The annual March for Life brought thousands of people to Washington, D.C. on Friday, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. This year, Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission teamed up to create more of an evangelical presence at the heavily Catholic march. “Our burden was to see the reborn stand up for the unborn," said the Southern Baptists’ Russell Moore on Thursday. At Friday’s march, Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly acknowledged that evangelicals took “a while to come to the party” on abortion.
A few hundred people attended the first Evangelicals for Life conference, which began on Thursday and continued on Friday morning until the rally and march were set to begin. Among the conference speakers, in addition to Moore and Daly, were Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life and Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
The day started with Moore and Daly interviewing and praying for David Daleiden, whose videos have been at the center of the latest right-wing effort to destroy Planned Parenthood. Moore gave Daleiden a chance to respond to criticism that his deceptive tactics had required lying, asking if he was engaging in moral relativizing. Daleiden explained that his “undercover” work is different from lying because its ultimate purpose is truth-telling, an extremely dubious claim in this case.
Charmaine Yoest celebrated the anti-choice movement’s success at generating a “tidal wave” of restrictions on abortion, explaining as she did in her remarks at the World Congress of Families summit in October, that those victories were based on a strategic decision to focus on state legislatures, pass restrictions, and create opportunities for the Supreme Court to chip away at Roe. She called it a “stealth strategy” and an “under-the-radar” way to go on the offensive.
Yoest and other speakers argued that the movement’s continued success will depend on putting a more loving, compassionate, woman-focused face on the movement, directly challenging pro-choice advocates who ground their legal arguments in women’s dignity. Yoest described abortion as “fundamentally anti-woman” and abortion advocates as “the true misogynists in our society.”
Rodriguez, as he often does in conservative settings, tried to convince the audience not to “drink the Kool-Aid” about changing demographics being bad news for the anti-abortion movement. Rodriguez said pro-life Hispanics can provide a “spiritual firewall” for the movement.
In reality, progressive-voting Latinos created a firewall for President Obama, which may be why Rodriguez complained that “our voting pattern runs counter to what we preach about on Sunday” and declared, “If we are pro-life on Sunday, if we preach pro-life on Sunday, we cannot support a candidate that advocates abortion on Tuesday.” Rodriguez spoke directly to Latinos, saying it’s fine to march for immigration reform -- “as long as it’s not amnesty or illegal immigration; we need to stop that” -- but “we must be above all things pro-life.”
The most surprising and interesting remarks of the day came from Christian author Ron Sider, a pacifist and anti-hunger advocate who challenged a movement that calls itself pro-life to be more engaged in fighting global poverty, challenging subsidies to the tobacco industry, protecting the environment, fighting racism, and opposing capital punishment. He said white evangelicals would have more success at getting Black Christians into the anti-abortion movement if white Christians became supportive for Black Lives Matter.
Rodriguez also said the future of the movement had to be multiethnic, declaring that “the day of white, angry, pro-life advocates as a collective movement, that day is officially over.” He said that abortion providers target African American and Latino women, which he called “unbridled and unfettered racism.” Rodriguez said he is working with Bernice King, daughter of MLK, to launch later this year the National Christian Leadership Conference, “an organization for the purpose of advancing a culture of life, and we will be specifically targeting the Latino and African American communities.”
A few notes from afternoon breakout sessions:
Just last week, the New York Times ran a profile of a new 'kinder and gentler' Focus on the Family under current president Jim Daly who purports to be trying to change the tone of the debates over contentious issues like abortion and marriage equality while defending his conservative Christian positions on such issues.
Daly operates under the impression that so long as he approaches these debates in a gentle, thoughtful, and prayerful manner, he can open others up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, make converts, and ultimately win people over to his side of the argument.
Today, on Focus on the Family's radio program, Daly and co-host John Fuller welcomed George Mason University Law School professor Helen Alvare onto the program to discuss "The Erosion of Marriage in America," which Alavre blamed on everything from no-fault divorce to the practice of in vitro fertilization.
And while Daly, Fuller, and Alvare were all very careful to continually insist that they were speaking out of love and respect, when it gets down to it, Alvare said, it is ridiculous to think that the Constitution contains any sort of right to marriage equality and so the state simply needs to tell gay couples that "marriage is not in the cards for you":
I don't think that the Supreme Court wants to live through another forty years of post-bad decision making like they did with Roe v. Wade. There is no question that Constitution does not textually have a right to same-sex marriage. There is no question that it has been banned - you know, we only have a few states allowing it now. To say that it's a constitutional right would be ridiculous and I don't think they want to be fighting over it for the next forty years.
There is a reason why, pre-Christianity as well as today, the community of citizens has always understood that there is something different about what a man and a woman do when they are romantically interested together and that naturally leads them to say I want you for my whole life. The fact that this natural connection, older than Christianity, leads to children; the fact that children seem to need, empirically speaking, a mother and a father is why whatever the state wants to say to gay and lesbian citizens - and hopefully they say we love you and we're not going to discriminate against you - they cannot say what you do and what opposite sex couples do has the same intrinsic outcomes and therefore interest of the state. It simply is not commensurate.
We can also say one final thing, which is when the state is tempted to say this, what you do, opposite sex couple, and what a same-sex couple does, which they can talk about a long-term emotional commitment that we have seen if we reduce marriage to people's emotional feelings, we get more divorce, we get less marriage, we get more children outside of marriage and the poor pay more. We don't have to speculate about this any more, we have seen it. There has been a horrid natural experiment in our country; we know what we are talking about.
We love you. We won't discriminate against you as gay and lesbian persons, God willing, in the future. But marriage is not in the cards for you.
This seems to pretty well sum up the new approach from Focus on the Family, which is to insist that gays are loved and respected and should not be discriminated against ... but that they just shouldn't ever be allowed to get married.
Focus on the Family president Jim Daly is upset that the Boy Scouts of America may ditch its nationwide ban on gay membership and he is using Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and author, to make his case. Daly cites Wiesel in a blog post which claims that allowing “openly practicing homosexuals” in the Boy Scouts will undermine “the character and safety of the boys.”
To the shock and disappointment of many of us, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement yesterday indicating the possibility of changing its policy that prevents the participation of openly practicing homosexuals.
Neutrality is often an attractive option, especially when the goal is to not offend. But in this case, I'm reminded of what the great humanitarian and political activist Elie Wiesel once wrote about trying to remain neutral when it comes to moral affairs:
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.
At stake in this debate is not just the golden brand of the Boy Scouts but most importantly the character and safety of the boys involved.
That’s right: Daly is using a Wiesel quote to compare the Boy Scouts becoming neutral on gay members to countries that were neutral during the Holocaust.
During an interview with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, Paul Ryan reassured the anti-gay group that a Romney-Ryan administration will fiercely oppose gay rights. Focus on the Family and its founder James Dobson have a long history of promoting anti-gay policies and ex-gay therapy, and earned a shout-out from Romney earlier this week while campaigning in Colorado, where it is headquartered.
While Romney has moved in his career from backing gay rights to becoming a vocal foe, Ryan has a solidly anti-gay voting record in Congress. Ryan told Daly, whose political arm has been spending money on behalf of Romney and a number of other Republican candidates like Todd Akin, that the ticket is firmly against same-sex marriage and that he was a “big supporter” of a 2006 amendment which enshrined marriage discrimination into the Wisconsin state constitution. He also said the Obama administration’s decision not to defend the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act hurt the “rule of law” and “contradicts our system of government,” however, a number of presidents including George W. Bush have not defended statutes they deemed unconstitutional.
Daly: Focus on the Family has been behind the scenes working for years to defend marriage and to speak out for marriage and the importance of marriage. I think thirty-two out of thirty-two states where we have helped put a ballot initiative or some other mechanism in front of the people, we have won that thirty-two out of thirty-two times. It seems like when it’s in front of the people they vote for it, if it’s the state-level judges they will try to do it by fiat or if it is simply some other mechanism, the State House passes it without the vote of the people. For the Romney-Ryan ticket, when you look at marriage, what do we need to do in the culture to lift up and strengthen the very core building block of society and that’s family.
Ryan: It’s the foundation for society and for family for thousands of years. First of all, Mitt Romney and I — I’ll just say it, it’s worth repeating — we believe marriage is between one man and one woman, that’s number one. Number two, you know where I come from we had one of those amendments in Wisconsin, I was a big supporter of it and we passed it like you say, where it’s put on the ballot it passes. The second point is, President Obama gave up defending the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, I mean, not only is this decision to abandon this law the wrong decision, it passed in a bipartisan manner, it is very troubling because it undermines not only traditional marriage but it contradicts our system of government. It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense in the courts that it deserves.
Focus on the Family president Jim Daly hosted conservative pastor Tony Evans to discuss the importance of voting yesterday, which Daly kicked off by claiming that just a single vote brought Texas into the Union, would have stopped Hitler from coming to power, made German a second language in the US and defeated John F. Kennedy. While of course every vote is important, unfortunately, Daly’s list is entirely false and based on urban legends.
Daly made sure to keep the program nominally nonpartisan but did discuss why evangelical voters should prefer a conservative non-Christian candidate over a left-leaning Christian and lamented the supposed tendency of African Americans to only vote only according to race. While it was already clear who Daly and Evans wanted listeners to support, they made their pitch more apparent when the two asserted that the current administration is quashing freedom and attacking Christians. Daly warned that government keeps getting “bigger and bigger and wants to take away more and more of our freedoms” and Evans maintained that there is an attempt “to remove God from government” by increasing its size and weakening freedom.
Daly: Going back to this idea when government gets bigger, our liberties tend to get smaller. The Founding Fathers were uniquely geared to understanding corrupt government and what happens when tyranny occurs. How do we guard against that in this modern day? It seems like nothing new under the sun is occurring and as government in the US gets bigger and bigger and wants to take away more and more of our freedoms, how do we actually respond?
Evans: I think the church of Jesus Christ has to rise up as a unit and say it is unacceptable to remove God from government, it is unhistorical, it is certainly biblio-centrically unacceptable and therefore we’re going to as responsible citizens raise up godly people to run for office; we are going to vote for people who have biblical value system to get into office; we are going to on the various levels of government make our voices heard; we are going to register our people to vote on Sunday after church; we are going to make a comprehensive statement that we are not to be denied as Christians our freedoms in America and we can argue clearly from the Bible on small government. You know 1 Samuel 8, He says if you elect a government of me it will expand, it is going to overtax you and it will take, take, take, take, take, and you will lose the freedom that I intended for you. That’s what is happening in America and that is why God’s people have got to vote for the right government.
Adding a dose of pseudo-history, Daly argued that the Founders established the US government according to the Bible and Evans said that the US is modeled after biblical Israel and the Garden of Eden.
Daly: Tony, as we look at the mandate in the Bible to vote there is so much there and the Founding Fathers again were brilliant in understanding God’s design for things and the Scripture is pretty clear and really the Founding Fathers in creating a Republic based it on their biblical understanding of God’s ordination of government, didn’t they?
Evans: Absolutely, they went right to Exodus 18, how Israel was organized as a representative government, and used that as a pattern for the government of the United States. The principles and the freedom which dominates the uniqueness of the United States is drawn right from Scripture, in fact freedom started with God in the Garden, ‘from every tree of the Garden you may freely eat,’ there was broad freedom, limited regulations and dire consequences, that’s how government is supposed to work, so whenever government gets too big it gets unbiblical.
Focus on the Family president Jim Daly hosted Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Focus on the Family board member, to discuss same-sex marriage and its supposed threat to religious freedom. Daly claimed that Satan himself is promoting same-sex marriage since “he hates marriage because it’s a reflection of God’s image.” “The Enemy hates that, it’s disgusting to him,” Daly said, “and with that, he wants to break it down, he wants to destroy it.” Later, Mohler maintained that “same-sex marriage is going to be the greatest challenge to religious liberty in our lifetimes” and will replace religious liberty with a more limited freedom of worship:
Daly: When you look at human sexuality, someone suggested to me the other day, they said, if you think about it, the Enemy of our soul, yes we refer to this entity as Satan, that he hates marriage because it’s a reflection of God’s image. In other words, in the Scripture it talks about us being made in God’s image, male and female, and when we come together in lifelong commitment to marriage we become one flesh, that the Enemy hates that, it’s disgusting to him and with that, he wants to break it down, he wants to destroy it.
Mohler: There’s no doubt that religious liberty is now very much on the line. As a matter of fact, same-sex marriage is going to be the greatest challenge to religious liberty in our lifetimes, and both sides on the controversy know it. You can look at the papers, the law articles, the kinds of things that are already on both sides of the argument. There’s a fundamental, shared understanding that this is going to be the big issue. You mentioned Christians running bed and breakfasts, Christians in any kind of employment situation or public services, photographers for weddings and frankly even churches are going to be very much on the line because what we’ve seen in recent political decisions is that religious liberty is really being reduced, and listen very carefully to what people are saying, is a freedom of worship. Religious liberty means much more than freedom of worship.
Focus on the Family's Jim Daly has teamed up with Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, to pen an op-ed for CNN's Belief Blog calling on everyone - but especially Christians engaged in the battles over contentious social issues like religion, homosexuality, and immigration - to stop engaging in name-calling against those with whom they disagree, calling it "rhetorical pornography" and a violation of the teachings of Jesus:
What we say about others reveals more about ourselves than the people we're talking about. This is especially true for Christians, who encounter any number of verses in the Bible that point to how "sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness," as the English Standard Version translation of Proverbs 16:21 puts it.
[I[t should be convicting to all Christians when we find ourselves contributing to this maelstrom. Derogatory terms for other human beings – regardless of how widely their views differ from ours or, more importantly, from the truths of Scripture – should never pass our lips. To call it rhetorical pornography, for the debasement it engenders, is not an overstatement.
To get into the terms specifically here would be to attach to them a dignity they don't deserve. But we know them when we hear them: Epithets and cutting adjectives directed at gays and lesbians that go far beyond reasoned articulation of our biblical views about God's design for human sexuality.
Cruel, dismissive descriptions of those who do not share our faith – whether they be of a different religion or none at all – serving to drive people further from the heart of Christ, the exact opposite of our calling as his modern-day disciples.
And, perhaps most distressingly, ethnic slurs against noncitizens in our country, people who, in many cases, are families just like our own, seeking the best quality of life they can achieve. How do those hurtful words address the deeper and quite nuanced issues of legality and border integrity?
What each of these instances has in common is that the words are being used to deny the innate humanity and dignity owed every individual. The Jesus we follow did not just die for those who believe in him; his father created each one of us in his own image.
That means that as Christ breathed his last on the cross, there was as much love in his heart for the homosexual activist, the Mexican national who is not a citizen and the atheist as there was for us.
It is out of the "overflow of the heart," Jesus says in Matthew 12, that "the mouth speaks." That means it is far more than a failure of "tone" when we marginalize or malign those with whom we disagree. The solution is not just "nicer" words, but a transformed perspective, one that sees all human beings, including “opponents,” through the eyes of our proponent, Jesus.
Jim Garlow, who helped lead the campaign to pass Proposition 8 and head of Renewing American Leadership, appeared on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly today where he called on gay right advocates to “dial down the rhetoric” they use against their conservative opponents. Before his appeal to the gay community for more civil discourse, however, Garlow said that “the radical gay homosexual agenda” will “shut down” religious freedom and that the “redefinition” of marriage is actually a plan of Satan. Repeating a claim he has made before, Garlow alleged that the legalization of same-sex marriage is a demonic plot to “destroy marriage on earth.” Surely, Garlow may want to reconsider lecturing gays and lesbians about the use of divisive rhetoric after telling them they are led by Satan and out to crush religion.
Everybody on both sides of this issue full well knows the implications, that these are two locomotives coming at each other and those two locomotives cannot exist on the same track on the same time, and one is the radical homosexual agenda and the other one is religious liberty. They cannot be in the same country at the same time. People at the upper levels on both sides full well know that, they are fully, clearly aware that religious liberties, the capacity to worship God as we do, will be shut down if the radical gay homosexual agenda actually succeeds.
If I were Satan, this is key, if I were Satan, I would want to destroy the image of God on the planet. How do you do that? You’ve got to destroy the institution of marriage. If I were Satan I would want to destroy marriage on earth with divorce, I would want to destroy it with redefinition.
I would appeal with all my heart for the rhetoric to be dialed down and not to substitute ‘you’re a hatemonger’ when really what you’re saying is ‘I disagree with you.’ We mean it when we say we truly love you, we truly love you and we know our hearts better than you do, we truly love you, if we didn’t we’d be manifesting things in a very, very different way. I would appeal to you, if you happen to be one who feels vociferous about this issue and you’re a leader of the homosexual community, if you can, if you see it within yourself, dial down the rhetoric.