08-13-2007, 07:53 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Gotta have faith
Gotta have faith
Democrats are trying to bridge the God gap by reaching out to a new breed of "values voters." What they've found just might schok gays and lesbians in more ways than one
By Kerry Eleveld
Some excerpts from deep into the story:
What drives this new brand of Christian voters? Poverty, the environment, prevention of HIV and AIDS, universal health care, and promoting peace are key issues that compel them—issues that have coalesced Democrats for years.
“More and more, the things that are dividing the two parties are economic issues,” says (Tony) Campolo, (an evangelical and former faith adviser to President Bill Clinton) pointing out that over 2,000 verses of Scripture call people to respond to the needs of the poor.
“Jesus made this a major emphasis of discipleship. But Jesus never mentioned the gay issue,” says Campolo. “So there is a sense in which the progressive evangelicals are saying, Shouldn’t we be focused on the thing that really concerned Jesus?
Though Campolo doesn’t support same-sex marriage, he and other red-letter Christians have been contemplating a proposal that many gay Americans might well endorse: separating the civil institution of marriage from the religious blessing. Whether you’re straight or gay, you’re granted the same legal rights; then you find a church to bless your relationship.
“Whenever I say this, people say immediately, ‘But won’t this end up with people who are against gay marriage going to churches that only marry heterosexuals, and gay couples will find churches that are open to homosexual marriages?’ ” says Campolo. “The answer is yes. That’s exactly it. Nobody has to compromise their convictions, and gay couples will have the same opportunity of getting married as heterosexual couples.”
Campolo sees a generational divide developing among evangelicals that parallels the difference in emphasis between old-guard leaders like James Dobson and Gary Bauer and a new brand of leaders like Jim Wallis of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal and Rick Warren, who wrote The Purpose-Driven Life.
Whereas the older disciples of Dobson have been consumed with sexual morality and preserving marriage as a heterosexuals-only institution, these issues do not uniquely motivate many younger evangelicals.
Ben Cressy, who will be a junior this fall at Eastern University in St. David’s, Pa., where Campolo teaches, grew up in a traditionally evangelical household but now describes himself as “evangelical with a small e.” Cressy doesn’t agree with the divisive nature of the movement’s political agenda.
“The way the evangelical movement has been aligned with the right wing and Republican politics, it takes our Christian convictions and kind of tries to manipulate people in our country who don’t necessarily have the same convictions,” he says.
Cressy is “deeply concerned” about inequality and urban poverty. He belongs to a student group called the YACHT Club (Youth Against Complacency and Homelessness Today) that volunteers in inner-city Philadelphia and advocates for better housing and job opportunities for the homeless.
Though he doesn’t affiliate with either political party, the two candidates who have his eye right now are John Edwards, because of his work on poverty, and Sen. Barack Obama. “He is intriguing because his message is one that speaks to everyone—that Americans need to find places of convergence and work from there, which I completely agree with,” Cressy says of Obama. “I can’t point to a time in my life when I’ve heard a politician talking about anything like that.”
As for gay issues, they’re a top priority in the voting booth for both him and his parents—but for completely different reasons. “They think that if the right to marriage or civil unions is granted across all 50 states that the doors are going to open wide to all sorts of things,” Cressy says, adding that his parents would never vote for a Democrat. “But in a democratic society we have to give everybody equal rights. You can’t take them away from people just because they are in love with someone of the same gender.”
The generational rift has been growing steadily over time, and as always, actions speak louder than words. In March, Dobson and Bauer were part of a group that sent a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals asking the group to muzzle its policy director, the Reverend Richard Cizik, from speaking about global warming. Dobson and Bauer held that environmental concerns only distract from “the great moral issues of our time.” Meanwhile, more than 100 prominent evangelical leaders signed an “Evangelical Climate Initiative” last year as a call to action on the issue.
When you can transform the war and violence in yourself, then you can truly begin to help others find peace. Thich Nhat Hanh