Last night on the CBS Evening News, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council were highlighted in a report on the diversity within the evangelical community. It was a strong spot for those working for justice and the common good. Jim was his usual affable, articulate self while talking about the progressive history of the evangelical community and the diverse political priorities its members have today.
On the other side, Tony Perkins spoke with the lack of charity that one expects from Religious Right leaders out of step with mainstream America. When the interviewer pointed out that Rev. Wallis sees himself as squarely in the middle of the evangelical community in America, Tony responded:
‘Well, you know what’s usually in the middle, it’s dead cats and skunks that have been run over.’
What’s the chapter and verse on that one Tony?
This only underscores how out of touch with mainstream America the Religious Right has become. As Faith in Public Life’s recent polling compilation demonstrates, most Americans consider themselves religious centrists. Hopefully Mr. Perkins doesn’t plan on running us all over along with Rev. Wallis!
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Yesterday Amy Sullivan, alum of Faith in Public LIVE, stepped into the ring with Bill O’Reilly on the Radio Factor to talk religion and politics. Click the link to the right for audio of their exchange. We think Amy comported herself just fine in the ‘No Spin Zone.’
A few highlights from the transcript:
O’REILLY: Alright. Let’s bring in Amy Sullivan. She’s an editor, contributing at Washington Monthly, author of a forthcoming book on religion in the left, and she’s a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School. Have you seen this Baylor study? Does it surprise you?
SULLIVAN: You know, there are a few surprises, including one of the things you pointed out, which is it turns out there are fewer secularist in America than we though. So, you know, I think that’s bad news for both the right and the left. I think that–
O’REILLY: Why is it bad news for the right?
SULLIVAN: Well, it’s bad news for the right because you guys are going have to find a new boogeyman if it turns out that there’s not a growing secularist scourge in America.
SULLIVAN: Well, that’s what you have to ask is when you look down this list of what people think the federal government should do, you know, distribute wealth more evenly, regulate businesses, protect the environment, affirmative action. I mean you have to ask why they’re not voting for Democrats and I think that answer is further on down with the national security stuff. And I think you throw in, not necessarily of how people think about abortion and gay marriage, because they say those aren’t the most important issues.
SULLIVAN: Some Democrats are often scared of talking about religion because they think it’s gonna drive off some folks. And I think they look at these numbers and find out, even people who say they don’t go to church often pray and they believe in God and they think religion’s important. So they’re gonna suddenly turn around and vote for, I don’t know, maybe Ralph Nader, if you start talking about religion too much.
O’REILLY: No. And I think Democrats — you’re absolutely right — would be wise to look at this study and say, “You know, if I’m gonna come out in favor of gay marriage I better clarify that. You know, and I better, I better explain to the folks exactly where I’m coming from because 89 percent are involved with a deity at some level.
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Oy! Is George Allen a self-hating Jew? Jspot posts video of "Gevalt" Allen doing an angry, sputtering discussion of his heritage. Jew lover Mik Moore supplies sharp analysis:
"This can only mean that he felt that the reporter was insulting him, or
his mother, by talking about their Jewish ancestry. Coming right at the
end of his remarks, it revealed that his alleged anger over the
reporter’s disdain for the first amendment was a cover for what he was
really angry about: being outed in front of his constituents as the son
of a Jew."
It’s a values smackdown over at Beliefnet. Jim Wallis and Ralph Reed dialoging this week on the new God’s Politics blog. Wallis states: "The Religious Right has now lost control of the evangelical political agenda and here’s why."
Chuck Currie answers the question: according to the beliefs of your religion whats sorts of electronic material should not be found on the internet?
Posting for CrossLeft, Big Daddy Weave points out that Calvinism is on the rise in the Southern Baptist Convention.
For Talk to Action, Frederick Clarkson welcomes Sen. Danforth to the fold. Apparently Sen. Danforth confesses:
"Maybe I was obtuse. . . But in my own mind, it
didn’t have the urgency until the Schiavo case. In the past year or so,
what was maybe a general interest of Robertson and others in politics
and one particular issue, namely abortion, has been transformed into
something much more detailed and much more a full-fledged political
Islamicate writes on Packer’s New Yorker profile of Taha. And also weighs in on the Pope’s recent comment. As does City of Brass, saying: "apology accepted, but the damage is done."
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Two great events took place yesterday in the Beltway world of faith and politics.
The morning started out with an event at the Center for American Progress featuring Dr. Bob Edgar speaking about his new book Middle Church. The event was moderated by Rev. Jennifer Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life, who just came out with a book of her own titled Born Again: the Christian Right Globalized. She and Edgar had a great conversation about the state of the progressive faith movement and where it’s headed.
Edgar served for six terms in Congress and is currently the general secretary of the National Council of Churches. His book outlines his vision for what he calls the “middle church, middle mosque, middle synagogue…” He focuses on the idea that religious Americans need to turn away from the “three F’s”: fear, fundamentalism and Fox News, and to embrace the “three P’s”: peace, poverty and planet. The book calls for the members of the middle church to unite to get their message out and to “reclaim the moral values of the faithful majority from the Christian Right.”
In response to a question about his current post, Edgar spoke passionately about the rich history of the National Council of Churches, and about his hope that the NCC is headed back in the right direction. He also recounted a great story about his very spiritual experience of being arrested as part of a protest while praying on the steps of the Sudanese embassy. He spoke of the connection he felt to the many faith leaders who had spent time in jail because of civil disobedience, but at the same time he joked that while many of them had written letters from jail, he was only there for and hour and a half so all he had to show from it was a post-it.
To hear more from Edgar, check out his book–or just follow our blog for the next couple days. In a new edition of Faith in Public LIVE, Edgar will be discussing his book with Pastor Dan from Streets Prophets.
And as if that weren’t enough inspiration for the faithful progressives for one day, a media education event on re-examining the term “values voter” was held this afternoon, co-sponsored by Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. This event featured a panel moderated by Jim Wallis and featuring Steven Waldman, the founder of Beliefnet; Melissa Rogers, a church-state expert; and Stephen Schneck, director of the Life Cycle Institute at the Catholic University of America.
The event was organized as a prelude to the Values Voter Summit that the Family Research Council is sponsoring this weekend. The Summit will feature 35 speakers including notables like Jerry Falwell, Tony Perkins and Ann Coulter. The event this afternoon was meant to give the media some perspective about the other side of the story–about that “faithful majority,” as Bob Edgar would put it. Faith in Public Life helped put some facts behind all the talk by putting together a polling sheet outlining the real values of the American voters (see the document attached to this post), and a rap sheet revealing the real values of some of those who will be speaking at the summit. Interestingly enough, though Jerry Falwell still doesn’t believe in global warming, 63% of Americans lok favorably on environmentalists, while only 44% look favorably on the Christian conservative movement.
After some not-so-brief (but suitably interesting) remarks from the panel members on their visions of the “values voter”–with a lot more focus on poverty and peace than you’ll ever hear from Ann Coulter–the media jumped in with questions on everything from the lack of attention given to women who work for progressive faith to the type of candidate that might appeal to these new values voters. All in all it seemed like the press got the point–and hopefully if they go to the summit this weekend, they’ll approach it with a more skeptical eye.
To learn more about the new values voter, check out the feature on our homepage and be sure to see the file below for some stats on just how big a values gap there is between Americans and the Religious Right.
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One of the reasons we’ve been involved in the blogosphere at Faith in Public Life is to promote bonds between all of the exciting voices blogging and the established faith organizations working for justice and the common good around the country. With that in mind, it’s exciting to announce that Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and some friends have just launched a new blog over at Beliefnet.com. Check it out now to see Jim trade posts with Ralph Reed.
For those keeping score at home, the addition of Sojourners is just the latest in a long line of religious groups using blogs to accentuate their advocacy for the common good. Dr. Bob Edgar is blogging here right now, and on his own book tour blog. The Interfaith Alliance’s State of Belief podcasts and blogs to spread the radio word. Rabbi David Saperstein’s Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Catholic magazine Commonweal have recently upgraded their sites significantly with shiney new community blogs. Not bad progress towards our goal of integrating blogging into faithful advocacy for the common good!
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