Yes, but will it play in Peoria?
In the wake of a scandalous November, the Christian Coalition says no to broadening its agenda.
It's bad enough that Ted Haggard is no longer president of the NAE, especially after trying to include environmental stewardship amongst the priorities of the association. (If you'll recall, Colson, Dobson and a few others raised enough ruckus to quash the move.) But now Joel Hunter, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition, is stepping down after having his own push to fight poverty and global warming rejected by the Coalition.
Hunter is the pastor of an evangelical megachurch in Longwood, Florida, who recently wrote an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel reflecting on the direction evangelicals should take post-Ted Haggard. He called for an evangelical commitment to all pro-life issues, writing: "We need to be taking care of God's creation, empowering the poor in our own communities and making sure the vulnerable who can't speak for themselves have our voice and vote." Especially pointed words in a Florida where thousands still claim their votes weren't counted in the 2000 election. But the Christian Coalition would have none of it.
Roberta Combs, outgoing president of the Coalition, said, "We're a political organization, and there's a way to do things, like taking a survey of your members and seeing what they need. Joel had a different way of doing things, so he just went out there." Not unlike a certain Jewish carpenter I remember reading about somewhere. Could this be what Christ was doing during those "lost" years? Performing market research and hosting focus groups before he began his public ministry? One can only hope.
All snarkiness aside, the Christian Coalition is no doubt a political organization, more fundamentalist than evangelical, and has every right to pick a president that follows the company line. Maybe the Council's agenda, brought down from the mountain by founder James Dobson, needs to remain narrow in order to properly affect a minority Republican Congress. Or maybe they have a sneaking suspicious that evangelical leaders who care about climate change run the risk of being meth-addicted, closet homosexuals. Whatever the case, it really is a shame that the major evangelical organizations in America are so slow to embrace change in the face of growing concern among their members for social justice and environmental stewardship. According to early reports, one in three white evangelicals voted Democrat this fall. Those numbers ought to say something to the Christian Coalition and the National Association of Evangelicals, namely that evangelicals are not pollitically monolithic, and that their concerns, especially among the young, affluent megachurch community, are not the same as the generation that grew up venerating Jim Dobson.