Rev. Rob Schenk of the National Clergy Council leveled below-the-belt broadsides against the leading Democratic presidential candidates after their faith-focused forum last week. He kept to the passé script about abortion and homosexuality being litmus test issues. I called Rev. Schenk's press contact, Dane Rose, to ask for clarification on these attacks. Predictably, I never heard back.
Here are the questions I was going to ask Rev. Schenk (or his handler) if he were willing to engage someone who views the Bible very differently than he does.
1) Rev. Schenk, you called the faith-based debate "a sham, a fraud, and a travesty" -- a "carefully scripted public relations effort to promote liberal political positions disguised as deeply held religious beliefs." This forum, you said, revealed "cynicism and sophistry." What inside information do you have suggesting that the religious views expressed by the candidates were insincere? Or do you share God's ability to see into people's hearts?
2) You wrote that if Sojourners and its supporters "accepted the Bible in its totality as the inerrant Word of God," they "would not provide advocates of abortion and same-sex unions a platform to espouse their views about faith and values." You claim that your positions on these issues are "unequivocally expressed in the Bible." If these issues are so clear that they alone require litmus-test treatment, then:
- Where specifically in the Bible is abortion condemned? And how do you reconcile the passages saying that God knew us in our mothers' womb with the ones suggesting a fetus has lower legal value than a born person? Isn't there some room for interpretation, here?
- What in the Bible suggests that homosexuality is worse than other behaviors such as divorce, gossiping, pre-marital sex, failure to give to charity, etc., that virtually no one thinks should be legally banned or deprive people of equal rights under the law?
3) If you are serious that Christians shouldn't give anti-biblical candidates "a platform to espouse their views about faith and values," why do you not criticize conservative Christian groups that host divorced, adulterous politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and the late Ronald Reagan?
4) You lament that Sojourners "would replace Christian charity with governmental redistribution of wealth." In a world where there are structural reasons for poverty and oppression -- as the prophet Isaiah pointed out when he decried "unjust laws" that "deprive the poor of their rights" -- is it really good enough to put a band-aid on social problems instead of attacking their roots? Don't Christians have responsibilities both as private individuals and as citizens?
5) If following Scripture is supposed to be voluntary when it comes to fighting poverty -- with justice dependent entirely on "Christian charity" -- why do you want the federal government to prohibit abortion and same-sex unions?
6) "At the Day of Judgment," you write, "God will divide the righteous from the wicked" -- suggesting that God's criteria involve abortion and homosexuality. But Matthew 25:34-45 says that wicked and righteous nations (not individuals, mind you, but nations) will be judged on how they treated "the least of these" in society: the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the imprisoned, and the sick. Why do you focus on gays and abortion, when Matthew says God's criteria involve precisely the issues that progressives tend to emphasize?
I'm going to keep trying Rev. Schenk's office; maybe he'll provide us with some enlightening answers one of these days.