Schism: Young Evangelicals Turn Away from Christian Nationalist Agenda

The number of liberal evangelicals appears to be growing and this has the Christianists who run the religous wing of the Republican Party ready to howl:

“Are the only really ‘great moral issues’ those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?”

A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they’re calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.

The best-known champion of such causes, the Rev. Jim Wallis, this week challenged conservative crusader James C. Dobson, the chairman of Focus on the Family, to a debate on evangelical priorities.

“Are the only really ‘great moral issues’ those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?” Wallis asked in his challenge. “How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? — What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS — [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?”

Not surprisingly, the liberal bent of this new movement has the talibangelists up in arms. Three leaders of the Christian right — professional homophobes Dobson of Focus on the Family, Don Wildmon of the American Family Assn. and Paul Weyrich of American Values — have written a letter that is highly critical of evangelicals who do not follow their strict rightwing political agenda.

The letter took particular aim at the Rev. Richard Cizik, a prominent evangelical lobbyist who has promoted environmental protection as a moral imperative. Citing the creation story in the Book of Genesis, he has called the fight against global warming a directive “straight from the word of God — no doubt about it.”

The letter accused Cizik of “dividing and demoralizing” Christians by pushing this agenda and called on his employer, the National Assn. of Evangelicals, to silence him or to demand his resignation.

Fighting gay civil rights has generated millions of dollars for these religious-political groups, so it is not surprising that they are up in arms.

Rev. Wallis says that his congegants aren’t ready to become Democrats but that younger members are put off by the old evangelical agenda.

He told the Times that during a recent visit to an evangelical college, students were “furious” at Rev. Jerry Falwell because he had recently described global warming as a satanic plot to divert Christians from more pressing moral issues, such as spreading the Gospel.

“James Dobson and the religious right are outside the evangelical mainstream. That’s just a fact,” Wallis told the paper. “That doesn’t mean they have no power. But their monologue is over. Their control of the agenda is over.”

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