Fresh Air for Richard Cizik

Just when you thought Jerry Falwell was dead and gone, out comes the Ghost of Christmas Past to bring back some of that ol' time religion, drawing lines in sand and ridding American evangelicalism of any fresh ideas. The now former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, Richard Cizik, resigned last week amid controversial comments he made on NPR's Fresh Air. (Here's a link to the broadcast) He admitted to voting for Obama in the primaries, and advocated for government sponsored contraception and for gay civil unions. What an asshole, right?

Ever since this sanctimonious creepster stepped down as president of the NAE, Richard Cizik has become the kinder, gentler face of evangelicalism (a bit like Huckabee save the "flat tax" idiocy). Cizik has helped to push forward an environmental agenda among evangelicals, admitting that humans have caused it and that this is NOT how Jesus envisioned his second coming. Previously, care for the environment has been cast aside by evangelicals as just another secular, liberal, tree-hugging scare-tactic. Coupled with a mis-guided distrust of science, too many Americans continue to thump their Bibles and declare their "doubt" over the cause or even the occurrence of climate change. Cizik and other progressive (I use the term lightly) evangelicals have tried to re-frame the climate change argument, putting it in terms that speak to evangelicals. They have emphasized the impact that global warming will have on all humanity, especially the poor, linking Christian stewardship with a responsibility to care for the environment. More importantly, Cizik has led the movement to take the fire out of divisive, culture war issues like abortion and gay marriage and transfer evangelical political energy towards global issues like poverty and climate change.

I'm not an evangelical but I was excited by the moderate, reasonable arguments Cizik has been making over the past few years. It was nice to see the term "evangelical" being used to describe something other than reactionary politics. While I don't agree with some of his basic theological suppositions, I was kind of rooting for Cizik to beat out the old guard and end the culture wars. It was great seeing evangelicals come to the same conclusions as liberals but for their own reasons. A lot of this has to do with my own middle school Jesus Freak guilt and the hope that if evangelicals start talking like me then maybe I no longer have to be ashamed of my past. Cizik gave me hope for my redemption.

Now it looks as though Cizik will have to regroup and come up with a different plan. While there is large support for his perspective among young, college-educated evangelicals, the NAE old guard will not stand for a top-down reform by a rogue public figure. Here's to Cizik annoying the hell out of James Dobson and company! (pun intended)

Sidenote: Terry Gross has got to be living large knowing that her show has this kind of influence. Stay tuned for an analysis of Terry Gross and other 2008 obsessions in my Epic 10 later this week!



Ah, that was one of my favorite Fresh Air's of recent memory! This saddens me - he seemed eminently reasonable despite the relative lunacy that inevitably comes with the territory.

Steph said...

What did you think of Frank Schaeffer's interview on Fresh Air?


Dave, I'm going to request a post on the Rick Warren fiasco. Get to work.

Daves n' Davin' said...

Steph: I really enjoyed his interview. His whole reasoning for being part of the Greek Orthodox church as opposed to a "cult of personality" church was fascinating.

Matt: I'm on it. I'm very ambivalent about Rick Warren in general and a bit confused by his selection as inaugural prayer-giver. Also, it's a bit tough to form my own thoughts when Huffington Post has over 20 bloggers with separate, fiery opinions.

Coaltrain said...

1. I love Frank Schaeffer (although I get tired of hearing his fundamentalist-to-Obama-supporter story every time he writes/talks)

2. I don't understand people freaking out/being perplexed by Rick Warren for the inauguration. Obama lost no demographic like he lost evangelical Christians. He's about to put forward the most ambitious presidential agenda in decades. He lets the fat bearded guy pray for 2 minutes, and he scores some brownie points with the people who hate him. Makes sense to me.

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