Over recent weeks, we've witnessed the greatestresurgence of religion in public life since theemergence of the Moral Majority in the 1980s. Butthis time it comes, not from conservative Christians,but from Senator Joe Lieberman--Democraticcandidate for vice president.Now I for one welcome Senator Lieberman's talkingopenly about his faith, praying in public, quotingScripture, and calling America back to its Judeo-Christian roots. We can do nothing but applaud,though we do note the very obvious irony that aJewish candidate can say things for which born-againChristians would be--and have been--vilified.The press, however, is beginning to put aninteresting twist on all this. Last week, writing inThe New York Times, Eleanor Brown, a fellow of theNew American Foundation, enthused that Lieberman isreviving the religious left--which is, of course,in her mind, superior to the religious right. Thereligious right, she says, has a "particular set ofdogmatic political opinions," uses "strong-armtactics," and is unwilling to entertain debate on ourpolitical views. (Those are her words.)Then she chastises us for our position on abortionand "wonders what Christianity has to do" with thingslike supply-side economics. She paints a dark andsinister picture of the religious right, but thereligious left is all good--a potent force, shesays, in the abolition of slavery, labor reform, andthe civil rights movement. Whoa! I'm afraid this is acase of shaping the facts to fit the argument.The first great campaigner for abolition was WilliamWilberforce, a committed evangelical and disciple ofJohn Wesley. In this country, the majority ofabolitionists were evangelicals, including the greatevangelist Charles Finney.The labor reforms of the 19th century werebegun because of John Wesley's preaching and thepolitical leadership of the evangelical LordShaftesbury. Remember, too, it was William Booth,another evangelical, who cleaned up the slums of EastLondon and founded The Salvation Army, an evangelicalmovement to this day.As scholar Gertrude Himmelfarb and others havedocumented, the great social movements of the19th century were carried out by conservativeChristians. As for Ms. Brown's second point, thatevangelical Christians are hung up on the abortionquestion--indeed we are. The sanctity and dignity ofhuman life is the same exact moral issue that causedus to fight slavery, to demand human rights forworkers; and the same convictions that causedevangelicals and Roman Catholics to stand against theforces of Communism and be persecuted for theirfaith.The New York Times may not like it, but the evidenceis that the big, bad religious right has been theprimary force for social good--and this issomething you should point out to your neighbors.In any event, I hope Ms. Brown is right aboutLieberman's reviving the religious left.I lead a movement of 50,000 volunteers working inprisons and inner cities across America and in 88other countries. Our volunteers are conservativeChristians, but we would surely welcome volunteersfrom this newly aroused religious left. They can comejoin with us and work alongside the evangelicals whohave been doing the job all along.
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