Southern Religion

Christian Right reassertion [fail]

Christian Right spokesmen, several Southern Baptist Convention leaders and a few others sent an open letter Tuesday calling for actions against Iran which mirror the recommendations of Republicans published in the Washington Post. Both called for trade sanctions to discourage Iran from further nuclear arms development.

Both sets of recommendations were timed to coincide with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York for a Sept. 23 address to the United Nations and a meeting with leaders of Group of 20 leading industrial nations, which are to meet for Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh. And neither made substantial new policy recommendation.

In their news release about the letter, the group said:

In a remarkable ecumenical and bipartisan display of unity, Christian leaders representing over 28 million evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and other Christians have sent a letter to Congress today and other key world leaders calling for urgent action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The letter urges a total arms embargo and a cut off of exports of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, as a firm yet peaceful measure against the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The group is profoundly conservative, and lacks significant Democratic representation. As a result, terming itself “bipartisan” is an abuse of the term. Likewise, the group is more ideologically consistent than ecumenistic, as can be seen from the list of what Associated Baptist Press writer Bob Allen characterized as “lead signatories:”

Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC].

Just the usual Religious Right suspects.

SBC names on the letter ranged from convention president Johnny Hunt to one of the originators of the SBC commitment to conservatism:

… Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas and one of the architects of the “conservative resurgence” movement that gained control of the nation’s largest non-Catholic faith group in the 1980s.

The letter made strident predictions, dutifully quoted by Allen. For example:

“A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders,” the letter said. “As the world’s leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

Visits to other sources were required to learn of Obama administration policies. The Christian Science Monitor reported, for example, that Iran was reluctant to discuss its nuclear program and the Obama administration planned to force that discussion:

The US insists it will raise the topic during any talks. “This may not have been a topic that they wanted to be brought up but I can assure that it’s a topic that we’ll bring up,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Saturday.

Some UN officials regard as inflammatory and unjustified predictions like those in the Christian Right letter. For example, Newsweek reported:

In a private e-mail sent last week to nuclear experts and obtained by NEWSWEEK, Tariq Rauf, a senior official with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that the mainstream media are repeating mistakes from 2003, when they “carried unsubstantiated stories on Iraq and WMD—the same mistakes are being repeated re IAEA and Iran.” Rauf added that “the hype is likely originating from certain (known) sources.” The message does not specify the sources, but U.S. and European officials have previously accused Israel of exaggerating Iran’s nuclear progress.

Western intelligence agencies are sharing reports about Iranian efforts to acquire weapons-related technology but disagree about what they mean. Most officials doubt Tehran is pursuing nuclear technology entirely for benign purposes. Israel doubts it, too, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that his patience is limited. [U.N. Ambassador Susan] Rice said no one is giving up on diplomacy, adding, “We have other tools.” U.S. options could include stepping up sanctions …

What the Christian Right letter added to the debate, other than heat and an attempt to reassert the group’s political significance, is altogether unclear.


September 23, 2009 - Posted by | Israel, Obama, Politics, Religion, SBC | ,

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