Unlike many figures of the Evangelical and Religious Left, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) has sustained an integrity that many conservatives have grudgingly admired. Unlike many of his activist cohorts, he has not prevaricated on Christian teachings about sex, marriage, or abortion. And unlike many of his fellow religionists on the left, Sider has maintained a rigorous concern for the global persecution of Christians when others prefer silence over criticism of Islamist or communist regimes.
This denunciation of AARP and call for entitlement reform contrasts with the atmospherics of the “Circle of Protection” of 2011, when religious groups effectively sided with President Obama against congressional Republicans during the federal debt ceiling crisis. A coalition of Jim Wallis’ Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, and Sider’s ESA urged tax increases and denounced any spending limits affecting “low-income people” in pursuit of deficit reduction. “Circle” representatives met with President Obama, who presumably welcomed the impression of their aligning with his opposition to entitlement reform.
In fairness to Sider, the “Circle’s” official statement specified protections for low income recipients of entitlements. And Sider is now asking for reforms affecting upper income seniors. But few of the other “Circle” participants are forcefully echoing Sider’s demand for responsible Medicare and Social Security reform. And few are likely to.