July 17, 2005

The Dallas Morning News on Progressive Christians

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:17 pm

Welcome to readers of the Dallas Morning News — please enjoy my humble blog, and check out some of the other blogs and organizations listed on the sidebar on the right.

For those of you not coming here by way of the Dallas Morning News, here’s an excerpt from an article in today’s paper:

Progressive Christians speaking up

02:52 PM CDT on Sunday, July 17, 2005

By COLLEEN McCAIN NELSON / The Dallas Morning News When pundits dubbed conservative Christians “values voters” last year, churchgoers on the losing side took notice – and offense.

“Those of us on the left looked at each other and said, ‘We’re values voters. We love Jesus Christ,’ ” said the Rev. Tim Simpson, a Florida minister.

Now, like-minded Christians are getting organized.

They are preaching tolerance and a focus on helping the poor. And they want conservatives to know it’s possible to believe in abortion rights, gay rights and God. Long outgunned by the religious right’s political machine, progressives are proclaiming that fundamentalism isn’t the only brand of Christianity, with new grass-roots groups and Web sites such as www.iamachristiantoo.org.

By the way, Tim Simpson, mentioned in the article, blogs at Public Theologian, and is one of the founders of the Christian Alliance for Progress, both sites worth checking out.

Thanks to Collen McCain for running with this story and doing a very nice job with it. We progressive Christian bloggers have long been hoping to get the media’s attention so that we can end the monopoly of a minority of Christian leaders that presume to speak for all of us.

After all, I am a Christian too.


  1. Hi Bob:

    Yes, the article was excellent–you can see why that paper has won so many awards for its coverage of religion. Congrats on the link to your blog–Colleen is right, you are an important voice in this Movement we are building!


    Comment by FP — July 18, 2005 @ 5:11 am

  2. Congratulations Bob!!! Keep up the great work.

    Comment by Tony — July 18, 2005 @ 10:16 am

  3. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more from the progressive
    Christian community. The religious right has gotten away with
    defining the terms of the debate for too long, and I think the
    progressives are finally speaking out. Stay tuned!

    Comment by wildwest — July 18, 2005 @ 11:06 am

  4. Progressive Christians don’t just divide along political lines. Many of us find something to disagree with in both Republican and Democratic platforms and refuse to align ourselves uncritically with either.

    For example, I’m a Democrat and will remain so, but I disagree with my party’s stance on abortion, and I hope they will become open to moderation of that stance.


    Comment by Meg — July 18, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  5. Meg… good point. I too struggle with abortion. I am not in favor of abortion as a form
    of birth control or simple “problem solver”, and at the same time I am against government
    dictating “morality”.
    Hey Bob… how about a post on the role of government as the keeper of the “keys of the morals.”

    Comment by Tony — July 19, 2005 @ 7:01 am

  6. Better, in my view, to have a few safe, legal abortions than to
    have many back-alley abortions. Better to have adequate education
    on safe sex and birth control than a million unwanted pregnancies.
    I sympathize with you, Meg, but there are more than two positions
    on some of these issues.

    Comment by wildwest — July 19, 2005 @ 8:18 am

  7. Abortion, of course, is a complicated issue. Right-to-Life hardliners
    are like pacifists. The idea is a good one on the face of it, but
    hard questions begged to be asked. Would you rather kill one gunman
    to save your family than to sacrifice your family to the gunman? (In
    case you’re wondering, I am NOT putting the Iraq invasion in that
    category.) Would you rather abortion be illegal under all circumstances
    than actually have fewer abortions being performed? If the choice
    is between safe, legal and rare abortions and millions of back-alley
    coat-hanger abortions, is it really a toss-up?

    Comment by wildwest — July 19, 2005 @ 8:29 am

  8. Why not put Iraq in that category? How many people died under a dictator? How many more
    people died in an attempt to save people from the dictator?

    Comment by Tony — July 19, 2005 @ 9:09 am

  9. It violated the just war doctrine.

    Comment by wildwest — July 19, 2005 @ 10:42 am

  10. Yes, abortion is a much more complicated issue than folks make it out to be. From a purely moral point of view, I don’t think it’s ever right to kill a preborn infant. From a pragmatic political point of view–and really a moral point of view too in a sense, I think a lot of preborn children are being sacrificed on the altar of policy purism. If we worked for serious restrictions on abortion rather than all-out abolition, the number of abortions might actually go down.

    Incidentally, I think this is in a different category from other “legislating morality” issues. If the preborn infant is a human being, then my stance in the infant’s favor is a matter of protecting my neighbor who is not capable of self-protection. The “don’t legislate morality” argument actually plays into the hands of the religious right. When I say we should ensure health coverage for all Americans, I am saying that we should pass legislation to do the morally right thing of caring for the sick. Poverty, war, lack of health care–all are moral issues that we oughta have legislation about!

    Forgive me for any typing errors–I can’t see what I’m typing on the right side of this screen because it’s hidden behind the blog roll.

    Meg, pacifist

    Comment by Meg — July 19, 2005 @ 7:10 pm

  11. Sorry, let me clarify. I said, “If we worked for serious restrictions on abortion rather than all-out abolition, the number of abortions might actually go down.” I should add–might actually go down far more than it has while people have been pursuing an all-or-nothing solution.


    Comment by Meg — July 19, 2005 @ 7:11 pm

  12. Its funny that you bring up abortion. I’ve just finished the book Freakonomics, which has some interesting things to say about abortion. I’ve been wanting to post about it, but haven’t had the time…watch for it shortly.

    Meg – sorry about the comment field problem. It only happens with Internet Explorer, apparently. I posted about it a couple months ago, asking how to fix it, and basically the responses said there wasn’t a fix. If you use the Mozilla Firefox browser (a free download at mozilla.org), it works fine.

    Comment by Bob — July 20, 2005 @ 5:38 am

  13. Meg,

    I like what you say about legislating morality. I’m not sure what
    you mean by “the altar of policy purism.”

    Comment by wildwest — July 20, 2005 @ 6:04 am

  14. With abortion, I feel that the answer that is clearest before us is the economic one— ensure that at least no babies will be aborted because of a lack of money to carry, deliver, and raise a child. To be blunt: a blank check.

    Would this be abused? Well, if we consider convenience-abortion to be even worse than welfare abuse, why wouldn’t we accept this risk? It’s only money, after all.

    Comment by Ringsabre — July 20, 2005 @ 11:30 am

  15. By policy purity I mean the refusal to give an inch–and both sides are guilty of it.

    If neither side will compromise on some legislation directly affecting abortion, we won’t be able to seriously reduce the number of abortions. Maybe if the hardliners on both sides would have been willing to come together on a compromise of, say, no abortions after the first trimester, lots of lives would have been saved. Maybe if hardliners could have agreed to a prohibition on partial-birth abortions that included an exception for the life of the mother, that method would have gone out of use.

    As it is, everyone stays firmly planted in their corners, and very little appeal-proof legislation can get passed. And in the meantime, the most pro-death administration in recent history runs amuck.


    Comment by Meg — July 20, 2005 @ 12:11 pm

  16. Meg, I think you’re coming at it wrong. The way to reduce the number of abortions is not to legislate a bunch of restrictions–we’ve been doing that for years, and it doesn’t work; it just throws up a bunch of roadblocks on poor women.

    The way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. That means honest, fact-based sex education and ready access to reproductive health care and contraceptives, including the morning-after pill.

    I’m not talking about policy purity here; I’m talking about women’s lives and cold, hard reality. You speak in distant, abstract terms; like someone who’s never sweated waiting for her period.

    Comment by hamletta — July 20, 2005 @ 11:54 pm

  17. Hamletta:

    Like most women, I’ve sweated!

    It’s not an either-or, it’s a both-and. Absolutely we should work to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. And absolutely we should do everything we can to make it viable for a parents of children they didn’t expect to have to raise them–or to relinquish them to someone more ready to raise them.

    But as far as sweating–if I had been pregnant on one of those occasions, it would have been a harrowing nine months, I’m sure. And the experience would have demanded a lot of me and those close to me. But that’s true of many hard things in life. If I believe that that child kicking me from the inside was already a child, I simply can’t conclude that it would have been OK to make that child stop kicking forever to release me from the trials ahead, no matter how dire. Solutions are needed. Stopping the little one’s kicks forever needn’t be one of them.

    Those who insist that no restrictions should be in place, even on abortions past the point of quickening, politically set the stage for endless Republican hegemony, which, seems to me, is far more devastating to the life chances of women and children than, say, a prohibition on abortions past the first trimester would be.


    Comment by Meg — July 23, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  18. Meg,

    Some Democrats are saying that perhaps Roe should be allowed to be overturned, that there are
    more urgent issues before us. Your last paragraph makes a similar point.

    Now, to what extent is it necessary to challenge the Republicans? And to what extent is it
    necessary to “roll over”? If Roe were to be overturned there would certainly be large
    numbers of back alley abortions and numerous deaths, probably far more than otherwise. Is it
    a necessary sacrifice? There have been far more abortions during the “pro-life” Bush years
    than during the Clinton years (so I heard on Ed Schultz’s program and read in BuzzFlash editorials) .
    What do the “pro-lifers” really want? Fewer abortions? Or just a change in the law on the
    books regardless of the consequences? I think it’s time to seriously raise that question.

    Comment by wildwest — July 24, 2005 @ 1:39 pm

  19. Wildwest:

    Myself as a pro-all-of-lifer–I want life protected, at all stages and in all places. That’s why I’m not a Republican. Most Republican policies are more death-dealing than most Democratic policies.

    If Roe were overturned, the question would go to the states. One of two things are likely to happen there. Democrats will dig in their heals and insist that no restrictions of any kind ever be allowed, and the Republicans will take over state government to add to their three-branch collection of federal prizes. Abortion will be outlawed in all cases, and Republicans will privatize everything and let people eat cake.

    Or Democrats will realize that some restrictions on abortion are perfectly reasonable and desired by the vast majority of the population. Then they’ll have a fighting chance in elections and be able to pursue policies that protect the lives of postborn people.

    My ideal candidate would outlaw abortion but provide very deep supports for families in a number of ways. But my position doesn’t presently exist in either party’s platform.

    Meg, who wasn’t crazy about Clinton because he was too conservative and was put off by Kerry because he was too warlike (but voted for him anyway)

    (Incidentally, the research that showed that abortions had gone up under Bush II turned out to be flawed. The author of the study meant well and carefully designed the study, but numbers that were subsequently released led him to modify his conclusion. They hadn’t gone up under Bush II, but a decline that began under Clinton stalled. As I understand it, though, the general trend is that the number of abortions declines when unemployment declines and goes back up when the economy worsens, but that there can be a delay between the one and the other.)

    Comment by Meg — July 24, 2005 @ 6:24 pm

  20. Oh–as for what pro-preborn-life-only people want: I think the rank and file really do want abortion ended and really do believe that that is the be-all-and-end-all political goal. They are told often to believe this, and they do. I think that many their all-hallowed elected officials, however, really want an unbreakable bloc of votes so they can pursue their dangerous neoconservative agenda.

    I have always been skeptical about whether the Republicans would really go for an overturn of Roe if they could. What would they do without this Single Issue. But now I think they’ll go through with it because they have a new issue to make into a be-all-and-end-all political goal for the rank and file, and because they have the federal government firmly in their grasp and are ready to go after state government. Done kid yourself, the Ahnold phenomenon ain’t just about California.


    Comment by Meg — July 24, 2005 @ 6:31 pm

  21. (Make that “don’t kid yourself” and a few other corrections. Can’t see on the right side of this screen.)

    Comment by Meg — July 24, 2005 @ 6:34 pm

  22. […] to properly supporting global standards. Alas, it has not happened, and I have heard your continued cries of outrage and anguish. So, I’ve tweaked the comments form in the style sh […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » Comment Form Problem Fixed (I Hope) — July 24, 2005 @ 10:24 pm

  23. Meg,

    Now you’re really scaring me, and it ain’t about abortion anymore. It’s about wresting control of the government back from the ideologues who are bent on destroying it. What will it take to get the grown-ups back in control? The kind of control the neocons and the religious right want they may get for a time, but it won’t be sustainable forever. Something will give. I just resist the temptation to engage in any negative fantasies about what form that something will take. I need a morale booster, and Air America Radio seems to be about the best hope we have right now.

    If you want to continue on the subject of abortion, you might want to mosey on down to the Freakonomics column. There’s some interesting discussion going on there.

    Comment by wildwest — July 25, 2005 @ 11:51 am

  24. Wildwest: You write “It’s about wresting control of the government back from the ideologues who are bent on destroying it.”


    And that’s why Democrats need to realize that if they don’t make some movement on the abortion issue, they may as well kiss U.S.-consitutional-government-as-we-know-it good-bye.

    Did you notice the severe erosion in the Democratic Latino vote in 2004, and the beginnings of a parallel erosion in the Democratic black vote? The mistake the Dems have been making is to move opposite these two key constituencies, moving rightward on economics while refusing to budge on the so-called moral issues. We need to reverse those directions to stop the hemorrhage.

    It may seem here that I am obsessed with abortion as the be-all-and-end-all issue. I’m not. To me life is the issue, all of human life, preborn and postborn, all around the world. That’s why I’m a Democrat. But if Democrats keep going only with the never-restrict-abortion-in-any-way orthodoxy, we’re going to have a one-party state where only preborn infants (whose mothers can afford to stay healthy) and extremely wealthy people are deemed to have a life worth protecting.


    Comment by Meg — July 25, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

  25. Bob,

    You are not a Christian. You may think your a Christian. You may be just trying to deceive the sheep. A Christian doesn’t support the murdering of babies, the vile activities of sodomites, the theft of private property, the coveteous of so many in the name of “neediness.”

    The voice you hear is not the voice of Jesus, it is the voice of another.

    Comment by don — July 26, 2005 @ 7:59 am

  26. And Meg,

    You have got to be kidding, “to me life is the issue, all of human life, preborn and postborn, all around the world.” Your position is completely indefensible from Scripture. God mandates no government social programs anywhere. It is the individuals right and responsibility. Associating yourself with the political party of murderers and sodomites, because you say you care about the poor is evil and very bad theology.

    Read your Bible. Repent of your sins and believe the gospel.

    Comment by don — July 26, 2005 @ 8:09 am

  27. Meg,

    Well, your statement has some historical precedence. It seems the Democrats have been strongest in our country’s history when they leaned leftward economically and rightward socially.

    Comment by wildwest — July 26, 2005 @ 9:06 am

  28. No, the Bible doesn’t mention government social programs per se. And it is indeed true that economic welfare is a matter of individual responsibility. Individual employers have the responsibility to ensure that their workers are paid their due. Individual property owners have the responsibility not to move their boundary stones. Individual lenders have the responsibility not demand usurious interest. The question, then, I suppose, is this: If it’s OK for government to act to protect unborn children, is it OK for government to act to protect workers from exploitation by employers, property owners from usurpation of their livelihood by swindlers, and borrowers from the usurious policies of lenders?


    Comment by Meg — August 7, 2005 @ 2:44 pm

  29. don

    you are an idiot.

    Comment by john — February 1, 2006 @ 11:56 am

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