Gordon Howie believes David Brat's primary upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's Seventh District bodes well for Howie's hard Indy climb against Mike Rounds for South Dakota's U.S. Senate seat:
While this is being tagged as a “tea party” win, Brat affirms that the real victory came from his uncompromising support of the Republican Party platform, which deals with less government control, free market solutions and faith in God.
When given a clear choice between an establishment candidate with lots of money and a conservative with a commitment to principle, voters will continue to choose principle over politics [Gordon Howie, "Howie Says Cantor Loss Indicates Big Trouble for Mike Rounds," campaign press release, 2014.06.11].
As was the case in his April interview with me, Howie appears to assert that he can win Independent votes with "uncompromising" Republican principles. I feel a disconnect there.
Gordon Howie graphic, celebrating Dave Brat's primary victory over Eric Cantor, June 13, 2014
So does my friend Leo Kallis, who sees Howie alienating everyone to his left (which is 98% of us) with his standard hard theo-right pitches unmodulated for an Independent run. Contrary to the heavenly graphic Howie glues to his underdog devotional, Brat's primary win is not an Easter parable or a fulfillment of Christian poster prophecy. This Christian God I keep hearing about is not registered to vote in Virginia or anywhere else and probably does not need any economics professor or former thrift shop owner to win an election to save His Creation.
Like Howie, Brat mixes too much Jesus juice with his politics, and mixes it badly. In this September 2011 paper on usury and capitalism, which Union Theological Seminary must have been asleep at its editorial switch to allow on the pages of its journal Interpretation, Brat mashes bits of his education (master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, Ph.D. in economics from American University) into something that reads more like an exuberant if uncomfortable stump speech-revival tent mashup than a scholarly essay on either theology or economics.
Brat blithely dismisses contemporary Christian critiques of usury as inconsistent leftist attempts to devilishly cite Scripture for their purpose. (I would love to hear Brat's response to the usury critique offered by our own brave pastor and Republican state legislator Steve Hickey.) Those darned leftists just want to dismantle capitalism, says Brat, and that's a non-starter, because, by God, capitalism is awesome and it's here to stay:
The answer to usury is likely a good proxy for the answer to where one stands on capitalism. And there, my friends, we have a good story, because that is the story of our day. Capitalism is the major organizing force in modern life, whether we like it or not. It is here to stay. If the sociologists ever grasp this basic fact, their enterprise will be much more fruitful. We set alarm clocks to follow the schedule of the market. Children leave their families to follow the job market. We often weigh our social worth by looking to market wages, salaries, and consumption patterns. We spend much more time on market activity than God activity. Thus, Calvinism [David Brat, "God and Advanced Mammon—Can
Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?," Interpretation, September 2011].
Worth noting: Brat's opponent, Jack Trammell, teaches sociology.
More worth noting: dissolving families, defining self-worth by money and consumption, and spending more time shopping than praying and serving God all sound pretty unChristian. But instead of offering a proper pulpit-y critique of capitalism's undermining of the church, Brat tells his fellow believers that "capitalism is here to stay, and we need a church model that corresponds to that reality."
That's funny. I thought Christians, like Jesus, always put ought above is. I thought Christians were supposed to upset the apple cart and not give in to the awesome, inevitable, unbeatable Goliath... which is what David Brat says Christians did with Rome:
Rome was hard to budge. Jesus did not go after Rome, but a few hundred years later, Rome was a Christian empire [Brat, 2011].
Back in 33 A.D., lots of people said, "Rome is here to stay." Lots of Roman subjects would have said then what Brat says of the capitalist empire today: that it does all sorts of good (ecce aquæductum!), that we should fit our religion to it, Hail Caesar!
Jesus said pay your taxes, but he didn't embrace empire the way Brat does... and the way, dare I say, Howie does. Entangling Christianity and Empire didn't go well for the Church then (thus, Luther!), and it won't go well for believers now.
Gordon Howie will have trouble winning Independents. With his Hail-Mary triumphalism about Brat's win and Brat's principles, he may not even win conservative Christians trying to get their theology right.