Friday, December 12, 2008

The Evangelical Split

Today we get the news that a top evangelical leader was ousted for supporting civil unions:

The outspoken Christian evangelical who criticized Republican John McCain as “unprincipled” and who has emerged as a leading voice calling for conservatives to devote themselves to battling global warming resigned his longtime post with the National Association of Evangelicals after a radio interview in which he said his views on same sex marriage are “shifting.”

“I’m shifting, I have to admit,” the Rev. Richard Cizik told NPR. “In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don’t think.”

There is clearly a split developing over those evangelicals who have shifted to accepting civil unions, realizing they're on the losing side, an those hardcore phobes who are opposed to any rights for gays whatsoever. Many of you will remember my interview with Bishop Harry Jackson back in October In that post (which includes video of the full Jackson interview) I wrote about how Jackson, who is also on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, from which Cizik was ousted, talked about a split:

What's even more interesting is that Jackson, possibly reflecting other leaders and possibly showing the beginning of a split on gay rights among evangelicals, now says he's in favor of a national civil unions or domestic partnership scheme -- because he's being "realistic" -- even as he still is opposed to gay marriage:

"My concern about John McCain stepping up and being articulate about the marriage amendments is more about protecting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman as cultural guardrails...The reason I say I will work with civil unions, etc. -- that may not have been my original position, but I think it's a reality. We have had laws in New Jersey, all over the country. The reality is gay civil unions are going to be the law of the land all over the country...You may call it movement [on my part.] I call myself a realist...I think this would be a split issue [on the Christian right], a lot of people would disagree with me. But I think we're embroiled in a battle that's unfolding."

Indeed, and today that split just got wider. Fascinating.