31 January 2006

The Los Angeles Times recycles an old, and never very fresh story-line — evangelicals are “branching out” to include issues of poverty and environmentalism in their agenda — just in time for the State of the Union address. The semblance of a “hook” that makes this count as news is the 160 Sojourners-sponsored “State of the Union watch parties” to be held tonight by liberal evangelical followers of Jim Wallis. The parties (which are open to the media, to give you a preview of tomorrow’s “faith-based response” stories) will measure Bush’s policies against biblical morality, and likely look to hit him over weak poverty initiatives. But apart from the predictable failure of The Los Angeles Times to challenge the party’s organizers or participants over whether or not biblical fidelity — from either a liberal or conservative perspective — is a fitting political test in a multi-faith, and officially secular democracy, the paper manages to mangle its own point about evangelical diversity: implying that the same sorts of evangelicals who will be grading Bush’s speech along liberal lines are represented by conservative evangelical leaders such as Ted Haggard and Rick Warren, just because the latter are also involved in programs concerning the environment and poverty. The Times’ article, which clearly approves of this “evangelical broadening” beyond abortion and gay marriage, adds up to little more than a laundry list of evangelicals who have made gestures — token or otherwise — towards recognizing other issues, and takes none of the organizations seriously enough to try to understand where each actually stands.