Posts tagged with: religious right

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
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
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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
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
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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.

Noted evangelical scholar Randall Balmer castigates the religious right in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The critique, in my view, amounts to little more than a slightly more sophisticated version of Jim Wallis. The criticisms leveled by Balmer and Wallis are the same ones made by leftist enemies of the religious right for decades; the difference is that Balmer and Wallis are evangelicals themselves and, therefore, their critiques are “internal” and, for some, more compelling.

I happen to agree with some of these criticisms of the religious right, and especially with Balmer’s general warning against linking religion too closely to a particular political agenda. What bothers me about the article is that it goes flagrantly beyond its ostensible aims and descends into polemics. It’s hard to believe that Balmer is blind to the irony. He rips the religious right for too easily moving between religion and politics, for claiming that the Bible compels support of Republican policies. But he invokes scripture simplistically to imply support for a whole raft of Democratic positions.

There is nothing wrong with Balmer arguing for Democratic policy, nor with his making such arguments on the basis of religious conviction (though abortion policy may be an exception to this rule, I’ll leave it aside for now). It is wrong, however, for him simultaneously to act as though he’s doing something different from what the religious right does. Balmer’s article is not a defense of evangelical theology against its abuses in the political realm. It is a political counterpunch aimed at evangelical Republicans, from an evangelical Democrat.