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No heaven on earth

"No heaven on earth" Continued...

Issue: "The Road to Cana," Feb. 23, 2008

As for Republicans who say they may shun McCain in a general election, Coburn says: "If they're more worried about the Republican Party than they are about this country, then I don't want to be part of the Republican Party with them."

Cromartie says McCain should reach out specifically to evangelicals as well, especially considering his strained past with the group. "He needs to hire a liaison to evangelicals and religious conservatives now-if not yesterday," he says. "The conversation needs to begin quickly."

McCain spokesman Brett O'Donnell told WORLD that the senator does not have a religious adviser on the campaign, but said the campaign has had "an active outreach to social conservatives and evangelicals" by seeking to communicate the senator's "socially conservative record." (Both Clinton and Obama have religious advisers on their campaigns. Obama has created an extensive and sophisticated outreach to religious voters, including evangelicals.)

Despite a dicey history with evangelicals, McCain had reason to be optimistic in recent weeks. Land and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, both indicated they could support McCain. (Perkins, who has criticized the senator in the past, told The New York Times: "I have no residual issues with John McCain.")

Two days before endorsing McCain, Bauer told WORLD: "I think he needs to reach out to us [evangelicals], and I think that we need to reach out to him."

For some evangelicals, the pitch won't be too difficult. Mark DeMoss, a public-relations specialist representing prominent evangelical organizations, endorsed Romney early in his campaign and sent a five-page letter to 150 Christian leaders asking them to "galvanize support" around Romney. DeMoss told WORLD he's disappointed Romney dropped out, but "I'm not throwing in the towel."

"It's not a perfect world, we don't get perfect candidates, and when things don't go the way we want them to go, I think there's wisdom in still trying to have influence," says DeMoss. "Politics isn't heaven on earth."

Green Baptists

Is former President Carter cultivating unity or reclaiming lost political ground?

By Jamie Dean

Rob Reilly/WORLD

ATLANTA- One of the stranger moments in last month's New Baptist Covenant gathering in downtown Atlanta involved an odd combination: Al Gore and a green Bible.

At a luncheon featuring the former vice president and his famous slide show about global warming, Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, presented Gore with the custom-made, green-covered Bible.

"The Bible is God's green book," said Parham. "The green Bible calls us to love our neighbors. And, my friends, the only way we can love our neighbors across time is to leave them a decent place to live."

Discussions of global warming were one slice of a three-day event that drew more than 15,000 people from nearly 30 different Baptist groups to the Georgia World Congress Center for a conference organized by former President Jimmy Carter, a life-long Baptist.

The gathering drew mostly moderate-to-liberal Baptists from across the country, and Carter said the purpose was to cultivate unity and address social needs. (Breakout sessions included discussions of poverty, health care, and prison reform.)

But others saw the meeting as an attempt to reclaim cultural and political influence lost to conservative Southern Baptists over the last 25 years. (Carter broke with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000.)

In his 2005 book Our Endangered Values, Carter wrote that the schism between conservative and moderate-to-liberal Baptists has had "a profound impact on every American citizen through similar and related changes being wrought in our nation's political system." Carter identified those changes as "a right-wing movement within American politics, often directly tied to like-minded Christian groups."

Carter insisted that the Atlanta meeting was not political, but the speakers included Carter, Gore, former President Bill Clinton, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. (Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee originally agreed to address the group, but withdrew last year, saying he was offended by negative comments Carter made about President George W. Bush.)

Speakers in some breakout sessions didn't conceal disdain for conservative influence in the public square. Cynthia Holmes, an attorney and co-chair of the Baptist Joint Committee's Religious Liberty Council, told a packed afternoon session that they were free to teach their children creation science at home: "But teaching it in a [public school] science class as science is phony and it demeans our religion."

SBC leaders didn't participate in the conference, and SBC president Frank Page expressed concern last year that the meeting would represent "a smoke-screen, liberal agenda that seeks to deny the greatest need in our world, that being that the lost be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord."

Page told WORLD that his concern for an emphasis on spiritual needs doesn't undermine the biblical imperative to address physical needs as well. He pointed out that the SBC invests millions of dollars each year in helping the poor.

Page says the notion that evangelicals are "concerned only about eternal salvation and damnation and care nothing about people in this life" is wrong, but added: "I do believe that many conservative, evangelical believers should be more concerned" about the poor, the sick, and the stranger: "Do we need to do more? The answer is an unequivocal yes."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD.

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