Michele Bachmann and the Curse of Pluralism

It appears that a clever, attention-seeking member of the fourth estate has seized on a deep, dark secret about a Republican contender for our nation’s highest office: Michele Bachmann’s Church Says the Pope Is the Antichrist. Michele Bachmann is a Protestant, and once belonged to a particular Lutheran affiliation, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, that says such things. This is a “conservative” Lutheran synod, conservative meaning here that said synod conserves, more or less in its integrity, some portion of the heresy that good Martin Luther’s tortured conscience concocted in the sixteenth century. Few Lutherans believe it anymore; most have moved on to the liberal variety of the nineteenth century, the religiosity Friedrich Nietzsche accused of killing God.

It isn’t nice to say the Pope is the Antichrist. Modern man, all grown up and at peace in his pluralist universe, has determined that such rigorous categorical statements about other people’s religious leaders just aren’t civilized. Of course, I am the first to agree that the Pope is not the Antichrist, and that anybody believing he is is a heretic and a nut. But I hold that for a different reason. I believe it because my Faith teaches me that such an opinion about the Pope is contrary to revelation and to reason. On the other hand, that same Faith teaches me that “many seducers are gone out into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7). Calling those who reject that the Christ (Messiah) has come in the flesh “antichrists” is not nice, either, but that’s what Saint John does in the Catholic Bible.

Religious truth claims generally contradict one another. Lutherans and Catholics can’t both be right — not really right, not totally right. Simple logic tells us that at least one of them is wrong in its essential claims that set it off from the other. If the Moselms are right, then the Lutherans and the Catholics are both wrong. If the Jews are right, then all the foregoing are all wrong. If the Hasidim are right, then the Reformed are wrong. And if the Hindus are right, the all of the foregoing are wrong. And so on, until we reach the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose religious truth claim is that there are no true religious truth claims.

Sending people of such disparate beliefs into the same room and telling them to play together like good little boys and girls, without offending each other, will simply not do. They will offend each other, or they will have denied some tenet of their respective beliefs. This does not mean that they have to kill each other, but it does mean that tensions, conflicts, and contradictions will arise. Should someone dogmatically assert above the din that “what we have in common is vastly more important than what separates us,” then a new religion has joined the mix: indifferentism, which happens to be the American national religion. Because it is the national religion, we Americans are taught to believe (quite piously) that what we believe does not matter.

Introducing religion into politics used to present problems throughout history; now it leads to plain buffoonery, which is what electoral politics is doomed to become anyway by its very nature. Consider Mitt Romney’s backing off from his Mormon beliefs; Ted Kennedy’s backing off from his Catholic beliefs; and now Michele Bachmann having to assure people that she thinks Catholics can be good Christians. Not only are Catholics expected to jettison their hard teachings, even the poor heretics have to blur the rigid lines of their heresies according to the merciless demands of fashionable niceness.

There are some “conservatives,” who claim that pluralism is the blessing of the American people. They are wrong. It is pluralism that makes us not a people, but a hodgepodge. Pluralism is a weakness. Pluralism is a curse.