A decade ago, a critic accused me of writing a book about a “nonexistent” threat from the religious right. One reviewer called my work a “paranoid rant,” while another detractor wrote my “alarmist” views were “exaggerated and implausible.”
In The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans For The Rest Of Us, published in 2006, I had warned that a well-financed and highly organized group of religious and political leaders was seeking to impose their narrow extremist beliefs and harsh public policies on the United States, even as our nation’s population was increasingly multireligious, multiethnic, and multiracial.
Safety is defined in the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus as abiding in God’s sense of justice —“not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.” Justice is love and love is behaving out of fairness to all — even those we see as a risk. We cannot expect to be in safety unless we treat others as we wish them to treat us.
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has come under fire for his friendship with Russian president Vladimir Putin – who is suspected of trying to tip the election to Trump – his lack of diplomatic experience, and the fact that he is a corporate bigwig who champions fossil fuels, even as the threat of global warming grows.
But Tillerson, whose nomination was announced on Dec. 13, may also face criticism from an unexpected quarter – social conservatives whose support was critical to Trump’s unexpected election last month.
In 2013, Francis provoked an outcry from economic conservatives with the release of his apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel),” which was widely seen as his personal manifesto. In it, Francis said the world could no longer trust “the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market,” and called for ecclesiastical renewal and compassion for the poor.
Cox, who taught at Harvard for 50 years, dedicated his latest book to the pope because they share a concern about what Francis called a “deified market” that’s creating “new idols.”
For some, the choice is not clear. Clinton-Kaine may be the more personally religious ticket, but Trump-Pence is more cozy with the religious right, aka the evil empire among atheists. Then there’s Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who has no chance of victory, but is the only candidate who reached out to nonbelievers and asked for their vote.
So what’s an atheist to do?
In a section titled “Defending Marriage Against an Activist Judiciary,” Republicans say they “condemn” the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land. Religious conservatives from several denominations also have opposed this ruling as the work of “activist judges,” a charge and a term echoed in the platform.
Heading into Donald Trump’s meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, mostly evangelicals, in New York on June 21, it was clear not all Christians have lined up behind him.
Not even all traditionally conservative evangelicals.
Donald Trump is moving quickly to rally the evangelical base of the Republican Party as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee pivots toward a general election contest where the conservative Christian vote will be crucial to his chances for winning the White House.
The brash New York real estate developer has been reviled by many evangelical Christian leaders but he retains a significant appeal with grass-roots evangelicals and is increasingly winning over some leading conservative Christian activists.
Like the lawmakers he lobbies on Capitol Hill, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy has a foot in two worlds — Washington during the week, his hometown on the weekends.
So when Gaddy boards a flight each Friday from Washington to Monroe, La., he ignores the person sitting next to him. It may not seem very pastoral, but in fact, it is: He has a sermon to write.
Gaddy, a progressive defender of religious freedom, will retire next month as president of the Interfaith Alliance. But he plans to continue as pastor of Northminster Church, an Alliance of Baptists congregation that his members describe as an island of liberalism in a sea of Louisiana conservatism.
For 16 years, the former Southern Baptist has worn two hats — preaching most Sundays and advocating for equal treatment of people of all beliefs on weekdays in Washington.
“A lot of the people in Washington who talk about religion don’t understand religion; it’s more of a subject of theoretical discussion,” said Gaddy, 73, in an interview in his small office near Georgetown. “And I think that’s why it has been important that I have my one foot in a local congregation and one foot in a national agency.”
Right-wing Christians and the politicians who pander to them like to say that the United States was, is and always should be a “Christian nation.”
Why, then, are they so obsessed about money and political power and so determined to make people afraid?
After all, Jesus spent an estimated two-thirds of his teaching time on wealth and power. His message was clear, if radical: Give wealth away rather than build bigger barns. Submit to others rather than seek power. Love your enemies rather than smite them.
Moreover, his one new commandment was equally clear: Don’t be afraid. Live without fear. Live in trust and confidence. Live in harmony. Make peace. But whatever happens, don’t be afraid.
Instead of preaching a gospel of self-sacrifice and generosity, right-wing Christians support the mega-wealthy who yearn to stifle democracy and move us further toward plutocracy: Keep the riffraff from voting. Keep alternative views out. Live in the bubble of like-minded people, not the marketplace of ideas and diversity where Jesus lived.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were not invited to a major gathering of social conservatives in Washington last weekend in what was viewed as a serious snub of two men considered prominent Republican presidential contenders for 2016.
“They were not invited this year because they just weren’t on the top of the list in terms of what they are doing right now and whether or not it was relevant to the values voters and who they want to hear from,” said Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council and chief organizer of the Values Voter Summit, which opened on Friday and ended Sept. 28.
“They shouldn’t take it the wrong way,” Perkins told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview taped on Friday.
But in his report, Brody said the two men had been “snubbed” and that’s not good news for any presidential aspirations they may harbor.
The Values Voter Summit is the pre-eminent venue for GOP candidates who hope to showcase their bona fides to the crucial conservative Christian bloc, and Christie and Bush — the elder brother of former President George W. Bush — are seen as Republicans who could appeal to the center of the electorate but who have not won the hearts of social conservatives.
Faith leaders who sit to the left in American politics say they won’t let the religious right claim the moral mantle in the elections of 2014.
On Sept. 9, they announced a new campaign to boost voter registration and encourage voters, particularly in poor and immigrant communities, to go to the polls.
On a conference call to reporters, Ted Strickland of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, an ordained Methodist minister and former Democratic governor of Ohio, said he and others leaders will go door to door and church to church to press their message: that people of faith should pursue a public policy that is fair and just.
The Rev. William Barber, leader of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” movement, which has long protested acts of the state’s conservative legislature, quoted Isaiah 10: “Woe to those who make unjust laws.”
I don’t know about young girls, but I know from experience that young boys obsess about sex.
They crave it, fantasize about it, do everything in their meager power to obtain it, worry about their adequacy, get confused by their longings, and for the duration of adolescence — and often beyond — see people in terms of “getting laid.”
I suppose this obsession is natural, and that it serves some fundamental purpose, such as perpetuating the species or giving us something to think about besides our gangly bodies, weird thoughts, and being young and insecure.
I don’t know any adult who would willingly repeat adolescence. Yet here we are — we Christians seeking hope, grace, mercy, and purpose, we believers in a God of justice — treating our faith as an endless adolescence centered around sex.
I have great respect for religion writer Jonathan Merritt, even though we disagree on a lot of social and theological issues. He evoked a maelstrom about his article suggesting the Arizona law allowing businesses to deny service to LGBTQ people was less than Christian, and yet he stands behind his words.
Basically, many prominent voices from the Baptist and Neo-Calvinist camps went berserk about his call for tolerance; never mind that he didn’t even take on the moral issues surrounding LGBTQ identity itself. It was simply enough that he called for equal treatment of all people as fellow human beings, period. But he broke rank with the conservative Christian rank-and-file, which depends heavily on uniformity of voice and position on key issues.
Merritt took a risk, knowing full well that he’d likely suffer for it. And he did. In a small online forum of fellow religion writers, he expressed dismay both at the aggressive, hateful nature of peoples’ response from the right, as well as the relative palpable silence from the center and left.
For that, to the degree that I can speak for myself and others like me, I’m sorry, Jonathan. When someone steps out like this, putting himself at risk, we should rally to support him, as much as those on the right rally behind causes.
While it's not uncommon to hear the terms "Tea Party" and "libertarian" uttered in the same descriptor, a new survey shows the gap between the two movements. According to the new American Values Survey, an annual release from the Public Religion Research Institute, a full 61 percent of libertarians do not consider themselves part of the Tea Party.
“While conventional wisdom has assumed that the Tea Party movement is fueled by libertarian convictions, most libertarians see themselves as outside of the Tea Party movement. Notably, libertarians are also half as likely as those who identify with the Tea Party movement to see themselves as part of the older Christian right movement," said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, in a news release.
In fact, only one in five libertarians claim affiliation with the religious right or conservative Christianity — a claim that more than half of Tea Party adherents would make.
“You’re a Christian? But you’re so nice!”
I’ll never forget these words, spoken to me by a friend of mine from my college’s theatre program. He was one of my more eccentric friends, more blunt than most, and he was also very openly gay. His exclamation of surprise may be the instance that I remember the most, but he certainly wasn’t the only person during my college years to express their surprise at the thought of Christians living by principles of love rather than intolerance, or at the very least, indifference.
The road to the White House is no longer white and Christian.
President Obama won last week with a voter coalition that was far more racially and religiously diverse than Mitt Romney’s – a phenomenon both predicted in the days before the election and confirmed in the days after.
What the Public Religion Research Institute has concluded since, however, has farther-reaching implications: that relying on white Christian voters will never again spell national electoral success — especially for the GOP.
“The changing religious landscape is presenting a real challenge to the strategy that relied on motivated white Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox, referring to a PRRI study released Thursday.
The day after the election, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said, “I think this was an evangelical disaster.”
Not really. But it was a disaster for the religious right, which had again tied its faith to the partisan political agenda of the Republican Party — which did lose the election. But Nov. 6 was an even deeper disaster for the religious right’s leaders, because they will no longer be able to control or easily co-opt the meaning of the term “evangelical.”
During this election, much of the media continued to use the word as a political term — as a key constituency of the Republican conservative base. But what the media really means when they use term “evangelical” is “conservative white evangelical.” All other kinds of evangelicals are just never counted.
Just as the 2012 electoral results finally revealed the demographic transformation of America — which has been occurring for quite some time — it also dramatically demonstrated how the meaning of the word “evangelical” is being transformed.
Evangelical can no longer be accurately used to mean “white evangelical.”
Mitt Romney failed in his bid to win the White House back for Republicans, but the biggest losers in Tuesday’s voting may be Christian conservatives who put everything they had into denying President Barack Obama a second term and battling other threats to their agenda.
Instead of the promised victories, the religious right encountered defeat at almost every turn. Not only did Obama win convincingly, but Democrats held onto the Senate – and the power to confirm judges – and Wisconsin elected the nation’s first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin.
Meanwhile, Republican senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went down to unanticipated defeat in large part because of their strongly anti-abortion views, and an effort in Florida to restrict abortion failed. For the first time ever, same-sex marriage proponents won on ballots in four out of four states, while marijuana for recreational use was legalized in two out of three states where the question was on the ballot.
Even Michele Bachmann, an icon among Christian conservatives, barely held onto her House seat in Minnesota while Tea Party favorite Allen West lost his congressional district in Florida.
“Evangelical Christians must see the 2012 election as a catastrophe for crucial moral concerns,” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a sobering post-mortem.