- - Thursday, August 27, 2015

In a recent interview with Warren Cole Smith of World Magazine, Ross Douthat explained how he thinks the GOP has both helped and hurt Evangelicalism.

The conservative New York Times columnist also explained his take on the pervasive nature of religion in America and what he calls the “mushy middle” between the truly religious and secularists:

“It’s important for conservative Christians especially to recognize the extent to which American society at large is still very religious or very religiously interested and engaged, even as it has clearly drifted away from institutional Christianity in its traditional forms.”

“I think it tends to be a mistake around hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and so on to look at current trends and say what we’re seeing is a clash between the secular and the Christian worldview.”

“I think it’s more reasonable to look at America as divided into roughly three parts: a traditionally religious cluster, a highly secularized cluster, and then a vast mushy middle that ranges from lukewarmly religious to the spiritual category.”

The “mushy middle” as he calls it is probably just another way of describing people who are nominal practitioners of their faith. When Christian theologians discuss this, the middle group is labeled “nominal Christianity,” and depending on who is doing the discussing, these “mushies” are described in terms of not even being truly Christian—”having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Peter 3:5).

As noted in a National Review article earlier this year, the phrase “mushy middle” got airtime by both Senator Rand Paul and Senator Ted Cruz. They both derided the mush (I can’t imagine how you would use the phrase to describe someone positively…does anybody like “mush”?).

Senator Paul said:

“New Hampshire’s founders didn’t seek out the mushy middle,” he said Wednesday, according to remarks prepared for delivery. “They admonished you to live free. But a government that takes half your paycheck does not leave you free . . .  I come to New Hampshire to announce that I will fight for your right to be left alone!”

Senator Cruz said:

“There are some who believe that a path to Republican victory is to run to the mushy middle, is to blur distinctions,” Cruz told reporters in January when Mitt Romney was mulling a third presidential bid. “I think recent history has shown us that’s not a path to success.”

Ironically, Donald Trump’s campaign so far has exhibited both an anti-Romney, no-mush rhetoric, while also blathering on about theology and religion in a way that proves Douthat’s point about the religious-mushy-middle.

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