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The Religious Left's "State of the Union" By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The political action arm of the left-leaning National Council of Churches (NCC) was not very hopeful that President Bush will embrace its own themes in State of the Union address last night. So before any details leaked out about his message, it issued its own "faithful" version of what a State of the Union address should be. Call it pre-emptive leftism.

Naturally, the NCC warned against the supposed theocratic ambitions of religious conservatives. Instead, it is promoting its own theocracy of the Left, in which worship is aimed at the welfare state, the Planet Earth, and multicultural understanding.

The NCC’s "Faithful America" project starts its fantasy speech in an exalted tone, such as most presidents of either party would employ. It speaks of how "the United States of America has grown from a band of fledgling colonies to one of the grandest nations in the history of the world," thanks to "the wisdom of its founders, its constitution, and, at a few pivotal times, its elected leaders."

The NCC quotes the Hebrew prophet Micah’s injunction to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God." The council later expands on the theme of humility, insisting awkwardly, "It is only through dialogue, the free expression of ideas, and respect for all points of view can justice reach its full height." The NCC wants to see that "everyone has a voice around the national table."

But, apparently, some voices are more equal than others at the NCC’s table. The council’s "State of the Union" quickly descends into a fierce polemic against conservatives, "fundamentalist" Christians, and Republicans. According to the "Faithful America" project, the state of the union is "troubled indeed," thanks to "ultra-conservative judges sympathetic to [a] fundamentalist agenda," routine use of torture by the United States against detainees in the war on terror, a "cruel and reckless" Republican-controlled Congress, an "out-of-control war machine," an "immoral" war in Iraq, and gutted environmental standards that are "killing the earth."

The nation faces "ruination," the NCC warns prophetically—unless the nation takes a sharp turn to the Left.

Although comprised of 35 mainstream Protestant and Orthodox denominations, the NCC is staffed by liberal activists in New York who long ago set aside genuine Christian ecumenism in favor of radical political action. Thanks to current general secretary, former Democratic Congressman Bob Edgar, the NCC has prioritized its political advocacy.

"It’s going to inspire some people and anger others – we’re not mincing our words here," admits "Faithful America" director Vince Isner about the NCC’s version of the State of the Union. "But our hope is that people of faith and conscience will begin talking seriously about their role in shaping a more perfect union."

That NCC activism is increasingly funded by such left-wing philanthropies as the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Ted Turner’s UN Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the National Education Association, the Sierra Club, the AARP, and such luminaries as Ben Cohen (of ice cream fame), folk-singer Peter Yarrow, and actress Vanessa Redgrave.

The NCC now gets more funding from left-wing philanthropies than from its member churches. This monetary infusion has rescued the NCC from financial collapse, but it has also enhanced the tensions between the NCC’s traditional religious constituency and the confrontational leftist style that the NCC staff and leadership prefer. The Antiochian Orthodox Church withdrew from the NCC last year over the council’s leftward tilt. And even the leftist-led mainline Protestants continue to give the NCC less and less funding.

At the NCC’s General Assembly in November, delegates from many denominations grumbled about the NCC staff’s political priorities and lack of accountability. Some Orthodox delegates privately speculated that Bob Edgar would soon depart.

But the NCC State of the Union fearlessly insists the council will not temper its hard-edged political message. Aside from the few references to Micah, Jesus Christ, and "Native American Tradition," the diatribe could have come from MoveOn.org.

"Few of us would dare approach the Supreme Court and openly declare, ‘My views are better, truer, and more important, than theirs and therefore you should interpret the law in light of me,’" the NCC observes of conservatives hoping for judicial restraint from the courts. These advocates of judicial restraint are tools of "well-funded and organized Christian fundamentalist groups" hoping to foist their "Christian fundamentalism" on the nation through the courts, the NCC speech alleges.

Of course, the NCC seems unaware that it is attempting to foist its own narrow religious understanding on the nation. Based on a few out-of-context scriptural references to "justice," the religious Left insists that God wants an expanded federal welfare state, the U.S. out of Iraq, and ratification of the Kyoto Global Climate Accords.

The NCC is also distressed about torture—not as practiced by North Korea or Saudi Arabia, but by the U.S. naturally. "The world has been shocked and outraged by the revelation that the U.S. has engaged, and perhaps continues to engage in torture of its detainees," the NCC opines. "Yet using 9/11, the White House has tragically adopted a policy that bears little resemblance to the example of Christ."

Indeed, President Bush has "declared himself above the law in matters of torture," the NCC insists, charging that the United States is "outsourcing" its torture to other nations. But the council does not name those regimes, nor would it ever criticize them directly. Ever multiculturally sensitive, the NCC almost never criticizes Islamic governments. In fact, it rarely criticizes any nation except for Israel and the United States.

Among its domestic State of the Union concerns, the NCC excoriates Congress’s "cruel and reckless decision to cut billions from aid programs." It is referring to the reduction in the rate of increase in domestic spending from 39 percent over the next five years to 38 percent. Even the NCC admits that this shift in spending is "tiny," but insists more children will be "frozen into lives of poverty" and more seniors will "suffer and die for lack of medical care."

This latest congressional budget is one of the "most immoral budgets in American history," the NCC declaims melodramatically, without acknowledging the enormous increases in social welfare spending under the current administration.

"If we say we care about the hungry but feast on corporate greed – if we say we love peace but kneel at the altar of an out of control ware machine – if we cherish our children but steal their very futures through our own reckless spending – then all the excuses in the world cannot mask our true intentions," the NCC asserts, without nuance.

Not surprisingly, the NCC similarly lacks nuance in its Iraq perspective. The war there is "unjust, unnecessary, and immoral," as well as an "arrogant first strike" and the "most successful terrorist recruiting campaign ever." This war has shown that all the "firepower on earth cannot atone for moral weakness."

Hinting at its own pacifist inclinations, the NCC asks, "Can there truly be a moral justification for war as a way of settling differences between members of the human family?"

Hurting people is bad enough, from the NCC perspective. But harming "the planet" is criminal indeed. The Bush Administration "refuses to acknowledge U.S. responsibility" to halt weather patterns that are "killing the earth," according to the council. Among Bush’s other outrages, he has refused to sign the Kyoto treaty and has been "gutting" environmental standards for power plants.

The NCC State of the Union diatribe, unhinged from most traditional Christian teaching, and relying almost entirely on clichés of the secular left, is an accurate reflection of the left-wing philanthropies who fund the council rather than the churches who still belong to it.

"It is an arrogant dinner guest who seizes the conversation and shouts his proclamation so loudly that nobody else can speak," the NCC complains of the Christian "fundamentalists" whose influence it seeks to counteract. But unlike conservative religionists, the NCC’s politics of the left have little following among American churchgoers. The NCC is shouting quite loudly itself. But who is listening?

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Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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