Evangelical Spokesman Resigns After Telling NPR Gay Marriage, Abortion are Negotiable

The Washington Post reported Friday that Richard Cizik resigned his position as spokesman and vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals after he declared he was "shifting" toward supporting civil unions for homosexual couples in a December 2 National Public Radio interview. Post reporter Jacqueline Salmon explained the remark was "anathema to most evangelical Christians, who believe that the Bible permits marriage only between a man and a woman".

This is an example of a reporter avoiding the obvious on the Bible's contents, like saying the public "believes Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance opposes pollution."

Cizik’s become a darling of media liberals over the last few years for insisting that global warming is a bigger issue for religious people than sexual issues like abortion and homosexuality. But Cizik dropped a bunch of bombshells in that interview, declaring he voted for Barack Obama, despite his hard-left social positions; agreeing that younger evangelicals "know gay people" and aren't as "threatened" as their elders; and suggesting Sarah Palin's environmental positions were like burning the Bible. Here’s the civil union passage:

GROSS: Let me ask you, you say you really identify with the concerns and priorities of younger evangelical voters, and one of those priorities is more of an acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage. A couple of years ago when you were on our show, I asked you if you were changing your mind on that. And two years ago, you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now, as you identify more and more with the younger voters and their priorities, have you changed on gay marriage?

CIZIK: I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think. We have this tension going on in our movement between what is church-building and what is nation-building. And I lean in this spectrum at times, maybe we should concentrate on building our values in our own movement. We have become so absorbed in the quesion of gay rights and the rest that we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself, heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to reevaluate this and look at it a little differently.

Gross asked Cizik if he would drop the veil and declare who he voted for, and Cizik declared he voted for Obama, but not necessarily in the general election:

In the Virginia primary, I voted for Barack Obama...I would rather not say in the election general just whom it is that I did vote for, but that's an indication, but it doesn't say definitively. In other words, I don't want anybody to think, because I'm the lobbyist in chief for the National Association of Evangelicals, that because I voted one way or the other, I can't represent their concerns. So, I believe I can. I happen to think in the primary it was the best choice. People disagreed. Evangelicals did in this final election, general election, but I think all of us today believe we want this man to succeed, absolutely. If we don't think that, there's something wrong with us.

He then suggested that younger evangelicals were the wave of the future, and they willing to compromise not only on homosexuality, but on abortion as well:

GROSS: So, how big a split do you see now within the evangelical movement over what direction the movement should head in, and what issues should be emphasized?

CIZIK: It's hard to know, Terry, because even the younger evangelicals, those that went for Obama, they clearly are pro-life. They're conservatives, but they also - well, 32 percent of evangelicals voted for Obama, younger evangelicals, that is. That's twice the number that voted for John Kerry four years ago. And this is a big increase in states like Colorado, Indiana and North Carolina. So, the younger evangelicals are probably the future with that broader palette. And they will determine the future of this huge movement that, well, by some surveys' estimates, if you include children and the rest, a hundred million people, one-third of all Americans.

GROSS: So, in that younger group that you're describing, is gay marriage not a priority issue?

CIZIK: It's not as high, no. In fact, if you look at some figures, these younger evangelicals, they disagree quite strongly with their elders on that subject.

GROSS: Do you think that that's in part because younger people are growing up in an environment where they know gay people? There are so many gay people who are out, and once you know gay people who are out, maybe it's not so threatening.

CIZIK: Absolutely. The influence of their generational peers is clear. Four in ten young evangelicals say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian. And so, much different than their elders, younger evangelicals they, well, 52 percent favor either same-sex marriage or civil unions. But it's not just on this issue, Terry. For example, fully two-thirds of younger evangelicals say they would still vote for a candidate even if the candidate disagreed with them on the issue of abortion. And that's in spite of the fact that younger evangelicals, they are decidedly pro-life. But they also rank other issues, economic issues, the environment, these other issues are very important to them. In fact, healthcare is just as important to the younger evangelicals as is abortion. And so they have a more pluralistic outlook than older white evangelicals, and they have a decidedly different posture with respect to the role of government here and abroad.

You can see why media liberals would surround an evangelical spokesman like this, hoping he could become an "even Christian," as in "even Christians don't think abortion and homosexuality are a big deal." This is just like the "even Republicans," who abandon traditional GOP positions and allow reporters to dilute the appeal of core principles. 

By the way, Cizik’s liberalism really came through when he suggested Sarah Palin’s support for oil drilling resembles Bible-burning – to be precise, that her environmental positions are contrary to God, "like claiming to be a fan of Shakespeare and then burn his plays." He found Obama to be much more God-friendly in his humility:

GROSS: I imagine you didn't agree with Sarah Palin on environmental issues. For example, her emphasis on drill, baby, drill, and also the fact that she said she wasn't sure if human behavior contributed to climate change. Now, climate change and the environment are issues you're trying to put much more toward the top of the evangelical agenda.

CIZIK: Yeah, I couldn't - you're right. I couldn't have disagreed with her more. Just a year ago, we found out from climate scientists that the melt in the Arctic had turned into a rout. It was happening so fast it was as if your hair turned gray overnight. Now, I have a receding hairline, but I don't have my hair turning gray overnight. Well, that's what happened with the environment. An area the size of Colorado was disappearing every week, and the Northwest Passage was staying wide open all September for the first time in history. And so, to look at this and not see what's happening, I think is, well, it was sort of the ignorance is strength idea. Well, not. It's not strength. Look, strength is knowing what's happening to the world around us, and moreover, as a Christian, we can't claim to love the Creator and abuse the world in which we live. To do so is like claiming to be a fan of Shakespeare and then burn his plays.

GROSS: So, is there a big debate in evangelical circles now about what the future of Sarah Palin should be in the Republican Party, whether she is the future or whether she is a problem?

CIZIK: Oh, I think there certainly is a certain amount of that debate going on, but I think people are sort of content to let Alaskans decide that. Before she becomes a national candidate again, she has to run for reelection, right?

GROSS: So, you're thinking maybe Alaskans will vote her out of office thus ending her political career?

CIZIK: Maybe, we don't know. But I don't think that you can humbly walk into the future and not understand that we don't know all the answers. And if you don't have a little bit of self-awareness about that, well, I don't think you can embody the Christian values of humility and justice and walking humbly with your Lord. There was something missing there that I just didn't see, and you're sensing it here. In other words, a certain humility about it all. I like that. I like -- look forward to seeing that demonstrated in Barack Obama’s policies.

Doesn’t that sound like a man who voted for Obama in November?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis