Andrew Sullivan Asks a Good Question: How Can a Christian Listen to, and Support, Rush Limbaugh?

Andrew Sullivan at his blog today:

It’s staggering to me that this callow charlatan is supported by people who call themselves Christians. There is no way for anyone who is not a monster to respond to the fathomless tragedy of Haiti by immediately using it to attack a political opponent, and implicitly to urge people not to donate (“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”) But you will find no criticism on the Christianist blogs, or any peep from the alleged “religious” right.

I think that the answer to Sullivan’s bafflement is that the “Christianity” adhered to by the Fox News and talk radio crowd is a syncretism of authoritarianism with Christianity. Of course, it’s not the first time in history that this has happened. But perhaps others have a different idea. Are there any Christians out there who listen to Rush Limbaugh, and wish to defend him (or their reasons for listening to him)?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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10 Responses to Andrew Sullivan Asks a Good Question: How Can a Christian Listen to, and Support, Rush Limbaugh?

  1. Cobbie says:

    Religion is bad in the hands of bad people, and good in the hands of good people. Pat Robertson, Limbaugh, most of the anchors on Fox News. Are dangerous people who have hijacked religion.

  2. bassackwards says:

    Obviously, Sullivan has selective hearing disorder. Limbaugh was referring to the boat loads of money we (America)has poured into a country that has been ravaged by corrupt leaders who have screwed over their own people.

    Limbaugh hasn’t told people not to donate to Haiti. But, stating that we’ve been donating with our tax dollars for quite some time now (along with all of the various private charities) is a fact.

    • sirrahc says:

      I admit I’ve listened to Rush a handful of times, but bass’s explanation sounds a lot more likely than Sullivan’s. It makes me wonder if Sullivan just looks for any reasons to paint a bold, outspoken conservative in a bad light.


  3. santitafarella says:


    You’re playing a bit dumb. I assume that you haven’t lived in a closet for the past 20 years, and know Limbaugh’s schtick. Is it consistent with your understanding of Jesus’s message and Christianity, or not? It’s not a hard question.


  4. sirrahc says:


    I may be a conservative, but I am not exactly a follower of Rush, so my knowledge of his “schtick” is limited. Part of why I don’t listen to Rush is because, on those few occasions that I heard parts of his show (or read transcripts), I didn’t care much for his overall style. This includes the namecalling, though on a relative scale he isn’t nearly as bad as guys like Bill Maher and Al Franken. (Not that that’s an excuse for bad behavior, mind you.)

    Rush may identify himself as a Christian (i.e., follower of Jesus Christ), but doesn’t speak for Jesus, or Christianity or Christians or “the Church”, any more than I do. Rush is a Republican, but he isn’t “one of the de facto leaders of Roger Ailes’ Republican party,” as Sullivan puts it. He has his own mind, opinions, and style.

    I think Rush has every right to rail against what he sees as political corruption, bad policy, unjust court rulings, unwise policy (e.g, “nanny state”), etc. Beyond that, I would have to take each statement, belief, or position separately to see if I thought it was consistent with principles taught by Jesus and His Disciples in the New Testament.


  5. santitafarella says:


    Fine. Then let’s be specific. Is Limbaugh’s take on capitalism in accord with the gospels? How, for example, does Jesus’s message of poverty to the rich young ruler in the gospels accord with the capitalist message of the Republican Party (and Limbaugh)? And how about the gathering of the nations (the sheep and the goats) parable in Matthew (around the 18th chapter, as I recall)? Does that accord with what Limbaugh and Republicans are promoting? Oh, and how about torture? Would Jesus advocate torture of human beings in our custody?


    • sirrahc says:

      Is it capitalism in general that you are questioning, or is there some particular aspect(s) of “the capitalist message of the Republican party (and Limbaugh)” that you have in mind? (Let me reiterate that I don’t buy the rhetoric about Limbaugh being a de facto leader of the GOP.) None of the three specifics you’ve brought up here are directly about capitalism — the last one not at all. But, I will take a stab at addressing them.

      Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18, et al.): Note that Jesus did not excoriate the guy for making (or inheriting) a lot of money. If this was an anecdote about economics or about the “evils” of wealth, He could have made this point quite clear. Nor was the focus about giving everything to the poor. (I suspect this “social justice” aspect may be where your were going with it.) Rather, it was about attitudes, priorities, obedience, & trusting God. (These aren’t just my ideas, of course. I’m going off of teaching and commentaries.)

      The young man was certainly earnest and had been faithful to keep the Mosaic commandments, but his spiritual stumblingblock was his wealth. When Jesus instructed him to give it all up as a sign of his obedience & devotion, the young man apparently wasn’t ready to do that. You could say that Jesus was helping the young man to examine his own heart, to see how much he was truly willing to sacrifice for the eternal life with God that he desired. His wealth and possessions were not “wrong” in and of themselves, but only in that they were the focus of the young man’s priorities, perhaps even his self-identity.

      We all struggle with envy, greed, covetousness, materialism, etc., to some degree. It is more of a problem for some than for others, whether rich or poor or somewhere in between.

      The Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25): This parable is, of course, about judgement before God’s throne. The sheep represent those who REALLY knew & followed/served Jesus at the time of their death or at the Lord’s return. The goats are those who, well, didn’t. The examples given of ministering to others are not what got the sheep into the kingdom (salvation is a gift), but they are the sorts of activities that should become the desire of our hearts the more we grow as disciples of Christ and see & love our fellow man as Christ does. This is definitely a challenging passage, and I know that I, for one, fall short (as in many areas of my life).

      The Greek word (ethnos) translated “nations” here does not necessarily mean countries but people groups, tribes, ethnicities. Regardless, the implication is that everyone will be there and no one gets special treatment. But, it is the individuals who are judged. God holds us individually responsible, both for our decision to follow Him and for what we do in and with our lives. I believe this is consistent with the politico-economic ideas of personal responsibility (as opposed to a welfare state, etc.), limited government (that does not take & redistribute your money, among other things), and free-market capitalism.

      If you’re interested, just before posting I found several articles on the issue of ‘A Christian View of Capitalism’ at (Lots of good stuff over there, btw.)

      Torture: That depends on your definition of “torture”. I say that not to equivocate or sidestep but precisely because we need to know what we mean when we use a particular word. If you are referring to waterboarding or similarly “aggressive” tactics, then, yes, I think it is an acceptable measure. The fear of drowning, for example, may be great, but it is temporary and any lasting effects are relatively minor (if any). I am assuming that not only is the cause just and the goal obtainable but that only the necessary amount of pain or discomfort is inflicted to get the vital information. Beyond that, I think torture is wrong, generally speaking, because it inflicts unduly extreme pain and permanent physical and/or psychological damage to an individual (if not ending in a horrible death). This is normally done because of a sadistic bent by the inflicter — from an abusive parent burning their child with cigarettes to Uday Hussein ordering a brutal gang rape or forcing someone’s arm through a meat grinder for the fun of it.

      The possible exception, I think, would be in situations where time is of the essence (days? hours? minutes?) to extract information from a bad guy (e.g., psychopath, serial killer, terrorist, etc.) to save lives — think in terms of Jack Bauer in ’24’. (I know, I know. That’s Hollywood.) Again, there are moral restraints, and I am assuming that what is done is not gratuitous but adequate and appropriate for the circumstances. These are, of course, extreme and (hopefully) rare circumstances. And, yes, odd as it may sound, I think Jesus would advocate extreme measures in such cases as a necessary means to save lives. When on the horns of a moral dilemma, do that which will result in the “greater good”, when not doing so will result in a “greater harm”.


  6. santitafarella says:


    If you don’t think that waterboarding—a practice first developed during the Inquisition—isn’t torture, I don’t know what to say. At least three Gitmo detainees died from the rags stuffed down their throats. See the recent edition of Harper’s magazine for the details. It’s repugnant that you would say that Jesus would endorse waterboarding.

    And I think you are rationalizing the poverty message of the gospel. It is everywhere in the texts. There is to be no material attachment to existence in the gospels. It’s one reason I’m not a Christian. I can read what it says, and I don’t want to live that way. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a serious American Christian. I meet lots of people who call themselves Christians. But when I open the gospels and read the story and words of Jesus, I don’t see anybody who lives like Jesus, or follows his words. How can you be his disciple if you don’t do what he says?

    Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That’s in Luke. Turn the other cheek. That’s in Matthew. It would never be Jesus stuffing a rag down another human being’s throat.


    • Jay Moore says:

      You won’t truly understand if you don’t believe and have not experienced it for yourself. It’s not about living like a god in piety, it’s about dedicating yourself to God knowing you will never measure up and at the same time knowing nothing you do short of allowing God into your life will save you. Something Sirrahc said rings very true here. Salvation is a gift. But by the Grace of God may we enter heaven. Everyone sins, Christian or not.

      The Republican Party as it should be and was is about individual liberty tempered by personal responsibility and accountability coupled with constitutional governance by the people, a collective agreement of the individuals in this nations.

      The Left, to the contrary, is all about blurring the individuals intrinsic value through the collective, the lack of needing personal responsibility. If the individual can’t be trusted or held responsible for their actions then they need not have the liberty and freedom to make them. They know better and will make better use of your liberty than you.

      There is a reason God gave us freewill.

      In the end, which party more closely resembles biblical principals? Hands down, the Republican party or better even, the conservative movement. Government is out of hand on both sides but there are still strong theological and ideological differences that define each group. I would rather get involved and choose sides then play Switzerland and have no stake in my future.

      I am the mob my friend, and so are you. I am forced to sometimes chose those who more closely represent me than others, even if I don’t ardently agree with everything about them.

      as a Christian, I always have and always will chose the Republican Party over the Democratic Party. It’s not just my faith, it’s the liberty of man at stake.

      My two cents.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Jay Moore:

    The Republican Party’s luminaries have climbed all over themselves trying to show how jaw-jutting and tough they are. This is a form of posturing toward others that strikes me as completely incompatible with the attitude of Jesus. So just to be clear, do you see waterboarding another human being as compatible with the teachings of Jesus? Would Jesus waterboard another human being? And how, exactly, does one apply to your life, and the life of a nation, Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek and to live as peacemakers? (Both admonitions are found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5 as I recall).

    Lastly, what role should empathy for others and concern for the poor play in the life of a nation? Both of these things are portrayed in the gospels as important to Jesus. I don’t see them on display in the Republican Party. Indeed, empathy seems to be a bad word among Republicans. What do you think of human empathy?


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