Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about the past week.
Groups Emphasize Government Debt, Economy
Most pundits have concluded that this year, the key issue will not be social issues but the economy. This week, family groups appeared to join the conversation.
When CitizenLink's readers receive their October magazine, they will find the focus is not on abortion or gay rights. The topic was the recession, government spending, and the debt.
For the cover story, Citizen's staff wrote, "Much of the grassroots attention has been rightly focused on the dismal economic picture, especially a national debt that has ballooned beyond most people's ability to comprehend it. Increasingly, that debt—and the burden that it places on Americans' children and grandchildren—is being recognized as a family issue."
On its weekly webcast, CitizenLink's Tom Minnery said some conservatives had plans that would reverse the policies of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, but he was not completely confident that Republicans would do much better.
"The problem is that the Republicans seem to do best in this kind of atmosphere when they're opposing what the Democrats are doing," said Minnery. "When the Republicans are in control, as they [were from] 2000 to 2006, they didn't grab hold of the problems in the country and set us on a new direction. It was only when the Democrats came in and tried this government-centric way of spending and borrowing in order to stimulate the economy—and it hasn't worked—now the Republicans are coming up with stuff. Now it's good, but we've got to do something about this to get on a different track."
Pat Robertson shared a similar concern, comparing current spending policies to "an infection" that may be too late to treat. But he also questioned Republicans' ability to do better.
"Will [the Republicans] be big spenders like they were under Bush? They might," Robertson said on Christian Broadcasting Network. "So, we're just asking for fiscal restraint and moderation and some adults in power."
American Family Association's (AFA) Elijah Friedeman was more optimistic about Republicans on the group's blog. "The main gripe from the general public about Congressional Republicans is that they're not offering any ideas. Well, even if Republicans weren't offering any ideas, it would be better than what we have now. But Republicans are offering up ideas, Democrats are just ignoring them," said Friedeman.
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins also objected to President Obama's economic policy. He took aim at the President's new proposals for "more government spending on visible, but questionable, infrastructure projects" and what Perkins called "a $3.8 trillion tax increase on Americans" (which would result if all of the Bush-era tax cuts are not renewed by the end of the year).
"As our economy continues to falter, and mounting evidence shows the President and the Democratic Party's spendaholism is causing more damage than relief, permanently extending tax cuts just might be the stability many families need to get through the current tough times," said Perkins.
Perkins called for people to "sign our petition to stop President Obama's 2011 tax hike." The petition, however, only tangentially addresses the tax change. The petition calls on Congress to make permanent the Child Tax Credit and to increase the credit from $1,000 per child to $5,000 per child for all families (there currently is an income cap of $110,000 for married couples).
Chuck Colson, however, was wary of focusing on the economy. "The Republican leaders, you see, are so confident they can sweep back to power by focusing only on economic issues, that they are ready to promote an election agenda that ignores the party's historical commitment to life, marriage, and religious liberty," said Colson.
He said there is a link between morality and economics. "Greed, imprudent spending by individuals and by government, debt, all of these things brought our economy to where we are today," said Colson. "Our economic collapse is the result of our moral and ethical collapse."
Activists Object to Qur'an Burning
Bryan Fischer of the AFA has advocated for the removal of Muslim immigrants and for a ban on any new mosques in America, but even he objects to plans by Terry Jones and his Gainesville, Florida, church to hold "International Burn a Koran Day."
"It's not something I would do were I still in the pastorate, and not something I recommend," Fischer said.
For some activists, the controversy raised other concerns.
"This guy is looking for attention. He's looking for publicity. He's got maybe 50 members of his church, and suddenly he's got a worldwide furor," said Pat Robertson. "I think it's horrible what this guy is doing."
Many activists suggested the planned burning was antithetical to Christ's call to love others. Sojourners president Jim Wallis said the burning would be "a sacrilegious slap in the face of Jesus Christ."
"If Jones and his followers go through with their plans to burn the Quran they might as well burn some Bibles too, because they are already destroying the teachings of Jesus," said Wallis. "Jesus called his followers to be peacemakers, and to love not only their neighbors but even their enemies; instead Jones and his church have decided to become agents for conflict and division."
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) objected to the event when it was first announced in July, and it reiterated its denunciation this week. In a statement, the NAE said it "encourages increased understanding between those of different faiths and backgrounds, and it laments efforts, such as the proposed Qur'an burnings, that work against a just and peaceful society."
NAE president Leith Anderson said, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. Burning the Qur'an is bad news."
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told CBS's The Early Show Thursday, "What would Jesus do? Jesus would never do this. This is odious. This is absolutely beyond the pale. It doesn't follow the golden rule, doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus in any way, shape, or form. And he's being urged by Christians from all spectrums and other religious leaders not to do this."
"I find Jones's plan to burn the Koran foolish and contemptible. It poses dangers Jones has either overlooked or chooses to ignore," said Chuck Colson of BreakPoint. "Part of a Christian worldview is the ability to articulate what we believe and why we believe it in the face of competing worldviews like Islam. But we detract from our witness if we allow anything except the Gospel to offend our unsaved neighbors."
Traditional Values Coalition executive director Andrea Lafferty said the burning was a "cheap stunt." However, she also took aim at "opportunistic liberal clergy."
"I also condemn liberal clergy who spoke at a press conference today and complained about 'hate and intolerance' and tried to project this book-burning stunt onto all of America. They warned that 'silence' was somehow immoral. I think 'silence' is probably the cure for this sort of shameless manipulation," said Lafferty.
AFA's Fischer said the issue also suggested a double-standard. "So far the ACLU, which will defend anybody, anywhere, at anytime who puts a torch to the American flag, has been conspicuously silent in defending Rev. Jones' right to free expression," said Fischer. In fact, the ACLU of Florida took a stance in an op-ed in the Gainesville Sun. It supported the right of the church to burn the Qur'an and the right of people to protest in opposition.
Odds and Ends
• Family Research Council denounced a federal judge's decision to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on openly gay military members, saying that it violates the Constitution. The group also criticized the U.S. Court of Appeals' decision to allow the Obama administration to continue funding embryonic stem-cell research after Department of Justice appeals Judge Royce Lamberth barred it.
• FRC is finalizing the lineup for its annual Values Voter Summit. The latest marquee name to join the event is Newt Gingrich. He joins other conservative leaders such as Bill Bennett, Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, and Mitt Romney. Sarah Palin was invited, but is not attending. The event will also feature less political names, including the Duggar family of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting and actor Robert Davi, whose movies include the James Bond License to Kill (1989) and Showgirls (1995).
• The AFA is continuing its boycott of Home Depot and posted more pictures of Home Depot workers at Gay Pride events. "The Home Depot is committed to promoting the homosexual agenda," said the AFA. "It is also committed to supporting groups that are pushing for homosexual marriage."
• Faith in Public Life held a news conference on the Park51 Islamic Center and mosque near Ground Zero. David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP) said, "We seem to be in a fight over what 9/11 is to mean in this country over the long term. We should remember that in the aftermath of 9/11, America came together in a show of unity and cooperation. Let's hold our political leaders, and ourselves, accountable for returning to that spirit. 9/11 cannot be taken to mean a permanent state of fear, anger, and grief, nor the directing of all of that at our fellow Muslims." The NEP responded to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's call for "a global movement to heal relations and bring peace."NEP released a statement saying"We accept your invitation to make Cordoba House a symbol of reconciliation—over against the violence of 9/11, and over against all who would use 9/11 to foster religious conflict. We will personally contact you today to talk about ways in which we can be directly involved in the development of the interfaith peacemaking efforts of Cordoba House. We support your project. You are in our prayers during this very difficult time."
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