NPR Asks If Evangelical Christians Are Selling Out Their Savior to Rush Limbaugh and the Right Wing

NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross interviewed an evangelical Christian on Wednesday, which means he must be a liberal evangelical -- in fact, one who voted for Obama and has been funded by George Soros. Richard Cizik, who lost his job at chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals after a 2008 interview with Gross in which he endorsed civil unions for homosexuals, surely delighted Gross by suggesting conservative Christians are more devoted to Rush Limbaugh than Jesus:

[E]vangelicalism is known today by what it's against, not what it's for. And we're trying to say: We're for these things. And among those is, you see, this command to first and foremost in everything, follow Jesus, not the Republican Party or Rush Limbaugh or anyone else, but to follow what the Gospel says.”

The Limbaugh-bashing NPR host jumped in:

GROSS: You mention the Republican Party and Rush Limbaugh. Do you think that some of the positions that evangelicals have been taking politically are to keep that alliance with the Republican Party and with powerful people with microphones like Rush Limbaugh?

CIZIK: Oh, of course. In other words, there are strong forces within evangelicalism against change.

Alfred North Whitehead, excuse me for quoting him for those of you who don't like him, he said change is inevitable. Well, it is, and yet these evangelicals aren't willing to change even with the times about anything, and they've wedded themselves to a conservative political ideology, and it's impacted their view on things such as climate change and all the rest.

The liberal Gross naturally, reflexively equated the “climate change” lobby with “science,” and wondered why Cizik has no “disagreements” with science:

GROSS: How come you have no disagreements with science when so many of your fellow evangelicals do?

CIZIK: Well, I just happen to believe that science is given us by God. That science enables us to see what the creation is telling us about itself but can't.

GROSS: And what about that...

CIZIK: In other words, science helps us to understand what's happening to the world and the flora and fauna that can't speak to us directly, but we can through science understand what's happening and thus act in order to protect it. So, I consider my fellow scientists, like Dr. Chivian, with whom I've collaborated, and with others, E.O. Wilson, I consider these people fellow laborers in the work even of the Gospel. They might not regard it that way, but that's what I view it as, fellow laborers on behalf of the mandate to protect creation.

They “might not regard it that way” since E.O. Wilson is a well-known secular humanist. But to Cizik, who claims those other evangelicals are political, is finding the secular guy is the soldier of the Gospel, and the conservative Christians are not.

Gross was especially obsessed with their original conversation topic, and repeatedly pushed Cizik to move further to the left and accept "gay marriage." She returned to the scene of the 2008 interview:

GROSS: So at the end of that quote, you said: I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don't think. And that I don't think seemed to leave a little door open.

CIZIK: A little openness, you know, a little opening there. And I was faulted for that, for example, by the NAE elders. They said, what do you mean you don't think? I said, well, I'm still evaluating and I'm still thinking about this. And so while I haven't come to a conclusion on that, I am convinced that you can't deny rights to people based on their sexual orientation. It's wrong.

It's even wrong, I think, as Christians to take that position because we should support rights, human rights for all people even when they don't agree with us, for example. And for example in Uganda, we have to oppose laws that would penalize people.

And there's a reason why we say that, that is the common good, but we all believe that we are the future. That alienates some, irritates them, but frankly, we [liberals] are the future of evangelicalism in America. And we stand for a presence in public life that's, as we say, loving rather than angry, holistic rather than narrow, healing rather than divisive, and most importantly even of all, independent of sort of partisanship and ideology, rather than subservient to party or ideology.

And evangelicalism has, well, it's become so subservient to an ideology and to a political party that it needs, as I say, to be born again. Born again? (Laughter)

That sounds like something evangelicals would say about others, not themselves. And yet we all need to be and are being born again in a sense when we change our views, I think, in conformity with what Scripture and with God's will.

Gross wasn't going to ask how exactly endorsing the current cultural campaign for gay acceptance is "in conformity with Scripture." She was only going to press him from the left, and suggest again that Christians were craven conservative politicos first and foremost:

GROSS: I'm curious what you think about this. The issue of gay marriage, which has been such, it's been on top of the agenda for years for the Christian right, and I've often wondered: Is that purely for their perception of moral reasons or is for political reasons, too? Because there was a period when fear of gay marriage was used as a wedge issue. It was a political issue to turn out the vote, to get people to vote for people who oppose gay marriage. So do you think it was purely, like, a moral thing for the Christian right, or do you think it was a political organizing tool?

CIZIK: Well, it was both. And there are those on the right who still believe that any acknowledgement of rights by gays, lesbians and others is wrong, and they're going to oppose that. The latest survey research, as I indicated, from Public Religion Research Institute, indicates that 38 percent fall into that category. But what's interesting is that 60 percent or thereabouts believe that we're going to acknowledge these rights. And so there's a great shift going on.

I don't regard this as moral compromise, by the way, to acknowledge others' rights in society, absolutely not. That's not moral compromise. That's simply living in a democracy. Hello?

GROSS: So if so, why not say that you support gay marriage? Because civil unions aren't really equal to marriage, because they're just recognized in states, they're not recognized nationally. So all the national benefits of marriage, people in civil unions don't get.

CIZIK: So is it - yeah, and so there's a logic to the argument that says, well, if you're going to grant civil unions, why can't you grant gay marriage? And I concede that argument. It's a fair one. I'm just not there yet.

Gross continued to press from left field:

GROSS: Maybe someday?

CIZIK: Of course.

GROSS: Okay.

CIZIK: I'm not of those who think, though, that this, if it happens, is going to be the loss - the decline of Western civilization. That's certainly not the case.

GROSS: Right.

CIZIK: Evangelicals have lived in a variety of circumstances around the world, and do today, in which we face really serious issues. There are real dangers out there. That's the point of the new partnership that we're talking about.

There are real dangers out there. There's ethnic conflict, failed states. Frankly, what happens inside states is as important as what happens between them. There's catastrophic terrorism that occurs. There's massive abuse of human rights around the world and breakdown of global economic systems. And so, there are huge issues that face us on this planet, and I don't believe that that's one of them.

When Gross wondered how Cizik supported himself between his departure from the NAE and the founding of his new liberal lobbying group, he explained he was funded by George Soros and his Open Society Institute:

GROSS: It's funny it's the Open Society Institute that funded you.

CIZIK: Isn't that ironic?

GROSS: Because that's George Soros's...

CIZIK: Absolutely. There's a...

GROSS: ...George Soros's grant-giving organization. And George Soros has been so demonized by the right.

CIZIK: Isn't that ironic? In the Old Testament, there was an unbelieving, in other words, a non-Jew king by the name of Cyrus, who was responsible for the rebuilding of the temple. And so, my friends across the pond in Great Britain, they once said to me, Richard, Soros is your King Cyrus. And I accepted the fellowship and it's been a wonderful year dialoguing with people who don't share my views, and yet, I think we have so much in common, more in common than we have apart, than we have that divides us.

One last shocker: Gross found it really fascinating that Cizik bizarrely claimed that it was "religious imperialism" to advocate freedom of religion around the world:

GROSS: Now, one of the things that you say is that in some parts of the world, like the Middle East, China, Russia, India, people are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government's emphasis on religious freedom and see that as a form of imperialism.

CIZIK: Yeah, I do. I've said that.

GROSS: Could you explain what you mean?

CIZIK: Well, they look upon our advocacy on behalf of religious freedom as our intervention and they resent that. And so we have to really be careful in engaging overseas that we understand how these pivotal players in these religious communities view us and not attempt to manipulate them, but to understand their importance. We just can't view religion through the lens of counterterrorism policy. We have to understand that religions play pivotal roles on all these issues of development, poverty, disease and the like, even climate change, and we need to engage with these leaders.

And they're the pivotal players you see, from peace building to stewardship in the environment. And what we've said by a kind of secular approach in the past in my opinion is these religious leaders and policies or organizations overseas don't matter.

That's right. Cizik suggested the pivotal "peace building" folks are the same people who think freedom of religion talk is "imperialism." That doesn't sound like a peaceful argument. It sounds like an aggressive shut-up argument.

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