After watching two prominent evangelical pastors talk for two hours about the importance of civility and Christian decency triumphing during the 2012 presidential campaign, I’m kind of unconvinced.
Progressive leader Jim Wallis and Southern Baptist honcho Richard Land had organized the public “discussion” about faith and politics Wednesday night because they said they’re both worried that our desperate desire to create more jobs is squeezing out talk of moral imperatives and religious values.
When the economy is bad, Land told the crowd, “it tends to take up all the oxygen in the room.”
And then the two men proceeded to snip at one another about things like the redistribution of wealth and whether Washington or Wall Street is more to blame for the recession.
More than 75 journalists, advocates, Hill staffer types turned up at the National Press Club to hear the men — both prominent, limelight-loving D.C. figures — clarify a muddy issue: What galvanizes evangelical voters these days?
After eight years of a consensus of sorts under George W. Bush (who won about three-quarters of white evangelical voters through two presidential terms), this significant block seems to be breaking into pieces; it’s not clear what their core platform is.
But listening to two men who came together precisely to urge a more aggressive search for common ground seemed to prove the point: Things are probably going to be nasty for the next year, and religious voters are going to be right in the mix of it.
The men agreed the climate is bad. Land predicted it might be the “ugliest campaign since 1800,” and framed that as being prompted by desperate Obama-ites “who can’t win based on his record” so will ostensibly turn to attacking the GOP opponent.
It’s not that Wallis and Land didn’t find common ground. Indeed they agreed on a variety of things: the wrongness of attacking Mormon theology and requiring Mitt Romney to defend it (Wallis said it will be ”hypocritical” for liberals who always call for a clearer separation of church and state to hold Romney accountable for his church’s teachings; Land called Mormonism “perhaps the fourth Abrahamic religion”), the importance of preserving foreign aid, investing in cleaner energy, boosting marriage, supporting immigration reform.
But it was impossible to miss, even in that cozy nice room with everyone chatting and eating yummy brownies, the partisan charge that defines our current political climate.
The source of the entire problem, Land spat, is Washington and its power-hungry meddling with industry, including banks that lent money in the housing bubble. It’s people “focused obsessively on redistributing wealth.”
Wallis insisted the woes disproportionately started with greedy Wall Street, and the Tea Partiers who push for even more deregulation “may be the least Christian option out there,” he said.
Teachers’ unions, Ayn Rand, health care — in today’s climate these are little bombs, and they seemed to me to fall rather loudly at this little talk led by two pastors.