Mudcat Café message #1420099 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #77771   Message #1420099
Posted By: Don Firth
24-Feb-05 - 06:31 PM
Thread Name: BS: The Religious Left
Subject: RE: BS: The Religious Left
Jim, it seems to me that you are construing Jim Wallis's position in particular and the position of liberal Christians in general as being far narrower than they really they are, as if you were describing a panoramic scene by peering at it through a keyhole. Wallis is a good spokesman for the more liberal Christian view, and I would invite those unfamiliar with him to read his writings, starting by checking the Sojourners magazine website HERE, and/or reading his book, and let him speak for himself. Below is a good run-down on where Wallis is coming from in his own words. My apologies for cutting and pasting instead of posting a link, but I received this in an e-mail newsletter and there is no way I can post a link to it.

Don Firth


An open letter to Chuck Colson
by Jim Wallis

On Monday, Feb. 21, Charles Colson, in his daily radio commentary, criticized what he perceived as my message. I'm sending my response in this "open letter."

Dear Chuck,

In your commentary, "Moral Equivalency: The Religious Left Gets It Wrong," you critiqued me as a "leader of the religious left," quoting The New York Times. And you particularly focus on abortion, saying that I consider "all moral issues to be equivalent," and that since I say the Bible talks much more about poverty than abortion, I believe "the religious left is more in tune with the Bible than are conservatives."

As you may know, I'm currently traveling around the country speaking about my new book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. And in all my speaking and media appearances, I say no such thing. What I do say is that there is, in the words of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, a "seamless garment of life" in which all issues that infringe on human life are important.

I challenge Democrats on abortion, and I challenge Republicans on war and poverty. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, I said: "It's important for the Democrats to change the way they talk about a moral issue like abortion, to respect pro-life Democrats, to welcome them in the party, and to talk first about how they are going to be committed to really dramatically reducing unwanted pregnancies - not just retaining the legal option of abortion, which Democrats are going to do, because that's part of their plank." But I also said, "My hope is that Republicans can broaden their conversation about moral values beyond just abortion and gay marriage to poverty and the environment and the ethics of war."

I believe deeply that Christians must seriously be concerned about everything that threatens the lives of people created in the image of God. Abortion is important; war and economic justice are also important.

You also ask your listeners, "Why help the poor if we don't believe all lives are equal in God's sight? If you support ending the life of a child because it will be born into poverty, how can you logically call yourself an advocate for the poor?" The reverse is also true. If you support protecting an unborn life but don't provide the necessary support to the mother and child in poverty after birth, how can you logically call yourself pro-life?

As I told Christianity Today: "Christians can't say, 'All we care about is someone's stance on abortion. I don't care what they do to the economy, to the poor, I don't care what wars they fight, I don't care what they do on human rights.' It's almost like we care about children until they're born and then after that, they're on their own. We're cutting child health care, cutting child care for moms moving out of welfare. No, you can't just care about a child until they're born."

My message to both parties - to both liberals and conservatives - is that protecting life is indeed a seamless garment. Protecting unborn life is important. Opposing unjust wars that take human life is important. And supporting anti-poverty programs that provide adequate support for mothers and children in poverty is important. Neither party gets it right; each has perhaps half of the answer. My message and my challenge are to bring them together.

What I'm saying around the country is that there is a new option for American politics that follows from the prophetic religious tradition. It is "traditional" or "conservative" on issues of family values, sexual integrity, and personal responsibility while being very "progressive," "populist," or even "radical" on issues such as poverty and racial justice. It affirms good stewardship of the earth and its resources, supports gender equality, and is more internationally minded than nationalist - looking first to peacemaking and conflict-resolution when it comes to foreign policy questions. The people it appeals to (many religious, but others not) are very strong on issues such as marriage, raising kids, and individual ethics, but without being "right-wing," reactionary, or mean-spirited, or using any group of people - such as gays and lesbians - as scapegoats. It can be pro-life, pro-family, and pro-feminist all at the same time. It thinks issues of "moral character" are very important, both in a politician's personal life, and in his or her policy choices. Yet it is decidedly pro-poor, pro-racial reconciliation, pro-environment, and critical of purely military solutions.

That's the message that is resonating around the country, Chuck. Not that all issues are "morally equivalent" but that, indeed, as you say, the "first one, the right to life, is non-negotiable." Perhaps the difference between us is that I believe that non-negotiable right continues after birth.