Evangelicals Opposing Nukes
Will the increasingly liberal views of the National Association of Evangelicals affect the next election?
2:29 PM, Nov 10, 2011 • By MARK TOOLEY
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) on November 8 released a new policy that falls just short of urging total nuclear disarmament while surmising that reliance on nukes might be idolatrous.
But a new generation has ascended to leadership of NAE, which reports membership of 40 denominations that include about 45,000 local churches. The new NAE has distanced itself from the old religious right with more liberal stances on the environment, U.S. enhanced interrogation techniques, federal budget policy and immigration. During its October board meeting in Washington, D.C., NAE officials met with President Obama. And the NAE board also approved the new anti-nuclear weapons statement. It notes that a “growing body of Christian thought calls into question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense, given that the just war theory categorically admonished against indiscriminate violence and requires proportionality and limited collateral damage."
NAE’s new nuclear weapons stance suggests that “continued possession undermines the nonproliferation regime and commitments by the nuclear powers to actively pursue nuclear disarmament.” It also observes: “Many argue that they [nukes] weaken rather than strengthen our security.” And it warns: “Scripture shows that national military might too often takes the place of trust in God.”
Over the Summer an initial NAE nuclear discussion group included Tyler Wigg-Stevenson of the Two Futures Project, a group aimed at persuading evangelicals to back complete nuclear disarmament. A former protégé to the late Democratic Senator Alan Cranston, Wigg-Stevenson helped present the draft nuclear statement to the NAE board in October, though he himself is not a board member. During the Summer discussion, NAE President Leith Anderson, a Minnesota megachurch pastor whose flock includes former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, reportedly insisted NAE would not explicitly advocate complete nuclear disarmament. But the new NAE stance almost certainly will be widely interpreted in that direction.
The new nuclear stance also comes in the wake of the NAE’s having joined liberal religious activist Jim Wallis’s “Circle of Protection” to protest limits on social welfare and entitlement spending. An NAE representative joined Wallis and others in a visit with President Obama during the July debt ceiling crisis that seemingly aligned NAE against Congressional Republicans. Although widely criticized outside the NAE, the “Circle of Protection” apparently was not debated at last month’s NAE board meeting, whose sessions were closed.
During NAE’s October board meeting, Leith Anderson led several NAE officials to the White House to meet with President Obama, discussing immigration reform and also commending Obama for denouncing Iran’s potential death sentence for an evangelical pastor. Although they apparently discussed the threat of budget limits on social welfare spending, they did not discuss abortion. "Issues that relate to the poor we would address as pro-life issues, but it was not specifically a discussion on abortion," Anderson explained to Religion News Service (RNS). "It was not intentionally omitted. We had a limited amount of time." The same report said a "respectful disagreement" was admitted on same-sex marriage, with NAE officials defending military chaplains who disapprove of homosexual behavior. “Evangelicals have had good access to the Obama White House, at least that's my experience,” Anderson told RNS. “He clearly knows where we disagree on issues like marriage and abortion and he acknowledged that we have significant differences." Anderson was glad Obama said protecting persecuted Christians globally is a “priority.” Recalling Reagan’s 1983 “evil empire” speech to NAE, Anderson admitted that last week’s 30 minute White House meeting was not of that “magnitude.”
Some days later, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that a prominent NAE board member would become its religious outreach director. The Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins, whose hiring was announced October 20, is senior pastor of the prestigious Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of the largest historic black congregations in Washington, DC. In addition to serving on the NAE board, Harkins serves on an advisory board for the pro-abortion rights Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). He also serves on the board of the liberal advocacy group Faith and Public Life, funded by leftist philanthropies such as George Soros and the Tides Foundation.
Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy.
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