Sunday, June 5, 2011
Whose Freedom? Which Faith?
Faith and Freedom are two of my longtime commitments and present concerns. But I have serious questions about the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
The past two days (June 3-4) I attended the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing at a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel. The conference was organized by Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr., and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which he founded in 2009.
Ralph Reed (b. 1961), as many of you remember, was the first executive director of the now-defunct Christian Coalition of America, which was founded by Pat Robertson in 1989 and which Reed headed until 1997.
The speakers at the D.C. conference were mostly conservative Christians, and some were Republican presidential candidates (or potential candidates, past and present), such as Michelle Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump. The keynote speaker at last night’s banquet, which I did not attend, was Herman Cain.
Other top Republican leaders who spoke at the conference include House Speaker John Boehner, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and several other U.S. Senators and Representatives. It was a star-studded list of speakers.
But the speakers were all Republicans. And the Christians on the program were all conservatives or fundamentalists. The reported marriage of conservative Christians and the Republican Party appears to be true, and each partner seemed to promise fidelity to the other.
Further, the freedom emphasized was also limited in scope. So the questions arose in my mind, Whose Freedom? Which Faith?
The faith touted at the Faith & Freedom conference was not that of another prominent Christian politician: President Obama. Nor was it the faith of his former pastor, the vilified Jeremiah Wright, or of Wallace Charles Smith, the recently vilified pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church in D.C. (where the Obamas attended Easter worship) and former president of Palmer (originally Eastern Baptist) Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
The latter all have faith in the same God and the same Savior. But their faith relates differently to the world, and especially to the poor and suffering people of the world and nation. Compassion and help for the needy and the discriminated against is not an apparent concern of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
The faith of the Coalition seems different than that of the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, and most “mainline” Protestant denominations including sizable segments of Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists who are not Southern Baptists.
Whose freedom was emphasized at the meeting? Not a lot more than the political freedom of U.S. citizens and, surprisingly, the freedom of the nation of Israel, which the U.S. was called upon to protect.
And, predictably, there was also strong emphasis on the freedom of the “unborn,” as nearly every speaker staunchly opposed abortion. The freedom of women to have the choice to terminate unplanned for and unwanted pregnancies was not only not recognized, it was repeatedly condemned.
Nor was there any recognition of the need for freedom by gay and lesbian persons to have equal civil rights, including marriage. Same-sex marriage was also repeatedly rejected.
At the Faith & Freedom conference, there was also a strong Tea Party emphasis (“debt = slavery”) and even talk about “Teavangelicals,” Tea Party evangelicals, but that is a subject for a future posting.