Talk of the Nation with Scott Simon featured an interesting segment yesterday on the role that religion will play in the new Congress. The interviews cover a lot of ground, including Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and William D’antonio, fellow at the Life Cycle Institute at Catholic University. Click on the icon at the right for the first twelve minutes of the show. For the complete show, click here and follow the link from NPR’s website.
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Republican United States Senator from Missouri, John Danforth is an ordained Episcopal priest. His most recent book, Faith and Politics: How the “Moral Values” Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together, calls for a new politics of meaning in America.
“I’m Jim Wallis, author of God’s Politics. I was surprised and grateful when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called to say his party wanted to set a new tone and invite, for the first time, a non-partisan religious leader to deliver their weekly radio address and speak about the values that could unite Americans at this critical time.
So, I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face. I am not an elected official or political partisan, but a religious leader who believes that real solutions must transcend partisan politics. For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.
Because we have lost a commitment to the common good, politics is failing to solve the deepest crises of our time. Real solutions will require our best thinking and dialogue, but also call us to transformation and renewal.
Most Americans know that the important issues we confront have an essential moral character. It is the role of faith communities to remind us of that fact. But religion has no monopoly on morality. We need a new, morally-centered discourse on politics that welcomes each of us to the table.
A government that works for the common good is central. There is a growing desire for integrity in our government across the political spectrum. Corruption in government violates our basic principles. Money and power distort our political decision-making and even our elections. We must restore trust in our government and reclaim the integrity of our democratic system.
At this moment in history, we need new directions.
Who is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Jesus proclaimed a gospel that was “good news to the poor.”
I am an evangelical Christian, and a commitment to “the least of these” is central to my personal faith and compels my public actions. It is time to lift up practical policies and effective practices that “make work work” for low-income families and challenge the increasing wealth gap between rich and poor. We must find a new moral and political will to overcome poverty that combines personal and social responsibility with a commitment to support strong families.
Answering the call to lift people out of poverty will require spiritual commitment and bipartisan political leadership. Since the election, I have spoken with leaders from both parties about creating a real anti-poverty agenda in Congress. We need a grand alliance between liberals and conservatives to produce new and effective strategies.
This week, President Bush met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, seeking solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation in that civil-war torn nation. Nearly 3,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. The cost and consequences of a disastrous war are moral issues our country must address. Leaders in both parties are acknowledging that the only moral and practical course is to dramatically change the direction of U.S. policy, starting with an honest national debate about how to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq with the least possible damage to everyone involved.
Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future– from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.
A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values, and the breakdown of family and community in our society must be addressed. But we need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others. And wouldn’t coming together to find common ground that dramatically reduces the number of abortions be better than both the left and the right using it as an issue to divide us?
We need a new politics inspired by our deepest held values. We must summon the best in the American people, and unite to solve some of the moral issues of our time. Americans are much less concerned about what is liberal or conservative, what is Democrat or Republican. Rather, we care about what is right and what works.
The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.
I’m Jim Wallis. Thank you and God bless you.”
David Kuo’s new book, Tempting Faith, will be released Monday. Already, it is being hailed as a bombshell look at the political manipulation of Christian Right leaders by the cynical Bush Administration. Kuo would know. He served as a special assistant to the President from 2001-2003, and has fairly impeccable Christian conservative credentials. See the below Olberman segment for a look at what Mr. Kuo has to say about this ‘Christian’ administration…
A former three-term Republican U.S. senator from Missouri and an ordained Episcopal priest, Danforth brings exceptional insight to the debate about the political use of religion and the separation of church and state.
He worries that Republican courting of the Christian Right is distorting notions of public and private morality. He laments that when Republicans voted to have federal courts overrule the state court in the Terri Schiavo case, violating long-held principles, it allowed the Christian Right to take over the party.
Danforth urges more liberal and moderate Christians to challenge the presumptiveness of the Christian Right to speak for all Christians.
Click on the side bar to listen to the conversation. From State of Belief radio.