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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Joel Hunter's resignation

I had never heard of Joel Hunter, who resigned from the presidency of the Christian Coalition, until earlier today. I'm not sure yet whether I think his decision to resign before he even officially took office is a good or a bad thing.

Even though Reverend Hunter and I disagree on abortion and same-sex marriage, he stated publicly when announcing his resignation that easing poverty and protecting the environment are" issues that Jesus would want us to care about." Hunter resigned, reportedly, because he could not get other coalition leaders to put genuine weight behind these issues. According to this Orlando Sentinel story, coalition leadership considered these issues to be "fine" but "not our base" and "not our issues."

These remarks reinforce my perception that the coalition is much more interested in retaining and increasing its political power and influence than it is in making a difference in the lives of individual people and making a difference in this country. How much more influence could the coalition have if it would stop worrying about power and politics and start helping people in need?

I'd like to see the coalition stop intentionally driving division in our country and begin focusing on compassion and mercy. Even though I don't side with coalition on its two core social issues, I could still respect it as an organization if it would stop wielding those positions as a weapon. Why can't acknowledge these positions respectfully and focus on helping others where there is more agreement? It will have far more relevance and more more meaningfulness if it can find a way to do that, I think.

Reverend Hunter has written a book called Right Wing, Wrong Bird. I haven't read this book, but descriptions of it on make me think that Hunter is exactly the kind of leader the coalition needs right now. Here are a couple:

"Finally, a book for those committed to biblical political engagement, but embarrassed by the antics of the religious right. Hunter effectively combines historical reflection with biblical exegesis, calling the church to live out its cultural mandate by both contributing to society and confronting injustice."

"Can Christians learn to approach political issues constructively rather than negatively, learning to serve rather than yell? Pastor and author Dr. Joel C. Hunter says it's not only possible, it's necessary! Dr. Hunter offers a manifesto for fellow conservatives who feel "left out" by the Religious Right."
It sounds to me like the coalition is taking a step in the wrong direction with Hunter's resignation, but perhaps his principled departure will mean that the coalition begins rethinking its impact and its purpose. Let's hope so.


Sam Davidson said...

Great thoughts, here. I'll put that book on my wish list. If you get to it before I do, let me know what you think.

I agree that power politics shapes a lot of the 'evangelical' agenda.

Rob Robinson said...

Thanks, Sam. Will do.