The Common Good

The Washington Post

The Washington Post Press Items
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.
Democratic phenom Barack Obama, the subject of the latest presidential boomlet, was nearing the end of a thoughtful speech about religion in politics yesterday at a church in Thomas Circle when he mentioned the Sermon on the Mount.The audience of left-leaning Christian leaders went nuts, apparently interpreting this as a barb at the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. But Obama was being rhetorical, and was not suggesting the Pentagon should surrender to the meek.
Jim Wallis (the author of the influential God's Politics ) and others on the religious left have criticized evangelicals for getting Jesus's politics wrong, Wills insists that Jesus had no politics to get, that "his reign is not of that order." Wills wants to see a great wall constructed between American religion and American politics, and he is determined to have Jesus do the heavy lifting.
Liberal evangelicals are " leaping out of the closet and they are saying 'Enough is enough,' " said Jack Pannell, spokesman for Sojourners, a Washington-based evangelical social justice ministry. "Evangelical Christians are not all white people living in the suburbs and only concerned with abortion and same-sex marriage."
Profile of Sen. Danforth: Jim Wallis, the left-leaning author of "God's Politics," declares hopefully that "the monologue of the religious right is finally over and the new dialogue has just begun. The answer to bad religion isn't secularism, it's better religion. Moderate and centrist evangelicals and Catholics are going to shape the future."
Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."
"On this budget, we have the starkest choice we've had in a long time -- tax cuts for the wealthiest versus food stamps and Medicaid," said Jim Wallis of the Christian activist group Sojourners.