JOEL ROSENTHAL: It's my pleasure to turn the program over to Luis Lugo. Luis' life's work is perfectly suited to the study of the issues that we will discuss tonight. He taught at Calvin College for many years before going directly to the program on Religion and Public Life at Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia. He has now embarked on an exciting new adventure, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, under the Pew Research Center.
LUIS LUGO: Good evening.
I was a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, studying political science, international politics, comparative politics, in the late 1970s, when I began to notice a major discrepancy—"cognitive dissonance" was the term that was used a few years ago—between what I was studying and what I was reading in the front pages of The New York Times. The operative model used to be called "modernization theory," one of the basic premises of which was that religion was becoming increasingly irrelevant in the modern world; that it was, in the first instance, privatized, and in the second instance, it would just disappear. In other words, the entire world would look like Europe. That was not only a description, but for some even a normative aspiration.
What I was reading in The Times were things like this: in 1977 to 1978, a fairly significant Islamic revolution took place in Pakistan, which very few people noticed, under Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, and then, in 1979, the Iranian revolution.
Then I turn over to Eastern Europe, and here is a new pope, John Paul II, and his relationship to the Polish people and the emergence of Solidarno as a major movement, and all of a sudden he is emerging as a major global player. You look at the Indian subcontinent and you see the emergence of what became known as the BJP, which is the Hindu-inspired nationalist movement.
So here are the three major religious traditions in the world—Christianity, Islam, Hinduism—all undergoing major changes. I could mention the smaller ones, too—in Israel, with the emergence of Likud. Yet the models I was studying didn't capture this change.
The process of globalization was generating a new kind of identity politics, which my own discipline of political science was very slow in coming to. It wasn't until Jose Casanova published Public Religions in the Modern World in 1994 that we finally had a scholar who encapsulated what was happening. There was a resurgence of religion throughout religious traditions, and not just at the private level, but in a very public way, informing people's politics.
If you want to see a good snapshot of the impact on American politics, take a look at the study we did after the 2004 election. In the Trends book, we took all the basic demographics that we ask of people during election time—gender, economic level, education level—and did a regression analysis. We found that the extent to which people attend a church, synagogue, or mosque was the single most important predictor of how they voted, by far—much more important than gender, education, socioeconomic level, and with the exception of African-Americans, a more important predictor even than race.
What is going on here? There is a new identity politics. In this country, too, we had a similar movement, as we saw elsewhere throughout the world. That was the emergence of what became known as the Moral Majority.
Unbeknownst to most political scientists, we were in the midst of what is one of the most profound religious-political realignments in American politics, and that is the emergence of white evangelicals as a major force in American politics. They were moving away from the Democratic Party into the Republican Party and forging increasing ties with conservative Roman Catholics. The alliance of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics has had profound consequences.
When we broke down the Bush vote in 2004, this alliance accounted for 60 percent of the Bush victory, close to 40 percent evangelical and another 20 percent conservative Catholics. They put Bush in the White House.
We can get into some of the reasons as to why this group emerged big-time in the 1970s and into the 1980s and 1990s, becoming increasingly sophisticated politically, so much so that the extent of grassroots organizing among white evangelicals in this last election is unprecedented in American history.
"The 3:16s beat the 527s," was my sound bite. Everybody was paying attention to the 527s. They were very important in a state like Ohio. My Democratic friends went to bed convinced of victory. They overshot all the 527 targets for getting out the vote on the Democratic side. They woke up the next morning; they were stunned at the results. Nobody was paying attention to the John 3:16s, as I call them, which is the evangelicals' favorite verse. The 3:16s trumped the 527s in the state of Ohio.
Most people don't understand that even though this evangelical emergence was around these hot-button cultural war issues, like abortion and gay marriage, prayer in the schools, et cetera, evangelicals have always also had a foreign policy orientation. During that period, in the 1970s and in the early 1980s, it was characterized by two major features: strong anti-Communism, which drew them to the Republicans and Ronald Reagan, too, and a strong support for Israel. Aside from American Jews, no one even comes close to having as strong a pro-Israel orientation as American evangelicals.
What has happened is that the evangelical foreign policy agenda has been growing and branching out in very significant ways in recent years, all the way from Africa AIDS policy to religious persecution, to Sudan. And now China is emerging as a major issue, along with sex trafficking and bonded labor. You look anywhere across the human-rights agenda, and what we have in the last few years is the emergence of a new religiously driven human-rights movement of major proportions.
We are about to come out with a major report which shows that evangelicals are the most internationalist of any religious group in the United States today. William Jennings Bryan must be turning over in his grave.
They are also strong believers in American exceptionalism. The United States has a special role to play in the world, and it is not just to protect vital national interests; it is to advance a moral agenda. So in this debate between pragmatist realpolitik types and moralists or any other term, they are definitely on the moral universalist side of this equation: the United States' policy ought not to be reduced strictly to matters of national interest. The national purpose and a national mission which the United States must be about is very deeply ingrained among evangelicals.
They are also, however, strong unilateralists, with a deep suspicion of international institutions, like the United Nations. They see it as being anti-Israel, and what they see as promoting liberal secular values.
Not surprisingly, you see evangelicals having the highest rate of anybody in the country in supporting a preemptive war. It is part and parcel of the mindset.
I speak with journalists on a daily basis. When we get on this sort of topic, I recommend that they speak to a handful of thoughtful people, and I always recommend these two—Rich Cizik and Allen Hertzke.
Richard Cizik is Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the largest umbrella group for evangelicals in this country.
Allen Hertzke is professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma.
ALLEN HERTZKE: Beginning in the mid-1990s, a new movement burst unexpectedly on the international stage, a faith-based quest devoted to advancing human rights through the machinery of American foreign policy. This movement of unlikely allies passed a series of landmark congressional initiatives, each of which faced fierce opposition. They are the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 [PDF], the Sudan Peace Act of 2002, the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 [PDF] and in 2005, movement leaders set their sights on an even more ambitious goal, legislation aimed at implementing comprehensive long-term strategies to end dictatorships around the world. If true to form, this legislation will pass at the end of the 109th Congress in 2006, rounding out a decade of lobbying achievements.
As I argue in Freeing God's Children, this movement is filling a void in human-rights advocacy, raising issues previously slighted or insufficiently pressed by secular groups, the foreign policy establishment, or the prestige press. We see this by a brief look at how the movement erected a new human-rights architecture in American foreign policy.
Before 1998, religious freedom was the stepchild of human rights. Human-rights groups sometimes slighted or even dismissed stories of persecution, especially against Christians, and American diplomats were often ignorant of the religious communities in their countries.
That has changed through the scaffolding built by the International Religious Freedom Act. Promotion of religious freedom is now a basic aim of American foreign policy. Because our Foreign Service must investigate and report on the status of religious freedom in every country on earth, the spotlight is now turned on abuses, and sometimes policies advanced to ameliorate them.
Second, the interfaith movement plucked the tragedy of Sudan from the backwaters of international concern. Long before the tragedy of Darfur, Christian Solidarity activists and their Jewish allies were warning about the nature of the Khartoum regime, whose racial and religious ideology led to a 20-year war on an African civilization, with 2 million dead and 5 million displaced.
In a stunning development that the mainstream press has not given enough attention to, pressure brought by the Sudan Peace Act and by the movement led the government of Sudan to sign a peace treaty with southern rebel groups, ending Africa's bloodiest civil war. Advocates hope the same kind of pressure can bring some resolution to the conflict in Darfur.
To take another slighted issue, the trafficking of women and children into grotesque sexual exploitation and sweatshop labor metastasized in the freewheeling globalization of the 1990s. Yet the response by governments, and even sometimes by human-rights groups, was complacent, until the religious community engaged the issue. Now, because of the new law and its vigorous enforcement by the Trafficking in Persons Office at the State Department, countries around the world are changing laws and practices, crime syndicates are being broken up, emerging norms are taking shape, and women and children are being set free.
Finally, most recently, the faith-based alliance has focused attention on the North Korean regime of Kim Jung-II, whose abysmal human-rights record includes a vast system of gulags, widespread arrests, torture, killings, and engineered starvation in which authorities have decided who eats and who doesn't. North Korean refugees who flee this hell are subject to rampant exploitation in China or are sent back to concentration camps or execution, especially if they are suspected of being Christians.
In response, the North Korean Human Rights Act expands protection for refugees, conditions U.S. humanitarian aid to North Korea on transparent improvements in access for people in need, and calls for the inclusion of human-rights considerations in all negotiations with the regime. Included in the legislation is a special envoy with responsibility to champion these issues.
Any one of these initiatives is a major story, but together they represent the most important human-rights movement since the end of the Cold War, a movement that is shaping international relations in ways unimaginable a decade ago. Central to the movement are American evangelicals, heretofore associated with domestic skirmishes in the culture wars, but now increasingly engaged in international humanitarian, human-rights work.
This engagement has facilitated unlikely alliances, as evangelicals provide the grassroots muscle for causes backed by a wide array of other actors. Indeed, in various campaigns, I observed conservative evangelicals team up with liberal Jewish groups, the Catholic Church, Episcopal leaders, Tibetan Buddhists, Iranian Baha'is, secular human-rights groups, feminists, labor unions, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
Now, what accounts for this new international activism by evangelicals? The answer can be traced to two developments that were moving along in parallel fashion, until they finally converged. The first development is the tectonic shift in the globe's Christian population to the developing world, a momentous trend that is captured in a book by Philip Jenkins called The Next Christendom. Whereas the vast majority of the world's Christians in 1900 lived in North America and greater Europe, today at least 60 percent of all Christians live in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the figure is rising. The figure for born-again Christians is probably even higher still. Given population trends, the shift to the global south will accelerate.
Through global communications, travel, and international development networks, American evangelicals increasingly hear about and identify with fellow Christians living amidst persecution and hardship. Indeed, in evangelical circles, one hears routinely of the suffering church abroad, of 200 million Christians persecuted for their faith.
These suffering Christians, especially their indigenous leaders, are viewed as role models of Christian fidelity. If you go to evangelical conferences, speakers now are often foreign Christians who are viewed as the great heroes of the faith.
Not surprisingly, some 70 percent of evangelicals say that combating religious persecution should be a priority of American foreign policy.
But beyond fellow believers, American evangelicals are awakening more generally to the afflictions visited on the world's vulnerable, fostering sympathy for their plight. Thus, we see evangelical backing for world debt relief and AIDS funding in Africa.
The second development enables evangelicals to act politically on these concerns. Animated by distress over the drift of American culture, evangelicals have built a booming network of alternative schools, colleges, national associations, publishing houses, direct-mail groups, parachurch organizations, and broadcast ministries. As Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam said in Bowling Alone, American evangelicals have built "the largest, best organized grassroots social networks of the last quarter century."
As these two developments connect, the social networks of the evangelical world, born initially of conservative impulses, are increasingly being put in service of human rights and justice concerns normally associated with progressive politics—a striking development indeed. My co-panelist, Rich Cizik, is one of the premier representatives of this phenomenon, and he deserves enormous credit for his leadership in this case.
But I must end on a cautionary note. Can this movement sustain its vigor? The jury is still out on that question. We know from history that social movements are hard to maintain, that energies easily dissipate without constant effort and energetic mobilization, that new issues arise to siphon attention. Here the case of Darfur gives pause. While some notable evangelical activism has focused on this massive human-rights tragedy, to date it has not generated the same level of unified intensity we saw in the campaign for southern Sudan that brought together the Congressional Black Caucus, evangelical groups, the Catholic Church, and Jewish groups, among others.
I discuss a number of reasons for this in a piece to be published in the journal FIRST THINGS, two of which I would like to highlight.
- The recrudescence of the culture war has siphoned attention away from international concerns. Thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in part, gay marriage and the related issues of judicial appointments exploded on the national agenda just as the Darfur crisis deepened. This clearly siphoned energies away from international affairs and the issue in Darfur. Indeed, one prominent born-again leader, who was deeply engaged in what he saw as the defense of traditional marriage on multiple fronts, admitted that the timing was not convenient for a full-court press on the international front."
- A related factor is the decentralized and entrepreneurial nature of the evangelical world, which provides its vitality, but makes coordination difficult on all but the most immediately salient issues. Ironically but tellingly, it sometimes took prodding by leaders outside the born-again community to help stitch together the evangelical elite in common strategies on these prior international initiatives. Fragmented responses on the crisis in Darfur, therefore, reflect the ongoing challenge of getting high-profile evangelical leaders, many of whom operate massive global ministries and have huge organizational maintenance demands on their time, in the same place at the same time to discuss and plot common strategies.
One result is that the Bush administration has not felt the same heat on Darfur that it experienced on southern Sudan, which helps explain why it has not acted with a vigor equal to the crisis.
Why does this matter? In her searing book on American responses to genocide (A Problem from Hell), Samantha Power recounted how a national security adviser explained that the Clinton administration did not act on genocide in Central Africa because the phones weren't ringing on Rwanda. Given their unique access to the president and a capacity to reach millions, evangelical leaders can get the phones ringing on Darfur, and perhaps move the United States government to greater action.
This creates a special, almost fiduciary responsibility. Their response may tell us a lot about the future of this new faith-based human-rights movement.
RICHARD CIZIK: American foreign policy hasn't seen anything yet. The people who are impressed by the six major landmark bills we passed are only seeing the initial edge of what will be the twenty-first century movement that will reshape America, what Robert Fogel at the University of Chicago says will be the Fourth Great Awakening. The first was in the 1740s, the others in the 1800s. This will be the leading edge politically of the Fourth Great Awakening.
Why? Number one, it comes down to the belief that every human being is born with the imago Dei, the image of God, in him. Number two, you can succeed in life with two conditions: the political and social freedom to make the choices to pursue the life that you want, and laws and social institutions modeled to allow you to choose responsibly, with moral limits.
George Bush's foreign policy comes right out of Charles Wesley. Let me read to you from A Charge to Keep [a Charles Wesley hymn from which George W. Bush took the title of his autobiography]. It was before the presidency:
To serve the present age, My calling to fulfill:
Oh, may it all my powers engage to do my Master's will.
Arm me with jealous care, As in Thy sight to live;
and Oh thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give!
What is going on here? Is it these people who will lead us down a holy war? Will they be the cutting edge of a civilizational conflict' I told Professor Huntington, 'You don't know evangelicals,' and he said, 'You're right.' He thinks that the greatest civilizational conflict of the 21st century between Islam and Christianity will occur by Christian soldiers going to war, just as Bush appears to have done, even using the word "crusade."
Nonetheless, sometimes we misstate ourselves; we are misunderstood. But Americans today are more religious than they were fifty years ago. The secularism project has failed to provide a public idiom for the American people by which to exemplify their values. The mainline Protestants and many liberal Catholics have seceded as well to a moral acquiescence to the same postmodernism and secularism. Yet evangelicals, in an enormous demographic and cultural shift, have begun to move into this vacuum. They began in the 1970s, and are organizing in the 1990s.
The 50th anniversary of the National Association of Evangelicals precipitated a cover story in The Christian Century magazine—"Midlife Crisis." It had an evangelical going down the street in a Caddy. He was overweight. He had a beer in his hand. He might as well have had his hands over his eyes. The guy didn't know where he was going. It was called "The Midlife Crisis of Fifty Years of American Evangelicalism."
I carried it around for two years, because it said we had no public theology. My wife said, "Why don't you throw that away?'' I said, "I'm still trying to figure out what this is." I had worked for the association all these years, run into brick walls on the social issues here in Washington, and decided, "You know what? We're going to do something differently."
Five of us met in Freedom House, in December 1995, and we began a movement, which today will move beyond the issues you have described and beyond our four, to global hunger, climate change, trade issues, and economic justice. There will be a lot of victories in the days ahead.
What is it? It is this idea that, as George Bush has put it and keeps repeating it, freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to mankind. That is what beats in the heart of every evangelical. We are growing—7,000 megachurches. We are adding a new church every two weeks.
This is a movement that has learned from its failures in the 1980s. We failed often enough to know how to do it right. It is a movement that has honed its techniques to be able to, yes, go to the Congressional Black Caucus when it is needed to pass the Sudan Peace Act, and to the gays to pass an HIV/AIDS bill, and to Tibet and the Buddhists to pass the Religious Freedom Act, and to go to apolitical North Koreans to pass the North Korean Freedom Act.
We have learned how to do this. It is not by zero-sum-game politics, where somebody else has to lose. A liberal Jew has to be a Democrat. Do you think he will lose because we are doing what we are doing' No. The liberal Jew, the black in the inner city, the Hindu and the Buddhist will discover, despite all the terrible stereotypes about this movement, that we care about their freedom and their rights. It is built on this idea, "Who is my neighbor?'' My neighbor will be the poor African woman with children who has HIV/AIDS and nothing to eat. It will be the person who is displaced by floods and droughts because of climate change, because this administration won't do anything about it.
These are the victims, and these are the people that we care about, because we follow someone bigger than ourselves who cares about them. George Bush has probably gotten it wrong on Iraq. My association didn't want it to be perceived as a holy war. We have 100-plus agencies. We have annual budgets, in some cases, of individual organizations, like the Salvation Army, of $1 billion a year, and many agencies with budgets of over $100 million annually. Do we want to put them at risk? Do we want to engage in a civilizational war like they say we do?The wiser heads—and there are plenty of them in our movement—say no.
Lastly, sometimes we learn from our failures. George Bush will learn, probably, from his. I don't like his management style, but he does have in his breast the beating heart of an evangelical. We face tragic moral dilemmas daily. Politicians do. But in the end, we learn from them. As Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, the hand of Providence may be present in our failures as much as in our successes, in our triumphs, and hope can survive.
The evangelicals don't live by optimism. We don't live by the success of the Republican Party, because if Hillary [Clinton] is elected in 2008, we will be off and running faster than we will during the last two years of George W. Bush. The plans are already in place. We know that the doors of the White House swing both ways.
You have no reason to fear. Besides, the Scriptures say, not by fear, but by love, power, and a sound mind. A sound mind is a terrible thing to waste. We evangelicals aren't going to waste our minds.
LUIS LUGO: Thank you.
Allen raised a very interesting point on this balancing of domestic and international issues. Every poll and survey of this community indicates that they indeed have a strong level of interest in international issues and want to deal with issues like religious persecution and AIDS policy in Africa. But it is also the case, when we ask the relative ranking of those issues vis-a-vis abortion, gay marriage—in other words, the staple of the domestic culture war agenda—that they rank fairly low.
RICHARD CIZIK: Bill Clinton said that when the evangelicals who are big in tsunami relief understand that you can't begin to think about dealing with the refugees of the 21st century without dealing with climate issues, then watch out.
I'm perhaps three or five years ahead of my constituency. But we moved into international issues because there was nothing to be done in eight years with Bill Clinton in the White House. The Berlin Wall came down. All of a sudden, everybody said, It's a whole new world out there," and thought, "A good new world, without the Soviet Union," only to discover all sorts of other problems.
So we concluded—are we going to be the Religious Right theocrats, ideologues of sex, or are we going to be people who embody this document, which we have released?
These social issues which come up and potentially draw us away from international issues will not in the long run deter what is beating in the evangelical heart.
LUIS LUGO: Allen, I just reiterated your point about the priority you assign to these things. I think you may not, however, pay sufficient attention to your first point—namely, the shift of the Christian population, the center of gravity moving decidedly southward and increasingly eastward, right over Africa. If you put a dot over Timbuktu in Mali, and put two lines through it, the world Christian population would be equally divided into quadrants.
You have a missing element, also part and parcel of globalization, which is massive immigration. We had major immigration reform in 1965, after which the vast majority of immigrants to this country have been Christians precisely from those areas of the world. Part of that immigration is also increasing religious diversity, in that you have more Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. But overwhelmingly, something like 75 percent of that immigration is Christian. Your typical Arab American today is still a Christian Arab American, not a Muslim.
Doesn't that argue for the continued high relevance of these global issues for the American evangelical and other Christian communities? You now have a Roman Catholic Church that's almost 40 percent Latino. How will that church forget about Latin America? There are an increasing number of Korean Presbyterians. Will they forget about Korea and East Asia? There are an increasing number of African Christians. Doesn't that argue against your dissipation, loss-of-vigor thesis?
ALLEN HERTZKE: If you look at the North Korean Human Rights Act, one of the pivotal groups was this newly mobilized Korean Christian American community. The Korean Christian community in America is vibrant, charismatic, but had not been very political. But through some very strong pastors who got together to back this legislation, they have become a force that politicians fear. Our survey suggests, and my own interviews still suggest, that among white evangelicals, Rich is pretty far ahead of his flock on some of these issues. But, yes, you do have immigration that will increasingly change the composition of the evangelical community in this country, in the same way that indigenized Christianity growing in Africa and Asia is changing the composition of global Christianity.
RICHARD CIZIK: The bottom line isn't whether some evangelical believes that these are the top-priority issues or whether traditional marriage is. The bottom-line issue is Nick Kristof of The New York Times saying, "They're the new internationals." If you can build consensus with your erstwhile opponents on abortion to pass bills and be that influential in changing the public policy of America, it doesn't matter what the polls say.
LUIS LUGO: There is an emerging internationalism in the African-American community, spearheaded not by the traditional mainline African-American denominations, but by the newer Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal groups, which are spreading like wildfire in Africa. There are at least 500 million Pentecostals. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street revivals in Los Angeles, which marked the beginning of modern Pentecostalism.
What I'm seeing increasingly are people like Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, becoming very active. Interestingly, many of these people are from the Pentecostal wing, establishing their own aid missions to Africa, but also lobbying hard on United States foreign policy.
You did mention the Congressional Black Caucus. In these unlikely alliances, one of these days, white evangelicals and black evangelicals may actually discover each other, which would really be news.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION:Bush has been successful, yet his public approval right now is so low. I see Bush's demise as the beginning of the evangelical movement's demise. If Hillary Clinton were to come into office, there might be a sea change in your organization's influence in Washington. Having tied yourself to one man, and particularly now the Republican Party, what does that mean for the future of your organization?
RICHARD CIZIK: I had better connections in the Clinton White House than I do now. The Bush people don't think they need to hear what some of us have to say, because they're too smart. I had more contact with Bill Clinton over eight years than I will have had with George Bush over eight years.
It's true; the Religious Right types will be no place with a Democrat in the White House. But the only reason I'm not at the Clinton Global Initiative reception tonight is because I'm here.
QUESTIONER: Why, as a voting bloc, then, have you so overwhelmingly gone to the Republican Party? And yet you feel closer to the Clinton White House.
LUIS LUGO: Would you first explain the difference between evangelicals and the Christian Right?
RICHARD CIZIK: You have the traditionalists, the centrists, and the modernists, not theologically, but politically. The traditionalists are a good 30 percent, the centrists are another 60 percent, and you have a few modernists, 10 percent. They are evangelicals. The centrists are those of us who don't engage in armchair Armageddonism. We don't read Left Behind. We are not engaging in the kind of rhetoric that Franklin Graham and Jerry Vines use when they call Mohammed a pedophile and a terrorist. We are engaging Islam on a regular basis. In fact, the people trying to get me into the Clinton global meetings were the Muslim Arab ambassadors, saying, "At least there's an evangelical in Washington who knows what's going on."
We have voted substantially for George Bush, but many evangelicals are very disquieted by his management style. I met with the leadership recently. They asked, "What have we gotten from George Bush on traditional marriage, for all those people that went in Ohio to vote for him?"
What have we gotten from George Bush? No sooner was elected than he announced that he would not devote any of his agenda to a marriage amendment. The Religious Right leaders all beat their breasts and sent off a letter quickly to Karl Rove saying, "We won't support your Social Security plan if you won't support us in the White House."
Our agenda is not the Republican Party's agenda. It is a human-rights biblical agenda that covers all of these issues. What matters to me is, what is God's agenda? What is He saying to this huge constituency? He doesn't audibly speak to us, but He speaks through His Word and He speaks through his leaders. His leaders have said, "This is the agenda." And we will pursue that broadly, no matter what Jim Dobson and his Focus on the Family think. "Stick to traditional marriage," and, "Stick to abortion," they say. We're saying, "Sorry, but that's not God's agenda."
LUIS LUGO: Is part of the problem in dealing with Bush and the Republicans that they are too beholden to the business side of the coalition?
RICHARD CIZIK: Evangelicals believe that governments should be honest and straightforward with the American people. If we disagree on the policy options to address major scientific issues that face the world, then okay. But don't lie with the data and don't manipulate the science, and then ask us to say to Bill and Hillary Clinton over and over again, "Repent, repent, repent." How about repenting for modifying scientific evidence on climate change?
QUESTION: You give a report on the polls that you've taken and make it sound as if it is a monolithic group, that they are internationalists and yet they are unilateralists, which sounds like an oxymoron. How can you be internationalist and unilateralist at the same time?
The impression we get is that the evangelicals support the Republican agenda, which is not Christian when you are making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and you are cutting money for health care.
You spoke about the moderates and Jim Wallace. But why don't the people who disagree with the evangelicals who seem to be in the forefront—why don't you speak up, so the rest of America can have a sense of your Christian values and what you stand for? They need to understand that it is not a monolithic group that only is antigay, which Tom Frank wrote about in his book, What's the Matter with Kansas?—antigay, pro-gun, and antiabortion. That's the perception that many Americans have of the evangelical movement. Why don't we hear more voices?
LUIS LUGO: The distinction is between internationalists and isolationists, on the one hand, and multilateralists and unilateralists on the other. You can have a very strong internationalist orientation and posit a strong role for the United States in the world, in engaging the world in a variety of ways, and still basically be unilateralist in your convictions—that is, that the United States should do it primarily alone, and if others come along, that's fine.
What I am suggesting from our survey findings is that evangelicals are internationalist and unilateralist in their approach to foreign policy.
ALLEN HERTZKE: There is pluralism in the evangelical world. It has been masked by a couple of things: one, the coverage by the elite press, which is reductionist and simplistic, and not very helpful in some cases; and by the fact that the people the elite press goes to for quotes are the very people who offer the most hard Christian Right perspective. Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson are quoted all the time. They are peripheral now to the evangelical community. But you wouldn't know that on the basis of who is being quoted in the press.
But the social networks that I described were built primarily out of a cultural angst about the drift of American culture and out of pro-life concerns, out of family concerns, out of a concern about divorce, out-of-wedlock births, the declining influence of religion in public life or the denigration of people of faith in the media and television.
The James Dobsons still do have a lot of influence in the evangelical world. Gary Bauer is still an economic conservative and believes that it is pro-family to have low taxes. Therefore, his pro-family agenda on cultural issues meshes with his economic libertarianism that meshes with business Republicans.
RICHARD CIZIK: Everybody thinks I'm Christian Right, just because I'm an evangelical.
ALLEN HERTZKE: And this is where it's crucial to distinguish evangelical Protestantism, which is a vast, rather complex, decentralized, entrepreneurial world that encompasses Pentecostals and Southern Baptists and all sorts of different denominations and independent churches, from the politicized movement known as the Christian Right, which is spearheaded by particular leaders with a specific political agenda. They're not coterminous. One shouldn't equate being an evangelical with being a member of the Christian Right, because most evangelicals are not militant. Most of them have more local concerns than national concerns.
LUIS LUGO: Evangelicals were about 25 percent of the electorate in 2004. Self-identified evangelicals voted 78 percent for Bush. That was almost a ten-point increase over the 2000 election.
QUESTION: How do you delineate your priorities within the movement, since there is poverty, hunger, children dying from preventable causes, human-rights violations, et cetera?
Secondly, I have yet to see the mounting of a campaign against what the Republican administration is doing in Iraq. You just said that, overall, there was some disagreement with that.
LUIS LUGO: Sixty-seven point five said it was the right decision to go in. Consistently in all our polling, they have been shown to have the most support for the Bush Iraq policy of any group in the country. That's only slightly down from January of this year, when it was at 72 percent.
Also Bush's overall approval numbers among evangelicals is the highest of any group. It's about 60 percent; for the country as a whole, that's 40.
RICHARD CIZIK: The number-one priority for evangelicals is religious freedom internationally. How do we decide the priorities' We had Lieberman come and speak about creation care, or environmentalism, climate care; Brownback talks about human rights. The next day, the board of seventy-five men, women, leaders, organizational executives meets. Somebody says, "I think we should just stick with the traditional issues—abortion, gays, and judges."
The head of the Salvation Army stands up and says, "Gentlemen and ladies, where are the poor in the Religious Right's agenda?" The president of the NAE [National Association of Evangelicals] is getting pressure from the Right, Chuck Colson, Jim Dobson—"What are you doing over at NAE, talking about environmental issues? They're liberal issues." The vote is taken, and the agenda is affirmed. We are not going back to judges, abortion, and gays.
But the debate is ongoing, so that when a briefing on evangelicalism was held in New York by David Neff, head of Christianity Today magazine, and others, the Focus on the Family people called to find out, "Did you discuss creation care?" The head of the briefing said, "Yes. We happen to believe that's part of God's agenda." Ultimately the decisions are made by the collective will of the movement. The leaders can provide leadership, but ultimately it's a decentralized, grassroots movement. People make up their own minds.
QUESTION: It would be helpful also not to be stuck in a black-and-white gap between the evangelicals who wear their religion on their sleeves and the others. You made a reference, for example, to the Europeans. European countries' foreign policies are deeply religious, whether they like it or not, because the whole idea of human rights, of progress, is a deeply religious idea. Before the rise of Christianity, you had the notion of history being cyclical. It was religion that introduced the notion of progress in history. You mentioned the tsunami, for example. The whole idea behind what the UN is doing with the tsunami is called Building Back Better. That is deeply religious, whether people like it or not.
The danger in using religious arguments in the field of foreign policy is like that of using any other ideological argument. Sometimes it tends to simplify the issues and divide. Because it divides and it simplifies the issues, and it is explaining things in terms of a system, it dilutes individual responsibility and ethics, in explaining what happens in the world. Things are going on in North Korea because there is a man who has decided that some people would die and others would not.
You talked about God's agenda. I'd like you to explain a bit more what you mean by that. I am religious. I'm not sure if I know exactly how to operationalize God's agenda. I'm comfortable with that, because I am suspicious of anything that sounds like an irreversible judgment or an infallible opinion.
LUIS LUGO: Both your questions have to do with the public discourse and argument in these areas. Isn't the introduction of religion happening precisely because it has a commitment to ultimate truths? Given the amount of religious diversity in the world, isn't the introduction of religion into the whole discussion divisive and potentially counterproductive to getting anything done?
RICHARD CIZIK: Religious language is prone to divide. George Bush has overstepped a bit. He has not been terribly sectarian. But he has cast it in "evil and good" terms. Many people have a problem with that. I happen to like Bush's way of doing it, but I do concede that his brittleness is not very evangelical. He is, in many ways, not characteristic of our movement. He's not always the best spear carrier for us.
Politics internationally is eccentric. Politics locally and nationally is sometimes concurrent. There aren't the common norms that everybody accepts in the international arena. So once you get overseas, you have to change the way you talk. I understand the way that the Brits, the French, the Germans and everybody have responded to Bush.
In defense of Bush, I would say that he still embodies the idea that political and social freedom is what we should be about. I don't know whether we are a chosen nation. I don't believe we're a Christian nation. But we do have an obligation to carry the values which you and I would agree on. Will we do that? I would say, let's do it in a way that Bush hasn't done it.
ALLEN HERTZKE: There is a whole political science discourse about whether religious arguments are legitimate in the public square, and whether they are divisive.
What I found in following this movement over the last decade—a real ecumenical faith-based movement—is that the language of human rights, which has deep religious roots, does unite. I watched while people who fight like cats and dogs over abortion and gay marriage worked amicably together in the same room plotting strategy on a trafficking bill, because they could all say, both liberal Jews and conservative evangelicals, 'From our faith perspective, this is a violation of the dignity of the human person.' Speaking as a Catholic, that is Dignitatis Humanae.
So there is a universality to the language of human rights, and the UN declaration embodies that.
As long as people bring their religious values but then use publicly accessible language, the threats are fewer. But when they use religious rhetoric on the international stage, as some evangelical leaders have, which suggests a crusade against the infidels, then it becomes problematic.
LUIS LUGO: A religion component is part of the transatlantic divide in discussing these matters. But even apart from that, there has been a long-term disconnect between the way the United States thinks about foreign policy and its role in the world and the typical way in which Europeans do.
Our first foreign policy was internationalist, but it was isolationist vis-a-vis the European balance-of-power system. The founders of this republic had an internationalist agenda which explicitly was set against the European balance-of-power system, which they saw as part and parcel of the monarchical systems that pervaded Europe in that period. From the very beginning, we had an exceptionalism mentality, which drives Europeans crazy.
When you add religion to the mix, particularly with an increasingly secular Europe, you can see how it becomes even sharper. There are a lot of diplomatic efforts going on at the sub-state level, sub-governmental level—"track-two diplomacy," it's called in these circles—which explicitly appeals to Iranian mullahs. What allowed them to break the ice was to put religion explicitly on the table. Doug Johnston, who has been very involved in track-two diplomacy efforts in Sudan, will tell you that the interreligious council they put together of Christians and Muslims in the southern Sudan, was a critical component of bringing about the final peace deal. When John Garang's plane went down, that was the network that was activated so that Christians and Muslims issued simultaneous statements, including John Garang's widow, to tamp things down.
It raises the question of whether this might be appropriate at a sub-state level or sub-governmental level, and not at the governmental level.
RICHARD CIZIK: I just spent ten days meeting with Islamic party leaders in Morocco. One of the first things I said to them was, "Gentlemen, we're two sides of the same coin." They immediately understood what I was talking about.
QUESTION: It's interesting that you talk about God's agenda. I come from a very small community in Nicaragua. I have seen the way that the evangelicals have come into that community. Does your agenda include the agenda and opinions of those poor people?
Would you also expand a bit on what you consider to be the evangelical failures of the past?
LUIS LUGO: To what extent, Richard, are Nicaraguan evangelicals, but also evangelicals throughout the developing world, shaping your agenda?
RICHARD CIZIK: What we say comes from the Scriptures, which we hold dear and authoritative. It's not simply my opinion. It's not some guy's opinion in some religious office. It comes straight from the Scriptures. You can go to Luke 10, in which we see that He has taught us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for the needy and the imprisoned, for those who are oppressed. That is God's agenda, and it's from His word.
LUIS LUGO: Are you hearing that word reinforced through your contacts with the worldwide evangelical community, most of which lives in the developing world?
RICHARD CIZIK: The evangelical leaders who came to Washington from all the five continents recently to talk about Millennium Development Goals said, "This is what the evangelical leaders around the world are talking about. Our issues are not what you think they are." There's a big disconnect.
With the right mechanisms and the right voices, I am trying to gradually lead our movement to what I believe are the scriptural truths that we have to embody and to bring their congregants along with them. You have the replacement for Billy Graham, Rick Warren, with 400,000 pastors who get his sermons, saying that his agenda stands for the poor, the needy, the suffering, the AIDS. Billy Graham would always say, "Just come forward. Receive Christ." And do what? There never was a "do."
If the evangelicals have a regret, it is that when Billy Graham made the call, there was no concomitant request, or demand—God's word—that says, "You're called not simply to receive this man as your Savior, who is living and alive and is the Lord of the universe today, but you are called to an agenda that is a reconciliation agenda." That will be the greatest failure of the last 50 years. But we are rectifying it, so that the poorest of the poor around the world will hear one message from this diverse movement. You are hearing it from Rick Warren and others. It will multiply and change the face of the world, because the people who are our people are those poor around the world.
QUESTION: It appears that the primary agenda unifying all the evangelicals and the Christian Right, number one, is abortion. You have given us many examples and a string of legislation that points to the fact that there is unity around other international issues, and that evangelicals can work with the likes of Jewish liberals, Muslims, Arabs, and so on.
However, the issue of abortion is taking up the whole room in terms of agenda. You see a Bush administration that is not giving aid to women abroad, to women's issues and women's reproduction, unless it has to do with abstinence.
Number two, why is it that evangelicals are so against working with the UN?
RICHARD CIZIK: The first one—I had a phone call today asking whether I would meet with Hillary's chief of staff in a week on abortion, to craft a way in which we can together find our way through that mess.
LUIS LUGO: You need to explain something about the premillennialists, the dispensationalists, teaching of some aspects.
ALLEN HERTZKE: Evangelicals are in many ways paradoxical. You've seen a different kind of expression of evangelicalism in Rich Cizik than you might have seen elsewhere. They tend to be patriots. They see some of these international organizations as politically, socially, and culturally liberal. So they don't trust the agenda of UN organizations, especially on issues of reproduction and population.
LUIS LUGO: Oftentimes people who speak the language of international organizations assume that there is no value commitment, even of a religious kind. As I speak to evangelicals, to Muslims, to conservative Catholics, and others, they see a fairly militant secular agenda being foisted upon them.
I'm stunned that Israel has not come up. I can tell you, from all of our polling, that no issue more encapsulates an evangelical view of the world than the United States relationship to Israel. I have had evangelical leaders say that George Bush can do just about everything and not alienate his base, except on the issue of Israel.
RICHARD CIZIK: I've been at the White House where they've said that God will strike him dead.
LUIS LUGO: It is widely believed in evangelical circles that God has blessed the United States because the United States has protected and blessed Israel.
Thank you all for your participation.