Posts tagged with: religious right

In a recent article in World magazine, Acton senior fellow Marvin Olasky urged evangelical minister Jim Wallis to drop the pretense of being post-partisan. Olasky, World magazine’s editor-in-chief, went on to assert that (1) Wallis’s organization, Sojourners, received money from the foundation of secular-leftist George Soros, and that (2) Wallis had lent the Sojourners mailing list to the Obama campaign.

In an interview here, Wallis appears to deny these charges. But now former Acton research fellow Jay Richards has followed up with some additional findings in a new piece at NRO. The findings strongly support Olasky’s claims, and make it all the more unclear why Wallis would respond to them by denying them and calling Olasky a professional liar.

Richards has been keeping tabs on Wallis for a while now. In an October 2005 review of God’s Politics, Richards shows how Wallis sits squarely on the left and has even capitulated to the secular left on key social issues. The book review also examines Wallis’s questionable biblical exegesis as well as some of the economic fallacies that drive much of Wallis’s political thinking.

Wallis may mean well, but the big-government policies he advocates have been a wrecking ball to the very communities he seeks to help. An Acton/Coldwater video short examines why the left’s approach to poverty alleviation has done so much harm. It’s called How not to Help the Poor.

Compared to the Republican Party, the Democrats’ embrace of politicized religion came late. And because Democrats have only in the last 5-6 years learned how to do the God talk (thanks in large part to the efforts of Jim “The Prophet” Wallis) they can be excused as greenhorns when they whine about not getting the Church folk more mobilized for blatantly partisan efforts.

But it is really annoying when those in the pews don’t go the extra mile, isn’t it?

In a media gabfest with religion reporters this week on Capitol Hill, Democratic senators “acknowledged the involvement of faith communities in debating moral and social issues such as health care reform and economic recovery,” according to a report by PBS.org. But the senators also questioned “whether there are limits to the role religious groups can play when it comes to what Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar called ‘dealing with the nitty gritty’ of partisan politics.” She’s frustrated.

Klobuchar said in conference calls with Minnesota faith leaders about Senate slowness on immigration issues she has been told that when it comes to pure political strategy, religious groups are “not involved” and “don’t deal with that stuff.” How, then, can faith communities “play a larger and louder role” and “push back,” she asked, at a time when the politics of immigration reform are most at issue? Can they serve as a force and a voice for getting past political differences to common ground?

The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein fleshed out the complaint in “How Influential is the Progressive Left?”:

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar addressed, perhaps unintentionally, a question many Democrats ask privately: How influential, really, are faith groups on the left? How vast are their e-mail networks? How organized are their members? How deep are their pockets? How aggressive are they willing to get?

Klobuchar was relaying conversations she had with some faith activists pushing her on immigration reform, and how she explained to them the challenges posed by a lack of GOP support. The activists, she said, didn’t seem especially interested in the politics, being primarily focused on what they saw as the moral imperative of reform. “The question for me is, where does the faith community’s role begin and end?” she said.

But Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow was there to reassure Klobuchar that “some religious groups do, in fact, have ‘comfort in the partisan arena’ and are willing to ‘get into strategy and partisan differences.’”

Stabenow, the chair of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, and a person who feels the effects of global warming on bumpy plane rides, observed that a government budget is “a moral document.” Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, the Prophet.

In the last election cycle, when Jim Wallis was panting after Democrat candidates with his talking points, he was fond of referring to government budgets as moral documents. Yes, and by that debased yardstick, what government action doesn’t have a moral dimension? Zoning appeals? Water bills? Parking tickets?

In 2005, Newsweek wrote about Jim Wallis schooling Howard Dean on the God talk:

Politics is about connecting. It’s no accident that the two Democrats elected president in recent years have been Southern Baptists. Jimmy Carter is a born-again evangelical, and Bill Clinton has a deep appreciation and knowledge of religion. Voters want to know about the moral compass of their leaders, and religious expression is one of the guideposts. Dean understands the challenge, and it doesn’t mean that he has to take a press pool with him to church on Sundays. But he has to begin to define Democratic ideas and policies in moral terms. For starters, Wallis says budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values of a family, city or nation. Democrats should do a “values audit” of President Bush’s budget—who wins, who loses, who suffers, who benefits.

The problem with this of course is that when you offer up religious faith to partisan political ends — to either the left or the right — you offer up a counterfeit, a faith that is oriented toward toadying favor with too-often-corrupt power structures, not toward the glory of God. “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1-10). This counterfeit faith, so cheaply offered, lacks the Truth that is in real faith and because the counterfeit so disappoints those for whom it promised political ends, there is no gratitude but plenty of scorn. Like the sentiments you get from the likes of Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

And what of the “faith friendly” GOP, where the altar fires are tended by the Religious Right? Recall the New York Daily News story that described how the Republican National Committee “spent almost $2,000 [in February] at an erotic, bondage-themed West Hollywood club, where nearly naked women – and men – simulate sex in nets hung from above.” Now there’s some family values for you!

Asked at the Capitol Hill media event about a reported decline in Democratic Party outreach to faith communities, PBS said that Stabenow characterized Senate Democratic outreach as “aggressive” and “not diminishing.” And, she added, “Every issue is about values.”

Yes, Senator, indeed it is.

RELEVANT magazine has conducted a reader survey and has a special section on young religious voter attitudes towards politics. A summary bite from RELEVANT founder and publisher Cameron Strang:

Young Christians simply don’t seem to feel a connection to the traditional religious right. Many differ strongly on domestic policy issues, namely issues that affect the poor, and are dissatisfied with America’s foreign policy and war.

In general, we’re seeing that twentysomething Christians hold strongly to conservative moral values, but at the same time don’t feel that their personal moral beliefs need to be legislated to people who don’t agree with them. It’s an interesting paradox, and is creating clear division between this generation and the religious right.

I think RELEVANT has some interest in spinning just how these “new” evangelicals line out on the left/right paradigm (they have Jim Wallis write a feature in this same special section).

Just ‘cuz you’re not down with the religious right it doesn’t follow that Jim Wallis is your homeboy. There’s a big squishy middle among evangelicals (new and not-so-new) that is conservative on life issues but has a range of opinion on other issues of public policy.

And this comes from someone with some “RELEVANT” cred. I’ll have a post up in the next week or so on Huckabee and the concept of “vertical” politics that has got so many pundits and commentators flummoxed.

See also: “A plea to evangelicals — from an evangelical,” David Gushee, USAToday.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why listen to the new Radio Free Acton podcast? Because you’ll have the opportunity to hear news analysis before old media gets around to reporting it.

Here’s a case in point. In the inaugural January 11 edition of Radio Free Acton, I say the following:

I think what’s resonating with people in Michigan is Mike Huckabee as an example of what’s being called the “new evangelicals.” The mainstream media has really missed this, I think, because they’re associating “new” evangelicals, young evangelicals, with the so-called evangelical “left,” like Jim Wallis. What they’re missing there is Huckabee’s stalwart stance on traditional social conservative issues like abortion and gay marriage. And what differentiates Huckabee and new evangelicals from the so-called Religious Right traditionally is focus on other moral issues such as stewardship of the environment and international development and these sorts of things. So it’s really an evangelical “moderate” [category], which covers a lot of young people who are just as conservative on life issues as their forebears, but have a lot of concerns across the board in terms of public policy.

It’s two whole days later that the New York Times reports, “Huckabee Splits Young Evangelicals and Old Guard.”

Subscribe now, friends. Subscribe now.

On this Good Friday, CNN commentator Roland Martin delivers a well-needed corrective to the errors of both the religious Right and Left.

It’s good to see that he doesn’t confuse action on poverty and divorce as primarily political but rather a social issues. Just because you aren’t explicitly partisan doesn’t mean that you cannot be as much or more political than some of the figures that are typically derided in these kinds of calls to action. It doesn’t look to me like Martin falls into that trap in this piece.

And although Martin rightly says that abortion and homosexuality are not the only issues on which Christian morality has important words to say, he needs similarly to be careful not to confuse Christian political action with the whole compass of Christian social action. That is, just because a person or group engages in political activism on one or another of these issues doesn’t mean that they don’t think these other issues are not important…it may just reflect their judgment that they are not primarily problems that government needs to be lobbied about.

Here’s one other aspect of the problem: the media decides which personalities from the Christian community to cover, and these choices aren’t always attuned to those who are really the most influential, but instead those who will fit easily into the desired stereotype of evangelicalism. So, when Martin says “it’s time to stop allowing a chosen few to speak for the masses. Quit letting them define the agenda,” his message needs to be heard as much by the mainstream media as it does by lay Christians.

Politics tends to be of the most public interest, so it’s Christian political activism that tends to get the most coverage. This doesn’t mean that Christians aren’t at the same time active on other social fronts.

As a follow-up to John Armstrong’s post, I point you to this excellent response to Gerson’s article by Joe Knippenberg at No Left Turns (HT: Good Will Hinton).

Knippenberg raises the relevant question whether “the ‘new evangelicals’ he describes will have sound practical judgment to go along with their decency and moral energy.”

I think it’s true that the potential is there for the “new” evangelicals to go the Jim Wallis route, who is proclaiming the election as “a defeat for the Religious Right and the secular Left,” which leaves, you guessed it, the Religious Left.

Pundits and pollsters are sorting out the results of Tuesday’s elections day-by-day now. Most are agreed that these mid-term elections do not signal a huge victory for the political left. But why? The Democrats did win both houses of Congress didn’t they?

  1. Most of the seats lost by Republicans were lost to candidates as a result of the Democrats running men and women who were far less extreme than the voices of the post-60s crowd that has controlled their party for decades. Think of Robert Casey, Jr. and Harold Ford, Jr. as two basic examples.
  2. American is still fundamentally religious, with upwards of 85% expressing allegiance to some organized faith and a third still attending a house of worship weekly. The Democrats took this far more seriously in this most recent election cycle. Time will tell what this means and how it will play out but I expect more pro-life candidates from the Democratic Party in the coming years. One can at least hope and pray for such. In a recent Pew Research study only one in four thought this party was “friendly toward religion.”
  3. The polls say 21% of Americans call themselves liberal, 33% conservative and 46% say they are moderate. While I am not sure what the “moderate” classification means it is obvious liberals are still the minority. (By the way, the designation Independent has more adherents than either Republican or Democrat.)My guess is that if you used my own label of “progressive conservative” you would gain the majority of the middle.
  4. There is every reason to believe that this election was lost by the Republicans, not won by the Democrats. I personally hope that the leaders of the Democratic Party will use their new power appropriately but there are a number of wild cards to be watched very carefully. The greatest immediate loss will likely be in the appointment of more restrained judges given Joe Biden’s new role in the Senate.
  5. The Democratic influence over the African-American vote is still tenuous, even though the numbers do not reveal this strongly yet. Stephen Carter, in his book, The Dissent of the Governed, describes two black women who said that “they preferred a place that honored their faith and disdained their politics over a place that honored their politics and disdained their faith.” Will this thinking grow? The overwhelming majority of older blacks believe, and generally for good reasons, that the Democratic Party is the party that gave them their civil rights. The political impact of this historic fact could be changing, though slowly for sure. Religious Democrats are more likely to change their party affiliation, nearly four times as often as Republicans, according to a National Election Surveys study. This trend also needs to be watched.
  6. The party that can rightly appeal to the newest Hispanic voters will have greater success in the future. The Republicans made large gains in 2004 but went backwards on Tuesday. The debate about “illegal immigrants” is politically loaded. The next Congress will likely take up this issue and the President may get his way after all. This again should be watched. The strong arguments on the left and the right may be moderated in the 110th Congress by a comprehensive agreement the president can and will sign. Personally, I hope so.
  7. And what about young people? The numbers are not clear yet but in 2004 the number of young people moving toward the conservative category increased by 143%. There may have been a slowdown in this trend on Tuesday but I doubt it is a huge shift yet in terms of long-term practice.

In addition to these observations, a number of cultural patterns strengthen the conservative cause. Besides volunteerism being higher on the right, add to these various observations things like fertility patterns (conservatives have far more children than liberals) and the effects of education. All in all, you have some major trends favoring a more conservative direction for the future. (more…)

Blog author: jarmstrong
posted by on Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We have had a book called God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis. Now we have one called The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus’ Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted, by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. Does anyone on the Left, who so freely decries the Right for their excessive claims to truth, ever stop to think that they have no more claim on God’s truth than the Right does?

While the Left assaults the Right for partisanship they continue to produce books that tell us “how to rediscover the true revolutionary nature of Jesus’ teachings.” The hubris in such a claim is quite staggering. Hendricks spends most of this book arguing that the two primary culprits in our lifetime, men who both attacked the true revolutionary teaching of Jesus, were Ronald W. Reagan and now George W. Bush. Surprise, surprise!!!

Former moderate Republican senator John Danforth (MO), an Episcopal priest, gets a lot closer to the truth in his new book, Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth suggests that it is simply wrong to equate “faith with political agenda.” The Right has done its fair share of equating God’s law with their politics for the past twenty-five years but the Left was doing this for fifty years before the Right decided to join the partisan parade that now badly polarizes America.

The sad reality is that the Left now acts like they have always held the moral high ground and the Right is thus a movement filled with self-righteous idiots who want to take over America for God. I sure wish these folks would talk to the intelligent conservatives I converse with day-to-day but they often choose to focus on a few public figures in the Christian media (Falwell, Robertson, et al.) that are not true representatives of thoughtful and serious conservatism. (It is much easier to demonize your opponents than to face hard and serious issues honestly. Just accuse Republicans of not caring for the poor and the game is over if you buy this approach.)

I am sometimes asked why I am not impressed with Sojourners magazine and the editor, Jim Wallis. My answer is that when Wallis endorses this kind of book by writing, “In The Politics of Jesus, Obery Hendricks articulates a critical prophetic message that interrogates our nations politics according to the values of Jesus…. This book is a must-read for everyone who seeks to understand and live out the revolutionary implications of following Christ,” I am frankly staggered by how much he lacks credibility as a Christian thinker or serious political voice. And he claims, cleverly times ten I would add, that “God is not a Republican.” I agree! But Mr. Wallis, please, God is not a radical liberal Democrat either!

A touch of humility in all of this public philosophical debate would be a helpful step toward fruitful discussion among Christians. I have a number of real friends who disagree with me politically but the reason they remain my friends is that they treat me with respect. I think I return the favor. I wish people on the Right and the Left would stop this kind of moral triumphalism. It is poison to the nation.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Beliefnet, in conjunction with Sojourners, is hosting a blog based on Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.

One of the key features in the blog’s short tenure to date is a discussion between Jim Wallis and Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition. Jim says that Ralph is his “first dialogue partner on God’s Politics,” so perhaps we can expect more to come.

And in case you haven’t seen it, Acton’s Jay Richards reviewed Wallis book in the October 2005 issue of Touchstone magazine.

How can government best uphold Christian values? The right’s traditional answer is through legislating morality issues that are central to family values or the sanctity of life. It looks like the left will counter this with an expanded version of government. Andrew Lynn looks at the growing competition for the religious vote in the context of Sen. Barack Obama’s recent speech to Call to Renewal.

Read the entire commentary here.