The Common Good

Republicans say "liberals" will ban the Bible

Sojomail - September 29, 2004

Quote of the Week A seat at the table
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: Republicans say "liberals" will ban the Bible
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"There will never be any peace until God sits down at the conference table."

- Nick Lowe, British songwriter, vocalist, musician, producer, wit, raconteur. From his song: "There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Sits Down at the Conference Table)."


Republicans say "liberals" will ban the Bible
by Jim Wallis

Imagine this. A political party does a mailing in important states. They accuse the other party of wanting to "ban" the Bible and establish gay marriage. Well, imagine no more. That's what the Republican National Committee has done. I'm not sure even Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson would go this far, but the Republican Party has in its aggressive campaign to make sure its conservative church base votes for George Bush.

To say this is outrageous seems like an understatement. I have never seen such a blatant and dishonest political manipulation of religion by a political party. But the Republicans seem shameless about it. The RNC acknowledged doing the mailings (when another religious group got a copy and circulated it to reporters), but they have yet to apologize for them. Instead, the Republicans admitted the mailing was part of their effort to mobilize religious votes for President Bush.

The mailing includes an image of the Bible labeled "banned" and a photo of a man putting a ring on another man's hand labeled "allowed," and suggests that's exactly what "liberal politicians" would seek to do. Then the good church folks are warned, "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." A similar mailing was sent in West Virginia. This new Republican campaign in the churches is similar to an earlier effort that asked church volunteers to perform 22 "duties" in this election year, including turning over congregational membership lists to the local Republican Party. That suggestion even offended some of the Republican religious base as a too-partisan intrusion into church life and an attempt to manipulate the faith of voters.

The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia responded to the mailings in an editorial headlined, "Holy Moley! Who concocts this gibberish?" The paper went on to suggest that such behavior on the part of the Republicans could actually alienate swing religious voters and others: "Most Americans see morality more complexly," the paper said. "Many think a higher morality is found in Christ's command to help the needy, prevent war and pursue other humanitarian goals. Churchgoers of this sort aren't likely to believe childish allegations that Democrats want to ban the Bible."

Behind these partisan religious activities lies a fundamental assumption by top Republican operatives, that they OWN religion in America. Sojourners' "God is Not a Republican...or a Democrat" petition and ad campaign has resonated deeply around the country. Christians will be voting for both George Bush and John Kerry in this election, "for reasons deeply rooted in their faith," as the ad says. It also reminds us that all Christian values and ethics cannot simply be reduced to hot-button social issues.

Yet Republicans are not only assuming, they seem to be demanding that religious people vote only one way - their way. What the Republican Party is doing in these mailings is claiming that the religious vote in American belongs only to them and disrespecting the faith of all believers who disagree with their political agenda or candidate. Neither Republicans nor Democrats should be allowed to get away with that.

It also must be said that the Republican disrespect for Christians who disagree with them runs right along racial lines. The members of black churches will be likely be voting overwhelmingly Democratic this election, as they have for many years. If President Bush is being presented as the only moral choice, what exactly is the Republican Party saying about the faith of black Christians? Does the president not know that millions of Christians, including many evangelical Christians, disagree with him on the war in Iraq, on his budget priorities and tax cuts for the wealthy, on his dismal performance in poverty reduction, or on his policies that so negatively impact the environment? What is he saying about their faith with mailings like this one? And are the Republicans also saying that gay marriage is the only issue Christians should be voting on this year?

When I read about the new RNC mailing, my first response was to ask how conservative Republicans can accuse the "liberals" of wanting to ban the Bible when they ignore it altogether on the weighty scriptural matters of social and economic justice or on Jesus' command that Christians be "peacemakers." There should at least be a serious debate in this election about what those biblical teachings mean in relation to Christian voting. But the Republicans apparently don't want any debate about religion and the election. They have just declared themselves the winners.

Well, not so fast. Sojourners and many allies are committed to taking that debate to every corner of the nation during this election season. And you can help. As the candidates begin their debates this week, we say let the debate about religion and the election continue! Here's what you can do this week:

This outrageous, partisan, and manipulative mailing to churches must not be allowed to go unnoticed. And the Republican National Committee must not be allowed to get away with this abuse of religion and disrespect for the faith of believers who disagree with their political agenda. George Bush himself owes the Christian community an apology for this mailing that disrespects the faith of millions of committed Christians.

TAKE ACTION today. Write to Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and write to President Bush. Ask them to apologize and denounce these mailings. Tens of thousands of Christians sending this message to the Republican Party will get noticed and will make a difference. Hold the Republicans accountable for this mailing and ask George Bush to tell them not to manipulate or disrespect religion in this campaign again. Do it today.

+ Click here to take action

+ See the RNC mailing

+ Read the New York Times article

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Let's get political
by Nathan Karrel

I have encountered many who say they are not interested in politics. Yet that statement in and of itself is a political statement. When one analyzes the term "politics" one observes that its roots are in the Greek word polis, which translates roughly to "community." As citizens of the world and ambassadors of Christ, we are called to enter this global community and to speak for those who have no voice, creating ways for the least of those among us to enter the community as well: the 300 children lost in a Russian school due to the brutal acts of Chechen rebels, those trapped in conflict and HIV/AIDS in Africa, the 35 million people in America in poverty, and the millions of other injustices that pierce our lives daily.

As we approach the upcoming election, a common theme is that an opportunity for pivotal change lies in the hands of either George W. Bush or John Kerry. Yet this is a problem itself, that Americans rest their hopes for transformation on two figures who in many respects represent the status quo: white, Anglo-Saxon, affluent men. While the upcoming election is being called critically important - which in many ways it is - in other ways it is inconsequential. Iconsequential because, in riding hopes for critical change on two candidates, Americans have shirked their duty as individuals and communities to transform the world. Yet now is the time to challenge the common assumptions that frame the world around us. So let your voice be heard, not only by voting, but through actively and responsibly engaging the world. Get political!

Nathan Karrel is a senior political studies major attending Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.


Is the economy bad, or is it just me?

Why do ordinary Americans believe the economy isn't getting better? Because it's not, as far as they're concerned, argues Yale professor Jacob Hacker. His research shows that, in area after area, there's evidence of a vast shift over the last two decades in the economic security of most Americans - a massive transfer of financial risk from corporations and the government onto families and individuals.

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Canada cancels debt of three African countries
from CBC reports

Canada has cancelled $9 million of debt owed by Senegal, Ghana, and Ethiopia. Finance Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement last week, saying in a news release, "Excessive debt is one of the heaviest burdens to economic growth for African nations.... The relief provided today will enable these countries to spend more on priorities such as health and education, rather than debt payments." Canada has previously forgiven the debts of Benin, Guyana, and Bolivia. In 2000, then-Finance Minister Paul Martin announced Canada would stop collecting debt payments from heavily indebted poor countries if they committed to reducing poverty, spending on social priorities such as health care and education, and protecting human rights. Canada plans to forgive more than $1.1 billion in debts.

The U.S. has also recently supported new debt cancellation initiatives.

+ Read about it in the 9/15/2004 issue of SojoMail

+ Read about a similar initiative by the U.K.


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Debate the debates

Sojourners encourages you to join with friends, family, and community to watch and discuss the upcoming presidential debates. You may want to keep handy a copy of our election petition, God is not a Republican...or a Democrat, to see how the candidates compare to our list of Christian values. All debates are scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. E.T.

Thanks to contributions from more than 5,000 SojoMail readers, we are placing our "God is Not a Republican...or a Democrat" ad in all four college newspapers on the day of the debate! Thank you for making our voice heard.

First presidential debate:
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Tuesday, October 5
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Third presidential debate:
Wednesday, October 13
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Tempe, AZ

God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat.

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Readers write

Tony Wolfe writes from Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada:

Swaggart is once again using his annoying self-righteousness to condemn a certain group of people ["Jimmy Swaggart tells congregation he'd kill gays," SojoMail 9/22/2004]. Has it really been that long ago when he was caught with a prostitute that he has forgotten his own abominations? When I hear stories like his desire to kill homosexuals it doesn't want to make me run from God as much as it makes me want to run from God's so-called people. This type of Religious Right thinking is scarier than anything else out there and I'm getting tired of telling people, "Yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm not one of those Christians."


Kenn Chaplin writes from Toronto, Ontario, Canada:

I'll lay out my biases up front: I am gay and I am Christian. Upon reading the headline for David Batstone's article my defensive reaction was to snicker. Swaggart's hypocrisy speaks for itself. Then, reading the transcript of his broadcast, I felt a chill. It was as if Swaggart, or any number of his giggling congregation, were beating me to the ground, kicking me in the stomach, and leaving me for dead, not unlike the highway robbers in the "good Samaritan" story. Not unlike the killers of Matthew Shepard or countless other victims of violence due to their sexual orientation. Thank you for providing an opportunity to e-mail a letter of protest.


Gordon Carmichael writes:

I will no longer contribute nor will I support Sojourners as long as you softly, gently rebuke that adulterous fornicator and blaspheming besmircher of Jesus' words and teaching, Swaggart, as well as make it only possible for me to sign a letter to Swaggart with the word "Sincerely." I feel nothing sincere about him. I have grown up being taught that Jesus has said to kill is forbidden by his Ten Commandments; that we are to love one another as he loves us; that we are not to judge! That you take such a mild and placating tone makes me furious - I will pray for Swaggart, but I will not condone his hate until he sincerely repents and asks our Lord for forgiveness publicly. You, as an entity, disappoint me greatly. I will keep you in my prayers as well.


Jake Culver writes from Portland, Oregon:

The brain-smut put forth by Mr. Swaggart is most certainly abominable. However, I'm not at all sure that writing to him has as much value as ignoring him. The best thing that Jimmy Swaggart could do for America is to keep talking. In short, writing him is tantamount to free publicity - which he is clearly desperate for. If he wants to scream til he turns blue, fine. If we're lucky, he'll scream louder. I think America is in far greater danger from the shroud of mystery surrounding the true aspirations of the pernicious, well-organized 700 Club - and the lack of exposure of the lengths they are willing to go to achieve them. If you ever organize a letter-writing campaign that attacks the vital nerve centers of those appropriating Christ's teachings for political manipulation and personal greed, let me know - I'll be right there. Jimmy is a case of athlete's foot: a mild one, at that.


Hainds Laird, pastor of Spring Valley Bible Church, writes from Lawton, Oklahoma:

I appreciate both the Internet updates and articles as well as my subscription to your magazine. I am always challenged spiritually and intellectually. However, a disturbing thing is that I feel you paint with too broad a brush those who oppose gay marriage and support either a federal or state ban on such a practice. That is not a single issue with me or my church. We work with providing homeless families housing, we network with mainline churches on helping the poor, we open our building up to every group that wants to use it, from the Korean church to Girl Scouts to the local food co-op. In short, we are active in community projects, but still believe marriage should be between one man and one woman and that abortion should not be the law of the land. We work hand in hand with those who disagree, but please don't include us with the extremists who want to "kill gays" or shoot abortionists.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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