Christian Philosophy and Selling Out to the Left: A Response to Rea
by Tyler Dalton McNabb
Mike Rea is at it again. Four years since the dust settled from Swin-Gate, Rea is rehashing his attack on values shared by those belonging to the great Abrahamic faiths. Rea starts off his most recent article by discussing how people are still perplexed by the fact that evangelicals largely support President Donald Trump. Rea presents those values expressed in the Bible that are often associated with rhetoric on Left (e.g. loving the poor) and expresses a tension between those values and commitment to President Trump. Of course, Rea ignores the emphasis Scripture and Tradition put on the sacrament of marriage, the sanctity of the unborn, and the State’s right and obligation to enforce order. Rea tells only half of the story.
Rea quickly brings up the ‘narrative among evangelicals’ that Christians are being persecuted, religious freedoms are disappearing, and Christian values are under attack. Rea seems somewhat skeptical. Of course, he doesn’t get into cases usually given by evangelicals which they think act as evidence for this narrative. Rea doesn’t discuss how the Obama/Biden administration took legal action against nuns who didn’t want to provide coverage for contraception. Rea doesn’t discuss how businesses are being forced to provide services for events that help celebrate religious and moral values which they do not themselves endorse. Nor, does Rea discuss the recent rise in Cancel Culture and how publicly holding to certain views can get you fired and doxed.
Nonetheless, Rea moves to discuss his role in the Swinburne controversy to help provide a wider context for his explanation as to how Evangelicals became Trump’s bitch. Swinburne, one of the most important philosophers of religion of all-time, was invited to speak on a controversial topic at a regional conference put on by the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP). Rea – the president of the SCP at the time – claims that Swinburne’s rhetoric, ‘went beyond the sorts of moral objections that familiarly arise out of traditional Christian sexual morality.’ Rea claims that Swinburne’s motivations seemed to arise from bigotry. Of course, anyone who knows Swinburne knows that this claim is simply false.
Rea simply thinks Swinburne’s view on sexuality is inherently problematic, but it wouldn’t be as fashionable in more moderate Christian crowds to simply say this directly. Anyway, without getting into more details, as the President of the SCP, Rea apologized for Swinburne’s remarks and promised that the SCP would do better. As Rea mentions, this led to backlash. In fact, the controversy led me to help put together a petition, calling for Rea to apologize to Swinburne and to make it clear that traditional views could be defended at SCP conferences. He refused.
Rea’s takeaway is that evangelicals got upset with his apology because evangelicals need to feel safe. The SCP was a place where conservative philosophers could feel safe. Once Rea apologized for Swinburne, it became unclear if that was still the case.
Rea moves on to claim that evangelicals want a strong and masculine man who will protect them from the Left as well as superficially support evangelical values. Like most ‘Christian philosophers’ who are puzzled with the Right’s support of President Trump, Rea sees Trump’s evangelical friendly agenda as superficial because he judges the agenda by Trump’s personal views. This is a mistake that the Left and some Never Trumpers make. I am somewhat skeptical of Trump’s personal views on human abortion and the role of faith in society. Nonetheless, his personal convictions are irrelevant. As long as he will continue nominating Justices who will restrict abortion access, I will continue to vote for him. His two appointments so far have ruled in favor of restricting abortion access and their backgrounds give us every reason to think they will continue to do so. And assuming that Amy Barrett gets confirmed, Roe v Wade/Planned Parenthood v Casey is in real jeopardy. Moreover, given that we can cement the pro-life status of the court for the next thirty or so years by voting for Trump (given that he would replace Thomas and Breyer), there is a lot to be gained by voting for Trump this election.
While, I grant that some evangelicals think Trump is practically a saint, a lot of evangelicals simply don’t care about how he practices his faith. As long as he endorses and implements the right policies, we are satisfied. Again, contrast this with Trump’s opposition. Biden endorses current federal law (see Doe v Bolton) which de facto allows for abortion up until birth. Moreover, he now wants taxpayers to pay for it! This doesn’t even address his recent promise to sue the Sisters of the Poor, if he were to be elected. Why should we care that Biden goes to church while Trump decides to golf? Too much is at stake.
Rea doesn’t seem to believe certain evangelical Christians when they say that they don’t personally prefer Trump but that they vote for him for political reasons. Instead, according to Rea, we apparently see Trump as our high priest. Where’s the evidence for this claim? Let me know when you find it; I’m still looking for it. Nonetheless, Rea goes on to call us Trump’s bitch. We apparently cower in weakness and let Trump do whatever he wants as long as he protects us.
Rea ends his article seemingly advocating for evangelicals to take a stand for LGBTQ rights and rights of women (not clear if this is a euphemism for abortion rights). He ends his article by giving the following analysis:
“Forsaking the steadfast commitment to Jesus and the principles that treat love for neighbor, concern for the oppressed and the obliteration of artificial hierarchies among human beings, evangelicalism has turned submissively to the desire for a strongman to preserve them in a place of privilege and power and to provide them with public recognition as partners in the deal-making that shapes the policies of our nation. This is a posture that many secular value systems will condemn; it is a posture that is certainly condemned by what I take to be an authentically Christian value system. but the point of the present essay is that it is also a posture that is condemned by the value system of “masculine” evangelical Christianity.”
I too would like to end with some analysis of my own. But, instead of explaining why evangelicals are Trump’s bitch, I’d like to briefly suggest why it appears that so many ‘Christian’ philosophers today appear extremely hostile to conservatives. Inspired by Rea, my analysis is as follows:
Forsaking the steadfast commitment to Jesus and the principles to protect the unborn, promote the Church’s teaching on gender and sexuality, and religious freedom, Christian philosophers have largely turned submissively to the desire of being seen as virtuous and acceptable amongst their Leftist peers. They want to preserve their spot at the cool kid’s philosophy table, even if it means forsaking the historic teachings of the Church. The unborn be damned.