Associated Baptist Press Press Items
But, with a sizable number of Americans now saying the war was a mistake for America, Sojourners’ Taylor said the fact some of the evangelical community’s most prominent leaders seemed to endorse Bush’s agenda whole-heartedly makes the war a mistake for evangelicalism itself. “In terms of the credibility of the evangelical voice and community, certainly it’s had an impact,” he said. Evangelicalism has “become something of an appendage of the Republican Party” to many non-evangelical Americans, Taylor said. “Even if we may disagree on how those Christian values should be applied to public-policy issues, we think we could agree … on the importance of maintaining your prophetic integrity. And having an uncritical view of the war really compromised that prophetic integrity.”
“The current system should be changed in ways that would strengthen communities in rural America, ensure all Americans an adequate, nutritious diet, provide better and more targeted support for U.S. farm families of modest means, and conserve the land for present and future generations,” said a statement from the Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, whose leaders were represented at the press conference. “In addition, such changes are necessary to unlock the ability of small-holder farmers in developing countries, who comprise the majority of the world’s hungry people, to improve their livelihoods and escape poverty.”
Among the group’s other members are the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Episcopal Church USA, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sojourners/Call to Renewal and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But exactly who are the religious voters they hope to attract? Tony Campolo, noted author and sociologist, has coined a term that describes at least part of the movement: “Red-letter Christians.” These people, named after the red ink some Bible publishers use to denote the words of Jesus, hold to traditional Christian beliefs and believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, which they view as authoritative and relevant for faith and practice.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidates have ratcheted up their appeal to evangelicals, talking unabashedly about their faith, especially in a recent forum sponsored by the progressive Christian social-justice group Sojourners. Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama sounded almost like they were testifying at a revival meeting when talking about how their faith affects their policy choices.
Clinton and the leaders joined reporters on a conference call to denounce the provision on family visas. The other speakers included Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal; Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington; and Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.
Author and activist Jim Wallis spoke of longing for preaching that links faith with real problems. An evangelical Christian, Wallis edits the Washington, D.C.-based Sojourners Magazine.
The progressives were Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, San Francisco rabbi Michael Lerner, National Council of Churches head Bob Edgar, Baptist sociologist and author Tony Campolo, David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, nun and National Catholic Reporter columnist Joan Chittister, Louisiana Baptist pastor and Interfaith Alliance head Welton Gaddy, John Thomas of the United Church of Christ, Maryland pastor and "emerging church" leader Brian McLaren, and James Forbes of the Riverside Church in New York.
Diana Butler Bass, a religion scholar who writes for a religion-and-politics blog jointly sponsored by Beliefnet and Sojourners magazine, said the American tradition of religious liberty explains the vast difference between Muslim life in parts of the world that are otherwise culturally similar.
Jim Wallis, in an essay for Sojourners magazine, said mourners should focus not on placing blame for the killings but on healing and growing. Sorrow can sometimes prove redemptive in ways no one could have imagined beforehand, he said. Wallis is an evangelical anti-poverty activist and the founding editor of Sojourners.
"This is not a time to seek easy answers or to assign blame," he said. "It is, rather, a time to pray, mourn, and reflect. It's time to let sorrow do its reflective and redemptive work, to hold the hands that need to be held, to let our tears open our hearts to change those things that lead to such tragedy, and to trust our pain to the loving arms of God."
Jeff Carr, the chief operations officer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal, kept a blog during the trip. In a Feb. 22 post, he said it’s clear that Iranians are very interested in being respected, but they feel they have yet to receive that respect from the West.
Muslim clerics expressed pain and frustration during panel sessions but continued to “want to reach out and build bridges with us, in spite of feeling disrespected,” Carr wrote. “It's a value I think we as Christians in America could learn from our Islamic brothers and sisters in Iran, and it's a value that would go a long way in helping us solve some of the differences between our nations.”
In Tehran, Carr and others spoke at the headquarters for the Center for Islamic Culture and Information. He said he was struck by the familiarity Muslim religious leaders had with the Bible and Christianity.
During the conference, an Iranian leader told Carr he had read the entire Bible almost 20 times and asked if any of the U.S. delegates had read the entire Quran. The question made Carr feel guilty, he wrote.
“As I began to think about the primacy of the role of religion in Iran, and how much of their nation's value system comes out of the Quran, I began to think about whether or not you can truly understand a people if you have not read their holy book,” he wrote. “Could people truly know me as a person, and understand me, if they had no real knowledge of the Bible?”