Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Social Security Debate: Opening the Door For Evangelicals

An article in today's NYT discusses a movement among Evangelicals to frame "moral values" to mean something more progressive and something less exclusive:
In Chicago last weekend, Dr. Frenchak joined a gathering of 20 Christians, mostly evangelicals, to produce a book defining moral values to include a focus on poverty. At the meeting, one man held up a Bible from which he had cut every verse that addressed poverty. "There was hardly anything left," Dr. Frenchak said. "He said, 'I challenge anyone in the room to take their Bible and cut out every verse about abortion or gay marriage, and we'll compare Bibles.' "

Dr. Frenchak said he had been involved in more conversations about moral values in the past two months than ever before. "We meet to discuss how poverty got left out of the discussion of moral values. The question is, 'How do we talk about what we do as a moral value, rather than as an assumed good?' I don't think a day goes by that I don't get some communication about rethinking an understanding of moral values."

In postelection analyses, "values voters" were often equated with evangelical Christians, just as "values" were equated with opposition to abortion and gay marriage. But evangelical churches and seminaries have become increasingly mobilized around poverty both in the United States and abroad.

As I said earlier this week, the attempt by Conservative Christians to blackmail the administration, by withholding support for Social Security privatization unless Bush pushes FMA, is an empty threat. Those Christian leaders know they can't rally support from their constituents for privatization; to many of their flock prefer security to risk.

A door has been opened to those Christians, most of whom identify more with the poor than with Wall Street hot-shots. What Dems need to do is frame opposition to Social Security privatization as, "We're looking out for you and especially, the least of you, by opposing privatization."


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