Evangelical Left potentates are now rallying to Obama’s nomination of pro-abortion rights Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary.
Describing themselves as “top Christian leaders” in their news release, they affirmed Sebelius as part of their ongoing dedication to “finding common ground solutions to reduce the number of abortions in America.” Ostensibly, by expanding the welfare state, Sebelius will reduce overall abortion rates even while the Obama Administration opposes any legal restrictions on abortion, just as Sebelius supposedly did as Kansas’ governor.
The Evangelical Left pro-Sebelius effort was organized by Faith in Public Life, a forum mostly for liberal Protestants. Its website links directly to Catholics for Kathleen Sebelius, whose own manifesto was endorsed by Doug Kmiec and other pro-Obama Catholic luminaries.
Liberal pro-Obama evangelicals face the same conundrum as pro-Obama Catholics, having to argue that politicians who vigorously support abortion rights will still somehow facilitate a reduction in overall abortion rates. Still, the rhetorical enthusiasm for Sebelius from the Evangelical Left seems a little excessive.
“Under Governor Sebelius’ leadership, abortions have decreased in Kansas by 10 percent, adoption funding and incentives have increased, healthcare access for women and families has expanded, prenatal care has become more widely available, and legislation protecting the unborn from crime has become law,” the liberal evangelicals enthused. “Such a record demonstrates a commitment to results rather than rhetoric on life issues.” They further hailed her for having been elected in Kansas by “wide margins in a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one” and for proving that “pro-choice and pro-life leaders can work together to advance a pro-family agenda.”
The evangelical enthusiasts for Sebelius include Florida megachurch pastor and Global Warming alarmist Joel Hunter, Christian ethicist and anti-torture activist David Gushee, Emerging Church leader Brian McLaren, Fuller Seminary functional pacifist and “just peace” advocate Glen Stassen, Evangelicals for Social Action chief Ron Sider, and Episcopal priest and gay rights proponent Randall Balmer, who tenuously clings to an evangelical identification based more on his past than his present.
Sebelius is a “person of deep faith,” the liberal evangelicals emphasized, and she should be defended against attempts to distract from her record of “reducing abortions and supporting women and families in Kansas — and the task that lies ahead of us all: working together to improve health care and reduce the number of abortions in America.”
Beyond just the Sebelius nomination, Rev. Hunter, who insists he is robustly pro-life, has seemingly also run interference for the Obama decision to fund destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. A member of Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Hunter told the Politico that he regretted that the administration had not better educated its defenders before allowing opponents to interpret the stem cell issue. “That would relieve a great deal of the alarm and suspicion that is out there with pro-life groups,” Hunter said, if defenders such as himself had received advance notification. “Overall, there is still a desire to see him in the best light,” Hunter said of his fellow evangelicals. “I think the ones who are screaming bloody murder right now are the ones who may not have been reachable to begin with. But there are a whole lot of us on their e-mail lists — and we have people who want to think the best of the president — but they are getting all this mischaracterization and false information.”
Once a conservative religious activist who mobilized his church against same-sex unions, Hunter briefly acceded to taking over the nearly defunct Christian Coalition in 2006. But the Coalition’s board changed its mind when absorbing that Hunter would focus on Global Warming activism. Climate issues have become a rallying cry among liberal evangelicals. Under the Bush Administration, deriding U.S. interrogation policies as “torture” also became trendy.
David Gushee of Mercer University in Atlanta founded Evangelicals for Human Rights to target Bush’s supposed torture regime. Now Gushee’s group is supporting a “truth commission” to expose the purported crimes of the last administration, similar to the South African initiative to shed light on Apartheid’s atrocities. Glen Stassen of Fuller seminary in Pasadena, California worked with Gushee on his anti-torture [by the U.S.] manifesto, gaining endorsement from the increasingly left-leaning National Association of Evangelicals, in which Rev. Hunter is prominent.
Stassen, who is the son of perennial presidential candidate Harold Stassen, advocates a form of “just peace making” that, while not specifically pacifist, will not admit to the moral acceptability of military force. Somewhat famously, Stassen issued a report during the 2004 election, claiming abortion rates had declined during the Clinton presidency but had risen under Bush. Pro-life groups vigorously contested Stassen’s methodology, which rested on the premise that the largesse of Democratic compassion makes abortion less desired.
Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, is a conventional Big Government liberal who still has steadfastly remained attached to orthodox theology, including the defense of marriage and sanctity of life. His defense of Sebelius is a little more surprising than for some others on the Evangelical Left. But the argument for Sebelius is perhaps no more compromising than support for other pro-abortion rights politicians whom Sider and the Evangelical Left have supported.
McLaren is the chief guru of the “emergent church” movement, which is largely comprised of self-professed “post-modern” evangelicals who incline left politically. Balmer is an academic who has produced PBS documentaries about evangelicals. Now an Episcopal priest in the liberal Diocese of Connecticut, Balmer is a harsh critic of conservative Evangelical hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is a charge that some of those conservative Evangelicals might throw back at the Evangelical Left for compromising its supposedly pro-life convictions. How far that seeming compromise will carry the Evangelical Left during the Obama Administration may surprise liberal and conservative religionists alike.
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