, male.
As with some species of Pokémon, however, there is an exclusively female counterpart, Christianus evangelicus submissivensis-passiveaggresivensis, commonly known as the pastor’s wife, or, in the strange dialect shared between all subspecies of Christianus evangelicus, “the Proverbs 31 woman.” In any case, life, uh, finds a way.
As opposed to the more widespread but less publicly visible subspecies, Christianus evangelicus uneducatedus, or, the uneducated evangelical, the respectable evangelical chases the approval of wider human society, which these strange creatures refer to in their primitive tongue as “the world.” The fact that the respectable evangelical disapproves of seeking the approval of “the world” while simultaneously seeking the approval of the same may serve as a perfect illustration of the subspecies’ predilection to fall into contradictions via mental contortions that are on occasion truly breathtaking.
To be sure, these contradictions are not always obviously recognizable as such, given these creatures’ curiously intense affection for flowery and often deliberately obfuscatory prose. Take, for example, George W. Bush administration alumnus Michael Gerson’s attempt to explain that he hopes to impose theocracy politely while denying that he wishes to impose theocracy at all.
Indeed, having in some respects ceased to evolve beyond their nineteenth-century middle-class origins, respectable evangelicals see their turgid prose as a mark of their respectability. Despite this, they are (deliberately?) naive and gaffe-prone. Very, very gaffe-prone. And that will bring us to one Richard Albert Mohler, Jr., a prominent theologian, the current president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a truly exemplary specimen of Christianus evangelicus respectabilis.
Ever the genteel culture warrior, our hero, Albert Mohler, exhibits an unhealthy obsession with the sexuality and gender identity of other people whose lives should really be none of his business.
And on August 27, 2019, in his zeal to keep “focusing on the family,” and in the midst of a very long post full of handwringing about demographics that any outside observer can recognize as racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic, Mohler went so far as to assert that “to be human is to be a parent, eventually to take on that responsibility to get married and have children, to take on the responsibility of passing on civilization itself.”
Of course, Mohler’s desire to interfere in other people’s private lives sits oddly with the clear implication here we are only able to care enough about our own families to “pass on civilization itself,” as there is apparently no other way to make an impact on society or the next generation besides parenting. This contradiction–a hallmark of the respectable evangelical, as noted above–is of course only one of many problems with our hero’s statement. A statement with which said hero, respectable evangelical extraordinaire, was apparently so infatuated that he decided to tweet it in meme form.
As Twitter users were quick to point out, this statement is not just wildly offensive, but also leads inevitably to the conclusion that neither Jesus, nor a fetus, constitutes a human person.
And then there’s also the little matter of the entire Catholic priesthood and the Orthodox episcopacy. The respectable evangelical, unlike the uneducated evangelical, generally prefers to avoid being overheard saying that Catholic and Orthodox believers aren’t real Christians.
At the time of this writing, researchers in the field have been unable to determine whether the respectable evangelical places greater importance on the personhood of Jesus or the personhood of fetuses. Suffice it to say, the respectable evangelical is utterly committed to the personhood of Jesus, fetuses, and corporations as articles of faith that should be enshrined in secular law and thereby forced on all Americans. Politely.
Among respectable evangelicals, the personhood of women remains to some degree a matter of individual conscience and open to debate, but this much is clear. If female personhood is to be recognized at all, it may be recognized only so long as female personhood is subordinated to the personhood of men, corporations, Jesus, gun owners, Republican politicians, possibly the family dog, and, of course, any and all fetuses, except the ones that Republican politicians and respectable evangelicals–who are sometimes the same people: see Moore, Roy (note the link is to a Playboy article)–secretly force their wives, mistresses, daughters, and underage rape victims to abort. Come to think of it, those categories can also overlap.
So, how did our hero respond to the deserved outpouring of criticism over his “to be human is to be a parent” remark? He deflected, noting that this was a simple quotation, you see, and that he should have made that clear, although this statement, of course, clarifies nothing. As of this writing, both of these profoundly bad tweets remain up.
If I am correctly translating the strange dialect of Christianus evangelicus respectabilis, what Albert Mohler is trying to convey here is that if we were just to take the offending quotation in the context of his entire statement, you see, everything would be fine. In fact, everything is not fine. In context, the quotation makes precisely the point that those who were outraged by it took it to be making. You can see for yourself, but do take precautions–the effect of the respectable evangelical’s prose on some people’s constitutions is similar to the deleterious symptoms known to be caused by the recitation of Vogon poetry.
What we observe in Mohler’s non-response to his critics, which most certainly cannot be construed as an apology, is the respectable evangelical’s unquenchable desire to save face, for the respectable evangelical is no more capable than the uneducated evangelical of ever publicly admitting to wrongdoing. It is believed that this is precisely the reason that the rates of child abuse found among both of these subspecies of Christianus evangelicus are apparently remarkably high and approximately the same.