Wrap-up of “The Evangelical Crackup”

October 30, 2007, 5:51 pm | Posted by

Yesterday’s New York Times magazine article about the fissures and shifts in evangelical Christians’ political and theological orientation set off a blizzard of blogging. I saw great posts all over the blogscape, and after reading around ten lengthy posts, I fear I’d meld them together if I tried to comment on all the commentary. (Besides, blog roundups are Alex’s specialty.)

So I’ll just stick with an out-of-the-way response in traditional media: the editorial in today’s Wichita Eagle, whose namesake city David Kirkpatrick used as the anecdotal frame for his NYT story. (You might’ve seen the Eagle editorial in FPL’s daily newsreel today.)

Called “No ‘evangelical crackup’ in Wichita,” it didn’t take as much issue with Kirkpatrick’s story as the title suggests:

To assess the state of the religious right, the New York Times Magazine came to the right state — Kansas, and specifically Wichita. The resulting cover story Sunday oversold the idea of an “evangelical crackup,” but there is no question that in Wichita and far beyond, Christians are rethinking how and how much to bring their Bible-based values to bear in the public square.

However, they do (vaguely) point out local trends that don’t quite jibe with Kirkpatrick’s central argument:

Some evangelicals in Wichita and elsewhere in Kansas have not extinguished their agendas, only refocused them locally. Look at the proliferating petition drives to call grand juries to investigate sexually oriented businesses and abortion provider George Tiller.

And the mission work going on among local churches across the ideological and denominational spectrum remains strong and inspiring, meeting needs and lifting up the downtrodden in Wichita and far beyond.

The Eagle also regurgitates some of Kirkpatrick’s point about evangelicals’ political dissatisfaction and shifting priorities. All told, it’s not a very striking response content-wise, but it’s always useful to look at local responses to national media attention they receive. Wichita’s hometown newspaper’s reaction seemed to be that Kirkpatrick got it mostly right, but with a couple of notable (yet small) exceptions.

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Faith in schools

October 30, 2007, 11:27 am | Posted by

Today the AP reported a John Hopkins study that found 12 percent of America’s high schools ‘dropout factories’ that graduate less than 60 percent of students who enter as freshmen. And according to the report,

The highest concentration of dropout factories is in large cities or high-poverty rural areas in the South and Southwest. Most have high proportions of minority students. These schools are tougher to turn around, because their students face challenges well beyond the academic ones — the need to work as well as go to school, for example, or a need for social services.

Aaron at Faithfully Liberal offers a personal testimony from his experience in a ‘dropout factory,’ and I’d like to add my own. In 2001, I taught 110 seventh graders in a rural school that was 90 percent African American and 50 percent impoverished. When I returned for their graduation this spring, about 65 kids crossed the stage. The kids who dropped out are effectively locked in poverty, and most of the graduates are academically far behind their peers in more affluent districts, which restricts their opportunities as well. Simply put, America’s education system contributes to the trap of concentrated poverty, and that is a moral scandal in a country that prides itself as a land of opportunity filled with people of deep faith.

No Child Left Behind created as many problems as it solved at my school, and vouchers would have done no good because there’s only one private school nearby, and it’s all white (actually, there are many other reasons vouchers wouldn’t work). But what’s missing isn’t just the right policy fix, it’s the sense of urgency. If Americans cared more about poor kids, we’d have taken much more drastic action by now. After all, this problem has been with us in some form or another since the country was founded.

When I was in Teach For America, we talked often about long-term goals, and the most eloquent one I ever heard was that one day we would look back at America’s separate, unequal education system as a thing of the past and ask ourselves as a society, “how did we ever let that happen?” To that I’d add “..and may God forgive us.”

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NOW | God and Global Warming | PBS

October 29, 2007, 5:27 pm | Posted by

In August, NOW traveled with an unlikely alliance of Evangelical Christians and leading scientists to witness the breathtaking effects of global warming on Alaska’s rapidly changing environment. Though many in the evangelical community feel recognition of global warming is in opposition to their mission, the week-long trip inspired new thinking on the relationship between science and religion, and on our moral responsibility to protect the planet. A breathtaking and surprising journey to find common ground between earth and sky.

This web-exclusive special footage is related to the NOW on PBS program “God and Global Warming” airing Friday, October 26. Watch the episode here.

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Friday news wrap

October 26, 2007, 4:18 pm | Posted by

One of FPL’s intrepid interns who helps put together the daily newsreel asked me an interesting question on Tuesday:

after doing the newsreel for several weeks now, all of the “romney is a mormon” and “the religious right hates guiliani” stories are getting old/boring…should i still be clipping them?

Says a lot about faith and politics news, doesn’t it? Part of my response to the incisive intern:

I include [Romney] Mormon stories if a) it’s a fresh perspective, b) it ties into current news, or c) is by a prominent writer…Also, sometimes the duration of a storyline is a story in itself. As much as I want to give subscribers good stories to read, I want to give them a sense of what the dominant narratives are in religion-and-politics news. But that’s a good observation; thanks for bringing it up

I think both of us are right. To people who scan dozens of outlets every day, the news about certain candidates gets repetitive and saturated. The pack-animal nature of the press, coupled with the campaigns’ sophisticated PR operations, ensures that stories linger longer than most readers would care to read. My interest never tires, though, and I want to make sure that the newsreel reflects what’s going on, even if the same stories stick around for weeks.

Yet sometimes these Big Stories peter out just when they should be coming to fruition. For instance, there has been a months-long debate among pundits about whether Romney should give The Mormon Kennedy Speech (a speech analogous to JFK’s 1960 speech assuring Protestant Texans that his Roman Catholic faith wouldn’t influence his governance). Columnist and editorial boards have said he must do it, he can’t do it, he should do it now, he should do it later, he owes it to us, how dare we expect it of him, etc., etc., etc.

Well, Bob Schiefer kind of coaxed The Mormon Kennedy Speech out of him on Sunday, and it hasn’t received that much attention:

I’m only halfway interested in what Romney’s saying here because the content isn’t all that surprising. What’s more noteworthy is that he is talking at length about his religion on national television. People have been opining about this for months, and now he talks about it, and no one cares. Granted there were bigger things in the news cycle, but still, the silence is conspicuous.

In unrelated news, my favorite story of the week was William McKenzie’s Dallas Morning News column about the theology of empire. After hearing about American exceptionalism from candidate after candidate at last weekend’s Values Voters Summit, I needed an antidote to the militarism underlying that worldview.

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What’s new in the neighborhood? Resource justice

October 26, 2007, 10:09 am | Posted by

Revolution in Jesusland writes:

Progressives (Christian and secular) have lost faith in humanity’s ability to intentionally manage our economies. I’m not talking about central planning, but I am talking about collectively guaranteeing that everyone in the world has access to means of making a good living that’s sustainable and doesn’t destroy the earth. That’s just not an acceptable goal anymore for respectable progressives.

Sound counterintuitive?. . .then see what happens when a young evangelical reads Rauschenbusch.

On that note, JSpot shows some solidarity with the people of Kansas where about 27,000 people make $2.65 an hour.

Commenting on the recent attacks on Catholics United for putting the poor first, Xpatriated Texan notes:

Thaddeus McCotter doesn’t like Catholics United – in fact, he’s calling them “false prophets”. Their crime?

Catholics United errs by deliberately conflating means and ends. Catholics United claims that any pro-life representative opposing Leftist policies to help the poor also de facto opposes helping the poor.

You really have to twist yourself into a knot to get all scoochy and huffy to say that opposing policies “to help the poor also de facto opposes helping the poor”. Huh?

Not enough economics for you, God’s Politics provides a great sermon on the rich man in the gospel of Luke. “He went to hell because he lived side-by-side with poverty didn’t lift a hand to help.”

Speaking of shared resources, Faithful Progressive notes the climate change connection to the California wildfires and urban sprawl.

Mainstream Baptist writes:

The Campaign for America’s Future weblog has posted an outstanding essay on “The Art of the Hissy Fit” that describes the practice of ritual defamation. The essay is about the tactics that conservatives use to manipulate political discussion in American politics, but it also describes a practice that fundamentalists employed to marginalize moderates and progressives in order to take over the Southern Baptist Convention.

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