Voicing Faith Media Bureau member Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the Methodist Church’s General Board of Church & Society, and Jeff Carr, COO of Sojourners, went on Hannity and Colmes Friday evening to talk about their participation in the recent religious peacebuilding delegation visit to Iran. See the video for a lesson in making your point in a hostile environment!
Focus on the Family President James Dobson paired his attack on National Association of Evangelicals VP Richard Cizik for speaking out about the need to fight global warming, with a reassertion for his desire to protect the poor from those who would seek to combat climate change.
In a “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming,â€ the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, led by Dobson, claims that “Government-mandated carbon dioxide emissions reductions not only would not significantly curtail global warming or reduce its harmful effects but also would cause greater harm than good to humanity–especially the poor–while offering virtually no benefit to the rest of the world’s inhabitants.â€
Once again, pretty much the only time we hear about Dobson’s passion for protecting the poor is when he’s attacking other evangelicals on global warming.
Where was Dobson and his passion for helping the poor, for example, when he took issue with Christians for protesting federal budget cuts to programs for those most in need? From the Washington Post at the time:
“It’s not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important,” said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson’s influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. “But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that.”
The diversity of the evangelical social agenda has become a regular trend in coverage of religion and politics. Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals has been among the most articulate proponents of this broad social agenda, speaking out eloquently on issues like global warming and genocide in Darfur. This agenda has allowed innovative partnerships to form to fight global warming, combat modern slavery, and work for an end to genocide in our day.
Well, James Dobson has apparently had enough of all that. In yesterday’s daily Focus on the Family newsletter, Dobson went directly after Cizik in the sort of attack that’s typical of right wing distortion:
“We ask,â€ Dobson and the other pro-family leaders wrote, “how is population control going to be achieve if not by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere? Is this where Richard Cizik would lead us?â€
It’s no coincidence that this attack comes with the National Association of Evangelicals board about to meet in Minnesota. Here’s the money line from a letter signed by Dobson and allies:
“We implore the NAE board to ensure that Mr. Cizik faithfully represents the policies and commitments of the organization, including its defense of traditional values. If he cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE.â€
The work of evangelicals like Cizik is one of the most encouraging stories of faith in public life today. It’s crucial that the American public understands the kinds of internal pressures that leaders of principle like Cizik confront every day.
Just recently the first U.S. religious group to meet with an Iranian president in Iran since the revolution in 1979 returned with assurances from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran “does not intend to develop nuclear weapons” and that he is willing “to enter into direct, face-to-face talks with the United States government.”
“Even with this tragic history we have visited upon Iran for the past 55 years, there is an amazing depth of appreciation and love for the U.S. people,” said Jim Winkler, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the denomination’s social action agency. “There have been lots of contacts between Muslim religious leaders and Christian leaders from around the world–and with American Christians–over the years, but this was considered to be significant because it was attached to meetings with government leaders,” Winkler said.
The Weekly Standard writes: The delegation was organized by the Washington, D.C. lobby offices of the Quakers and the Mennonites and is a follow up of sorts to a meeting that several dozen religious officials, including Winkler, had with Ahmadinejad in New York last October. This time, the group will also meet with former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, who spoke at the Episcopal Church’s National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. in September.
Besides Winkler, the Quakers, and the Mennonites, the delegation to Iran includes representatives from the National Council of Churches, Sojourners (Jim Wallis’ evangelical-left group), and Pax Christi, a liberal Catholic group.
“We are making this trip hoping it will encourage both governments to step back from a course that will lead to conflict and suffering,” explained a Quaker official, Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee. But the delegation acknowledges that Ahmadinejad’s unsavory positions may have to be confronted.
Over at beliefnet, Sojourners COO Jeff Carr went on the trip and blogged on the journey. Reflecting on the Iranian Hostage Crises, he writes:
“I don’t think I have ever realized how traumatizing those events were for me, and how seared into my memory and psyche they are. How they serve as a filter, even today, 28 years later, to the way I (and I surmise many other Americans) see Iran. It is the narrative that informs my thinking about Iran today and the relationship between our nations.”
Iranian born Reza Aslan speaks about the future of U.S./Iran Relations. At the World Affairs Council, Reza notes:
The strategy of the United States over the past two and half decades to contain Iran has only strengthened the hand of the country’s clerical regime and made full democracy a more distant prospect. It is time for a new approach, one that could curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and force Iran out of its economic isolation, leading to the regime change that the U.S. has been striving for since 1979.
Gary Hart talks about God and Caesar in America: An Essay on Religion and Politics. In this new and sure-to-be controversial book, Hart takes the religious right to task for their assumption of political power, noting that they are both defining faith too narrowly and failing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. In the process, Hart identifies the proper role of religion in democracy.