How many voters know that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a Roman Catholic? Or that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist, not a Latino Catholic? Or that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio worships at both a Catholic parish and an evangelical church?
More importantly, does it matter?
Actually, it does in today’s Republican Party, where a number of factors have forged a new religious identity that supersedes familiar old categories.
These prominent Republicans are emblematic of the new religious amalgam that, in many instances, has helped refashion denominational differences that were once almost insurmountable. Look no further than the stunning Virginia primary victory of Dave Brat, a Catholic with degrees from a Reformed Protestant college in Michigan and Princeton Theological Seminary, who took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week.
The message of Christ is not often so clearly presented in American media as it was yesterday, nor is that message as clearly contradicted in the same news cycle.
Yesterday, Pope Francis, while not actually changing any doctrinal stance of the Catholic church, clearly asserted in a rare and frank interview that compassion and mercy must be the light that radiates from the global church for the world to see, rather than the church’s current “obsession” with gays, birth control, and abortion.
At the same time that the pope’s words were cycling through the media, other words were also coming through loud and clear: those of Republican lawmakers who have decided that the least of these will remain just that and, accordingly, voted to slash the food stamp budget by almost $40 billion.
The juxtaposition presented between these two events is striking. It also represents an enormous divide among Christians, and, frankly, demonstrates why so many feel Christianity is a religion full of hypocrisy.
Yesterday, before Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to push through a plan to slash nearly $40 billion from the food stamp program, Jim Wallis said we would keep an eye on which way of our elected officials voted.
So, who voted for that $40 billion cut to the food stamps program, which would kick an estimated 4 million hungry people out of the program next year? Here's your list. Is your Congress member on it?
The GOP was highly criticized by Democratic officials for their plan to offer a path to citizenship for illegal children with the exclusion of legalizing their parents. White House advisors remain spiteful of the GOP’s immigration plans accusing them of “cruel hypocrisy.” The Associated Press reports:
Dan Pfeiffer (FI'-fer) says over Twitter that the plan boils down to allowing some kids to stay while deporting their parents.
Read more here.
President Barack Obama pushed back immigration reform on Tuesday indicating the bill will likely be passed in the fall. Expressing his opinion to Telemundo’s Denver affiliate, Obama supports the notion that all illegal immigrants be granted citizenship following an agreement upon GOP leaders. The Washington Post reports:
The president said that denying undocumented immigrants the chance to become citizens would leave them “permanently resigned to a lower status. That’s not who we are as Americans.”
Read more here.
For the first time in 50 years, the House of Representatives cut mention of food stamps in the Farm Bill, which passed the House yesterday. The Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program has historically made up nearly 80 percent of funding in such bills. Following the 216-to-208 vote, the House's decision to go through with the ruling has both parties defensive. The Washington Post reports:
"The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money and handed Republican leaders a much-needed victory three weeks after conservative lawmakers and rural state Democrats revolted and blocked the original version of the bill that included food stamp money."
Read more here.
In the next few weeks President Barack Obama is expected to visit key states throughout the U.S. Making it his mission to explain the economic values immigrants would have on the U.S. if in fact the bill were to pass, democratic officials believe Obama will use his time to highlight financial gains that would come from the passing of immigration reform.TIME reports:
It is, allies concede, a telling sign that the bill’s fortunes are foundering in the fractious Republican-controlled House — and a symbol of Obama’s vanishing clout just six months into his second term. Democratic officials expect that over the coming weeks Obama will travel across the U.S., likely to strategically important states like Nevada, North Carolina and Texas, to highlight the economic benefits of the law. Obama summoned Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator John McCain to the White House on Thursday to discuss ways to advance the bill in the House. The West Wing is waiting on House Republicans to choose a path on immigration reform before finalizing its strategy, but aides plan a markedly different role for the President over the coming months.
Read more here.
House Speaker John Boehner promised today that the House will hold a vote over whether to delay a key part of Obamacare. Politico reports:
The GOP’s message is that President Barack Obama is choosing big business over ordinary Americans after the White House postponed a provision that requires employers provide health insurance for their workers.
The Speaker also called the Administration's actions "wrong" and "outrageous." Read more here.
On the eve of the GOP immigration summit, during which Republicans will determine their position and strategy on immigration reform, the Evangelical Immigration Table held a press conference with national leaders to strongly urge House members to find the political courage to move forward on commonsense immigration reform.
“We have forgotten to engage in conversation and instead have focused on throwing stones at arguments,” David Cooper, President and Head of School at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colo., said.
Currently, hundreds of Evangelical Christians are expected to join in a day of prayer and action in Washington, DC on July 24, following the 92-day Pray4Reform challenge. During this challenge, people of faith across the country are taking a few minutes each day to lift up their political leaders in prayer as they consider the options moving forward. More than 25,000 prayer partners have signed up for the challenge since its start, and we welcome many more to join.
The month of July stands as an important time for Congress as members of the House and Senate attempt to make decisions about six major U.S. issues. Some vital decisions that need to be agreed upon before next month’s recess involve: immigration reform, student loan debates, budget planning, and fiscal issues. The Washington Post reports:
Significant debates await the House and Senate in the coming weeks over a new budget, a new farm bill, federally-subsidized student loans, several key Obama administration nominees and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which remains the year’s biggest political fight.
Read more here.
In order to gain substantial backing in the 2014 midterm election, Republicans are beginning to flaunt major environmental and economic issues regarding President Barack Obama’s climate change policies.The New York Times reports:
Elected officials and political analysts said the president’s crackdown on coal, the leading source of industrial greenhouse gases, could have consequences for Senate seats being vacated by retiring Democrats in West Virginia and South Dakota, for shaky Democratic incumbents like Mary L. Landrieu of energy-rich Louisiana, and for the Democratic challenger of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
Read more here.
As the House debates a bill to limit abortion, Republicans are reopening a subject that cost them dearly in 2012 and continues to present perils for the party’s attempt to appeal to women voters.
Even before the full House took up the bill Tuesday to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Republicans had a sharp reminder of how sensitive the issue can be when Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., appeared to say that rape rarely results in pregnancy.
“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy [is] very low,” Franks said at a June 12 committee hearing on the bill. Franks later said he meant that third-trimester abortions of pregnancies caused by rape are rare.
Rand Paul has used the last few months to aggressively court evangelicals through a CBN special, a trip to Israel, and appearances with pastors. This is a shift to take Paul from a tea-party hero to a mainstream political player. Paul refers to himself as a "“libertarian Republican” to distant himself from his father's strong libertarian beliefs. The Washington Post reports:
As he openly considers a run for president in 2016, Paul’s rebranding effort is a test of his political skills as well as the state of the Republican Party. For the senator, the question is whether he can win over the establishment without upsetting his tea party base.
Read more here.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman on Thursday announced he has reversed his longtime opposition to same-sex marriage after reconsidering the issue because his 21-year-old son, Will, is gay.
“It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that’s of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years,” Portman told reporters in an interview at his office. Portman said his son, a junior at Yale University, told his wife, Jane, and him that he’s gay and “it was not a choice, it was who he is and that he had been that way since he could remember.”
The conversation the Portmans had with their son two years ago led him to evolve on the issue after he consulted clergy members, friends — including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter is gay — and the Bible.
The sequester battle is a good but tragic example of how the idea of the common good is failing in American politics. By contrast, the growing bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform is an alternative example of how a moral issue can rise about our ideologically driven politics.
The faith community has stepped into both issues with a call for political leaders to serve the common good. On immigration, political leaders are listening to the faith leaders; on the debates about our nation’s fiscal soul, political leaders need to listen better.
When I stepped back and really thought about what I was experiencing on election night, I started thinking about the night of April 4, 1968, just hours after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Having not yet been born, I thought about the coverage of it that I’ve seen. About how Robert Kennedy found himself in front of a crowd of supporters for a presidential campaign rally in Indianapolis. Many there that night were black and hadn’t heard the news of King’s death. As he did with most difficult topics, Kennedy laid it all out there. The crowd gasped and screamed and cried. Kennedy said he understood the anger and hate each of the men and women there that night would probably feel. After all, a white man had also killed his brother.
“What we need in the United States is not division,” Kennedy told the crowd. “What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another. A feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign.
The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, on Oct. 11.
Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.
“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”