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No Martyr

A top official from the nation's largest evangelical group resigns over same-sex unions comment.

11:00 PM, Dec 11, 2008 • By MARK D. TOOLEY
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More so than Global Warming, Cizik's equivocations about marriage unsettled churchgoers in NAE's 60 denominations and hundreds of parachurch ministries, whose membership ostensibly totals some 30 million Americans. They include groups such as the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal), the Presbyterian Church in America, the Salvation Army, and the Anglican Mission in America, which left the Episcopal Church because of its liberal views on issues such as homosexuality.

Over 70 percent of white evangelicals voted for John McCain. When NPR asked Cizik about his presidential choice, he coyly admitted that he voted for Obama in Virginia's Democratic primary, without divulging his November vote. He enthused that 32 percent of young evangelicals had supported Obama, even though they disagreed with his abortion stance. Unlike many evangelicals, Cizik was unimpressed by Sarah Palin, especially her skepticism about global warming as uniquely manmade.

"I could not have disagreed with her more," Cizik told NPR. "Just a year ago we found out from climate scientists that the melt in the Arctic had turned into a route," and that an "area the size of Colorado is disappearing every week." He suggested Palin lacked a "certain humility" and may face defeat for reelection as Alaska's governor. He's more optimistic that Obama will embody humility.

Cizik, who recalled his critics having called him one of "Obama's minions," also said that he will support Obama's professed desire to reduce abortions, which Cizik reluctantly called "morally repugnant, at least it is to me." That Obama supports unlimited legal access to abortion should not discourage evangelical cooperation, he said. In another bid for controversy among his evangelical constituency, Cizik urged government distribution of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies. "We aren't Catholics who oppose contraception per se," he noted.

Calling President George W. Bush's evangelical beliefs a "mixed blessing," Cizik recalled that evangelicals had been proud of Bush's faith. But Cizik thinks Bush "didn't reflect that Jesus as we would have wanted him to, with a humility to communicate to the world just what kind of people we are." He asserted that evangelicals will increasingly emphasize a wider spectrum of issues beyond same-sex marriage and abortion, especially the environment. "Our parents were the greediest generation," he asserted. "The next generation needs to be the greenest."

Another future cause that Cizik described for NPR was "Ground Zero," a new initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons globally. In the face of potential nuclear terrorism, nuclear weapons are "no longer a deterrent," he asserted. So the "mere possession of nuclear weapons becomes morally problematic." He claimed the initiative is supported both by Obama and John McCain. Cizik said he shared the ostensible attitude of "younger evangelicals" who have a "different attitude" towards military force. "The idea that, well, you can have a sort of anti-science anti-intellectualism and walk into the world with a big stick and hope to be able to win these wars--You can't win these wars we're fighting with a big stick; we know that."

In announcing Cizik's resignation, Anderson noted that they had not been able to meet for over a week because of Cizik's "international travel," which evidently referred to a "Ground Zero" event in Paris. Now seemingly a martyr to evangelical intolerance of Cizik's progressive views, no doubt there are multiple job possibilities. Perhaps a role in the Obama Administration? Cizik could continue to showcase the new kind of evangelical no longer restrained by conservative causes.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.