By David Waters
Fox Newsevangelist Glenn Beck might be the most prayed for man in America at the moment — which could be good news for all of us.
A few weeks ago, Beck urged his conservative Christian followers to pray for his protection. “There is (billionaire George) Soros money now being funneled to stop me. The biggest names, the most powerful people on the planet on the left — I’ve told you before, they’re not going to go away easy . . . Please, keep me in your prayers, keep my staff in your prayers, for safety, for wisdom, please.”
Meanwhile, over on the left, Jim Wallis is asking his fellow progressive Christians to pray for Beck. “It should be no surprise that we strongly disagree with many of Glenn’s views, but we too believe in a God far greater than all of us. So on this point, let’s take Glenn at his word and pray for him to have wisdom as he speaks out on these issues. Tell Glenn you’re praying for him – that he’ll choose hope over fear.”
So maybe neither of those prayer requests are purely nonpartisan. But it does show that Red State Christians and Blue State Christians at least can pray for the same person, if not for the same reasons. That’s progress, right? The culture war-weary among us appreciate any sign of progress among the faithful, especially after reading the new 2009 Religious Activists Survey, which shows just how deeply and fundamentally divided religious activists are in this country.
Here are just a few of the lowlights in the survey of 3,000 conservative and progressive religious activists.
Abortion: 95% of conservative religious activists say abortion should be illegal in all cases (60%) or most cases (35%); 80% of progressive religious activists say abortion should be legal in all (26%) or most (54%) cases.
Gay and Lesbian Issues: 82% of conservatives oppose both same-sex marriage and civil unions; 59% of progressives support same-sex marriage, and 33% support civil unions.
Health Care: 6% of conservatives think that the U.S. should have comprehensive national health insurance; 78% of progressive activists think we do.
Torture: 61% conservatives say torture can often (25%) or sometimes (36%) be justified; 79% of progressives say torture can never be justified.
Priorities: Conservatives said abortion (83%) and same-sex marriage (65%) are the most important issues; progressives chose poverty (74%), health care (67%), and the environment (56%).
We’ve known for awhile that some followers of Jesus veer to his right, others to his left. But why? The researchers from the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and Public Religion Research drilled down through the tectonic political plates to get to the core of each side’s belief system.
“Conservatives generally emphasize an individualist approach to solving problems, with an emphasis on personal morality,” the researchers wrote. “Progressive activists are more likely to see the causes of America’s problems in structural terms.”
In other words, conservatives subscribe to a personal salvation gospel, progressives to a social salvation gospel. The difference can be summed up in two statements the researchers gave to activists on both sides of Jesus.
1. “If enough people were brought to Christ, social ills would take care of themselves.”
67% of conservatives agreed, but only 13% of progressives agreed (and 61% of them disagreed).
2. “Social justice is at the heart of all authentic religious values.”
77% of progressives agreed with that one, but only 37% of conservatives agreed.
I’m no theologian, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jesus of the four gospels agreed with both of those statements.
So I have an idea. Maybe we can get the Glenn Beck Christians and the Jim Wallis Christians to form a book club. They all can read the same book each month and then discuss it. I’d suggest they start with the Book of Matthew. Then Mark, then Luke, then John.
Who knows? After four months of reading the same books, they all might find themselves on the same page, and start praying for each other.