Political Advocacy Tracker is a roundup of what Christian activist organizations have been talking about over the last week.
Hoping Against Hope
Advocacy groups reacted to the new health insurance law with feelings of hope. For some groups, it was hope that the law would result in greater justice. For others, it was hope for a victory in the courts or through the ballot box.
Heidi Unruh of Evangelicals for Social Action said she was thankful for the new law, particularly its "pro-life measures," its expanded coverage for the currently uninsured, and protections it would provide "from the greedy, health-impairing practices of insurance companies." She also saw it as an important step toward greater justice.
Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, agreed. He said despite being short of universal coverage, the law is a "significant step … for beginning to fix a broken system, for including 30 million more Americans, and for showing that, despite tremendous opposition and a massive campaign of distortion and fear, big things can still get done."
Of course, not all were as optimistic. Some were downright dejected.
"I felt like I got punched in the gut," said Focus on the Family host John Fuller, recounting his experience watching the House vote Sunday night.
But like many other conservatives, Fuller said he hoped that the bill would not be fully enacted.
Some groups are turning their energy toward the courts. The American Center for Law and Justice is planning to file amicus briefs in support of state lawsuits to overturn the law. Liberty Counsel is filing a lawsuit on behalf of Liberty University, which currently "self insures" its employees.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, said that the law is unconstitutional because it requires people and large businesses to purchase health insurance.
"In passing this law, President Obama and the Democratic Congress acted like the Constitution does not exist," said Staver. "But one day, the Supreme Court Justices will have their own captive audience and this brazen illegal power grab will come to an end."
Other groups hoped Republican victories in November elections would lead to the law's repeal.
"The efforts already underway to repeal this amorphous bill deserve the public's support, but more importantly, it is time to change the Congress," said Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Tom Minnery of Focus Action said in a webcast, "This is not the end of the opposition to the [health care bill]. This is an election year and people are as inflamed, concerned, involved as I have ever seen them … Elections make a difference."
Elijah Friedeman of the American Family Association called on voters to "remember that when you vote for a Democrat, even a conservative, pro-life Democrat, the candidate you're voting for is still a Democrat, a person who aligns himself with a pro-abortion party."
Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission predicted "a 'tsunami-size' voter backlash." Land said that the Democrats' victory on health care is analogous to the Japanese claiming a big victory after Pearl Harbor.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, strongly opposed the law, but he did find the proverbial silver lining in its passage.
"If this debate proves anything, it's that the abortion movement is losing supporters by the millions," he said. "America is radically shifting in its opinion of the unborn—so much so that the only way Democrats could pass this bill was by putting a pro-life veneer on it."
Up Next: Immigration?
On the same day that the House was preparing for the final votes on the health care law, 200,000 supporters of comprehensive immigration reform rallied on the Washington mall.
Immigration reform is a key issue for the National Association of Evangelicals, which put out a statement on reform last October. The NAE is calling for more humane border policies, just labor laws, and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"Immigration reform can't wait. We want action now," said Galen Carey of the NAE.
Marco Saavedra of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform wrote on Sojourners' God's Politics blog that the march was just the start of a push for immigration reform. Sojourners was also active in the march and lobbying efforts.
"We cannot forget that the way things are now must be reconciled with how they should be. Present immigration procedures continue to divide families, deport workers, underpay laborers, defer students' dreams, and offer no agency to those still living in the shadows," said Saavedra.
While other groups ignored the march and focused instead on the health care debate, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer said that immigration policy should be built on both compassion and justice. For Fischer, this means starting with tighter border security, no amnesty, and greater assimilation.
"America is as much an idea as anything, a nation where people from all over the world find unity by submerging their original ethnic identity into a new and higher identity as un-hyphenated Americans," Fischer said. "But today's immigrant activists want to keep foreigners foreign and force other Americans to adjust to that."
Beck v. Wallis Continues
On his Tuesday TV show, Glenn Beck kept his promise to his 2.5 million viewers by attacking Jim Wallis of Sojourners. Beck did not mince words. He compared Wallis to the infamous 1930s anti-Semite and fascist-loving radio priest Charles Coughlin. Beck also called Wallis a "Marxist" whose view of social justice is "the devil's way."
Wallis received support from Beth Dahlman of Faith in Public Life.
"By trying to make his fight all about out-of-context statements from Jim Wallis or other spurious attacks on Sojourners, Beck thinks he can win. But he's wrong," said Dahlman. "Every time he opens his mouth, it becomes more and more clear Beck doesn't yet know what he's dealing with."
Wallis has responded with a lengthy critique of the "charges" Beck has made against him. Even without Wallis' point-by-point rebuttal, it is becoming apparent that Beck clearly has a different understanding of "social justice" and "Marxism" than most Christians.
To cite just one example, Beck played a recording of Wallis discussing a meeting he had with Dorothy Day. Both Wallis and Day were socialists prior to their conversions. The clip made it sound as if Wallis and Day were agreeing that they were both still radicals.
"Apparently Marxists know this person," said Beck, "I've never heard of her—the Marxist Dorothy Day."
As the late Cardinal John O'Connor wrote in a letter celebrating the Vatican's first steps to considering Dorothy Day as a saint:
It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church, for example, communists, socialists, and anarchists. It is necessary to divide her political stances in two spheres: pre-and post- conversion [sic]. After her conversion, she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics or any denial of private property. Yet, it must be said, she often held opinions in common with them. What they held in common was a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity. … Much of what she spoke of in terms of social justice anticipated the teachings of Pope John Paul II and lends support to her cause.
Sojourners is about to launch a new campaign, A Million Christians for Social Justice. Wallis said that Sojourners has been planning the campaign for a year, but the controversy with Beck has resulted in a debate over the meaning of "social justice" in Christianity.
"As wrong and often vitriolic [as] his caricatures, insults, and attacks on such core gospel teachings and biblical tenets have been," said Wallis, "they have provided what is often called a 'teachable moment' and perhaps, a mobilizing moment as well."
Odds and Ends
The Family Research Council noted a unique feature of the Sunday vote in the House of Representatives: the Congressional Prayer Caucus gathered in the Capitol for a prayer service. "As we try to cope with these frightening new realities, let's hope—no, let's pray—that this is the beginning of true change in America," said Perkins.
The National Association of Evangelicals surveyed its large board of directors and found that two-thirds of its members favor lifting the embargo against Cuba. Leith Anderson, president of the NAE, said, "American evangelicals have a special interest in Cuba because of the large and rapid increase in the number of evangelical churches and believers there over the past decade. We are saddened by economic suffering among Cubans but delight in the spiritual awakening God has brought."
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