All posts from “October 2011”

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October 28, 2011

Question Raised Again: Should Christians Choose Christian Candidates?

This year's Values Voters Summit reignited the question: Should voters base their decisions on the religion of a candidate? Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, said he supported Rick Perry because he is “a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the wake of the controversy, conservative Christians appear split over the question. Chuck Colson said religion should not be a test for a candidate, while Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said evangelicals should prefer a Christian, all else being equal.

In an interview with CNN, Jeffress said, “I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent - to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney.” This position is not new for Jeffress. In 2008, he made similar statements on Romney and called for Christians to vote only for other Christians.

Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen said earlier this week that he considers Mormons to be Christians, continuing the discussion of whether Mormonism is a Christian faith.

FRC's Perkins said he agreed that “all else being equal, a Christian leader is to be preferred over a non-Christian.” In a nationally broadcast radio message, Perkins said, “If voters can consider a candidate's party and that party's platform they can consider a candidate's religion and the tenets of that faith. We should prefer mature, qualified Christians for public office over those who reject the orthodox teachings of Scripture.”

Colson used his radio message to make a counterargument. “I want to say this to every Christian listening to my voice: Let’s stop criticizing candidates for their religious convictions,” Colson said.

Continue reading Question Raised Again: Should Christians Choose Christian Candidates? ...

October 24, 2011

Is Cain Able to Move Past Abortion Controversy? Pat Robertson Says ‘Lay Off’

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain continued to clarify his position on abortion this past weekend. Controversy over Cain’s position began last week when he said he was pro-life in all circumstances but that government should stay out of a woman's decision. With social conservatives asking for clarity, Cain's opponents used the controversty as an opportunity to chip away at Cain's lead in the polls.

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) made the most of Cain controversy during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum on Saturday. Perry emphasized his record on pro-life causes in Texas, giving a thinly veiled attack on Cain.

“Being pro-life is not a matter of campaign convenience; it is a core conviction” Perry said. “It is a liberal canard to say I am personally pro-life, but government should stay out of that decision. If that is your view, you are not pro-life, you are pro-having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too."

After a segment on Cain, Pat Robertson suggested today on The 700 Club that the Republican primary base has to “lay off” forcing their leaders into positions. The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008 but has said he will not endorse a candidate this cycle.

“Now whether this did it to Cain I don’t know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way’ and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt,” he said. “They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!”

Continue reading Is Cain Able to Move Past Abortion Controversy? Pat Robertson Says ‘Lay Off’...

October 21, 2011

Cain Calls His Abortion Position '100% Pro-Life' After Interviews Raise Doubts

Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Wednesday night prompted questions over his stance on abortion law.

While Cain stated he believed life begins at conception, in cases of rape and incest “it ultimately gets down to a choice that that family or that mother has to make.”

He made similar comments last week on the Fox Business Network, telling John Stossel, "I don't think government should make that decision," when asked if there were any cases where abortion should be legal. But in both interviews, Cain reiterated opposition to abortion. "Abortion should not be legal," he told Stossel.

As his comments became one of the day's political talking points, Cain posted a statement on his campaign website calling his public policy views, "100% pro-life. End of story.”

"I understood the thrust of [Morgan's] question to ask whether that I, as president, would simply 'order' people to not seek an abortion," he said. "My answer was focused on the role of the President. The President has no constitutional authority to order any such action by anyone. That was the point I was trying to convey." Cain also said he would appoint judges who "know that the Constitution contains no right to take the life of unborn children," and would oppose government funding of abortion and Planned Parenthood. "I will do everything that a President can do, consistent with his constitutional role, to advance the culture of life," he said.

CT interviewed Cain back in March about his faith and his calling in his presidential aspirations.

October 21, 2011

D.C. Pastor Derrick Harkins to Lead Democrats' Faith Outreach

As President Obama gears up his re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee has tapped a well-connected Washington pastor to lead the party's religious outreach.

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The Rev. Derrick Harkins is senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of Washington's oldest historically black churches, where Obama and his family worshipped right before his inauguration.

Harkins is also a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a nationwide umbrella group, and Faith in Public Life, a liberal strategy center. Earlier this month, Obama hosted NAE leaders at the White House.

"I have every expectation that people of faith will be a key part of a successful election for Democrats in 2012," Harkins said in a statement on Thursday (Oct. 20). The pastor added that he will attempt to engage religious Americans on immigration reform, Obama's new health care law and the role of religion in public life.

Joshua DuBois, who currently directs the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, ran religious outreach for Obama's 2008 campaign and helped him gain a larger percentage of Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants and evangelicals than Sen. John Kerry's 2004 campaign. As a federally commissioned officer, DuBois now is barred from some campaign activities, including fundraising.

Harkins is stepping into a role the DNC left empty during the 2010 midterm campaign, an absence that some party insiders blamed for large swaths of religious voters turning to the GOP.

Burns Strider, one of those critical voices, praised Harkins' appointment on Thursday.

"We fail in our politics and causes when we fail to dialogue with and build relationships in our faith communities," Strider, who led faith outreach for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, said in a statement. "Derrick has a deep and profound understanding and respect for these communities."

Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, said Harkins' hiring "should be a clear sign to everyone that Democrats will be making our case to voters motivated by their faith and values in 2012."

October 19, 2011

GOP Presidential Contenders Face Religious Test Questions at Debate


The question of faith and its influence for determining a presidential candidate came up Tuesday night in a GOP debate that was marked by heated verbal battles.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who are both Roman Catholic, argued that faith says a lot about a candidate.

“It's a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and how you would govern this country,” Santorum said. “With respect to what is the road to salvation, that's a whole different story. That's not applicable to what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.”

Gingrich offered a similar view. “None of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God,” Gingrich said. “But I think all of us would also agree that there's a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry simply said his faith is ingrained. "I can no more remove my faith than I can that I'm the son of a tenant farmer," he said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, faced public resistance to his religion during his 2008 run for the nomination. The issue has only recently haunted his candidacy this cycle, highlighted again with comments made by a Southern Baptist pastor--and Perry supporter--Robert Jeffress’ that ignited a controversy at a summit hosted by the Family Research Council.

Romney argued for tolerance of religion.

“I don't suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would,” Romney told Perry. “[But] the founders of this country went to great length to make sure -- and even put it in the Constitution -- that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there's a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths.”

Continue reading GOP Presidential Contenders Face Religious Test Questions at Debate...

October 13, 2011

Rick Perry's Wife Says Husband Is Being Attacked for Faith

Texas Governor Rick Perry's wife Anita Perry suggested today that her husband is being attacked for his faith during a "rough month."

"We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today," Anita Perry said at North Greenville University in South Carolina. "We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative–well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose."

Anita Perry suggested that her husband's difficulties were a "test." "Last week, someone came up to Rick and gave him the Scripture. He said Rick, I want to tell you God is testing you," she said.

She said Perry relied on prayer when deciding whether or not to enter the GOP race. "He felt like he needed to see that burning bush," she said. "I said he may not see that burning bush but other people are seeing it for you."

Anita Perry also spoke about her trips to church with her grandfather. "My grandfather was the deacon in a Christian church and he made sure I went to Sunday school every Sunday because nothing made him prouder than for me to hear him in his sermon on Sunday," she said.

Texas pastor Robert Jeffress endorsed Perry last week at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington last week. After introducing Perry, he later told reporters he believed Mormonism was a cult, which many reporters saw as the main story out of the summit. Jeffress discussed his views that Christians should not vote for a Mormon candidate during the 2008 election.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, suggested that Perry should disavow Jeffress, but Perry declined, the Associated Press reported. The video of Anita Perry's speech is available below from MSNBC:

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October 10, 2011

FRC's Tony Perkins Downplays Straw Poll After Ron Paul's Victory

This weekend's Values Voters Summit brought together GOP presidential hopefuls with social conservatives, also featuring a presidential straw poll.

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Going into the weekend, the straw poll was expected to be a harbinger of which candidates conservative Christian activists were backing. The winner, however, was not Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, or Rick Santorum. Instead, libertarian-leaning Ron Paul was this year's surprise winner with 37 percent of the 1,983 votes. (Read Christianity Today’s interview with Ron Paul.)

Family Research Council (FRC) president Tony Perkins dismissed the results as ballot stuffing. At a press conference following the vote, Perkins said that 600 people registered Saturday, stayed for Ron Paul's speech, voted, and then left. Ron Paul received 732 votes. “You do the math,” Perkins said.

Straw polls are rarely representative of voters; they measure campaign's ability to organize. To register for the conference, each participant needed to pay $99. Other campaigns would have also mobilized voters to the confab.

Continue reading FRC's Tony Perkins Downplays Straw Poll After Ron Paul's Victory...

October 7, 2011

Sojourners Among Those Occupying Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street began with just a few dozen protesters. Over the past two weeks, the number of protesters has increased, with participants living day and night near Wall Street. On Sunday, 700 protesters were arrested when they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge; another two dozen were arrested Sunday for disorderly conduct. This week, Sojourners joined anti-corporation movement and is looking for God in the midst of the protest.

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Occupy Wall Street may be a momentary political side-show, but it has the potential of becoming the Left’s answer to the tea party. Both are protest movements aimed at changing who holds power in American politics. The tea party took aim at government overreach; Occupy Wall Street points to the power of corporations. The protestors say they are allies of people "wronged by the corporate forces of the world." They are seeking to reduce the power of corporations which, they say, "place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, [and] run our governments."

Tim King, Sojourners communications director, joined the protests. He is sleeping in the park and blogging about his experiences. He said one of his goals is to look for God’s presence amidst the event.

"I believe it’s often easier to find God on the streets than in a sanctuary," King said. "We serve a God who shows up for those in need, and for those who stand with them."

He reported that there are Christians at the event and that many of the protesters are open to religion.

King said, "Many protesters here have had some bad experiences with religion, but it’s clear that they are genuinely open to seeing religion done differently."

Also, like the early tea party protests, Occupy Wall Street is heavy on pointing out the problem (i.e., corporations) rather than articulating a set of policy proposals or goals.

BreakPoint’s John Stonestreet said that the message of the protests is that "things are broken—Wall Street, the environment, society, the list of complaints goes on and on. Their solution? Well, none have been offered." He compared this to BreakPoint’s recent Do the Right Thing movement, which "identifies that the central problem is an ethical collapse."

Columbia University sociology professor Courtney Bender said that media reports have missed the religious dimension of the protests because they are looking for either cooperation from churches and organized religion or focusing on alternative religions.

"This pair of reportorial strategies provides familiar but unhelpful ways to consider the religious dimensions of the occupation. In fact it makes it possible to overlook the varieties of spiritual symbols, performance, actions and discourse—not to mention religious and spiritual networks and communication webs—that energize events in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere," Bender said.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis said the purpose of Occupy Wall Street is still developing, but he is interested in what he has seen so far.

"People’s frustrations, hurts, and feelings of being betrayed by our nation’s politicians and economic leaders are clear. They want to be heard," Wallis said. "There is a lot of speculation as to who the ‘Occupiers’ are and what they might accomplish. There is much I still don’t know about the movement, but undeniably it has caught the imagination of a generation—and that matters."

Wallis encouraged people to help the protesters in New York and in other cities by ordering a pizza or bringing a meal.

He is planning on visiting the New York protests today. "They are carrying on the most interesting conversation going on in that city—or any other—right now. Besides, I love a good potluck or pizza party where people imagine a better world," Wallis said.

October 5, 2011

As Economic Concerns Remain High, Mitt Romney, Others Tackle Abortion

Life ethics issues like abortion have not defined campaign debates so far, with economic issues taking the lead and hot-button topics like Social Security and immigration also taking center stage. In an interview with Mike Huckabee on Fox News, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tackled abortion over the weekend, calling himself “pro-life” and later earning praise from Pat Robertson.

“[It would] be wonderful if everyone in the country agreed with you and me that life begins in conception and that there’s a sanctity of life that’s part of a civilized society and that we’re all going to agree there should not be legal abortion in the nation,” Romney said. “But I don’t think that’s where we are right now. But I do think where the majority of the American people would go is say let the states make the decisions.”

Romney's position on abortion as governor of Massachusetts took a similar stance toward state's rights. As governor, he protected his state's pro-choice laws, pledging he would not impose his views on the majority. However, he also said during his time in office his personal views “evolved and deepened” to become more conservative.

Over the weekend, Romney said he would “absolutely” have supported a a constitutional amendment to establish the definition of the beginning of life as conception, but that it would not have made it past the 85 percent Democratic state legislature.

Romney stopped short of saying he would support such an amendment as president.

“I’d make sure the progress that’s been made to provide for life and to protect human life would not be progress that is reversed,” he said.

He said as president he would specifically appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would “have a conviction to follow the law and not create the law from the bench,” with an eye to reversing Roe v. Wade and returning decisions about the legality of abortion back to the individual states.

The forum appeared to signal a deliberate shift toward addressing socially conservative voters on Romney's part. Agreeing to an interview with Huckabee was an interesting choice for Romney, since his Mormon faith was one point of controversy between the two rivals in 2008.

Continue reading As Economic Concerns Remain High, Mitt Romney, Others Tackle Abortion ...

October 3, 2011

As CBN Turns 50, Pat Robertson Mostly Bows Out of Politics

Marking the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of his Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson said he will no longer make political endorsements.

"When I was in charge of the Christian Coalition I was available to mobilize grassroots support for somebody," Robertson told The Associated Press in an interview. "I don't have any army right now. It's just an opinion, and that isn't quite as good as it used to be."

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Fifty years to the day after his first broadcast on Oct. 1, 1961, Robertson on Saturday recalled his network's humble beginnings in an address to a crowd gathered outside CBN's headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va.

"I came down here to buy a television station and I didn't even own a television set," he said.

Robertson said his first deposit in the network's corporate account was $3.

"You take what God has and you praise him for it," he said. "Now at the end of 50 years, I can look back, and I said it's all God."

Robertson's network now produces programming in dozens of languages across about 200 countries. Robertson ran as a Republican for president in 1988, and later channeled his supporters into the Christian Coalition. His last endorsement was of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the 2008 Republican primaries.

Over the years, Robertson has been criticized for various comments, most recently for suggesting that a man whose wife has Alzheimer's could get divorced to marry another woman. He later said he was "misunderstood" and thinks spouses should support each other during illnesses.