“President Obama took the common goal of helping the poor and used it to drive an even deeper wedge between his administration and people of faith,” wrote Tony Perkins in an email Wednesday night to supporters of his anti-abortion, anti-gay Family Research Council. He was writing about the president’s remarks on poverty at Georgetown University.
“Frankly, we’d love to focus on strengthening families and ending poverty — but the President won’t lay down his weapons of sexual radicalism long enough for us to try,” he wrote.
Weapons of sexual radicalism?
In his Georgetown dialog, Obama requested that fellow Christians put aside certain political differences with him – on abortion and same-sex marriage – and take a stronger leadership role in ending poverty.
That’s what irked Perkins.
The Family Research Council was originally cofounded by the former head of Colorado’s own Focus on the Family, James Dobson. The two organizations work within a national network to fight same-sex marriage, abortion and other hot-button culture war issues here in Colorado and nationally.
The FRC message is clear: Christians are under attack from big government, homosexuals and sexually promiscuous women. Fight back.
To wage that war, FRC needs concrete examples of big government attacks on faith. Often, Perkins digs deep.
Here is one of Perkins’ examples of a “weapon of sexual radicalism” Obama allegedly wielded while talking about poverty:
“I think it would be powerful for our faith-based organizations to speak out on this [poverty] in a more forceful fashion. This may sound self-interested because there have been — these are areas where I agree with the evangelical community and faith-based groups, and then there are issues where we have had disagreements around reproductive issues, or same-sex marriage, or what have you. And so maybe it appears advantageous for me to want to focus on these issues of poverty, and not as much on these other issues.”
Here is another:
“There is great caring and great concern, but when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that this [poverty] is oftentimes viewed as a ‘nice to have’ relative to an issue like abortion.”
Obama’s attempt to spark a Christian-insider conversation about the church’s role in addressing poverty clearly shocked Perkins.
“Anyone involved in faith-based ministry must have needed a strap to pick their jaws up off the floor,” he said. “This President is accusing the church — the most effective social outreach program in the history of America — of ignoring the poor to fight a war on social issues that, oh by the way, he started?”
Of course, Obama did not start the culture wars. And he waxed, at Georgetown, about all the good work churches do.
But for Perkins, Obama’s agree-to-disagree request is an assault on core evangelical values – which have apparently shifted toward using the law to restrict homosexuality and abortion rather than more traditional Christian theological emphases on love and helping the poor.
Perkins’ email crescendos: “The irony is that if the President would actually leave these ministries alone to do that work, they’d be even more powerful agents of change. Instead, he attacks their motives, demands their surrender on core values, and punishes them when they refuse. The Obama administration is tying the church’s arms behind its back and then complaining that it doesn’t serve enough soup!”
And that explains poverty in the United States.
The Perkins letter:
Photo credit: Urko Dorronsoro, Creative Commons, Flickr.