Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New Progressive Christian Advocacy Organizaion Launches


Major Launch Events Held in Washington, DC and Jacksonville, FL

JACKSONVILLE, FL - After 30 years of sustained effort by leaders like Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson to merge evangelical Christianity with a conservative political agenda, a new grassroots progressive organization on the political left announced its creation today. The Christian Alliance for Progress is a national movement of Christians seeking to reclaim Christianity and transform American politics.

Also today, the Christian Alliance for Progress unveiled its "Jacksonville Declaration," an open letter to the political and church leaders of the Religious Right, which challenges and invites them to return to a Christian foundation of compassion and justice, values that Jesus passionately taught and lived. The full text of the Jacksonville Declaration is below.

The Christian Alliance for Progress will speak out when conservative Christians misrepresent the gospel to support their misguided political positions. The Christian Alliance for Progress, founded firmly on the teachings of the gospel, will stand for pursuing economic justice; responsible environmental stewardship; equality for gays and lesbians; honoring the sanctity of childbearing decisions through effective prevention, not criminalization of abortion; seeking peace, not war; and achieving health care for all Americans.

The success of the religious right in appropriating the language of Christianity has led many progressives to become wary of religion in the public sphere. Fundamental Christian values like compassion, justice and peace are largely absent from our political discussion, and progressive people of faith do not see their concerns addressed or their values espoused through the prism of faith.

"The Religious Right has been extremely successful at taking control of the language of our faith and using it to promote an extreme and divisive political agenda. This is fueling incredible polarization in our politics. We think that most Americans, especially people of faith, are ready to hear from Christians who are tolerant, and who understand the many ways that our faiths impact our views of public life," said The Reverent Timothy F. Simpson, Director of Religious Affairs for the Christian Alliance for Progress, a Presbyterian Church USA pastor and Editor of the journal Political Theology.

There are millions of Christian Americans who share progressive views, or, at a minimum, are turned off by the extreme rhetoric and political agenda of the Religious Right. The voices of these Americans are simply drowned out by their well-funded, well-organized and well-executed strategies.

The highly-contested and emotional election of 2004 has emboldened the Religious Right in their quest to dominate issues as broad as Senate procedure, in their campaign to end the filibuster as a tool used "against people of faith"; as personal as the right-to-die, with their heavy-handed and high profile intrusion in the Terri Schiavo tragedy; and as outrageous as a preacher in North Carolina, who told his congregants that if they voted for John Kerry, they must repent or resign from the church. Nine members were kicked out.

"These litmus tests for faith are outrageous, but unfortunately, not surprising given the inflammatory rhetoric we've seen for years by leaders like Reverend Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. As progressive Christians, we say enough. We are tired of a one-sided Christian perspective in our public policy debates. Just as important, we intend to hold politicians accountable," said Simpson.

The Christian Alliance for Progress hopes to advance a renewed, progressive vision of gospel values and help Americans express this moral vision in how we think, work, and vote. "As a pastor, I have been horrified and saddened to watch opportunistic religious leaders meld Christianity with extreme conservatism," Simpson said. "The agenda they promote does not reflect the values I learned from the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. I believe that we have an obligation to reclaim the vocabulary of Christianity from extremists and to restore the values of Christianity, while honoring the diverse views about religion and Christian life."

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To The Political and Church Leaders of the Religious Right:

As responsible and patriotic Americans, we can be silent no longer. In light of the deepening polarization in our country's social and political life, we feel compelled to speak out to you in a spirit of sincerity.

For many people, your words and actions have identified Christianity with radical, far right politics. We believe that your use of Christianity has sown the seeds of deep discord in our nation and throughout the world. Hear some of your own words:

"You owe liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."
-- Church Leader Bob Jones, to George W. Bush after 2004 election

"I hope the Supreme Court will finally read the Constitution and see there's no such thing, or no mention, of separation of church and state in the Constitution."
-- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas)

"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and short, over every aspect and institution of human society."
-- Dr. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Ministries

"...the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated..."
-- Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians ... the ACLU, People For the American Way ... I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'."
-- Rev. Jerry Falwell, on Pat Robertson's 700 Club discussing the WTC attacks

We must tell you now that you do not speak for us, or for our politics. We say "No" to the ways you are using the name and language of Christianity to advance what we see as extremist political goals. We do not support your agenda to erode the separation of church and state, to blur the vital distinction between your interpretation of Christianity and our shared democratic institutions. Moreover, we do not accept what seems to be your understanding of Christian values. We reject a Christianity co-opted by any government and used as a tool to ostracize, to subjugate, or to condone bigotry, greed and injustice.

If your politics flow from your faith, then we do not know the Jesus you claim to follow. We cannot imagine a Jesus who would say:

"You are strong and powerful; your ideals are noble. Make war to spread those ideals."

"The end is near - So it doesn't matter what you do to my Father's creation."

"Heal the sick - Provided they can pay."

"All are welcome at the table - As long as they are the same as we are."

"Follow me - And help me form a government to force others to follow."

Do you believe such statements truly reflect Christian or American values? Do these views follow what Jesus taught? Do you think it is genuinely American to steer our country toward a Christian theocracy? Is it Christian to foster intolerance? Is this the path to which Jesus leads us?

We say "No". Instead, we say "Yes" to values Jesus plainly and passionately practiced. Listen to his words:

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
-- John 13:34-35

We hold up to all fellow Americans the heart of Jesus' teaching: his unwavering commitment to justice, compassion, responsibility, equality, and care "for the least of these". These are values Jesus taught, and they also serve among America's finest traditional values. Our political views flow from these values.

We also reaffirm a well-established American commitment to a clear separation of church and state. In your statements you often characterize America as a "Christian nation". We strongly disagree. As a nation of immigrants, America has been a land of freedom and diversity. Separation of church and state helps ensure liberty and justice for all Americans - not just those who are like-minded. Hear these words:

"The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Know that you do not speak for us. We oppose so many of your words and deeds. But though we may disagree with you, we offer this declaration in a spirit of openness. We hope you will respond in kind. We call on you to stop dividing our country with your words and actions, and we invite you to turn to compassion and justice, values that Jesus lived.

In Truth and Faith,

Christian Alliance for Progress


You can sign the Jacksonville Declaration at


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