The Washington Post Press Items
Jim Wallis is preaching about a Bible torn apart. Wallis tells the crowd at the Seattle Pacific University chapel that when he was in seminary, a fellow student took hold of an old Bible and cut out "every single reference to the poor." "And when we were done, that Bible was literally in shreds. It was falling apart in my hands. It was a Bible full of holes. I would take it out to preach and say, 'Brothers and sisters, this is our American Bible.'"Wallis pauses. "It's like someone has stolen our faith. And when someone tries to hijack your faith, you know what? There comes a time when you have to take it back!"
In Ohio, faithful Christians on the left are working to turn the tables on the Christian right. Using the language of equality and social justice, pastors urged nearly 400 people at a Columbus church last week to vote their liberal hearts and "create a just and peaceful world." The featured speaker at Broad Street Presbyterian Church was Jim Wallis, the left-leaning author of "God's Politics" who has been urging Christian audiences around the country to fight back against social conservatives who helped create the Republican majority in Washington. He spoke of humility, reflection "and even accountability."
The Darfur appeal was backed by full-page ads in yesterday's Washington Post and other newspapers, paid for by $575,000 in donations from two individuals who wish to remain anonymous, according to Jack Pannell, spokesman for the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners. "Without you, Mr. President, Darfur does not have a prayer," said the ads, addressing Bush.
"This is an important day. You see evangelical leaders from across the political spectrum coming together to speak as one voice," Jim Wallis, Sojourners' editor, told reporters.
Citing deep concern about the direction the U.S. government has taken in the Middle East, religious leaders are urging "the media and Congress to take a stand now" and prevent a possible preemptive attack on Iran. Evangelical Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders held a telephone conference with reporters Tuesday to highlight their appeal for the United States to engage in direct negotiations with Iran.
In Protestant churches, the Christian Coalition's guides will face competition this year from "Voting God's Politics," a brochure produced by the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners and the anti-poverty group Call to Renewal. Like the Common Good guide, it discusses issues, not individual candidates. "Even the term 'voter guide' has been so tainted by the religious right that people are afraid that ours is going to be just a left-wing version of theirs, a thinly camouflaged signal to vote for particular candidates," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners. "Our guide levels the playing field; it makes clear that God is not a Republican or a Democrat."
Yesterday, a new group called Red Letter Christians, named for the colored type that highlights the words of Jesus in popular editions of the Bible, called for Christians to "vote their values" by considering the war in Iraq, torture, environmental degradation and helping the poor to be vital religious issues.
Progressives, who range from 11 to 36 percent of all evangelicals, according to various polls, are still overshadowed by the Christian right among evangelicals. But the steady popularity of McLaren's books over the past eight years signals an expanding diversity of thought in this important political constituency. Along with such other progressive evangelicals as Washington-based anti-poverty activist Jim Wallis and educator Tony Campolo, McLaren is openly critical of the conservative political agenda favored by many evangelicals.
Locally, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light works with congregations to help their facilities convert to renewable energy. Sojourners, a D.C.-based progressive Christian magazine, published a special issue about the environment in 2004 and regularly covers the topic. And the national organization Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life is now sponsoring a drive to install efficient compact-fluorescent light bulbs (it's subtitled "How Many Jews Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?"). Shomrei Adamah, Hebrew for "Guardians of the Earth," is its D.C. affiliate.
A half-century dominated by the secular ideologies of capitalism, communism and physics has given way to a time of religious backlash provoked by the uncertainties and menaces of vertiginous modernization. While shrinking the world, the forces of technology, trade and communications have done little to make it a more tolerant place.
Intolerance -- whether exercised by "Islamic" fundamentalists blowing up the mosques of other sects or by "Christian" activists blowing up abortion clinics -- is rapidly becoming a decisive force in domestic politics and foreign policy in nation after nation.
Many Democrats discovered God in the 2004 exit polls.
Specifically, they looked at the importance of religious voters to President Bush's majority and decided: We need some of those folks. Off Democrats went to their Bibles, finding every verse they could -- there are many -- describing the imperative to help the poor, battle injustice and set the oppressed free.