All posts from “August 2011”

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August 31, 2011

Sojourners Passes GLAAD's Advertising Test on GLBT Issues

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is praising Sojourners for passing its test. GLAAD sponsored an advertisement for the Ali Forney Center, a homeless shelter that aids lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) youth. The advertisement was, in part, a test of whether Sojourners would print an ad sponsored by a group like GLAAD.

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In May, Sojourners declined to place an advertisement for Believe Out Loud, an organization that advocates for greater acceptance of LGBT individuals by churches. The video ad featured two women with a child entering a church where they were not welcomed by parishioners.

GLAAD's director of religion, faith, and values Ross Murray approached Sojourners after the Believe Out Loud decision. GLAAD asked if the magazine would be opposed to advertisements by LGBT organizations who focus on one of Sojourners areas of focus and the organization agreed, according to Murray.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis said the magazine declined the Believe Out Loud ad because it did not address one of Sojourners core issues (e.g., poverty or homelessness). Expanding the scope of the social justice mission of the magazine to include LGBT rights was not feasible, Wallis said, because of a lack of consensus on the issue and limited resources.

“Instead, we have taken this opportunity to affirm our commitment to civil rights for gay and lesbian people, and to the call of churches to be loving and welcoming to all people, and promote good and healthy dialogue,” Walis said. “It is our hope that differing viewpoints are not silenced, but are lifted up in a display of Christian, and often interfaith, sisterhood and brotherhood. It is for this reason that we wish to engage first and we typically do not display advertising relating to issues amongst people of faith that have unfortunately, and too often, been reduced to political wedge issues.”

Continue reading Sojourners Passes GLAAD's Advertising Test on GLBT Issues...

August 30, 2011

Blaming Washington for Acts of God

An earthquake. A hurricane. The East Coast is having one tough month.

Princeton political scientists Chris Achen and Larry Bartels say that voters will blame incumbents for many disasters, including shark attacks. For example, counties that are hit with drought are more likely to vote against the president's party.

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The effect is small—just a few percentage points—but real. Achen and Bartels find that incumbents are more likely to be blamed when the disasters are viewed as social or political disasters.

Even those who do not seriously believe God is sending a message with the week's disasters, the back-to-back disasters were fodder for humor at the expense of politicians.

GOP Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said at an event in Florida, “Washington, D.C. You'd think by now they'd get the message. An earthquake, a hurricane, are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can, now it's time for an act of God and we're getting it.”

"Obviously she was saying it in jest," campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart told Talking Points Memo.

Continue reading Blaming Washington for Acts of God...

August 26, 2011

Tea Party and Christian Conservatives: Similar but Not the Same

A diverse set of grassroots conservatives has emerged. Some are social conservatives. Some are not.

Is the tea party just a rebranding of Christian conservatives? Debate over this question is not new, but it has received new fuel recently.

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David Campbell of Notre Dame University and Robert Putnam of Harvard University wrote an August 16 op-ed for the New York Times, reporting on their recent survey that shows that those who like the tea party are not the non-partisan fiscal conservatives described by the movement's leaders. Campbell and Putnam find that the tea party has attracted Republicans—not just any Republicans—social conservatives who want religion to play a greater role in political life.


“The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government,” Campbell and Putnam concluded.


First Things editor R. R. Reno agreed that tea party supporters were religious conservatives. However, he took issue with Campbell and Putnam's conclusion that it was religion, not fiscal issues, that were drawing people to the tea party.


“The religious and social conservatism of the Republican Party intermixes with the fiscal and economic conservatism in all sorts of close and complex ways,” Reno wrote. “But it is willful of Putnam and Campbell to conclude that it’s the religious dimension that constitutes the most salient—and most controversial—dimension.”


Campbell and Putnam are not the first to find a link between the old-fashioned conservative Christian movement and the tea party movement. A link, however, does not mean that the two are the same.


Among the general public, neither the tea party movement nor conservative Christians are well-known. In last year's religion poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 28 percent of registered voters had heard enough about both groups to voice an opinion on them. For the vast majority of Americans, neither is something they have heard of or care about.

Continue reading Tea Party and Christian Conservatives: Similar but Not the Same...

August 24, 2011

VP Joe Biden Stirs Debate on China's One-Child Policy

Vice President Joe Biden in China last weekend prompted renewed controversy over China's one-child policy, in remarks that seemed to condone the government rule.

"Your policy has been one which I fully understand -- I’m not second-guessing -- of one child per family," Biden told a crowd Sunday at Sichuan University, the keynote speech of his four-day trip to China.

Condemnation of Biden's remarks came swiftly from human rights groups and the pro-life sector, as well as from several political leaders. Many perceived Biden's comment as a softening of the U.S. diplomatic stance toward China's policy, which mandates that most families limit themselves to only one child and prioritizes male children above female.


Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called the remark “pandering” on the SBA List blog. “Vice President Biden should be doing much more than second guessing the policy, he should be outright condemning it,” Dannenfelser said.

Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff sought to clarify Biden’s comment in a statement reported by the conservative news site The Daily Caller on Tuesday evening. “The vice president believes [China’s coercive birth limitation policies] practices are repugnant,” she said.

Biden's remarks came in response to a question about U.S. debt. Biden compared the U.S. “baby boom” to China's one-child policy in that both have created an unsustainable problem. "The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people,” Biden explained to the Chinese audience.

“He was arguing against the one-child policy to a Chinese audience,” Barkoff explained in the statement. “[Biden] also pointed out, in China, that the policy is, as a practical matter, unsustainable.”

Continue reading VP Joe Biden Stirs Debate on China's One-Child Policy ...

August 19, 2011

Ron Paul Preaches a Different Kind of Conservative Gospel

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is more than politician. He's a brand. For the past decade he has represented the libertarian movement within the Republican Party, often putting him at odds with hawks and social conservatives. But to win in Iowa, South Carolina, and other early primary states, Paul needs to win over more than fiscal conservatives. Paul’s campaign has been recently repackaging his candidacy for evangelical voters, preaching a new political gospel that may resonate with many evangelicals: to save America you need to change the culture, not replace the politicians.

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Last week, the Family Research Council's Values Bus tour cruised around Iowa with top Republican contenders including Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out of the race), and Rick Santorum. They spoke to crowds about their social conservative credentials. Paul, however, is not that kind of conservative. Other candidates are social conservatives who want public policy to reflect, defend, and promote morality.

Paul, however, has built his brand as a libertarian who wants government to stay out of regulating pornography, prostitution, drugs, gambling, and other vices that excite social conservatives. He preaches a message of liberty, and that often puts him at odds with Christian conservative groups.

However, Paul’s campaign is now reaching out to evangelicals, focusing on how Paul sees libertarianism as reflecting his Christian faith. Senior Paul strategist Doug Wead told Politico that the campaign is actively campaigning to win over evangelical voters.

“The missing link for us, the outreach to evangelicals, which is so key to South Carolina and the south — we’re filling it,” said Wead.

To do this, Paul is talking about his positions using Biblical allusions and references to doctrine. His speech at this year's Faith and Freedom conference illustrates this approach well:

1) Pass the Abortion Litmus Test. Paul begins his talks to evangelicals with a clear statement on his pro-life position. Paul says that life is the one political value higher than liberty. "As an OB doctor, let me tell you,” Paul said, “life does begin at conception."

2) Agree that American Society is Immoral. Paul echoes the social conservative narrative about the change in American society. The problems in American society began in the 1960's with the sexual revolution, the drug culture, and other changes began a decline in morality. Paul's twist, however, is that this is not a reason to enact new laws. Instead, he says that policy reflects morality, so the focus should be on changing the culture, not trying to change society through government.

3) Give Biblical Justifications for Positions. Paul describes his economic views as “biblical economics.” He references Old Testament admonishments against false weights and measures as a reason to go to the gold standard and to get rid of the Federal Reserve. He talks about government as a false idol. He recounts the story of Saul as a lesson against the temptation to want a king—which is an all-powerful government—who will steal young people for war and overtax the people.

Continue reading Ron Paul Preaches a Different Kind of Conservative Gospel...

August 15, 2011

After Pawlenty's Exit: Who Will Win Over Evangelical Republicans?

Tim Pawlenty ended his campaign for the Republican nomination yesterday, the day after Pawlenty ended a distant third in the Ames Straw Poll. The poll is non-binding, but it is an early test of a candidate's campaign strength. Pawlenty's campaign was well-organized, but it did not have the excitement and dedicated following of Rep. Michele Bachmann or Rep. Ron Paul, each of whom finished far above him in the poll.

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The departure of Pawlenty is unlikely to shake up the GOP field, but it does raise the question about evangelicals in the Republican party. Pawlenty was the type of candidate that mainstream evangelical leaders would like. In June, 45 percent of the National Association of Evangelicals leadership said Pawlenty was their top-pick for the GOP candidacy. The next favorite pick—“no preference,” followed by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty has evangelical bona fides. His pastor is Leith Anderson, president of the NAE who officiated Pawlenty's marriage in 1987.

Pawlenty also had the support of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Standing next to Pawlenty at an event at the Iowa State Fair, Huckabee said, “I’m endorsing the principles of people who will stand for a smaller, more efficient government, lower taxes, the sanctity of life. And I wouldn’t be on this stage if this guy didn’t stand for those things.”

Dave Peterson, a political science professor at Iowa State University, told CT that Pawlenty was the only candidate that was acceptable to everyone, but he couldn't inspire enough voters to be a viable candidate.

“Pawlenty's strategy was a decent one in theory,” said Peterson, who was at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday. “His hope was that there would be a deadlock between candidates who were unacceptable to sizable portions of the party. Social conservatives wouldn't trust Romney, more establishment Republicans wouldn't trust Bachman, and lots of folks wouldn't trust Paul.”

Continue reading After Pawlenty's Exit: Who Will Win Over Evangelical Republicans?...

August 12, 2011

Bachmann Asked if She Would be 'Submissive to her Husband'

Was the question at Iowa’s debate last night out-of-bounds?

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In the first Republican presidential debate in Iowa, all of the candidates were asked about their positions on issues and their qualifications, and the topic of marriage came up more than once. Only one candidate, however, was asked about her own marital relationship. The Washington Examiner's Byron York asked Michele Bachmann if she would “be submissive to [her] husband.” York's inquiry has now become its own debate topic: was the question out of bounds?

York framed his question by asking about Bachmann's own statements on submitting to her husband. Bachmann spoke at the Living Word Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, in 2006. Bachmann recounted how she felt God to lead her into law and, eventually, a career in politics.

York asked:

In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained: 'But the Lord said, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband.' As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

Bachmann paused (while many in the audience booed) and then answered:

Thank you for that question, Byron. [laughter in audience] Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. And both he and I...what submission means to us, if that's what your question is, is respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful godly many and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other. We love each other. And I've been so grateful that we've been able to build a home together. We have five wonderful children and 23 foster children. We've built a business together and a life together, and I'm very proud of him.

Continue reading Bachmann Asked if She Would be 'Submissive to her Husband'...

August 8, 2011

Report: Rick Perry to Enter the GOP Presidential Race

Texas Governor Rick Perry will announce this Saturday his official bid for the Republican nomination for president. Politico reports that  Perry “will remove any doubt about his White House intentions” during an upcoming speech at a South Carolina conservative conference.   

Perry’s decision does not come as a surprise. The past few months were marked with the obvious signs of a presidential run: reports that he was meeting with donors, discussing plans with key Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire, and planning an August speech in South Carolina, an early primary state.

But there were also oblique indications. Perry makes his official bid just days after participating in “The Response,” a prayer event in Houston he helped organize. While Perry’s involvement with the 30,000- strong-event was described by some commentators as a “coming out party” for the Texas governor, he remained tight-lipped on his political intentions during the conference, which he described as “apolitical” and “nondenominational.” His remarks and prayer were more veiled than those of others on stage. In fact, nowhere in his prayer did Perry address “Jesus” or “Christ,” preferring instead the more ecumenical “Lord” and “Father.” [full text of his prayer below]

Either way, Perry enters the race with evangelical-Republican bona fides.

It is not clear, however, whether Perry will draw support away from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who has received much of her support from grassroots social conservatives. Polls suggest that, despite his stance as a social conservative, evangelical, and southerner, the Texas governor is more likely to pull most of his votes from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

In a June Rasmussen survey, Romney polled at 33 percent of GOP likely voters. Bachmann was second at 19 percent. A new Rasmussen poll, however, included Perry. Perry received 18 percent support while Romney's support dropped to 22 percent, and Bachmann's numbers remained relatively static at 16 percent. Other polls indicate a similar pattern. On average, Romney is polling at around 19 percent compared to Perry and Bachmann, who are each receiving around 13 percent support among Republican voters.

Continue reading Report: Rick Perry to Enter the GOP Presidential Race ...

August 5, 2011

Patriotism God Gap: Is the U.S. the Greatest Country in the World?


New data offers evidence for a patriotism God-gap in America. Evangelicals are most likely to think that the U.S. is the best country in the world, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Those with no religion, however, hold a much less rosy view of the country.


Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine-in-ten say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups.


Four-in-ten Americans agreed that “the U.S. stands above all other countries in the world,” according the Pew Political Typology poll that asked 1,525 Americans about their view of the United States. Evangelicals (52 percent) were the more likely to hold the view that the U.S. stands above other countries. Nearly all of the other evangelicals surveyed said “the U.S. is one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Only 3 percent said they believed there were other countries better than America.

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Continue reading Patriotism God Gap: Is the U.S. the Greatest Country in the World?...

August 3, 2011

Sojourners, FRC Ads Duel over Poverty Programs

Family Research Council (FRC) recently released a new ad, saying that Christian leaders who are trying to protect poverty programs “well-meaning but misguided.” FRC's Faith Family Freedom Fund released radio ads in Ohio and Kentucky in response to a Sojourner-sponsored campaign. Sojourners' ad calls on Christians to join the Circle of Protection, a broad coalition of Christians that wants to reduce the debt without harming programs aimed at helping the poor.

Sojourners' ads hit the airwaves last week, targeting Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The Sojourners ads feature local pastors calling for protection of the poor. The Ohio ad, for example, featured Pastor Nan Erbaugh (Lower Miami Church of the Brethren) who lives in Boehner's district. She said in the ad,

The Book of Proverbs teaches that “where there is no leadership, a nation falls” and “the poor are shunned, while the rich have many friends.” Sadly, Congress has failed to heed these Biblical warnings, and our own Rep. Boehner is risking the health of our economy if America defaults on its debts. All to protect tax cuts for the rich and powerful.

In budget debates, the rich have many political friends and lobbyists. The poor and needy do not. That's why thousands of pastors are joining a Circle of Protection to protect programs that keep the most vulnerable from going without food, shelter, and medicine.

Please join this growing chorus of faithful Americans by telling Representative Boehner not to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. He is responsible to all of us, not just a few at the top. (listen to the Ohio ad)

The FRC countered the Sojourners ads with one of its own. The group said it was “countering an ad campaign by Sojourners opposing necessary cuts to government spending.” The FRC ad featured pastors who said government programs hurt the poor and get in the way of charity. The Ohio ad featured Pastor J.C. Church (Victory in Truth Ministries, Bucyrus, Ohio) and Bishop Harry Jackson (Hope Christian Church, Washington, D.C.):

Continue reading Sojourners, FRC Ads Duel over Poverty Programs...