US evangelical argues for radical Democrat agenda - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
August 9, 2005

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US evangelical argues for radical Democrat agenda

-09/08/05

Christian social activist and progressive evangelical Jim Wallis is calling on the Democrat Party in the USA to renew its social and political vision, in order to help break the stranglehold of the religious right on moral values.

Writing in the influential New York Times last week, Wallis, who is editor of Sojourners magazine and founder of Call to Renewal, outlines five policy areas which he believes can create a genuine alternative in American politics.

Wallis has been named by Time magazine as one of the most influential US religious leaders. His latest book, Godís Politics, is a best seller, confounding the notion that faith in the USA is a right-wing preserve.

Subtitled ìwhy the right gets it wrong and why the left doesnít get itî, the book is a call for a Gospel-based activism which bypasses the shrill partisanship of the religious right, while also questioning the anti-religious instincts of the left.

Sojourners is part of a growing trend towards radical Christian thinking which says that faith has a legitimate role in political debate ñ but argues for ground-up influence instead of top-down domination. It is also willing to work with secular allies.

In his NYT article, Jim Wallis writes: ìBecause the Republicans, with the help of the religious right, have captured the language of values and religion (narrowly conceived as only abortion and gay marriage), the Democrats have also been asking how to ëtake back the faith.íî

But he says that in order to be meaningful, this has to mean ìfar more than throwing a few Bible verses into policy discussions, offering candidates some good lines from famous hymns, or teaching them how to clap at the right times in black churches.î

Wallis goes on: ìDemocrats need to focus on the content of religious convictions and the values that underlie them.î

His five suggested areas for reframing policy concern tackling domestic and global poverty, ecology (ìstewardship of Godís creationî), a social approach to reducing abortion, combining family values with a civil rights agenda, and moving from militarism to internationalism in foreign policy.

According to Wallis, ìDemocrats need new policies to offer the 36 million Americans, including 13 million children, who live below the poverty line, as well as the 9.8 million families one recent study identified as ëworking hard but falling short.íî

On the environment he points out that the US National Association of Evangelicals recently called global warming a faith issue, but Republicans consistently choose oil and gas interests over a cleaner world.

Regarding abortion, one of the issues which has most divided religious voters from the left, Wallis argues for an approach which will create ìcommon groundî again.

He says: ìDemocrats need to think past catchphrases, like ëa womanís right to choose,í or the alternative, ësafe, legal and rare.í More than one million abortions are performed every year in this country. The Democrats should set forth proposals that aim to reduce that number by at least half. Such a campaign could emphasize adoption reform, health care, and child care; combating teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse; improving poor and working women's incomes; and supporting reasonable restrictions on abortion, like parental notification for minors (with necessary legal protections against parental abuse).î

Wallis also claims that support for hard-pressed families is not in opposition to a civil rights agenda for lesbians and gays, even if religious opinion remains divided on the moral issue of gay relationships.

Lastly, the evangelical leader declares that in an age of terror, ìthe safety of the United States depends on the credibility of its international leadership. We can secure that credibility in Iraq only when we renounce any claim to oil or future military bases.î

He also says that international institutions need to be strengthened, not abandoned. This includes ìcreating a real International Criminal Court with an enforcement body, for example, as well as an international force capable of intervening in places like Darfur.î

Finally, Wallis argues that ìstronger American leadership in reducing global poverty would also go a long way toward improving the country's image around the world.î This is another point on which both secular and religious voters can unite.

Unlike the religious right, the religious left accepts the separation of church and state in the USA as a good thing. It argues that religious convictions have a role to play in plural political debate, but opposes using these to silence, bully or suppress those of different convictions.

Evangelicalism in the USA is now overwhelmingly associated with right-wing politics in the popular imagination. But some historians of the movement point out that in its origins it was an ally of progressive social thought.

Find books now:

US evangelical argues for radical Democrat agenda

-09/08/05

Christian social activist and progressive evangelical Jim Wallis is calling on the Democrat Party in the USA to renew its social and political vision, in order to help break the stranglehold of the religious right on moral values.

Writing in the influential New York Times last week, Wallis, who is editor of Sojourners magazine and founder of Call to Renewal, outlines five policy areas which he believes can create a genuine alternative in American politics.

Wallis has been named by Time magazine as one of the most influential US religious leaders. His latest book, God's Politics, is a best seller, confounding the notion that faith in the USA is a right-wing preserve.

Subtitled 'why the right gets it wrong and why the left doesn't get it', the book is a call for a Gospel-based activism which bypasses the shrill partisanship of the religious right, while also questioning the anti-religious instincts of the left.

Sojourners is part of a growing trend towards radical Christian thinking which says that faith has a legitimate role in political debate - but argues for ground-up influence instead of top-down domination. It is also willing to work with secular allies.

In his NYT article, Jim Wallis writes: 'Because the Republicans, with the help of the religious right, have captured the language of values and religion (narrowly conceived as only abortion and gay marriage), the Democrats have also been asking how to ëtake back the faith.''

But he says that in order to be meaningful, this has to mean 'far more than throwing a few Bible verses into policy discussions, offering candidates some good lines from famous hymns, or teaching them how to clap at the right times in black churches.'

Wallis goes on: 'Democrats need to focus on the content of religious convictions and the values that underlie them.'

His five suggested areas for reframing policy concern tackling domestic and global poverty, ecology ('stewardship of God's creation'), a social approach to reducing abortion, combining family values with a civil rights agenda, and moving from militarism to internationalism in foreign policy.

According to Wallis, 'Democrats need new policies to offer the 36 million Americans, including 13 million children, who live below the poverty line, as well as the 9.8 million families one recent study identified as ëworking hard but falling short.''

On the environment he points out that the US National Association of Evangelicals recently called global warming a faith issue, but Republicans consistently choose oil and gas interests over a cleaner world.

Regarding abortion, one of the issues which has most divided religious voters from the left, Wallis argues for an approach which will create 'common ground' again.

He says: 'Democrats need to think past catchphrases, like ëa woman's right to choose,' or the alternative, ësafe, legal and rare.' More than one million abortions are performed every year in this country. The Democrats should set forth proposals that aim to reduce that number by at least half. Such a campaign could emphasize adoption reform, health care, and child care; combating teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse; improving poor and working women's incomes; and supporting reasonable restrictions on abortion, like parental notification for minors (with necessary legal protections against parental abuse).'

Wallis also claims that support for hard-pressed families is not in opposition to a civil rights agenda for lesbians and gays, even if religious opinion remains divided on the moral issue of gay relationships.

Lastly, the evangelical leader declares that in an age of terror, 'the safety of the United States depends on the credibility of its international leadership. We can secure that credibility in Iraq only when we renounce any claim to oil or future military bases.'

He also says that international institutions need to be strengthened, not abandoned. This includes 'creating a real International Criminal Court with an enforcement body, for example, as well as an international force capable of intervening in places like Darfur.'

Finally, Wallis argues that 'stronger American leadership in reducing global poverty would also go a long way toward improving the country's image around the world.' This is another point on which both secular and religious voters can unite.

Unlike the religious right, the religious left accepts the separation of church and state in the USA as a good thing. It argues that religious convictions have a role to play in plural political debate, but opposes using these to silence, bully or suppress those of different convictions.

Evangelicalism in the USA is now overwhelmingly associated with right-wing politics in the popular imagination. But some historians of the movement point out that in its origins it was an ally of progressive social thought.

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