Losing Ground
March 15th, 2007 by Sonja

Last week there was a groundswell amongst bloggers and in e-mail about a certain glove that got thrown down between Jim Wallis (leader of Sojourners, a left leaning religio-political organization) and Jim Dobson (leader of Focus on the Family, a right leaning religio-political organization). It seems that Dobson had written a letter calling the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Richard Cizik, to task for widening the list of “great moral issues of our time” to include such issues as global warming. Mr. Dobson (and 24 other evangelical leaders) want to keep that list small and quite manageable. They see that there are three great moral issues of our day and drawing attention to other issues on a national level would be “…. divisive and dangerous.”

More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE’s mandate and its own statement of purpose.

We acknowledge that within the NAE’s membership of thirty million, there are many opinions and perspectives about the warming of the earth. We are not suggesting that our beliefs about it necessarily reflect the majority of our fellow evangelicals. However, we do oppose the efforts of Mr. Cizik and others to speak in a way that is divisive and dangerous.

You can read the text of the entire letter here. As well as Mr. Wallis’ challenge here to a duel … er … debate. At the time that the whole episode broke it made me tired. Mr. Dobson is beginning to sound like a shrewish fishwife. He lists as his primary concern the sanctity of human life. But that only seems to be a facade to get the babies born. If they must live and die young in poverty, disease, and filth … well … so be it. Now the challenge has been made for a debate and both sides will sound shrewish and in the end, what good will have been done?

I’m coming more and more to believe that walking with Jesus means not trying to force my perspective on the masses. I hold my responsibility and right to vote with care and joy. But I am gathering a growing distaste for moralizing and judging in public. To my eye, the issues are too finely nuanced for bumper stickers and soundbites.

Once in a while though, a well-placed challenge is enough. The debate may never happen, and I hope it doesn’t. But in the meantime, the National Association of Evangelicals has chosen to stand with their president in full support of his priorities. Read the CNN article. I think it might be safe to say that Mr. Dobson and his compatriots might be losing some ground. Maybe.

However, the association board not only stood behind Cizik, but also further broadened the group’s agenda with a statement condemning torture, which charged that in pursuing the war on terror, the United States had crossed “boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible.”

But one of the board members, the Rev. Paul de Vries, said, “It ought to be God’s agenda, not the Republican Party’s agenda, that drives us.

“We’re actually tired of being represented by people with a very narrow focus,” he said. “We want to have a focus as big as God’s focus.”

“… A focus as big as God’s focus.”  Yeah.  That seems as good a reason as any to face today with a smile.

4 Responses  
  • jamie writes:
    March 15th, 20079:54 pmat


    Your comment “shrewish fishwife” almost made me wet my pants. I’m ok, now though.

    I just got back from hearing a lecture by N. T. Wright about the church’s role in politics. I’m planning to blog about it, but boy, does it go contrary to what we typically see in the evangelical church.


  • Paul writes:
    March 16th, 20073:17 pmat

    great post – i think in part that is what happens when we dig in on the line and try and defend our position – debate, who’s right, who’s wrong, that won’t help – they’re both right and they’re both wrong…

    still at least i feel more hopefu about evangelical engagement with these issues, i’m glad that both sides agree it is an issue even if they can’t agree about the priority. I’m willing to take that as common ground to build on and agree with you about trying to force people to adopt our particular passions/priorities as their own…

    Just like we need all kinds of different churches for all kinds of different people we need all kind of christians working on different aspects of the bringing out the colours and flavours of the kingdom…

  • Ken writes:
    March 19th, 20077:35 amat

    Great post. I agree that the challenge to a debate accomplished as much (or more) than a debate itself. Moralizing seems to rarely help anyone, respect for others and a willingness to listen seem to be key…


  • Calacirian » Best of 2007 - My Personal Favorites writes:
    January 1st, 20089:24 amat

    […] The Ways of Geese – perspectives on leadership Losing Ground My Vision – for faith communities Shavuot-The Feast of Pentecost the Megillah of Ruth Slice It, […]

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