The Evangelical Agenda for Bush's Second Term
An evangelical activist says marriage, poverty, life issues, peace, and the environment should top Christians' list.
BY: Interview with Ron Sider
Many conservative evangelical Christians in America have taken President Bush's reelection as a mandate to push an agenda that includes an amendment banning gay marriage, nominating a certain type of Supreme Court judge, encouraging prayer or religious displays in public places, and that sort of thing. What do you think of the "values vote," and what should the evangelical agenda be now?
It's important to acknowledge that a very significant number of American voters cared deeply about questions like the sanctity of human life and the meaning of marriage, and related kinds of questions.
At the same time, one needs to be careful not to overstate that. The way the question about values was asked in the exit polling was too broad to be very precise.
My second comment is that Evangelicals for Social Action, my organization, has long argued that if you're going to be significantly Christian in your politics, you have to ask, what's the balance of things that biblical faith tells us God cares about? It's pretty clear that God cares very much about the sanctity of human life, but also very much about the poor, and economic justice for everyone. God cares very much about the family, but also about racial justice and creation care.
Meaning environmental stewardship?
The recent National Association of Evangelicals document
For the Health of the Nation
is now the official policy for the NAE, which represents 30 million Americans. That document explicitly says that while individual persons and organizations are at times called by God to concentrate on one or two issues, faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically-balanced agenda.
That means that we need to urge President Bush to make overcoming poverty a more central agenda in the next four years.
Given limited time and resources, if you had to choose the top three priorities for evangelicals right now on that list, what would they be?
Precisely that kind of question gets one into trouble. It's not good enough to say, this one is far more important than all of the others. If you let me choose five... (Laughs)
OK, I'll take five.
I would say that renewing wholesome, stable, two-parent families is absolutely crucial.
So fighting gay marriage should be an evangelical priority.
Absolutely. That's one part of it, but the issue is vastly bigger than that. Over 95% percent of American families are heterosexual. So if the family's in trouble, and it surely is, it's overwhelmingly in trouble because heterosexual Americans, including vast numbers of evangelicals, are not keeping their marriage vows.
The place to start is for heterosexual Christians to be faithful parents and spouses.