Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century.
After the election Religion News Service asked prominent religious leaders, including some evangelicals, what they wanted from President Obama’s second term. The answers are revealing.
Southern Baptist leader Richard Land cited defending the “sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,” protecting religious liberty for all, defending marriage as the union of man and woman, protecting Israel, fighting sex trafficking and pornography, stimulating economic growth, and immigration reform.
Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez somewhat similarly cited an agenda that “protects life, strengthens the family, protects religious liberty, while globally advocating for religious pluralism, especially in Muslim nations.”
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the Catholic bishops, cited protecting vulnerable human life including the unborn and elderly, supporting religious liberty, affirming marriage and each child’s right to be raised by a mother and father, addressing poverty, and helping immigrants.
(Rev. Leith Anderson, National Association of Evangelicals President)
In contrast, Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), was pretty vague. He merely suggested: “My desire is that President Obama and his administration will bring Americans together in peace without a national crisis and will fulfill the vision of the Old Testament prophet Micah: ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’” Under Anderson’s leadership, NAE has seemingly deemphasized its traditional advocacy for traditional marriage, the unborn and religious liberty. (In fact, Anderson this year declined to endorse his native Minnesota’s referendum upholding marriage as man and woman.) NAE has good positions on those issues but seems to give more attention to liberalized immigration law, nuclear disarmament, and opposing spending limits on federal social welfare and entitlement programs. Indeed, since the election, NAE has already participated in public pronouncements for “immigration reform” and for the “Circle of Protection” against federal spending limits.
The D.C. office of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops has mostly agreed with NAE about the Circle of Protection and immigration reform. But the bishops have prioritized defense of marriage, defense of the unborn and religious liberty because these issues are intrinsic to Christian teaching. Other public policy issues are very important but allow for wider debate on how best to seek a more just society.
Sadly, NAE and some more liberal evangelicals seem to not acknowledge a hierarchy of teachings within traditional Christian teaching. Ignoring this hierarchy leaves them susceptible to whatever political trends are currently blowing through Washington, D.C. at any given time. And it leaves them often sounding like the deflated National Council of Churches, whose president was also quoted in the RNS piece, and which for decades has focused materialistically on government spending and entitlements to the exclusion of deeper Christian truths.Google+