(Photo: Reuters / Brendan McDermid)
Rep. Anthony Weiner’s problem is a sin problem and not a therapeutic problem, Southern Baptist theologian R. Albert Mohler, Jr. said, explaining why his weekend tweet suggested the Jewish congressman needed Jesus Christ.
“Rep. Weiner’s problem, which is the human problem, is that he has a center in need of salvation, he needs atonement, he needs redemption that comes only in Christ…,” Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in a podcast message he posted on his blog Monday.
The podcast, part of Mohler’s daily briefing providing “worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations,” sought to expand on his Saturday’s tweet, which said: “Dear Congressman Weiner: There is no effective ‘treatment’ for sin. Only atonement, found only in Jesus Christ.”
The Southern Baptist leader’s tweet came the day the Democrat congressman from New York said he was taking a short leave of absence to seek treatment. A week earlier, Weiner, from New York’s 9th congressional district, had admitted to sending sexually charged photos and messages online to several women before and after his marriage last summer. He had initially denied the charges saying his Twitter account had been hacked.
Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is in the early stages of pregnancy.
In his podcast message, Mohler did not go into a theological debate on whether Jews needed Jesus to be saved. Instead, he related Weiner’s “need for Christ” to human tendencies and the American culture suggesting a Christian solution.
“In our modern American culture, the most important questions have been translated from matters of right and wrong… even the matters of theological significance,” Mohler said, referring to “The Triumph of the Therapeutic” by American sociologist and culture critic Philip Rieff, a professor of University of Pennsylvania from 1961 to 1992.
Although written in the 1960s, Rieff’s book had an important message for America today, Mohler said.
“What most Americans seem to know about themselves is that something is wrong and something needs to be fixed. But they do not believe that the problem is a sin problem for which there must be atonement… It must be something that can be treated by therapy; that it must be a problem that is therapeutic in its very essence,” Mohler said.
That kind of language, Mohler added, was exactly what people use “when they find themselves in excruciatingly embarrassing public situations such as that now experienced by Rep. Weiner.”
Weiner, Mohler said, wanted to focus on being a better husband and a healthier person and he wanted a treatment to make himself well. “That’s fascinating and yet it is doomed to failure.”
Christians know it’s a theological problem, he said, underlining, “The sin problem is not a therapeutic problem, it’s a theological problem and as a theological problem it requires a theological solution.”
“We shouldn’t be surprised when a secular culture finds a kind of escape from responsibility or from theological or spiritual significance in the realm of the therapeutic,” Mohler suggested, “but this is a warning to Christians” that this was unacceptable.
Mohler is receiving both brickbats and bouquets for asking a Jewish person to consider Christ. “It’s the kind of opportunistic evangelism talk we haven’t heard since Brit Hume’s comments on Fox News Sunday in 2010 schooled adulterous golfer Tiger Woods to forget Buddhism and find Christ,” said Cathy Lynn Grossman in Faith & Reason blog of USA Today on Sunday.
“Let’s set aside the sex scandals of avowedly Christian public figures who presumably already believed in the Christian concept of salvation but weren’t living up to their religious morals,” she added.
In 2003, Mohler had reportedly said Judaism was like a tumor that needed to be removed. Some churches do not agree with Mohler’s view on Judaism.
In 1987, the United Church of Christ has affirmed that “Judaism has not been superseded by Christianity; that Christianity is not to be understood as the successor religion to Judaism; God's covenant with the Jewish people has never been abrogated. God has not rejected the Jewish people; God is faithful in keeping covenant.”
However, some Evangelicals share Mohler’s opinion. “The danger of Weiner here is his reluctant admittance that there is a problem…and then to view it in medical terms. Thus, what is sexually sinful is seen as something to seek ‘treatment’ for rather than true repentance, and the goal is to be ‘healthier’ instead of being truly transformed,” said a pastor from Los Angeles, Jim Lee, on his blog.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama Monday suggested that Rep. Anthony Weiner should quit. “I can tell you that if it was me, I would resign,” Obama said.