By. Rev. Thomas Littleton
Part One of this article was published on December 18, 2017. Over a month later, interest in the issues raised in the article remains high, and the questions over associations of evangelical leaders like Al Mohler, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Marvin Olasky continue to linger. Efforts to dismiss the well documented findings as the “ramblings of a crazed conspiracy theorist” by Ed Stetzer and others have failed to deflect attention on the facts. There are serious problems with the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission and The Gospel Coalition’s rhetoric and common source of communications with Libertarian think tank, The Acton Institute. SBC and PCA pastors and ministers who have followed the Reformed theological leaders in these circles have little if any clue that they were actually following Jesuit / Catholic Liberation Theology and social policy wrapped in historic Reformed Protestant teaching.
Acton in Evangelical Seminaries
Acton Institute, mentioned in Part One of this research, is headed by Father Robert Sirico, who has a history as a radical “homosexual faith activist.” Acton Institute is celebrated by Philanthropy Roundtable as a key player since the 1990s in synthesizing religion and democratic capitalism. Acton’s blog boasts such bold goals as rethinking Liberation Theology and Marxism from updated and fresh approaches of application, while oddly accusing Trump supporters of folk Marxism. The ironies run much deeper.
According to the “The New Evangelical Social Engagement” by Brian Steensland and Philip Goff, Acton Institute founder Father Sirico, “’combining free market approaches with Catholic social thought,’ argues that ‘there is no social justice without economic freedom …Instead of a vast welfare state, social justice is about people fulfilling their responsibilities in justice to their neighbor.’ Therefore, with the support of the Kern Family Foundation, Acton has sponsored curriculum initiatives at thirteen evangelical seminaries.” (p. 63)
These seminaries include Dr. Albert Mohler’s Southern Seminary which sponsors The Commonweal Project. Note the “Social Gospel” with a strong emphasis on “Social Justice” in this initiative in the videos by Mohler and Os Guinness. With the help of Acton Institute and over a dozen partners of the same persuasions, Dr. Mohler appears to be endorsing a Rethink of Marxist social policy, while partners like “Poverty Cure.org” – an Acton offshoot – are marketing a RETHINK of Missions to a ”Social Justice” mandate.
Other Reformed seminaries, including the PCA’s Reformed Theological Seminary and Beeson Seminary (now on its third Kern grant since 2015), are also using the Acton-inspired, Kern-funded Social Justice curriculum programs which are designed around the “Faith and Work” ideology famously touted by Tim Keller. Some seminary partners have possibly jumped on board with the popular ideology and trendy nature of the Social Justice mantra; however, “rethinking Liberation Theology” and a fresh approach to “Marxist-inspired ideology” on the part of Sirico/ Acton and Mohler/ Commonweal Project is a bridge too far to simply dismiss as poorly thought out eagerness for cultural engagement on their part.
The Kern Family Foundation
The Kern Family Foundation which is very active in funding education at every level is considered to be a well-anchored Christian funding source. However, the Kern website shows that their partners in K-12 “Bright Minds Good Hearts“ program funding include organizations like Teach for America, whose work in K-12 public education includes a well-defined focus on pro-LGBTQ policy with radical LGBTQ organizations like Human Rights Campaign, Campus Pride, The Trevor Network and the most radical Gay and Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Teach for America also promotes Gay Pride Month with GLSEN in public schools each June, even celebrating the notorious “Dear Colleague Letter” – the pro-transgender bathroom directive from the Obama White House in May 2016. The current focus of all such pro-LGBTQ efforts in public schools is on showcasing LGBTQ History.
Kern also shows its partnership with liberal education giant Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and the Frankfurt School inspired “Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture,” which is a major influence on Tim Keller and others in the Civilitas Group and Cultural Engagement camp. When asked about the funding in an email exchange on January 15th, the Kern Family Foundation denied the funding in the thirteen evangelical seminaries though it is widely touted in the news, press releases and on the websites (of Southern Seminary’s “Commonweal Project” for example) but Kern contacts did link us to Acton University’s site and confirmed the Acton / Kern Curriculum is in five evangelical universities as well.
Acton Institute and the Confusing Messages of Albert Mohler
Acton Institute’s and Father Sirico’s attachment to the conservative political and religious community is disturbing to Libertarians as well. According to a defender of Classical Liberalism, Sirico’s Acton Institute was and is heavily supported by Atlas Foundation, which had been a trusted ally of the Left until it began taking Conservative money. Sirico’s work with Atlas was not a problem because of his homosexual faith activist history which is recounted in detail in the research. The concern for the Classically Liberal researcher is the recent drift of both Atlas and Acton toward the Right from their historic “Libertarian values”— which pose no threat to the social agenda of the Left. Sirico had gained the confidence of the Left:
“By 1977 Sirico was listed by the LA Times as the ‘organizer of Libertarians for Gay Rights. When it was later revealed that the ACLU once cooperated with the FBI in building files on radicals Sirico told the Times: ‘We turn out to be to the left of the ACLU.’”
Incidentally, the Classically Liberal article exposes Father Sirico as being “back in the closet”:
“Acton officials got heavily involved in the debate on gay marriage. With Sirico back in the closet the position they have been taking has been to pander to bigots on the Religious Right.”
“When or if Sirico tried to go back into the closet is hard to determine. But certainly by the time he was taking money from the anti-gay Templeton network it would have been prudent for him to be closeted. Certainly by 1997 Sirico was criticizing another priest for telling his congregation that he was gay. Sirico told the Grand Rapids Press that honesty about the matter was ‘irresponsible’ and that the priest should have kept it a secret between him and a few close friends.”
“Father Sirico is a perfect example. He went from a hard-core libertarian to promoting just the economic agenda. He then started covering up his past and went so far as to try to go back into the closet in regards to his own homosexuality. From pioneering gay marriage, to being silent on it, he now heads an organization with notorious antigay bigots who openly attack gay equality in the name of his organization.”
Father Sirico is not the only one who appears to be living in contradiction to himself.
Father Sirico is a Catholic priest who views his Jesuit-inspired Catholic social policy as being “theological” and NOT political. Dr. Mohler says the Catholic Church teaches a false gospel: “During a 2000 television interview on Larry King Live, Mohler said of the Holy See and the Pope: ‘As an evangelical, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church. It teaches a false gospel. And the Pope himself holds a false and unbiblical office.’”
And during a March 13, 2014 podcast of The Briefing: “Evangelical Christians simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the papacy and must resist and reject claims of papal authority. To do otherwise would be to compromise biblical truth and reverse the Reformation.”
Dr. Mohler has either changed his views on core Catholic teaching or is contradicting himself to the spiritual detriment of the students at Southern Seminary and of the Southern Baptist Convention. These statements are from 2013 which was the same year that the Acton Institute / Kern Family Foundation launched the Catholic Social Justice Curriculum in Southern and 12 other evangelical seminaries.
Moreover, Dr. Mohler “has denounced Pope Francis for moving the Catholic Church to the left and failing, during his address to Congress last autumn, to denounce abortion and gay marriage with the necessary zeal.” Pope Francis being the First Jesuit Pope would certainly support the curriculum of Acton and, true to long-term Jesuit efforts to undermine the Reformation, would be proud to see it in Southern and other Reformed seminaries. Pope Francis also shares the political leanings of a Marxist history with Rev. Sirico.
What does Dr. Mohler think of Marxism? From his blog, “No, Marxism has been as wrong as it is possible for a theory to be wrong. Addicted to ‘the self-deification of mankind,’ it continually bears witness to what Kolakowski calls ‘the farcical aspect of human bondage.’ Why then was Marxism like moral catnip–not so much among its proposed beneficiaries, the working classes, but among the educated elite? ‘One of the causes of the popularity of Marxism among educated people,’ Kolakowski notes, ‘was the fact that in its simple form it was very easy.’ Marxism–like Freudianism, like Darwinism, like Hegelianism–is a ‘one key fits all locks’ philosophy. All aspects of human experience can be referred to the operation of a single all-governing process which thereby offers the illusion of universal explanation.”
Dr. Mohler’s partner, Father Sirico, describes his journey as “I went to seminary in the early 1980s, when a baptized form of Marxism was next to godliness. When you take all of that into account, my sojourn on the left has about it almost the inevitability of Marxist dialectic.”
Even if Father Sirico and Acton Institute are now truly Libertarian, does this make them compatible partners with the conservative Reformed Christian SBC, ERLC, TGC or Southern and other Seminaries? Mohler has argued that “libertarianism is idolatrous and as a comprehensive world view or fundamental guiding principle for human life is inconsistent with Christian ideals.” He is a proponent of personal liberty, but believes such liberties can run into problems when applied in the political sphere. The more limited economic libertarianism, on the other hand, Mohler says can be consistent with the “comprehensive world view that Christianity puts forward.” (Moody Radio, 3/5/2016). Again to Sirico, his and Acton’s social policy is theological not political or solely economic.
Given the end all be all assertions of the Social Justice mantra to answer human need and provide “Human Flourishing” by Mohler and Sirico, Russell Moore and Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer and every published messenger boy of The Gospel Coalition, are they not all offering the “illusion of universal explanation” in utter contradiction to the Gospel they espouse to be at its center? For all the shaming TGC, ERLC, Keller, Carter and others have done to evangelicals for supporting President Trump and Judge Roy Moore (the Alabama Senate race), it may be fairer to ask if the truly conservative evangelicals and reformed individuals in the SBC and PCA can survive the influence of ERLC, TGC, and the Acton influence in Reformed seminaries? In the case of the Alabama Senate race, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, and Joe Carter have once again aided and abetted the LGBTQ Human Rights Campaign to empower Leftists like Senator Doug Jones who beat Roy Moore the Alabama Senate election.
Father Sirico and Acton Institute have also had a very strong connection to the U.S. State Department, the Intelligence Community and the Vatican. On the Acton Institute Advisory Board was Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles, who was “the son of a prominent New York Presbyterian family whose father was John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under President Eisenhower and whose uncle was Allen Dulles, director of the CIA. “…he had been a convert to Catholicism during his years at Harvard University after having declared himself an agnostic in his first year there….In 2001…Fr. Dulles was elevated by Pope John Paul II to being a Prince of the Church, Avery Cardinal Dulles. He was the first American theologian to be given that title without being made a bishop first.” This history as well make some nervous.
What Color is the Money; Any Green in The Rainbow?
Some would say that, as Christians eagerly seek to engage the world around us, it is easy in today’s culture to inadvertently partner with or fund organizations whose mission may be antithetical to our own. It may fairly be asserted that the motives of some of those involved are only to seek and avail themselves of any open door to inject Christian influence in important areas like education. However, organizations like the ERLC and The Gospel Coalition in partnership with Acton Institute, urge Christians to “disengage the culture” from historic Christian views on moral issues like gay marriage, LGBTQ inclusion, immigration reform, drug legalization, etc., while they are instead expected to “Seek Social Justice”* as the new approach to the all important mission of the Church. (*example of Acton influence on the same partners in 2010)
IRONICALLY, today’s young pastors in The Gospel Coalition and believers who follow them are trying to escape being viewed as Christian Right Wingers, and choosing to be Social Justice Warriors instead. As they strive to “love well” while “doing community,” they are actually falling for far Left Wing social policy which, in this case, is written by the right wing Heritage Foundation and Libertarian Jesuit/Catholic Acton Institute. It can really give one vertigo to watch the convergence of these political operatives on the unsuspecting Evangelical community.
Considering Libertarian Acton and its founder – Catholic priest, Father Sirico (who refuses to discuss his homosexuality when interviewed) – and millions in funding from the Kern Family Foundation for radical pro-LGBTQ partner, Teach for America, can we simply take their inclusive curriculum in 13 Evangelical seminaries, like RTS, Southern Seminary, Beeson and others, at conservative face value?
Are the commandments and warnings in both Old and New Testaments – “be not unequally yoked with believers” for “two cannot walk together except they are agreed” – null and void for today? Can we walk with God on mission when we and our partners in the quest have so little we agree upon?
More on Why Richard Florida so WRONG? Must the Church Create Bohemia to Succeed?
Among Dr. Mohler’s devout fan base there is a common thread of justifying his every action. In Deep State Part One, the most commonly disputed issue among the many respondents concerned Mohler’s promotion of the books and theories of the pro-LGBTQ Urban Planner, Richard Florida.
“Florida’s work is not without its critics, but the basic argument he presents is difficult to refute. For the intelligent Christian reader, the book raises several issues. The clustering of creative populations seems to correlate with areas evangelical churches have found difficult to reach.”
In Richard Florida’s books, Rise of the Creative Class and Who is Your City, “Creative Class” is a euphemism for “LGBTQ” community. Florida’s theory is that economically disadvantaged cities such as Detroit would experience revival if they were injected with the “creativity” of the LGBTQ community.
The following additional information should put an end to any justification of Florida’s failed ideology of “the Creative Class.” Here are the facts of Florida’s radical pro-LGBTQ concepts.
The main inspiration and mentor for Richard Florida is Marxist urban activist, Jane Jacobs, who was instrumental in the gay rights movement in both New York City and Toronto. Jacobs is a central figure celebrated in LGBTQ urban history. Today LGBTQ history walks are done in her name in cities internationally.
As Senior Editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a co-founder and editor at large of “CityLab,” Richard Florida tracks “Homophobia” by “Mapping” the places it is most prevalent globally. This information is then used to strong-arm cities and regions into taking a more affirming stance on LGBTQ inclusion with grant and economic development funds.
Census number Crunching is done by Richard Florida protégé, Gary Gates of the Williams Institute for LGBTQ Inclusion and Advancement. Gates submitted a brief in the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision which was cited in Justice Kennedy’s pivotal vote and opinion which made gay marriage legal in the United States, in spite of its complete lack of Constitutional Standing. Gates and Williams take Florida’s Creative Gay Class assertions to major places of influence, including census data gathering. The 2020 U.S. Census is a major focus for this work with Florida’s inclusive goals.
LGBTQ activists remain loyal to Richard Florida’s ideology for obvious reasons. However, Evangelicals who endorse the LGBTQ agenda are essentially asserting that the Church could thrive in Sodom and Gomorrah today if we would only apply the “wisdom of Richard Florida.” Dr. Mohler, Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer and others in The Gospel Coalition need to explain why they encourage our church planters and ministers and Christians in general toward these ideas in any way!
Acton and the Road to Serfdom: A Closer Look
Valid concerns exist about Acton Institute and the Reformed camp of Evangelicals now guiding the ERLC and The Gospel Coalition, the most obvious of which is the Catholic theology behind Acton’s Social Policy. According to the 2017 Acton conference in Rome, the social justice and economic policies Father Sirico is introducing to Reformed seminaries is a Jesuit contribution and Catholic historians openly assert that the mission of the Jesuits is to undermine the Reformation. Do TGC and ERLC leadership need to be reminded why the Reformation took place and that 2017 marks its 500th anniversary? Did the Reformation not involve theological differences and a divide that is even more profound today than it was 500 years ago?
Acton also has the issue of its being a Libertarian, not a Conservative, political think tank. Do TGC and ERLC claim to promote Conservative theology? If we live out the Gospel should not our social and political engagement involve sharing the Gospel at the core? Why do TGC and the ERLC consistently land on the progressive (left of center) on every single social issue of concern to biblically faithful Christians? This is a very fair question that many in the ranks of the SBC and PCA are asking.
Acton is a political organization and TGC and ERLC leaders are also acting politically while they shame every believer in their realm for their conservative political engagement. Why is the ERLC located in Washington, DC if not to be engaged politically? Why do Russell Moore and Albert Mohler shame Christians in the Washington Post and other political media? Why is TGC so focused on church planting in and around the Beltway? Are Christians only allowed to engage the culture if we are moving left of center? Is it not political for the Kern funded Curriculum used in Reformed seminaries to be training students in Libertarian, Catholic, Jesuit, recycled Liberation Theology and Social Justice provided by a Political Think Tank like Action Institute? How is this not deceitful? How is it serving the Gospel or preserving and fulfilling the Great Commission?
Acton boasts its inspiration from Friedrich Von Hayek, author of “The Road to Serfdom.” Though the book is often referenced as a source exposing the tyranny of centralized planning and advocating for a free market economy, Hayek’s Fabian Society has a history raising many of the same questions raised by Father Sirico’s liberal history. According to many historians, Hayek’s book “moved American Conservatives in a more libertarian direction.” The Mont Pelerin Society appeared “when classic liberalism appeared dead” and “Hayek’s movement marked a decisive moment in liberalism resurgence, becoming the Fabian Society of renewed classical liberalism.” (Ayn Rand Cult, Jeff Walker, p. 292). It was the homosexual founder of the socialist Fabian Society, Edward Carpenter, whose book, The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women, became a foundational text of the LGBT movement of the 20th century. (Socialism and LGBT Rights)
Centralized Planning or Not?
Consider the open collectivism being espoused by Tim Keller in the name of individual faith in action. How is the collective push of the Acton / Kern Curriculum toward a Faith and Work, Doctrine of Vocation and Halftime (the give back ideology of Bob Buford which is a continuation of LBJ / John Gardener’s Great Society), in fact, not centralized planning being done covertly inside the reformed seminary and eventually within the church walls?
Marvin Olasky, a Senior Fellow of the Acton Institute, is considered the father of Compassionate Conservatism who helped birth the Bush W. era Faith Based Partnership programs. Rev. Sirico seems to be calling for an end to these programs while espousing deeper involvement in Social Justice by evangelicals and Catholics. So whose funding (besides the massive corporate and private foundations) will pay for its expansion? Who gets to hold the purse strings if the funding is to be persuaded out of the churches and believers as they are sold wealth redistribution as a gospel mandate? And where does all of this circular and ideological, economic, theological, sociology, public relations, rebranding, blending of Reformation and Jesuit doctrine of Social Justice end – if not on an evangelical road to serfdom?
And who thinks it is intellectually honest to have taken the approach of a low flying stealth bomber upon trusting and unsuspecting evangelical borders in order to achieve these goals? If these are Gospel-centered mandates, there is no need for sleight of hand or radar masking technology. No shaming of Evangelicals out of even the use of the name “evangelical” or any other classic self-identification Christians may choose to actually identify as being part of the broader body of Christ. There is no need for the use of the same tired talking points to counter vintage Christianity in America and replace it with something devised by Acton or any other think tank in the Western Hemisphere. How is it that this new underground movement is now the historic Christian faith? They continue to tell us we must “rethink” our historic position on every major issue of the day. Which is it? How important is doctrine and theology to those at the ERLC and TGC if they have no caution or discernment about yoking with Acton (Sirico ) and Kern (who funds radical LGBTQ groups through Teach for America) and many other questionable partners? How much does Father Sirico’s reported closet homosexuality influence Acton’s Communications Officer, Joe Carter, who is simultaneously employed by the ERLC and the TGC?
And how do the ERLC and TGC assume we should respond to their efforts to redefine the faith for our families, our churches, our children and our grandchildren? Are we willing to sell the mission of the Church for liberal social justice? Are we blind to the realities Europe is facing with immigration and Islam while our evangelical leaders push for open borders with organizations funded by George Soros and Open Society Foundation? Do partners like Acton, Sirico, or the Kern Family Foundation share any of our biblically (as opposed to culturally relevant) views on human sexuality? Or are we failing to recognize the “beast” we are loosening with sexual liberation in the name of “loving our gay and lesbian neighbors,” Dr. Moore? Can you chart this path for us and for the Body of Christ and be guiltless before man and the Son of Man whose eyes are as a flame of fire and whose Word divides joint and marrow and discerns both the thoughts and intents of the heart?
It seems a moot point to ask how we got here given all we see the ERLC, TGC, Mohler, Keller and a host of others doing – acting like a rum-soaked Jack Sparrow with a broken compass, attempting to tell us where to find True North. There has never been a set of policies on the part of church leaders and its allies in government, think tanks, Institutes and halls of learning in the US that has so impacted both the mission and doctrine of the church and posed a more clear and present danger to collective religious freedom and living out personal deeply held Christian convictions. The question that remains is how do we, the Body of Christ, recover ourselves from the bondage of this misguided leadership?