OK, we liberals are spooked by ‘Jesus Freaks’. We don’t want them passing a Constitutional amendment telling us who we can marry. We don’t want them teaching our kids Creationism. We don’t want them mandating that we just have to have that baby.
In short, we don’t want to have anything to do with these fringy lunatics of the religious right.
Well, no so fast. Hang on a minute.
Would you be surprised to discover that you have a lot more samenesses than differences with Christian evangelicals?
Well, so was I. Until I covered a telephone news conference last week sponsored by an evangelist group called Faith in Public Life.
The purpose of the conference call was to challenge President Bush to use his State of the Union speech to salvage his legacy by “changing course on the most pressing moral issues of our time.”
They must be talking about abortion, stem cell research, school prayer, gay marriage – those so-called ‘values issues’, I thought.
Here’s some of what we reporters heard:
First, the participants – some of the best-known names in the evangelical world – called George W. Bush “an explicitly evangelical president” with a “sadly truncated” moral vision.
Then these Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders challenged the president to use his speech to announce major changes in his administration’s policies on war, torture, climate change, and U.S. and international poverty.
They credited Bush for some of his efforts, including his programs to address the HIV-AIDS pandemic in Africa, increasing foreign aid, and his domestic Faith-based Initiative. But it was highly critical of many other Bush Administration policies, particularly the war in Iraq, providing insufficient resources to help millions of Iraqi refugees, seeming indifference to growing poverty in the U.S., the use of torture, and failure to take a leadership position on global climate change.
The group was particularly critical of the president and his team regarding the use of torture as a tool in the war on terrorism. Rev. David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights – did you know there was one? -- said, “In his well-intentioned efforts to protect national security, President Bush and his team over-reached by authorizing and employing torture that certainly qualify and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Noting that “these decisions were made in secret” following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., Gushee said that once abuses such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were revealed, the courts, the media and public opinion forced Bush into “a kind of tactical retreat.” But, he added, Bush “still reserves the right to authorize the CIA to employ a range of secret ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, including waterboarding.”
He criticized the president for threatening to veto pending legislation that would make these practices illegal, and urged him to abandon his objections to using the Army Field Manual as the standard for all interrogations, including those carried out by the CIA.
“It is hard to overstate the devastating effect of this policy on the moral standing of the U.S.,” Gushee said. He added that “euphemizing torture as something else does not make it any less torture.”