- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

America’s top evangelical Christian organization yesterday released an ambitious plan to influence public policy, to be sent to every member of Congress.

According to “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” Christians have a duty “to help shape the actions of the world’s lone superpower,” especially in “this moment of opportunity” after the 2004 election.

The document was published by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Seventy-eight percent of white evangelicals voted for President Bush in the past election. Evangelicals number about 65 million, or 23 percent of the U.S. population.

Not only should evangelicals keep to their traditional stances on abortion and marriage and on family issues, the document stated, but they need to do more regarding the poor, the environment, refugee resettlement, disaster and AIDS relief, and need to work against sexual trafficking, prison rape, slavery and human rights abuses.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and Orthodox Jew, spoke briefly to the group about global warming, and quoted the Bible — Psalms and a verse in 1 Corinthians, a New Testament book — in his speech.

He also called global warming “a moral issue which causes us to exercise moral leadership before the worst consequences are seen.”

However, “global warming” is not mentioned in the NAE document, which spells out evangelical concerns only in generalizations.

Eighty-seven Christian leaders signed the document, although some said privately at the meeting they feared politicians could morph environmental concerns into population-control legislation.

“I don’t want to be a grouchy evangelical,” said one of the 153 evangelical leaders who attended the statement’s release at the Hart Senate Office building. “But over 25 years, I’ve seen us getting co-opted over and over again.”

America’s evangelicals were “by far the single most potent voting bloc in the electorate last year,” according to a “Trends 2005” background report by the Pew Research Center.

The NAE, which represents 30 million evangelicals in 45,000 churches, also distributed “Toward an Evangelical Public Policy,” a 375-page book that spells out a biblical basis for political involvement.

“This is the beginning of serious communal evangelical reflection on public policy,” said Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and co-editor of the book.

Despite long-standing differences on political issues, “I believe it’s possible for evangelical Christians to expand their agreement and enlarge their political impact,” Mr. Sider said.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and a Roman Catholic, urged that more evangelicals take on less-popular causes, such as prison reform and “genocide” in Sudan.

“Friends tell me you can’t build a nationwide constituency for what’s happening in Africa,” he said. “But what more noble thing is it to do than break the chains of the oppressed?”

The rest of the world copies what happens in the United States, he said, adding, “If we get the basics right, we’ll have a magnification around the world.”

In an effort to forge ties with black evangelicals, the NAE had three on the speaker’s platform, including Barbara Williams-Skinner, president of the Skinner Leadership Institute in Tracy’s Landing, Md., who chided the group for not doing enough to combat racism.

“It was not evangelical Christians who stood next to Martin Luther King,” said Mrs. Skinner, who identified herself as a “pro-life Democrat” and a former top staffer with the Congressional Black Caucus.

“If we think 100 million Christians, with their spotty commitment to social justice will take their commitment to pro-life issues and the sanctity of marriage and translate that to other issues, I don’t think so.”

NAE President Ted Haggard, who followed her, quickly agreed.

“We made a mistake by not standing with Martin Luther King,” he said.

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