Filtering by Category: Pro Life: In the Womb

  •   Creation Care, Culture Wars, Pro Life: In the Womb, Pro Life: Other   •  

The new evangelicals: A return to the original agenda of Christ

I am one of those evangelicals who, in Professor Marcia Pally’s words, have “left the right.” As a former President-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, I resigned that position and all other positions that would box me into ideologies that were becoming insidiously narrow and negative. As a 64-year-old pastor, I may not yet be representative of my generation or profession in my political openness, but I am one of a growing number of white evangelicals who are making biblically-based decisions on an issue-by-issue basis, in a wider circle of conversations than ever. We are put off by the “hardening of the categories” that is stifling not only intellectually, but also spiritually. Part of this transition is cultural. As Professor Pally pointed out, it is not only a generational shift that naturally declares independence from traditional religious reactions (especially paternalistic ones). The transition is for others a distancing from the institutionalism of the church and the inelasticity of a movement that began as personally charitable but has become dogmatically xenophobic.

The greater part of this change, however, is a generic return to the original agenda of Christ. As the world becomes more complex and less predictable, we are seeing a “back to basics” trend. It is an expansion beyond a preoccupation with the more recent monitoring of sexual matters, to a more ‘whole life’ helpfulness. It is the turn from accusation to compassion, and it is much in keeping with the priorities and example of Jesus. His focus on helping the most vulnerable is also our concern. Thus more and more evangelicals are expanding the definition of pro-life. They are including in a pro-life framework concern with poverty, environmental pollution, AIDS treatment, and more. And issues like abortion are being expanded from focusing on only “in utero” concerns—increasing numbers of evangelicals now see prevention of unwanted pregnancy and support for needy expectant mothers as pro-life.

More evangelicals simply want to live our lives according to our spiritual values—unselfishness, other-centeredness, non-presumptuousness—so that when people see “our good works, they will give glory to our Father in heaven.”

Lastly, practically all sustainable change is relationally based. In an increasingly connected world, an increasing number of evangelicals are developing a broader range of relationships, both interfaith and inter-lifestyle. These make us think twice before we declare those who have different values as adversaries. As we “love our neighbor,” we want to cooperate in ways that express our own values while allowing others to express their own.

Professor Pally has established a masterful and nuanced summary of the change in the evangelical political voice. I hope that we will continue the dialogue.


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  •   Pro Life: In the Womb, Religious Freedom   •  

A Bitter Pill?

Screen Shot 2012-02-10 at 4.07.57 PM Joel Hunter was an unlikely ally of Barack Obama’s in the 2008 election. The Christian evangelical, who leads a mega-church in central Florida, had backed fellow pastor Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary that year. At Obama’s inauguration, Hunter found himself sitting next to Muhammad Ali in the 12th row.

Obama’s outreach to the faithful during the 2008 campaign—unprecedented for a Democratic candidate—paid off. He did 8 percentage points better than 2004 nominee John Kerry had among voters who worship weekly or more, although he lost regular worshippers overall to Republican John McCain. With strong support from minorities, Obama beat McCain by 9 percentage points among Catholics (who favored George W. Bush over Kerry by 5 points in 2004) and made smaller inroads among evangelicals such as Hunter.

Those gains are now in jeopardy, according to Hunter and other religious leaders fuming over the Obama administration’s requirement that church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals, schools, and charities cover birth control in their employee health insurance plans.

“The boundaries of religious freedom and identity are being trespassed,” said Hunter, who still writes weekly devotions for Obama and visited the Oval Office last week; he said he keeps his spiritual guidance separate from any policy recommendations he funnels to the president. “I do think this will have political repercussions in the religious community,” Hunter added. “This has the potential to be a breaking point.”

Obama’s Republican challengers certainly hope so. Newt Gingrich has accused Obama of waging a “war against religion.” Rick Santorum, a devout Catholic who has put issues such as abortion and marriage at the center of his campaign, used his victory speech after the Missouri primary to accuse Obama of steamrolling the First Amendment.

Campaigning earlier this week in Colorado, front-runner Mitt Romney, said sharply, “We must have a president who is willing to protect America’s first right, a right to worship God.”

The issue is potentially advantageous for Romney, a Mormon who once held moderate positions on abortion and gay marriage, because it allows him to align himself with the social conservatives who have resisted his candidacy. (Both Gingrich and Democrats, however, have called Romney a hypocrite on the birth-control issue. As governor of Massachusetts, he enforced a rule requiring Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, after the Legislature overrode his veto of the measure.)

On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner put the dispute at the center of his party’s agenda, taking to the House floor to condemn “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.” He vowed to overturn the provision stemming from Obama’s sweeping health care reform plan. The fight over that legislation has already sorely tested the president’s relationship with religious leaders, who feared that it would allow taxpayer dollars to cover abortion.

To the extent that Republicans succeed in framing the current debate as one over religious liberty, the controversy over the so-called conscience clause could damage Obama at the polls. A perceived threat to religious freedom could pull more-casual churchgoers, who typically lean Democratic, closer to regular churchgoers, who tend to vote Republican, said John Green, a University of Akron political-science professor who specializes in the intersection of religion and politics.

In 2008, exit polls showed that the more frequently white Catholic voters went to church, the less likely they were to favor Obama. He got the votes of only 41 percent of white Catholics who attended church weekly or more; 47 percent of those who attended a few times a month; and 54 percent of those who attended a few times a year or never.

The relationship of religion and politics could influence the outcome of the 2012 election in battleground states with large Catholic communities, including Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Green added. “The real problem for the Obama administration would be if the [birth-control] issue moved some of those less religious Catholics,” Green said. “The issue might also move the regular Mass-attending Catholics to vote even more Republican.”

But if Democrats win the message war and frame the issue as a matter of public policy that involves women’s health and access to contraception, Republicans may find themselves on the losing side of the argument. In a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 52 percent of Catholic voters agreed that employee health plans should cover birth control. The Obama administration is also touting a Guttmacher Institute study that found 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control.

“Obviously, this is not a war against the Catholic Church. I’m Catholic, and I don’t find that there’s a war against me at all,” said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor and a member of one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic families. “This is about women’s health and protecting the rights of all citizens. If Republicans want to fight about contraception being available for women, I think they will be on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of women’s health.”

A Wall Street Journal column this week by three Democratic senators—Jeanne Sheehan of New Hampshire, Barbara Boxer of California, and Patty Murray of Washington—tied critics of Obama’s policy on contraceptive coverage to the decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. A massive public outcry forced the breast-cancer charity to reverse itself. “Once again,” the senators wrote, “they are trying to force their politics on women’s personal health care decisions.”

Young voters, women, and independents helped to elect Obama in 2008. If Republicans overreach on contraception, those voters will help offset any support the president loses from religiously devout voters, who lean Republican anyway. But if the GOP succeeds in wrapping the issue in the mantle of religious liberty, Obama will struggle to rebuild the diverse coalition that put him in the White House.

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  •   Pro Life: In the Womb   •  

Evangelicals: Abortion, Moral Relativism Top Moral Issues List

Screen shot 2010-01-06 at 3.16.05 PM Evangelical leaders have identified the greatest moral issues facing America today and topping the list is abortion. Moral relativism and mistreatment of others followed closely behind.

Evangelical leaders have identified the greatest moral issues facing America today and topping the list is abortion.

"The moral scandal of abortion tops my list…not because murder is worse than other moral evils, but because of the massive numbers of this killing field and intentionality of so many to put self-gratification, greed and political advantage above life itself," said Jeff Farmer of the Open Bible Churches in Des Moines, Iowa.

Abortion, moral relativism and mistreatment of others almost came in a three-way tie as the top concerns among America's evangelical leaders, according to the survey released Monday by the National Association of Evangelicals.

While abortion has traditionally remained a major moral concern, the recent push by Congress for health care reform and the possible coverage of abortions with federal dollars have prompted new opposing efforts and louder voices among prominent evangelical leaders.

Pastors such as Joel C. Hunter from Florida and groups like the Evangelical Church Alliance have released statements urging members of Congress not to violate the sanctity of human life in allowing abortion to be funded by tax dollars.

Following abortion, moral relativism was listed as the second greatest moral issue facing America. NAE board member Ron Carpenter said the problem is "a non-belief in Absolute Truth which permeates every other arena of our society.”

Many of the surveyed evangelical leaders cited the Old Testament passage Judges 17:6 (“every man did that which was right in his own eyes”) as they identified moral relativism as a major concern.

Mistreatment of others was third on the list.

"The greatest moral issue in America today is our blindness and silence to injustices here and around the world," said Sammy Mah, president of World Relief, according to the report on the survey. "Social ills like poverty, malnutrition, homelessness, human trafficking, and so many more are rooted in injustices that must be fought."

Other moral issues named by evangelical leaders included secularization, homosexuality and pornography.

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

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  •   Pro Life: In the Womb   •  

Becoming Completely Pro Life

My goal is to lead Christians in becoming completely pro-life (John 10:10), protecting the vulnerable inside and outside the womb and sharing eternal life with them. We must protect the vulnerable from harm, starting with the baby in the womb (Matthew 18:10). To do this, we must offer a full range of approaches: from personal to legal, from prevention of unintended pregnancies to medical, financial, personal and spiritual support, including options for adoptions in our support for pregnant women. Our ultimate goal encompasses both the eventual elimination of abortion and the demonstration of Christ’s love through our care for mothers and babies (Psalm 127:3). We must also work to protect the vulnerable outside the womb, protecting the most vulnerable (the poor and least insulated) by reducing the disease, displacement and death that comes from pollution (Psalm 72:13). Christians are, also, given the charge of caring for the sick and promoting the full range of healing in this world (John 14:12). From epidemics such as AIDS, to individual sicknesses, to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual disabilities, we are to be agents of His healing and love.

Furthermore, our treatment of all people must take into consideration that they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be treated with respect and dignity. Jesus summarized this in what we now refer to as the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12). We should not use or oppress anyone (Luke 4:18). All people are created equal and can choose their religion (Joshua 24:15), and the way they will live their lives. We must work for human rights and religious freedom for all people.

Because God loves justice, and because we are commanded to live a simple lifestyle of doing justice (Micah 6:8), we must stand against different forms of exploitation, systems of advantage for only particular groups, and discrimination based upon circumstances beyond one’s control. We are blessed in order to help the disadvantaged to advance to the place where they help others (Luke 12:48b).

We are to give to those who cannot help themselves as a matter of immediate compassion and eternal reward (Luke 16:19-25).

As we expand the agenda into other areas of moral importance—caring for vulnerable people outside the womb as well as inside it—we will motivate and mobilize many, like never before. More importantly, we will be obeying God's Word and putting it into practice.

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  •   Pro Life: In the Womb   •  

Faith-Based Office To Expand Its Reach: Goals Will Include Reducing Abortion

By Michelle Boorstein and Kimberly Kindy, Washington Post Staff Writers Friday, February 6, 2009 - President Obama yesterday announced the creation of his faith-based outreach office, expanding its agenda beyond funding social programs to work on policies aimed at strengthening family life and reducing abortion.

Obama's office leaves in place rules that allow faith-based groups receiving federal funding to hire only people of their own faith, but White House aides said the hiring rules would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis when there are complaints and that the Justice Department will provide legal assistance.

Obama's move more fully formalizes the partnerships between the federal government and faith groups that first began under President Bill Clinton and was expanded by President George W. Bush. But where Bush used the faith office primarily for funding programs -- drawing criticism that he was mainly assisting his political supporters -- Obama said he wants to use the office for policy guidance, as well.

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton Washington yesterday, Obama said the goal of the initiative "will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line our Founders wisely drew between church and state."

The president created a 25-member advisory council and named 15 of its members yesterday, including several high-profile evangelicals -- the Rev. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of a Florida megachurch, and the Rev. Frank S. Page, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention -- as well as representatives from secular nonprofits, which largely had little association with Bush's faith-based initiative. The council members are to advise the faith office on policy but will not play a direct role in allocating federal grants. The office will be headed by Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal who worked on religious issues for Obama's campaign.

The office will be more involved in policy planning than it was during the Bush years, White House aides said. They said the top priorities for the office will be interfaith relations, strengthening the role of fathers in society and reducing poverty. The office also will help develop policies aimed at reducing the number of abortions, though no specifics were offered.

Obama kept in place, however, much of the legal structure for the office created through executive orders by Bush. The 11 faith-based offices Bush established in different agencies and a faith liaison in the public outreach office will continue. Paul Monteiro will be the religious liaison in the Office of Public Liaison, the White House said yesterday.

DuBois said the faith-based office will employ about 50 people. Despite speaking on the campaign trail against the Bush administration's approach -- including on hiring and proselytizing -- Obama wants "to create a process to look at this in a way that can withstand scrutiny and takes into account views on all sides," DuBois said in an interview yesterday.

Three members of the advisory council -- Page, the Rev. Jim Wallis and World Vision President Richard Stearns -- have heightened concerns among church-state separatists. The Southern Baptist Convention, which Page led, says that it is discriminatory for the government to prevent its members from sharing their faith with others. And Stearns's organization received funding in the Bush years while saying it should not be forced to hire non-Christians.

Faith-based nonprofits received federal grants totaling more than $10.6 billion during the Bush administration, said members of the former White House staff.

Some religious groups argued at the time that they could use taxpayer-funded program to help people out of poverty and addiction by teaching them about God and salvation. And yesterday, some advocates of church-state separation said Obama should not have left the Bush legal structure in place.

"He is expanding the Bush administration's faith-based initiative without putting the most important safeguards in place. The president has created a more powerful office with a greater ability to shovel federal taxpayer dollars to religious groups, but civil rights protections are being deferred for later study and decisions," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ira C. Lupu, a George Washington University law professor who has written on White House faith-based initiatives, said it was wise for Obama not to move too fast. As a candidate, Obama "hadn't looked at the issue carefully," Lupu said. "I think as a first move, handing it to lawyers is good. But it doesn't avoid that he'll have to deal with this eventually."

Staff writer Jacqueline L. Salmon contributed to this report.

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