Jim Archives

Greening the Hood

Leroy Barber, a new friend who is president of the innovative Mission Year program that facilitates the placement of suburban Christians to live and minister in urban comunities, has an interesting take on the importance of healthier environments in urban settings.  See his post on “greening the hood.

In God We Trust, everyone else. . .

In an online poll, even visitors to the MSNBC site want In God We Trust to stay on U.S. currency.  See if the poll is still there.   In these times, who else shall we trust?

Letter from Heaven; Good-bye to Millard Fuller

Yesterday I received a letter from heaven, and while it certainly seemed odd, it was the news that an old friend had died that shocked and saddened me.  I am grieving for the dear wife and family of a truly great man.

Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing, died Feb. 3 at the age of 74.  It appears it was a heart attack, which was a surprise for a razor thin man of drive and energy.   I didn’t see any news stories on his passing; perhaps you didn’t either. 

I had sent Millard a letter about the new ministry we’re involved in called Flourish, an effort to energize Christian churches around the right priorities of creation care.  He received my letter on January 27 and dictated a gracious response (remember when people routinely exchanged letters; how quaint).  His secretary transcribed the letter and mailed it to me on February 5, with the notation: “dictated by Mr. Fuller and transcribed after his death.”

Our firm, Rooftop MediaWorks, worked with Millard and Linda Fuller soon after a late-in-life crisis, when Millard was forced out of his position as the leader of Habitat, the organization he and Linda had begun, by the board he had chosen.  [When you spend much of your life in the public relations business, as I have, you often meet people at times of crisis.]

It was an ugly parting, and I first talked with Millard about it when I wrote a news piece for Christianity Today on the separation.  My research left me troubled by the board’s rough treatment of Millard, so when I saw that he and Linda were continuing the ministry of providing low cost housing through a new organization, the Fuller Center for Housing, we offered to provide public relations services—which we did for the next several months, introducing the new group to the world.

When I learned yesterday of Millard’s passing in this odd and unexpected way, my first thought was that when he was pushed out of Habitat at the age of 70 he should have stepped back and enjoyed his accomplishments and bounced some grandkids on his knee.  Maybe that would have prolonged his life.  But instead he chose to continue serving people who suffered because of substandard housing.  He believed in serving his God and his neighbors in this way, which he called the Theology of the Hammer.”

So Millard died, figuratively, with a hammer in his hand, and although his life could have been longer, I doubt that it could have been much richer. 

People like Millard Fuller are great not because they are flawless or all-wise.  Great people like Millard Fuller do great things by challenging themselves to do ever more, by motivating everyone in their path, and by trusting in a Greater God. 

We owe Millard much and we do well to emulate him.  At very least, in his honor we should pick up a hammer this year and help some folks who cannot help themselves. 

Christian Environmentalism That Can Flourish

I’ve been involved in many Christian causes and organizations over the last 30 years, many of which I still heartily support and advance. In recent years, I’ve added my voice to a new concern among Christians: environmental stewardship—taking care of God’s creation in a balanced, biblically informed way. I am concerned enough that I am helping to start a new organization, called FLOURISH, to equip the church to act on these concerns.

Some in the church and among my own friends and family have asked if creation care is important enough to be a major focus of the church. Yes, I do believe this is a vital issue for Christian churches and families, and one that is informed not primarily by current politics or policies, but by the teaching of scripture, deep traditions of the church, and even practices and values of our parents and grandparents. Modern trends have given us even more reasons to act. Further, genuine efforts to find balance in our lives and in the way we care for the environment fit well with many priorities and programs of the church and can give our evangelism and discipleship efforts more focus and effectiveness.

Perhaps the best way to present rationale for establishing FLOURISH is for me to present a Top Ten List of reasons why we as American Christians should make environmental stewardship a primary concern:

#10. As Christians we are called to be the very best citizens, and we can be obedient as families and churches by working to better the micro-environments of our communities. This may include activities such as planting trees, working for pedestrian and bike paths, or cleaning area watersheds.

#9. We are commanded to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, and the current disruption of many of the delicate balances in the created world around us is causing health problems, and poses the potential of even greater problems for all of us. These dangers are particularly acute for our most needy neighbors, for those living in urban environments, and for our children. Did you know that childhood asthma rates in children are four times what they were 20 years ago?

# 8. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is important not only for national security; it will also address religious freedom issues. Our reliance on oil makes us dependent on undemocratic, despotic foreign regimes that restrict the religious liberty of their peoples, and threaten the stability of democratic allies such as Israel.

#7. Pollution has become a serious life issue. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited a highly toxic form builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. More than 600,000 newborns each year– approximately one in every six babies– are born with harmful mercury levels in their blood. It is unacceptable for our expectant mothers to have to avoid many kinds of fish because we have polluted our waters so badly that their contamination is dangerous to unborn children?

#6. Learning to care for creation and to balance our activities prepares us for missions. The work of our missionaries around the world almost always includes an understanding of how to live on the land, maintain productive harvests, and assure sufficient healthy water. In many areas missions is a blend of evangelism and creation care.

#5. The daily lifestyle habits that lessen damage to the world around us also build faithfulness and family values—practices such as honoring the Sabbath and making it a day of rest, dampening our consumerism, and increasing family time that is relational and close to home.

#4. Through a range of energy-saving changes, churches and families can save a lot of money, which can in turn be used for the programs and missions of the church, for which it is intended. If America’s houses of worship – totaling more than 300,000 – cut energy use by just 10 percent, it would result in an annual savings of $200 million. Prestonwood Baptist Church, a megachurch in Plano, Texas, did a major energy overall and has saved more than $1 million on utilities and water.

#3. Effective evangelism is set on common ground with our unchurched neighbors. Many of them care about the environment, and when we conduct visible and active campaigns to protect and better the environment, this public service puts us side-by-side with others in our community, and enhances our contact and our witness.

#2. The works of God’s creation are, as Romans 1:20 tells us, evidence of God’s attributes. The natural world tells us so much about who God is that Paul says humankind has no good reason for not knowing its Creator. It would be irresponsible for us to allow our actions to diminish that witness.

And the #1 reason the church should make environmental stewardship a primary concern: God told us to. In the creation story God puts man in the Garden to tend and keep it (Gen. 2:15). That responsibility continues to today.

As you know, during the last several years there have been calls for Christians to support various national and international plans and policies to protect the environment. The majority of believers have responded favorably to the view that caring for God’s creation is a biblical imperative and an important part of Christian discipleship in the 21st century. A recent Barna poll indicates that 90 percent of evangelicals in America would like to see Christians do more to care for God’s creation.

Unfortunately, many of the calls for environmental stewardship have come from secular voices that traditionally have been critics of classic Christianity and that still advocate some positions that are contrary to biblical values. Even our evangelical brethren who have championed environmental concerns have made it appear that Christian response to the problems facing us have to be political and must begin with controversial government action on climate change.

This has resulted in overreaction by some of our leaders who have told the followers of Christ that even the most fundamental care for God’s creation is unnecessary and misplaced passion, and that it is laudable to do nothing to address these dangers.

That’s why we are starting FLOURISH, a ministry to equip churches and families to care for creation and advance their witness in our communities, our nation, and the world. For too long we have allowed liberal messengers of the environmental message and contentious government policy discussions to paralyze our faithfulness in creation care.

FLOURISH intends to stand astride the unhealthy chasm between those who prescribe only political solutions and those who would do nothing. We will offer prudent and biblical solutions for individuals, families, and churches—including a variety of training and study materials that will equip pastors, small groups, and youth groups to teach on these topics and to be involved in hands-on activities and missions.

We will be leading a communications effort on creation care in the Christian community through Web-based communications, a quarterly magazine, radio, and other efforts. And we will be providing a turnkey service—the Greater Light Project—to churches to help them audit their use of energy and other impacts on their local environments, and to assist in their efforts to make necessary changes.

Our inaugural project will be the Flourish National Pastors’ Conference on Creation Care  to be conducted May 13-15, 2009, at CrossPointe church in Duluth, Georgia (northeast of Atlanta). We intend to gather hundreds of pastors and church leaders at this conference, to continue this conversation in earnest and begin the invigoration of our witness and service in creation care.

Environmental problems, like all others, are of course the result of sin. We often carelessly and unnecessarily damage the world around us because of our sin, and the only complete solution will be found in the life-changing, sin-conquering power of knowing Jesus Christ and in living out that knowledge through the new life he brings. The Christian church bears this truth and, rather than being the tail-end of environmental care, can be the best hope for real progress.

Pride and Dread

On this day after an election day featuring tremendous participation by an increasingly diverse American electorate, I feel great national pride and sincere dread at the decisive election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.  So much has been said over such a long campaign, and even now as this presidential election, a remarkable break with history, settles in to the nation’s and the world’s consciousness.


It is a truly great moment that makes it possible for any child in America to say:  I want to be president, without a parent’s private sneer.  If racism is not dead it is thrust to the darkest and least effective corners of our society.  Also dying should be the era of excuses.  When a young mixed race man whose father left the family to return to another country when the boy was 10; whose mother had to move to another country to find work; who was raised by grandparents in the distant state of Hawaii; when that young man can be elected to the highest office of the land, every excuse for lack of performance and effort by Americans of any circumstance suddenly sounds empty.   Hope, yes.  No excuses, certainly.


I dread the very real possibility that Obama will govern in line with his history and his campaign rhetoric, which will result in a something very close to socialism and will weaken our military and intelligence capabilities in a very dangerous world.  With strong liberals controlling Congress and the White House, and soon to impact the Courts,  I do fear there will be great damage to the church, to businesses, to cultural standards, and to many of our cherished freedoms. 


But today I’m moved by the historic irony of this moment, expressed with eloquence (as usual) by Michael Gerson: 

 This presidency in particular should be a source of pride even for those who do not share its priorities. An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America — so long deferred — is not a lie.

I suspect I will have many substantive criticisms of the new administration, beginning soon enough. Today I have only one message for Barack Obama, who will be our president, my president: Hail to the chief.

I will pray this day for President-elect Obama and his family, and for the courageous hero, Sen. McCain (who showed his usual grace and class–as did President Bush this morning–in conceding), and for the Palin’s.  There will be many days ahead for honest disagreements on the solutions to large problems that face our nation and our world.

So Glad It’s Almost Over

 I am a political animal and a news junkie.  But after years of the 2008 presidential contest, I’m oh-so-weary of the all of the calculated and practiced rhetoric.


After all of the overblown predictions and warnings and promises, we are all a bit guilty of the “political illusion” that politics, the right government, and the right policies will bring social harmony, spiritual enlightenment, world peace, better baseball, and a panacea for whatever ill inflicts our personal lives. 


On Tuesday we will either have a historic comeback that ranks with Truman/Dewey, or a historic mixed race president.  But at least this campaign will be done and the next chapter of American life will begin. We’ve had early voting in Georgia this week and the lines at the polling places here in the northern suburbs of Atlanta have been very long.  A lot of people are voting early, which either indicates an unprecedented high voter turnout, or a lot fewer people voting on election day.


I will be voting for the McCain-Palin ticket, which is running only slightly ahead here in Georgia—obviously not a good sign for Republicans in the deep south, where they should be comfortably ahead.


A few observations as we await the election on Tuesday:


·         If the Democratic Party does not capture the presidency next week, it will be in enormous disarray and its ability to win nationally will be in question for years.  If the Dems don’t win with the war in Iraq souring the country before we began to prevail, with the economy dragging and now crashing, with the failure of the Bush administration to maintain even a drumbeat of enthusiasm in its second term, and with a smooth talking and careful candidate—the Democratic Party will need to make wholesale change (which would be good). 

·         The Republican Party doesn’t deserve to win, and is preferable only in comparison to the horrendous policies of its opponents.

·         Sarah Palin was brilliant choice for an underdog candidate who was not supported by the base of his party (unfairly, I believe, and if McCain loses I place partial blame squarely at the feet of the pouting conservatives, who failed to rally early and often, and evidently decided until recently to wait for the perfect candidate in four years). 

·         If Obama becomes president, he will work with a very Democratic congress for the most liberal agenda in our memory.  But Pelosi and Reid haven’t shown much political skill or even a shred of subtlety in their governing, and together with an enthusiastic young President they will totally overplay their hand—even worse than the first two years of Bill Clinton—and if the Republicans can find a leader in the mold of Newt Gingrich, they can lead a new contract for America in 2010 and begin recapturing the Congress.

·         If Obama becomes president, there will be many bad policies, but bad policy can be reversed.

·         The greatest concern for me of an Obama presidency is the reshaping of the Supreme Court over four or eight years into a solidly liberal, activist court for the next generation.  I cannot begin to recite here all of the ways that will fray the fabric and character of American life.

·         My second greatest concern is that America’s military and intelligence capabilities will be compromised by another president (like Clinton) who doesn’t’ believe that peace is the result of strength, not by playing nice with evil.  I don’t think Obama will pull troops out of Iraq prematurely or make rash military changes that will endanger America immediately—sitting in the Oval office will sober him up and moderate his radical isolationism.   The damage will come over time and the danger is long term weakness.

·         The economy will recover, because that’s what it does, but if Obama is elected the recovery will be muted by the overtaxing of the engines of American wealth–the productive, the successful, and the businesses. 

·         There is going to be massive voter fraud throughout the country that should—but probably won’t—result in the national requirement of photo ID’s for anyone who votes.  The stories that emerge about Acorn and others will stretch on for years.  And if the election is close, we may see far more law suits than in 2000. 


But maybe McCain-Palin will mount a historic comeback.  Wouldn’t that be a blast?  I do think it is quite possible, but not likely. 


SCO Called for Palin Last August

A conservative Republican woman for vice president: To note that SCO called for this more than a year ago.

Free Tibet

By the end of this summer we will all be sick of the up-close-and-personal glimpses of the wonders of China, as Olympic commentators swoon over the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.  But for now, the absolutely brilliant timing of the Dalai Lama and the oppressed people of Tibet is breathtaking, and the sheer panic in the Chinese leadership is palpable. 

While I have not paid much attention over the years to the Free Tibet bumper stickers that one sees only in the liberal and campus enclaves of folks looking for an offbeat cause, I may find a Free Tibet sticker now.  Beijing has been rebuilding and scrubbing the city and the country for years, with the 2008 Olympics planned as the debutaunt ball of the new China.   With the world watching, the Chinese debutaunte has a pimple on her face.

I was part of the battle in the 90s to maintain the Most Favored Status for China that Doug wrote about earlier this week.  Our public relations firm created and represented a group called the Association of Christian Ministries in China, arguing that engagement benefited missions and allowed Christians to travel to and be witnesses in China as tentmakers.  I believe this was the right strategy and that it has produced many successes.

But the huge capitalistic engine of China is still in a Communist vehicle that runs over the many people who threaten its hegemony, including the monks of Tibet. 

The Christian position must be to use opporunities such as the Olympics to put pressure on the Chineses government to assure human rights and religious freedom for all of its people.   I call on President Bush to follow the lead of French President Sarkozy and urge the boycotting of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, which will otherwise be a public relations show for the Chinese. 

My wife and I have been to Beijing twice and we came away in awe of the historic sites and the incredible remaking of the city.  We heard the personal hope and promise of capitalism in the people we met; they are amazed that in the new system if you work hard you can make more money.

But a short business and tourism trip isn’t enough to see the continuing human rights violations.  To hear about that we depend on the voices of the people; like the voices we have heard from Tibet this month.

Carry the Olympic torch of freedom for Tibet, and keep alive the flame of  full human rights and religious freedom in China.  

A Vote for Huckabee is . . .

I know all about spin.  I’ve been in public relations work for some 30 years, and I know spin when I hear or see it.  But in the last few weeks, the conservative talkers and others have projected Huck first as the liberal threat—with McCain—to the future of conservatives, the Republican Party, and the republic itself; and then as the strong conservative threat to the candidacy of Mitt Romney—siphoning conservative, mostly southern votes, from Mitt.  Spin can work, but it’s risky to spin the same guy two different directions in the same election cycle.  Huckabee is his own unique blend of faith-driven conservative populism.  He had a good night, probably his last, and he represented evangelicals well.  Today, I hope McCain selects him to be his vice president—but there is a lot of time to ponder that.     

The Conscience of James Dobson

I continue to be disappointed in the political pouting of James Dobson, who issued a statement yesterday saying he will never vote for John McCain “as a matter of conscience.”  Dobson is free to have his political opinions, of course, and McCain may not be his favorite, but to provide a spiritual flavor to his dis-endorsement by citing conscience is a misuse of his position as a Christian leader.  It is an embarrassment to evangelical Christians involved in the political process. 

Obama for Orator-in-Chief

Obama has been rated as the most liberal Senator in Washington, D.C., and he is the strongest peacenik to have a fair shot at the presidency since George McGovern, so I would never be able to support him—because of his political philosophy.  But I love to hear him speak; there is nothing like great political oratory, and Obama is the best of our time.  His speech last night was masterful. 

Take Ann Coulter…Please Hillary, Take Ann Coulter

Even in the midst of an ocean of absurd statements that masquerade as political rhetoric in today’s 24/7, all news all the time media environment, attacks this week on John McCain by some convervative talkers, politicians, and pundits have been over the top.  But the most ridiculous of all were comments by Ann Coulter on Hannity and Colmes, and again on the Sean Hannity radio show, that if McCain is nominated she would vote and work for Clinton because Hillary is more conservative than McCain. Conservatives are flocking to Romney as a stop-McCain effort.  If the conservatives powers-that-be would have supported Romney earlier in the campaign cycle, he’d probably be on the way to the nomination.  I’ve liked Romney for a couple of years, but actually preferred his more moderate persona as governor to the talking-point conservative of his campaign. But I will vote for John McCain here in Georgia on Tuesday, with apologies not to Romney but to Huckabee, who I wish was electable.  Of course I’m suspect, because I also voted for McCain in the Georgia primary eight years ago.

The trashing of McCain nonsense by right wing talkers (who I usually agree with), isn’t based on his lifelong service and voting record.  Jeff Jacoby provides a more sensible take on McCain in his Boston Glove column today. He writes:   

The conservative case against McCain is clear enough; I made it myself in some of these columns when he first ran for president eight years ago. The issues that have earned McCain the label of “maverick” – campaign-finance restrictions, global warming, the Bush tax cuts, immigration, judicial filibusters – are precisely what stick in the craw of the GOP conservative base.

But this year, the conservative case for McCain is vastly more compelling.

On the surpassing national-security issues of the day – confronting the threat from radical Islam and winning the war in Iraq – no one is more stalwart. Even McCain’s fiercest critics, such as conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, will say so. “The world’s bad guys,” Hewitt writes, “would never for a moment think he would blink in any showdown, or hesitate to strike back at any enemy with the audacity to try again to cripple the US through terror.”

McCain was never an agenda-driven movement conservative, but he “entered public life as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution,” as he puts it, and on the whole his record has been that of a robust and committed conservative. He is a spending hawk and an enemy of pork and earmarks. He has never voted to increase taxes, and wants the Bush tax cuts made permanent for the best of reasons: “They worked.” He is a staunch free-trader and a champion of school choice. He is unabashedly prolife and pro-Second Amendment. He opposes same-sex marriage. He wants entitlements reined in and personal retirement accounts expanded.

McCain’s conservatism has usually been more a matter of gut instinct than of a rigorous intellectual worldview, and he has certainly deviated from Republican orthodoxy on some serious issues. For all that, his ratings from conservative watchdog groups have always been high. “Even with all the blemishes,” notes National Review, a leading journal on the right (and a backer of Romney), “McCain has a more consistent conservative record than Giuliani or Romney. . . . This is an abiding strength of his candidacy.”

McCain can beat Clinton or Obama, but a very wise choice of a running mate will help.  We’ll look at that another day.   

The 2008 campaign for president has gone on way, way too long.  And now the decision for the Republican nominee is going to be made much too fast.  For us political junkies, it’s just getting interesting.  The Democratic race may hold some interest, too, if Obama can win somewhere other than Iowa.   Why did the two best public speakers, Obama and Huckabee, win Iowa and now can’t win anywhere else?  Obama, by the way, is the best by far.   The problem is, he’s wrong on just about everything politically–except on the importance of being nice.

But since the Republicans are the only candidates that reflect the majority of my own values, I’ll keep my eye on them.  All of the remaining candidates, except Ron Paul, hold most of the same values as I do–with a few exceptions.  I don’t dread the prospect of Romney, McCain, Huckabee, or Guiliani winning the nomination.

But these thoughts on the morning after McCain won the South Carolina primary.  I’m snowed-in (or iced in) in Atlanta–the churches are all closed–which may be why McCain eked out the SC win over Huckabee.  Huckabee’s camp was fearing snow in the upstate, and it came; so the Huckabee turnout may not have been what they could have expected otherwise.

But the real story is McCain winning in SC, where his 2000 candidacy was torpedoed.  If McCain can make his final SC campaign appearance in Charleston Harbor–in view of Ft. Sumter–in perhaps the most states-right, conservative state in the nation, and go on to beat an evangelical pastor and a conservative former Senator/TV actor from a neighboring state–then he’s convinced a fair number of conservatives that he is not evil.

McCain is going to be formidable and he is certainly the frontrunner now for the nomination.

The second story really is Huckabee’s inability to capture South Carolina.  The state was tailor made for him, with half the state evangelical Christians.  Thompson is probably the reason.  He woke up in time to attack Huckabee in the last debate and showed some life in the last week.  I doubt that he did this for McCain; politicians almost always do things for themselves.  But the result is that it is likely that Thompson’s final hurrah will launch McCain to the nomination.

Some say Thompson reminds them of Reagan.  Well maybe, but I’d say Thompson’s performance in this campaign is reminiscent of the final days of Reagan’s presidency, when he could hardly answer questions at press conferences, with the ravages of age and perhaps alzheimers taking their toll.

I loved it when Thompson jumped into the race.  But come to find out he does need a script.  And now Jack McCoy has his job as the DA on Law and Order.  What’s next for Thompson?

Back to Huckabee.  As I’ve written before, I like him very much and support so much of what he stands for and most of his policies.  But I think he’s probably finished.  He needed SC more than McCain or Romney did.  With four contenders in Florida the vote may be split enough to give any of them a chance, including Huckabee.  But after that its hard to see a path to victory.  I appreciate so much about Huckabee, but I don’t think he can beat Hillary because he looks like an foreign policy lightweight.  Back to:  Huckabee for VP.

I’ve also written about Romney, as far back as two years ago.  Unfortunately, I liked him a bit more when he was a creative governor of Massachusetts than I do with him as a doctrinaire conservative candidate with only a little more fluidity than Al Gore as a candidate.

Guiliani has spent so many days out of the media spotlight, it is hard to see him coming back.  I don’t know if he had any choice, but his strategy to wait until Florida looks like the wrong strategy.  Could he really not have competed in New Hampshire; wouldn’t he have had the same appeal as McCain to NH independents.  Guiliani has little margin of error with liberal positions on abortion and same sex marriage; he may have already gone outside the margins.

I’ve been a McCain fan for some time (to the chagrin of many close to me), and I supported him in 2000.  He may be better for America than for the Republican party, but I like his independence and integrity and his strength.  I don’t think you can discount his heroism as a POW, and I like his balanced and positive approach to climate change.  I’m amazed that in all of his years in the Senate he has never asked for an earmark.  Not too many examples of that.   I do wish he was 10 years younger.

I hate that Rush trashed both McCain and Huckabee this week.  I was also surprised by it, because he’s usually friendly to all Republicans.   While Sean Hannity clearly admires Thompson and Guiliani, he’s said consistently that he likes all of the Republican presidential candidates.  I agree with him, but today I think McCain is the man with momentum, and the candidate most likely to beat the Democrat.

Evangelical Diversity, not Disarray

The mainstream media are working hard to characterize evangelical involvement in 2008 politics as disarray and disfunction because the community is not behind a single candidate.  Sorry, there isn’t any disarray.  Evangelicals aren’t cracked-up, as the New York Times suggested recently.  The misleading characterizaiton is partially because, in public and political discourse, evangelical is now considered a political voting bloc rather than a theological distinction.  Evangelical Christians share spiritual beliefs, almost all are social conservatives, and most are defense and economic conservatives.  But their priorities differ, and the younger generation is concerned about issues that haven’t been particularly important to their parents. 

So it isn’t suprising that some evangelicals like a candidate such as Mike Huckabee because he is evangelical and because he’s a social conservative.  It isn’t surprising that some support Mitt Romney, an economic conservative, or John McCain, a defense conservative.  That’s not disarray, its diversity.  And it is further evidence that evangelicals are not monolithic and easily pegged.

We won’t be seeing the split support by evangelicals in the general election.  Although Obama and Clinton have been trying to speak evangelicalese from time to time,  evangelicals aren’t fooled, and very few of them share the liberal political philosophy of the Democratic frontrunners.

Teaching Media Evangelicalese

For almost 30 years my day job has included the challenge of introducing the work of the Christian community to media of all stripes. For many years, I could count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number of front page stories each year in major American newspapers on the good work and the impact of evangelicals. Dull days for evangelical public relations.

It became impossible to ignore the evangelicals in the 1980’s, and the amount of coverage of Christian leaders and activities has increased steadily since then. The role of evangelicals in the 2004 presidential election made us players, or so it seemed to media, and there is no shortage of attention.

The quality of coverage has improved, as well, although there is plenty to complain about, and most national reporters still have an adversarial relationship with people of potent Christian faith.

I’ve had a lot of interesting interaction with mainstream media over the last two years through my work with the Evangelical Climate Initiative. ECI has been espousing a position of concern for climate change, a position with which the MSM is almost entirely in sympathy–so the problem isn’t negative coverage. But there are concerns.

I wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about my concern that media and others are assuming that because many evangelicals are becoming more green that means they are becoming more liberal–which is not a direct correlation. Then a couple of weeks ago I was interviewed at length by Curtis Brainard, a reporter with Columbia Journalism Review. I’m quoted extensively in the article, titled Evangelicalese 101.

Here’s a sample:

Clearly, many disapprove of Bush’s war in Iraq and his reluctance to address climate change; their apprehension about the current selection of GOP presidential candidates is even more emphatic. It is far less certain, however, that the fissures in evangelical society are deep enough to cause a major political realignment.
It’s not that the press has misunderstood this situation, but journalists tend to use language that describes today’s “average” evangelical as more liberal or moving toward the left. Consider, for example, a headline that appeared in The Washington Post last August: “Warming Draws Evangelicals Into Environmentalist Fold.” This probably seems accurate to most Post readers, but many evangelicals do not like it, according to Jewell. Evangelicals don’t want to be part of the “environmentalist fold.” Instead, they want the press to describe the changes happening within their society as something organic and complex, rather than something passive and simple, like the adoption of liberal values.

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