October 10, 2003


On This They Do Agree: Evangelicals take the lead in human-rights activism. (ALLEN D. HERTZKE, October 10, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

[I]n a Sept. 26 New York Times story,...the war in Sudan was described as a "pet cause of many American religious conservatives." Would the Times have similarly described the plight of Soviet Jewry as a "pet cause" of American Jews or apartheid a "pet cause" of African-Americans?

Such patronizing illustrates how the Sudan cause becomes "tainted" by association with evangelical Christians, whose efforts keep pressure on the Khartoum regime by documenting and publicizing its depredations. It isn't only the efforts of evangelicals, of course. Jewish leaders, Catholics, Episcopalians and African-American pastors from many denominations all contribute. Former Sudanese slaves speak at synagogues and black churches; lay evangelicals from the heartland travel to Washington to join with civil-rights leaders in demonstrations; and campus activists have helped organize a divestment campaign that has resulted in plummeting stock prices for oil companies doing business in Sudan.

This story of human-rights activism offers one example among many of a new generation of evangelicals quite comfortable in forming coalitions with those they may oppose on some hot-button domestic concerns. Leaders like Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals worked closely with liberal Jews and Tibetan Buddhists to press landmark international religious freedom legislation in 1998. They joined with Gloria Steinem and all the major feminist organizations to pass the Victims of Trafficking and Protection Act of 2000 and with the Congressional Black Caucus for passage of the Sudan Peace Act of 2002. In 2003 they worked with Ted Kennedy and civil-liberties groups such as the NAACP, La Raza and Human Rights Watch to pass legislation targeting prison rape.

Evangelicals are now leading similar coalitions on behalf of North Korean refugees, and their activism represents the main bulwark against granting further license to the Pyongyang regime to perpetuate its internal human-rights atrocities in return for "concessions" on the international front.

Who else is going to campaign for human dignity but the folks who still believe in it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2003 7:38 PM

Just to reinforce your point, so to speak:

"As He died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free..."

Evangelicals have been in the forefront of the abolitionist movement from the get-go.

Posted by: Joe at October 10, 2003 8:42 PM

Oh, those were not evangelicals spitting at me when I marched for integration with SCLC? Could have fooled me, Joe.

If this stuff is true -- and I'm gonna take a heap o' persuadin' -- then it's mighty good news.

But -- and Orrin could understand this if he would -- the driver is not some spiritual, habitual or deep-bred belief in human dignity. I grew up surrounded by evangelicals, and they never held any such beliefs.

Cherchez le bucks. The biggest church in my county is evangelical and brown, because that's where the donations can be had. The sermons are artfully configured, but the hate in them is just as hateful as it was in my boyhood in east Tennessee.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 10, 2003 10:00 PM

Of course the church is full of hate - but then Jesus always said that many of the people who would be in it were going to be frauds anyway. I doubt it is any comfort to Harry, but one day the differences between true belief and mere association will be made quite clear.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 10, 2003 10:59 PM

Harry, you are really too much. So FDR and liberal America fought the Nazis to make a better world, but the religious do it for profit?

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2003 7:50 AM

And what did they not fight the identical Communists for?

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2003 8:00 AM

Oh, I wouldn't go so far as that.

Maybe non-religionists have a more sensitive nose for religious hypocrisy than do religionists.

OJ certainly seems to have a very sensitive nose for rationalist hypocrisy.

Where one stands on something relies very much on where one sits.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 11, 2003 8:35 AM


Now you're getting it--they're all just faiths, whether reason or religion based, and adherents buy them without much doubt.

Posted by: oj at October 11, 2003 8:48 AM

Actually, Jeff, I don't think Orrin worries too much about hypocrisy, which I assume he takes as a given in the human condition. I think he focus' more on truth and error.

It always amazes me how the non-religious feel they have struck a blow against the truth or validity of faith by pointing to the hypocrisy of believers, especially believers in a faith that defines men as sinners. Is your faith in science and rationalism shaken when you hear of a scientist who remains faithful to his wife while publically condemning fidelity as an artificial, religious construct that frustrates our natural desires and warps our psyches?

Posted by: Peter B at October 11, 2003 8:57 AM


There is only one absolute truth: anytime any belief system makes any claim to possess it, they are absolutely wrong.

Theological belief systems are inherently prone to making, and acting upon, those claims. There is nothing about religious belief that just a lingering hint of doubt won't go a long way towards curing.

Why should my faith in rational inquiry be shaken by said putative scientist? Does the World Church of the Creator shake your faith in Christianity?


Doubt is the very fuel of rational inquiry. And there is one other distinct type of difference: the religious terms ecumenicismm, schism, and excommunication, among others, simply have no meaning within the realm of rational inquiry.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 12, 2003 8:35 AM


Read any sociobiologist on Stephen Jay Gould and tell me about schism and excommunication.

Posted by: OJ at October 12, 2003 11:05 AM

Doubt is important (yes, even for a Christian), but when it is venerated, it becomes something different. It is no longer 'unbelief' or even 'consideration', it becomes 'anti-belief'. For all of us (no matter what belief we hold), at some point in life all will be compressed into one moment.

Thomas gets poked at a lot in Christian circles, but give me his faith any day over those who saw and did not follow. His response when he saw Christ the following week was entirely appropriate (and yes, reasonable).

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 12, 2003 8:41 PM


If you think making a conclusion contrary to Dr. Gould's--or even consequent name calling--represents schism or excommunication, you have drained those words of all meaning.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 12, 2003 10:29 PM


That's all those things mean, is a group determining that some views are so unacceptable that those who hold them must be read out of the group. Thus, Gould died an apostate from Darwinism and scientists may be ineligible for prizes if they don't cowtow to the faith of the profession.

Posted by: oj at October 12, 2003 11:39 PM


I should have noticed. The Smithsonian magazine yanked his writing gig right out from under him, didnt' it?

Well, maybe not.

Your line of thinking means the normal results of rational inquiry are tantamount to excommunication.

Hardly. Either Gould's hypotheses stood up to examination, or they didn't. No one burned his house to the ground or cast him from society when they didn't.

There is a difference.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 13, 2003 10:06 PM