June 16, 2005

WaPo: Christian Right Moves to Center

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:38 pm

An article in the Washington Post describes the trend of those on the religious left and the religious right looking for common ground and working together.

“For 25 years, evangelicals involved in conservative politics and mainline denominations involved in liberal politics really have been adversaries, both in politics and in the free market of ideas, and that continues because we have very different visions of religion in American public life, and very different views of the Constitution, and very different views on some core issues,” he said.

“But right now on abortion, poverty, gay issues, the environment, there’s a lot of talk about crossing the lines and finding common ground. There are elements of a common vision, but not yet common policy or legislative proposals.”

This is good news. As the religious right has increasingly gotten in bed with the Republican party, the accumulation of political power has seemed more important than doing God’s work. It looks as though at least some conservative Christians are stepping back from the abyss. Of course this trend may fizzle, or may turn out to be several random events rather than a new direction for the religious right. But this is promising.

I am left wondering what has caused this trend. The progressive Christian and Emergent blogosphere has been calling for a move by the Christian right towards the center. Could we be having an impact? As much as I’d like to take credit for these developments, I suspect that the progressive Christian blogs are as much a symptom of over-reaching by the politico-Christian right as they are a cause of any pull back.

This search for common ground has been a central theme of Jim Wallis‘ for some time, and other Evangelicals such as Tony Campolo and Ron Sider have long been calling for change. More recently, Ted Haggard at the NAE and the purpose-driven Rick Warren have embraced issues outside the Big 2 of the Christian right, abortion and gays. As visible Evangelical leaders, they surely are having an impact. But again, are the critiques from these moderating voices a symptom of excesses on the right, or the cause for this movement back to the center?

WaPo puts forward two potential answers to the question of why this is occurring. First, crass politics:

Some observers view all this aisle-crossing mainly as political positioning.

“There’s a kind of pulling back from religious war,” said Mark R. Silk, director of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. “But I don’t think one should overlook the self-interest of both sides, at this moment, in positioning themselves as willing to compromise and work with the other side.”

“On the left, they need to show they have a religious bone in their body. On the right, they have to prove their vaunted values are not limited to one or two hot-button issues,” Silk said. “So count me a little skeptical about how far this ‘crossover’ and ‘convergence’ really goes.”

The second potential cause mentioned by the WaPo article is sincere religious belief:

“I think it’s genuine and real, this engagement of liberals in trying to cut the number of abortions in this country,” he said. “And I think conservatives are sincere when they say, ‘I may be against gay marriage, but the demonization of gays and lesbians is deeply troubling to me,’ or when they say, ‘You can’t look at the Bible without seeing the call to care for the poor.’ ”

Now we’re getting closer to what seems to be an underlying root cause, but not quite there.

So here is a wacky, out-of-the-box idea about why progressive and conservative Christians are looking for common ground. Just brainstorming here about why the left and right would want to work together to ease suffering, reduce unwanted pregnancies, and end anti-gay bigotry. Could this be the work of God’s Holy Spirit?


  1. I am so for the Christian Right to move to the middle, just as I am for the Christian Left to follow suit. I think if both sides more towards the others, with grace and prayer, we will find where God wants us to be.

    Comment by Angel — June 16, 2005 @ 3:37 pm

  2. […] 8:05 pm

    In an otherwise well-written piece, the WaPo article I reference in my previous post contains a sentence that has me confused. In the context of burgeoning cooperation between cons […]

    Pingback by I am a Christian Too » When You Say Evangelical Do You Really Mean Evangelish? — June 16, 2005 @ 8:06 pm

  3. I thought this was going to happen when Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson
    wrote *Blinded by Might* several years ago. It was a great
    book. But the religious right is stronger than ever and Cal
    Thomas’ columns are as bitterly partisan as ever. I’m all for
    causes that bring people together, but I won’t hold my breath on
    this one.

    Comment by wildwest — June 17, 2005 @ 6:22 am

  4. Movement toward the center by both sides should occur…but NOT in response to our culture or political trends. The shift should be in response to what the Bible tells us to do.

    Comment by bobk11 — June 17, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  5. The Bible tells us to love one another.

    Comment by wildwest — June 21, 2005 @ 8:49 am

  6. Who are you to say that the political center is “where God wants us to be”? That is utterly ridiculous. Heb. 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change to suit the political trends of the day.

    You paint the religious right in the same fearful and hateful terms that the MSM does.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 28, 2005 @ 3:30 am

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