John F. Kennedy in Houston, Fifty Years Later

On September 12, 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic Party’s candidate for President of the United States, went to Texas and addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Alliance. The background to Kennedy’s speech was ardent opposition to his Catholicism and accusations that, if elected, he would be controlled by Catholic authorities. Against the advice of many of his own senior staff, Kennedy decided to face the issue head-on, and to do so in a context that was anything but friendly.

Kennedy’s speech is one of the most memorable of his political career, and it may have been essential to his narrow victory over Vice President Richard M. Nixon just a few weeks later. And yet, what strikes us now is that this speech actually set the stage for a very unfortunate turn in national politics.

In essence, Senator Kennedy argued that his Roman Catholic faith would not be a consequential matter in his political life. He stated:

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again — not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

Note his assertion that his religious convictions “should be important only to me,” and thus of no public consequence. In the most famous line of the speech, he said: “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.” In his book, The Ordeal of Civility, John Murray Cuddihy points to that language of “happens to be” as the language of avoiding or denying significance to beliefs.

Looking back, the Houston speech was probably a political necessity for Kennedy. A careful reading of the text will reveal much to admire, as well as many areas of concern. But, in the end, the significance of this speech lies in its role as the paradigm for so many that would follow, in which politicians and public figures would insist that their religious convictions and beliefs have no public consequence.

We must expect more than that. What we need is for politicians and candidates to tell us what they believe, and how this will be translated into a governing philosophy and moral/political decision-making. “Happens to be” is just not enough.

I May Be a Baptist, But I Am Not A Moron, Says Evolutionist

Writing at, Chris Mooney responds to my critique of his essay in Monday’s USA Today. After citing my criticism of his argument that a vague “spirituality” will bridge the divide between science and religion, he reasserts his thesis: “That’s the power of spirituality. Religious or otherwise, it gets you outside the structure of an established church, and lets you decide what matters, and what has meaning. For some traditional religious leaders, I’m sure that’s a very scary prospect. For scientists, it’s the opposite. It meshes perfectly with their individuality.”

Well, neither side is buying his argument. The naturalistic scientists want nothing to do with what they see as a pandering to superstition, and those with any genuine theological convictions want nothing to do with a vacuous “spirituality.”

Interestingly, evolutionary scientist Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, has written a response to Mooney from his own perspective. In a lengthy essay, he rejects Mooney’s argument as unhelpful:

Scientists are not automatons.  Just like other people, we have emotions and feelings, and sometimes these are connected with our work.  If you want to call that “spirituality,” so be it.  But I don’t see how recognizing that both scientists and religious people feel emotions about their work or faith can heal the breach between them.  That breach is irreparable: it comes from the very different and irreconcilable methods that science and faith use to find truth—combined with the fact that science hasn’t buttressed the “truths” of faith nor has faith produced truths convergent with those of science.  Science is at war with faith because it shows that religious “truths” are bunk, and the faithful realize this.

In other words, mere “spirituality” will not heal the breach between naturalism and theism. Coyne cites my own critique of Mooney’s proposal as evidence that both sides in the argument see that Mooney’s emperor wears no clothes.

In a rather interesting section, he writes:

Mohler may be a Baptist, but he’s not a moron.  He knows that Mooney’s “spirituality” is just science dressed in faith’s clothing, and is still a threat. Mohler isn’t buying it, and neither will other religious people who oppose science.

So I am a Baptist but not a moron? Well, I will file that under awkward compliments.

Mission and Metropolis: The Church and the City

Evangelicals now face the great challenge of these massive Western cities, filled with populations marked by great diversity in terms of ethnicity, language, worldview, and culture. Thankfully, there are standout examples of faithful church planting and ministry in many of these cities, but the populations remain overwhelmingly secular and unevangelized.

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No Need for God? Stephen Hawking Defies Divine Creation

Professor Stephen Hawking is a remarkable human being. His courage and tenacity are an inspiration to all. His work on the theory of gravity has changed the way the field of physics is taught. But, when he crosses that border from science to theology, his worldview leads him into abject disaster.

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“And Then They Are All Mine” — The Real Agenda of Some College Professors

On many campuses, a significant number of faculty members are representatives of what has been called the “adversary culture.” They see their role as political and ideological, and they define their teaching role in these terms. Their agenda is nothing less than to separate students from their Christian beliefs and their intellectual and moral commitments.

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Marry Outside the Faith? The Logic of Christian Marriage

The sociological research presents a clear case for social concern, but the Christian case against mixed-faith marriage emerged long before the academic discipline of sociology. That case is rooted in the logic of the Gospel itself, and in the reality of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

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Coming to a Doctor’s Office Near You? The New Abortion Strategy

The front cover of the magazine asks the question: “Is this the new front in the abortion wars?” If the magazine’s editors did not believe that indeed this is the next front in this long war, they would never have asked the question. Now, thanks to Emily Bazelon and this report, we all know the answer to that question.

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Hard to Believe? Biblical Authority and Evangelical Feminism

With this approach to the Bible, you can simply discard any text you dislike. Just dismiss it as a marginal comment, or deny that Paul even authored the text. This is where the denial of biblical inerrancy inevitably leads — the text of the Bible is deconstructed right before our eyes.

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