As leaders in the evangelical and progressive communities, we’ve believed for a while now that the divisiveness of the culture war is not only unproductive, but unnecessary. Over the course of two years of dialogue and relationship-building, we’ve discovered that we can unite around both shared principles and shared policies. The Come Let Us Reason Together governing agenda, launched this week, sets forth a platform that not only defuses conflict, but presents a way forward. This way forward promotes the common good without compromising our values.
About a year ago, we gathered at Third Way’s office in Washington, DC to promote David’s book, “The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center,” which touched on much of the common ground we’d established over time. After the press and the guests filed out, we got to talking about whether we could take our partnership beyond principles and come together on policy. It seemed like a stretch to some, but after more than a year of building trust, friendship and deep respect for each other’s values, we believed in each other enough to try.
We’re proud of the governing agenda we created: reducing abortions, protecting the rights of gays and lesbians in the workplace, reforming our broken immigration system, and abolishing torture. This agenda didn’t come together overnight.
As division arose nationwide around issues including the parties’ abortion platforms and Proposition 8, tailoring an agenda that could elicit a positive response from the progressive pro-choice group NARAL and also win the full support of Board members of the historically conservative and pro-life National Association of Evangelicals, became increasingly challenging. The task of creating the agenda was both delicate and strenuous, requiring both boldness and care.
By late summer, we had built enough support for the governing agenda to officially draft it. When we gathered at the Evangelicals for Human Rights conference in Atlanta, we cemented the final details, editing the footnotes together at the Galaxy Diner at 6:30 am. Over the smell of grits and coffee, in a spirit of friendship and respect, we finalized an agenda that upholds the human dignity of all, protects the vulnerable, and builds bridges where there were once only roadblocks.
The road from Washington to Atlanta is fraught with speed traps and gridlock. We came together as a coalition and became friends because we believed that our nation’s politics doesn’t have to be blocked by such obstacles any longer. We believe that the governing agenda we set forth provides an alternate route, which might just lead to the end of the culture wars. And we believe it’s just the beginning of a new and collaborative journey in American politics.
Katie Paris is director of communications strategy at Faith in Public Life. Rachel Laser is culture programs director at Third Way. Dr. David Gushee is professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University. Other lead signatories are Rev. Joel C. Hunter, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Dr. Ronald J. Sider, and religion scholar Dr. Robert P. Jones.