Prior to joining the IRD in 1994, Mark worked eight years for the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a native of Arlington, Virginia. A lifelong United Methodist, he has been active in United Methodist renewal since 1988, when he wrote a study about denominational funding of pro-Marxist groups for his local congregation. He currently attends a United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Tooley became president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) in 2009. He joined IRD in 1994 to found its United Methodist committee (UMAction). He is the author of Taking Back The United Methodist Church, published in 2008, and Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century, published in 2012. His articles about the political witness of America's churches have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The American Spectator, Patheos, Washington Post On Faith, World, Christianity Today, First Things, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, Washington Examiner, Human Events, The Washington Times, The Review of Faith and International Affairs, Touchstone, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post, and elsewhere. He is a frequent commentator on radio and television.
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+