Joining his Religious Right colleagues at the Family Research Council, Pat Robertson told a caller on his radio show today that Christians should not be involved with the “atavistic” Occupy Wall Street movement because it has “no purpose.”
But in a sign Roberston has little idea what the movement is about, he went on to suggest an alternative to #Occupy:
If you’re going to demonstrate demonstrate for righteousness, demonstrate to lift the yoke of oppression, demonstrate to help those that are poverty stricken.
Watch the whole exchange, courtesy Right Wing Watch:
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Disappointingly, extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric has become a feature of the GOP presidential campaign. Nearly all the candidates seem to believe that no attack is too extreme when it comes to demonizing and threatening undocumented immigrants, some of the most vulnerable people in our country. But recent efforts by some evangelicals suggest that this swing to the right on a basic issue of fairness and compassion won’t go unchallenged.
No one would describe Mat Staver, Richard Land and Sam Rodriguez as progressive leaders, and yet even they have made a point of reaching out to the Republican candidates to take issue with anti-immigrant posturing on the campaign trail.
Land also joined Jim Wallis at evangelical Cedarville University this weekend for a conference on immigration that specifically addressed this same problem. Carl Ruby, vice president for student life at the school, compared today’s moment to the history of civil rights:
Most white evangelicals didn’t support the civil-rights movement 50 years ago, and today’s white evangelicals find that regrettable, Ruby said. He doesn’t want evangelicals to feel the same way about the immigration issue someday.
While some of these efforts are motivated by electoral politics (see Staver’s fear that alienating Latinos will “push them..into a liberal, political, leftist machine“), if religious conservatives succeed in walking the GOP back from this dangerous cliff and away from policies that would do serious harm to American families, it will be an important victory.
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Casey wasn’t the only one who took offense at the GOP candidates dismissal of international assistance in the debate this week. Responding to these anti-aid sentiments, several national evangelical leaders released a statement yesterday chiding the candidates for their comments and defending the importance of these programs:
As pro-life evangelical Christian leaders committed to caring for our poorest neighbors around the world, we are called to protect them from cuts to programs that make a difference between life and death. The call for cutting “foreign aid” by several presidential candidates at last night’s debate undermines our nation’s moral commitment to humanitarian investment and is not in keeping with our values.
International development programs, which represent less than 1 percent of our federal budget, are practical and compassionate investments in global health. Minimal resources go a long way by providing malaria nets that save children’s lives in Africa, AIDS medication to tens of thousands who would otherwise die, and clean water to people in the poorest regions on Earth. Treating this critical aid as unaffordable is factually inaccurate. Viewing it as expendable is morally wrong. We call on all candidates for political office, especially the presidency, to protect life by preserving these crucial programs. The most vulnerable must be protected from irresponsible cuts, not imperiled in the name of political expediency.
The letter is signed by Ron Sider, President of Evangelicals for Social Action; Rev. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed; Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Chair of the National African American Clergy Network; David Gushee, Board Chair and Co-Founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; and Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
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Last November, President Obama met with leaders from the National Council of Churches to discuss the issues of most concern to them. This week, he continued that pattern of religious dialogue, hosting another meeting with the National Association for Evangelicals.
At the summit the evangelical leaders both shared their concerns and reiterated their commitments to areas where they share strong agreement with the President, including mutual concern about dangerous budget cuts (particularly to vital foreign aid programs) and support for comprehensive immigration reform.
While President Obama and NAE leaders also acknowledged that there are issues on which they have real differences, they didn’t let those differences stop them from finding common ground elsewhere. This kind of constructive conversation and careful listening models the kind of honest discourse necessary to build bridges with the faith community and partner with them to make real progress on critical issues.
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Dan Burke at Religion News Service has a piece this week pointing to growing conservative evangelical support for Governor Rick Perry’s presidential bid. Though Perry has stumbled in recent debate performances and faces right-wing criticism for mandating a vaccine for adolescent girls, supporting in-state college tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants, and his connections to the Muslim community, he’s also garnered praise from some evangelical Christians for his overt religious efforts including a high-profile, controversial prayer rally.
As Elizabeth Dias at TIME covered earlier, evangelical pastor Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America (a conservative group mobilizing pastors and their congregations to take action on social issues), said about Perry, “…the more I’ve studied and listened, the more I have liked what I have heard.”
And in this week’s piece, Burke finds support for Perry from Religious Right stalwarts like Donald Wildmon of American Family Association, Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson, and David Barton.
But the story also cites religion and politics expert John Green, who points out that people in the pews aren’t always in lock-step with their leaders on political issues or candidates:
The conservative Christian movement is less top-down than many in the media suspect, said John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron in Ohio. But grassroots activists take note when evangelical eminences like Dobson praise a particular candidate.
With Values Voter Summit — the Religious Right’s marquee annual gathering coming up — there are high stakes for GOP candidates looking to court conservative evangelical. Will these voters line up behind their leaders or will they take issue with some of the Republican candidates’ extreme anti-compassion stances, like the Liberty University students who said it was “un-Christian” to let someone die because they don’t have health insurance?
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