Can the words "Christian" or "faith" appear in proximity to political issues? And if they do, what should they mean? On May 23, a delegation of U.S. Christian leaders came to Washington, D.C., to proclaim to the press and the country's political leadership that yes, faith and values are vital to the public life-and if they are genuinely expressed they should transform our discourse, policy, and social fabric. What true biblical faith doesn't do is let religious conviction be manipulated by partisan politics.
"America is fed up with what many in the church are doing, polarizing us into Left and Right. Christians are called to a politics of reconciliation," said Tony Campolo at a press conference held that morning. Such reconciliation is needed, Campolo said, within the church as well as in society.
The group-which was refused a requested meeting that day with the Christian Coalition's executive director, Ralph Reed-expressed a desire for substantive dialogue with those in the Religious Right. Following the May 23 events, Reed agreed to a future meeting with representatives of the group.
Rev. James Forbes noted that he found elements of truth in all branches of what is now "a divided family" of Christianity. What is not acceptable, Forbes said, is that "some who call themselves Christians encourage politicians to pray the Lord's Prayer without the Lord's Spirit."
For people of faith, a non-negotiable biblical concern is the call to speak on behalf of the poor, not the powerful, to demand justice as well as righteousness. "All Christians need to pray for discernment," said Forbes. "If your agenda is in conflict with Jesus, who proclaimed, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor,' then we need to heed Isaiah's instructions, 'Come let us reason together.'"