Christianity Today Press Items
God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
A New York Times bestselling book offering an alternative to the polarizing politics promoted by many in the religious culture wars. Wallis helps us find unity with a politics that addresses the needs of the poor and oppressed.
Other religious leaders who took part in Darfur-Olympic torch relay included the Rev. Bill Schulz, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former executive director of Amnesty International; Adam Taylor of Sojourners; and Pastor Gloria White-Hammond, co-pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Boston, Mass.
Jim Wallis laments poverty and Jim Dobson worries about homosexuality, but they combat these problems nonetheless. Theology often shapes the way Christians engage their world, but sometimes the world shapes how Christians form their theology. If the trends identified by Wehner and Levin continue, it's possible evangelicals will see another paradigm shift in their eschatology.
Reading the weekly e-zine from Sojourners/Call to Renewal, I was surprised to see an advertisement for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Readers may recognize HRC as the leading gay-rights organization, so I wondered what this group would have to say to Christians. I dutifully clicked on the ad and landed on the home for Out In Scripture, a resource website promoting a pro-gay hermeneutic.
Remember the Sojourners ad released shortly before the 2004 election, "God Is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat"? But under the line, "We are not single-issue voters," it lists a series of black-and-white questions seemingly pulled directly from John Kerry's briefing book.
Paquin, hired the year before Armstrong, assigned books by Jim Wallis and Peter Singer in his classes. "I wanted my right-wing students to see that the left wing has some validity," he said. But Paquin insisted he is no enemy of capitalism. His ministry, the 10/10 Project, funds microloans for Kenyans to start their own businesses.
Whether Keillor can avoid the skewering that Robertson and Falwell endured is another story. He describes himself as "a rural, pro-life independent, a longtime board member for a Christian school, and no Jim Wallis," and he tries to steer a middle path between the political Left and Right.
Yet a good deal of evidence is assembled here to show that political conservatism is not intrinsic to evangelicalism. Jim Wallis holds aloft the flag of Christian radicalism. Younger evangelicals, more pragmatic and less doctrinaire than their predecessors, are coming to the fore. As early as September 2004, half the Wheaton students disagreed with the invasion of Iraq. The range of policies associated with evangelicals is broadening, with Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals urging a stand against global warming (though it is instructive that he adopted that position after a conference in Oxford). Right-to-life issues are for many the sticking point. Insofar as Democrats take up such causes, there may be a shift in evangelical political allegiance. As El-Faizy observes, the real indication of the power of the evangelicals will be when they begin to shape the program of the Democratic Party.
Churches, in fact, can breed far more jingoism than the place you might most expect it: Christian political organizations lobbying Washington. Despite the nearly universal stars-and-stripes motif on these groups' websites, a Republican-led amendment to ban flag "desecration" (that is, violating or removing the flag's holy character) got at best tepid support from Religious Right groups. While you'll find a fair number of references to "American values" on both the Right and the Left (it's actually the name of Gary Bauer's organization), most Christian organizations see these values as lost relics to be reclaimed. Jim Wallis sounds like Jim Dobson: "American morality has been destroyed. … " Tony Campolo sounds like Tony Perkins: "I don't know about America any longer. I see us going down the tubes." Evangelical Left and Right organizations are in perennial jeremiad mode, railing against American leaders, policies, and excesses.
In Washington, evangelical leaders have kept Darfur as a high priority. In a costly media campaign, a new group called Evangelicals for Darfur lobbied George W. Bush with full-page newspaper ads, telling him, "Without you, Mr. President, Darfur doesn't have a prayer." At a press teleconference, Southern Baptist Richard Land called for a multinational force with "military teeth" that can "defy the genocidal government in Khartoum if necessary." Sojourners' Jim Wallis warned, "If security collapses, the aid groups will have to leave."