It's Time For Liberals To Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is

Have you ever noticed that liberal will always jump up and down and sing "Hallelujah!" when a conservative "comes around" the their point of view, but scream and holler when a liberal dares to agree with a conservative point of view?

Today's exhibit of the first part of that dichotomy is the column by E.J. Dionne, Jr. of the Washington Post about Sen. Barrack Obama's visit to Saddleback Valley Community Church.

Note: It's always interesting to note the difference between the original title and the title given by the Fish Wrapper. This column was originally titled "Message From A Megachurch", but is titled "An important turn toward the retailing of hope."

Hare's the context: Pastor Rick Warren - author of the hugely popular "The Purpose Driven Life" - put on a conference on AIDS at Saddleback, and invited Sen. Barrack Obama, the current Democratic poster boy, to be a speaker. Many conservative Christians disagreed with the choice, so Dionne sets out to play up that division.

He starts out taking the obligatory shot at Republicans:

When Rick Warren, one of the nation's most popular evangelical pastors, faced down right-wing pressure and invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak at a gathering at his Saddleback Valley Community Church about the AIDS crisis, he sent a signal: A significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine.

So now they're willing to be Democrats? I don't think so.

And just how is this a message about no longer being a cog in the machine? As the LA Times showed, "Bush and the evangelical movement have done more than they get credit for in efforts to stem the disease."

For a quarter-century since the rise of the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition, white evangelical Christians have been widely seen as a Republican preserve. No one did a more comprehensive job of organizing them than President Bush, and he carried the white evangelical vote in 2004 over John Kerry by a ratio of nearly 4 to 1. Many of the most politically active evangelical leaders have insisted that the morally freighted social issues -- abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage -- took priority over all questions.

No, ccontrary to typical liberal beliefs, conservatives just realize that these are not simply political issues - they are issues that are crucial to our well-being as a culture.

Enter Warren, or Pastor Rick, as he likes to be known. Warren is no political liberal. On the contrary, his views on the hot-button issues are reliably conservative, and he has said that members of his sprawling Orange County congregation probably vote overwhelmingly Republican.

But Warren speaks for a new generation of evangelicals who think that harnessing religious faith too closely to electoral politics is bad for religion, and who are broadening the evangelical public agenda to include a concern for global poverty and the scourge of AIDS.

Uh huh. Now there is the perfect example of putting words into somebody else's mouth. Warren hasn't said that. He simply prefers to practice what he calls "social activism". Just because he isn't out front in the political arena in no way means that he thinks the church should stay out of it.

Dionne goes on to play up how Warren stood up to all those old, stodgy right wing conservatives and invite Obama to speak at the conference.

Warren's church issued a statement reaffirming its strong opposition to abortion, but Warren did not back down. Indeed, he seemed to revel in rejecting the old evangelical political model. "I'm a pastor, not a politician," Warren told ABC News. "People always say, 'Rick, are you right wing or left wing?' I say 'I'm for the whole bird.' "

So why is it that it's always good to stand up top conservative Christians, but heaven forbid we stand up to anyone else?

When it came his turn to speak, Obama took on the moral message of evangelical AIDS activists -- and then challenged them.

"Let me say this and let me say this loud and clear: I don't think that we can deny that there is a moral and spiritual component to prevention," he declared. "In too many places . . . the relationship between men and women, between sexuality and spirituality, has broken down and needs to be repaired."

Then Obama got to what "may be the difficult part for some," as he put it, that "abstinence and fidelity, although the ideal, may not always be the reality."

"We're dealing with flesh-and-blood men and women, and not abstractions," Obama said, and "if condoms and potentially things like microbicides can prevent millions of deaths, then they should be made more widely available. . . . I don't accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence."

It may just be me, but that comes across loud and clear as "say the right thing to sound good, but then give the typical liberal line about condoms."

That Obama received a standing ovation suggests that Warren is right to sense that growing numbers of Christians are tired of narrowly partisan politics and share his interest in "the whole bird." In their different spheres, Warren and Obama are both in the business of retailing hope.

So tell me again how this is Christians coming around the liberal point of view, "rejecting the old evangelical political model", and being "treated as a cog in the Republican political machine"? It has been well documented that Republicans and Christians have been the ones doing the most to fight the AIDS crisis. It's already been demonstrated that religious conservatives donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities. Maybe this should be looked at instead as the liberals finally figuring out that evangelicals actually do put their money where their mouth is, and they should follow suit.

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