Several years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Wertheimer of
National Public Radio about the then extraordinarily popular Left Behind
series. At one point, she asked me if I thought the Left Behind books were
funny. I paused, trying to absorb all the layers of her question, and then came
up with a brilliant answer: "No. Why? Do you?"
"Constantinian" has lately been a favored pejorative in
theological circles. The term--an allusion to the fourth-century Roman emperor
whose conversion to Christianity turned a marginal sect into a state religion--has
been used to deplore any alliance between the church and the state or, more
broadly, between the church and the dominant political culture.
If you wrestle with this Matthean parable through the night, it'll leave
you limping by morning. Martin Luther didn't like preaching on it, and
worshipers in early October won't be in the mood for its judgment.
A few of the current candidates for president have remained members of the faith in which they were raised: Hillary Clinton (Methodist), Ben Carson (Seventh-day Adventist), and Rick Santorum (Catholic). Numerous other candidates have made a switch: Jeb Bush switched from the Episcopal to the Catholic Church. Rand Paul moved from the Episcopal Church to a Presbyterian church. Ted Cruz grew up in the home of lapsed Catholics until his father joined the Southern Baptists. Marco Rubio has migrated from the Catholic Church to Mormonism and back again to the Catholics, but sometimes goes with his Baptist spouse to her independent church. Bobby Jindal made the biggest switch: from the Hinduism of his youth to the Catholic faith (Newsweek, April 2).