01: The formation of two new Christian pressure groups during the U.S. government deadlock over raising the debt ceiling in early August showed both new and old fault lines in religious political engagement.
The concern about possible cuts in social services rallied together a group of Christian leaders who called themselves the Circle of Protection. Headed by Jim Wallis, editor of the left-leaning Christian magazine Sojourners, the group met with President Barack Obama and then issued a full-page advertisement calling for the exemption of government poverty programs from proposed spending cuts.
The statement was signed by a fairly wide range of church leaders, including the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches; representatives of Catholic, Orthodox, mainline Protestant and some evangelical denominations, such as the Vineyard Fellowship and the Salvation Army; and megachurches. The day after the ad appeared, a group of conservative Christians issued their own statement to the president and founded Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE). Signed by conservative Christian leaders such as Charles Colson and Eric Metaxas, the statement argued that while all Christians should care for the poor, government poverty programs are often counterproductive and “undermine [the poor’s] family structures and trap them in poverty, dependency and despair for generations.”
The split between Christians on the role of government is nothing new in American religion, but the debt and spending issue has revealed new fissions and coalitions on the church and society front. Those signing the Circle of Protection declaration represented a greater diversity of theological and social positions than usually found in liberal church social statements. Many of the signers of the CASE statement were identified more with religious and secular think-tanks than with church bodies.
(Source: Washington Post, Aug. 4)
02: The newly formed Mormon Defense League (MDL) is not the first organization that seeks to respond to critics and other controversies involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).
But the organization, which is sponsored by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, an independent group defending church teachings, is closer to the “anti-defamation league”-type model employed by Jewish and Islamic communities than previous efforts, although legal advocacy and defense are not part of its agenda.
The MDL especially hopes to be a resource for journalists in clearing up misconceptions about the LDS. In addition to having articles on its website, MDL.org, that address common misperceptions about the faith, the league encourages journalists to call its volunteer staff when they have questions.
(Source: The Deseret News, August 4)