This event is part of the Religion and Foreign Policy Symposia Series, which is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, New York
ADRIAN WOOLRIDGE: I think we might start. Welcome to the second session of our symposium on evangelicals and U.S. foreign policy. Please remember to turn off all your cell phones, BlackBerrys, and all wireless devices. You never know when Mrs. Giuliani is going to decide to call. (Laughter.)
I'd like to remind the audience that this meeting is on the record. Participants around the nation and the world are viewing this meeting via live webcast on the Council's website, CFR.org.
I'm Adrian Woolridge. I'm the Washington bureau chief of The Economist.
The speakers -- you have a detailed biography of all the speakers in your pack, so I'll be very brief.
Richard Cizik is the vice president for Government Affairs, the National Association of Evangelicals. Eugene Rivers is the special assistant to the presiding bishop for government and policy of the Church of God and Christ. And Clyde Wilcox is professor of government at Georgetown University. So we have a great diversity.
We've already, I think, to some extent, trespassed into the modern world, but we are now going to shift very much from the history of evangelicals and foreign policy to the current situation. And I wanted to start off by asking Clyde Wilcox to talk a little bit about who evangelicals are.
Do they constitute a bloc? Are there significant divisions within them? Are they all characters living in double-wide trailer homes, or is that -- that's what we chaps in the press love to say that. Or perhaps it's more upward mobility. And why on earth are we talking about evangelicals in relation to foreign policy? I know we've touched on this a little bit, so can we sort of move the discussion on from what's already been said?
CLYDE WILCOX: Right. Well, this is a very diverse group of people, obviously. We're talking about Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter, probably Al Gore, Mike Huckabee, George Bush, Pat Robertson. Is there any foreign policy attitude that's not covered in that range of people?
In terms of demographics, there are a very diverse group of people. Some do live in double-wide trailers and some live in McMansions near me.
I think the really important divisions demographically would be the following: First of all, race, as was mentioned earlier; African-American evangelicals much less likely to support the war in Iraq, much less likely to support the use of military troops really anywhere in the world, also slightly more pro-Islam.
And then I think there's a gender gap among evangelicals, just as there are among all parts of the population on foreign policy, with women less likely to support the war.
And then I think there's a really big generation gap among evangelicals. The Christian right that we heard about in this first panel is really sort of a fading generation -- Robertson and Falwell, you know, fading from the scene; the new generation of the Richards, in a sense, of Richard Cizik and Richard Land and Rick Warren, who are a much more moderate and tolerant and open generation.
RICHARD CIZIK: I'm not sure Richard Land would associate himself with me.
WILCOX: And then, you know, then the younger people that I interview are really very different. Many of them have gone on missions. Many have gone overseas. And so they're really very interested in what's going on in the world.
And then they're different theologically, and there are many different ways to cut the theology. But I just want to point to one really important difference in terms of foreign policy, the premillennial dispensationalists versus everyone else. All right, so you have Pentecostals versus charismatics versus fundamentalists, whatever.
But there's one group -- it's not a majority -- who believe that there's biblical prophecy that's being enacted right now in our lifetime. That has some very important consequences intellectually for foreign policy. For everybody else, maybe Jesus is coming a thousand years from now, 2,000 years from now, so we should change the climate. We should take care of social problems. But for the premillennialists, that's a very distinctive group.
WOOLRIDGE: Can I just ask Gene Rivers to give a supplement on that on the Pentecostals? We keep hearing this word, Pentecostals. What does it mean, and how big of a phenomenon is it?
EUGENE F. RIVERS: Evangelicalism is -- and someone made the point earlier about it -- is a contested term. And it has been traditionally used as a big-tent term that was selectively employed. Pentecostals, as some of you may know, we represent a high-octane wing of the low church -- (laughter) -- given to all kinds of, you know, liturgical enthusiasm.
CIZIK: I'll write that one down.
RIVERS: Right. That's right -- and associated with the Azusa Street revival in 1906, when, in our view, the Holy Ghost comes down in a powerful way. And there's something actually, for us, remarkably, irresistibly fascinating in the idea that the Holy Ghost comes in an old, beat-up house in a dilapidated section of Los Angeles at a prayer meeting presided over by a one-eyed former slave.
And from that point, there is this unbelievable religious renewal that affirms and celebrates the charismatic gifts of the Spirit and healing. And there are, I think, three things that were unique sociologically and historically about the phenomenon.
Number one, in southern California, which is the racial South of 1906, a global phenomenon begins, presided over by someone that is less than a generation away from slavery. And what's significant sociologically, beyond the phenomenon of glossolalia, speaking in tongues, was the fact that at the height of racial segregation in the South, you have a religious experience that collapsed race and gender divisions -- 1906. And literally people from around the world hear about this revival that begins April 9th, 1906, of all races.
And from that singular event, we now have, it's estimated, 600 million folk who are engaged in this high-octane religion, which John DiIulio has argued in "The Godly Republic" represents the soft power of the West. This is a fascinating idea, because all across Africa, you know, you have the political Islam. When you go to Nigeria, very quietly, with no ideological ax to grind, you have literally hundreds of thousands of Pentecostals. And this phenomenon comes in a variety of labels. I'm from the Church of God --
WOOLRIDGE: Let's -- I'd like to get back to both the soft power and Africa later. But let me now switch a little bit to the politics of evangelicals at the moment in foreign policy.
You have a situation where you've had an evangelical in the White House who's been very widely liked in the evangelical community; got a very high proportion of his votes from evangelicals. A very high proportion of evangelicals voted for him, let me say. And the evangelical community has been much more sustained in its support for Bush than those other groups.
What's happening now with the Republican Party? Do evangelicals have a champion who might replace Bush? Why are they so divided amongst -- why hasn't there emerged another Bush? Why are they so divided amongst their candidates? And does that mean that there's going to be a decline in the influence of evangelicals on foreign policy if they're divided?
CIZIK: Which one?
WOOLRIDGE: Well -- (inaudible). Would you like to start off by addressing the after-Bush?
CIZIK: Thank you for your writing, first of all -- thank you -- and your understanding of religion in a world and in The Economist that doesn't always do that, by the way.
But there has been a recent emphasis at the magazine which I think reflects what is going on here and what is going on in the country everywhere. It is a sense that religion and its importance is extraordinarily significant.
And it wasn't Bush who really did this, unless you have that misconception. Politics always follows religion. And so Bush was simply a reflection of what was already occurring in the country. And the future will be determined by what are the changes already underway in American evangelicalism particularly because of its influence on the Republican Party. And while there isn't a single champion, as you say, there are multiple candidates for that role.
It will remain to be seen whether anyone lives up to it. It's not likely that any one candidate, especially Mr. Giuliani or Mitt Romney, in my opinion, will live up to that. I suppose Huckabee poses the best prospects for playing that role.
But here is the bottom line. The bottom line is that -- well, it's been said that the 21st century will be religious or it will not be at all. That was Malreaux (sp). Religious or not at all. Well, these factors, especially in politics, faith and politics, are what are going to, I think, ultimately drive even this election, believe it or not. People thought it was going to wane. It's not going to wane. The broadening of the evangelical agenda that is reflected in this document from the NAE, signed by all those names you just mentioned, the religious right instead of the religious left, for the health of the nation, I think is what is really important.
So the question isn't really whom, in terms of a candidate. It's what, and what do these people believe and what do they want?
WOOLRIDGE: Professor Wilcox --
WILCOX: Yeah, the one thing I'd say is that Bush, I think, has had a unique talent in talking about religion in an inclusive way. Unlike, say, Carter or Clinton, even, he very seldom talks about what his faith makes him think. He talks about how his faith makes him feel, and that's something htat unites people across faith traditions. So if you listen to him in the debates, he says I know what it feels like when people pray for me, you know? That I go to my Heavenly Father for strength. In fact, he made the same misquote where he doesn't talk to his earthly father for guidance, which was a little strange. (Scattered laughter.) But the idea that you have this inclusive, emotional language talking about faith is a very powerful thing on the campaign trail, and I think I haven't seen any of the Republican candidates doing that yet. I've seen a couple of Democratic candidates trying to do it.
RIVERS: What's interesting for -- and I'll be more precise -- the black Pentecostal charismatic community is that Bush surprised the entire country on the issue of Africa. No one expected Bush -- no one, left, right or center -- the right wasn't even thinking about Africa right --
No one expected Bush to undertake the initiatives that were undertaken on behalf of Africa. And one of the things that -- I was talking to a number of black church leaders who are actually going to be reaching out to Bush, and what's fascinating about how subtle the policies got, the Church of God and Christ issued a statement in opposition to the Iraqi war very early. And what's fascinating about the statement that they issued is that their opposition to the war -- and these are Pentecostals, now -- was based on Catholic just-war theory. (Scattered laughter.)
And they used Catholic just-war theory as the philosophic basis for their opposition to the Iraq war, which was completely at variance with where -- with the popular image of evangelicals. And they said, Mr. President, we love you on Africa. You've done great stuff. You haven't gotten credit by the liberal media. And we are in opposition to this war. We're still waiting for the WMDs -- you know, we're hanging in there, but we see no moral or intellectual justification for the conflict. We disagree with you on the affirmative action decision in the case of the University of Michigan. You got it wrong, but we love you anyway.
And so I think there's a much more nuanced --
RIVERS: Intellectually sophisticated --
WOOLRIDGE: Yeah. I think there is a perception out there that Bush's policy towards Iraq and the Middle East was heavily influenced by his evangelical faith. I think that that's actually an overstatement, but --
WOOLRIDGE: It's led to the Africa policy where you can see the influence of religion.
RIVERS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
CIZIK: Adrian, let me say this. I happen to disagree to the extent that the previous panelist -- I don't know whether it was Bill or Leo or whomever -- suggested a kind of unilateralism. In fact, if you look at the Pew Forum on multilateral versus unilateralism among evangelicalism -- this was 2005, mind you. Shared leadership -- should the U.S. exercise single leadership or shared leadership of the world? The evangelicals said, 75 percent, they support shared leadership. American exceptionalism, yes, 60 percent, but should the United States mind its own business? Sixty percent of evangelicals said "disagree."
And frankly, if you look at their views of the U.N. and multilateral institutions, it's split.
WOOLRIDGE: Yeah. That's absolutely right. Yeah.
CIZIK: It's split. It's not this old-war characterization that is a hangover from the previous generation. And so what you really have to answer what is happening in our movement is a return to what mythologists and others like Ralph Winter characterize as "first inheritance" gospel, the full-spectrum, broad issues. Not just missions, but it's changing civil society, even the law, addressing issues of war. That is first inheritance evangelicalism that was eclipsed for 40 years by second inheritance, as Winter calls it -- those who focused exclusively on personal salvation.
Now, the second inheritance mentality, of course, led to some of the errors, I think, in public policy. But those are being corrected by the new agenda that includes the new evangelicals addressing climate change and the rest.
WOOLRIDGE: I think that's absolutely right. I think there's been a very dramatic change in the views of certain sections of the evangelical community towards the United Nations and willingness to work within the United Nations.
CIZIK: We invited him -- that is, the Antichrist himself -- that's a joke -- Ban Ki-moon. (Mild laughter.) You heard the context about "left behind" focusing on the secretary-general as that.
Look, the board of the NAE heard him address, in Washington, D.C. on October 12th -- that's Ban Ki-moon -- addressed the broader-picture issues. And was there affirmation? Absolutely, for his concern for millennium development goals and the rest. So that is, I think, a result of what leadership is.
When you provide leadership, I believe the people in the pews will follow, if it's consistent with evangelical theology and biblical beliefs and the rest.
RIVERS: I think one development that has contributed to the transformation is the evolution and maturation of some form of white evangelical intelligentsia, which is a significant development over the last 30 years.
RIVERS: Which has to do with transformations and the evangelical college and university system.
RIVERS: And so I think that one of the -- one of the unexplored and, you know, inadequately appreciated developments has been the emergence of a more robust intelligentsia that's trying to move out of this stereotype of sort of being an intellectual trailer park.
WOOLRIDGE: Professor Wilcox, could you add a little bit more to that? Because I think what we have seen is the development exactly of this intelligentsia and almost of a foreign policy establishment or a group of foreign policy heavyweights who are evangelicals or very influenced by evangelical thinking, who range from James Baker to Condi Rice. Could you say something about that upward mobility, intellectually and socially, of the evangelicals?
WILCOX: Yeah. So, you know, two generations ago, if you have said are evangelicals much less educated that the population, the answer would have been, you know, undoubtedly yes.
Today, in the survey data among very oldest Americans, evangelicals are slightly less educated than everyone else. In fact, among, you know, young people 20 to 30, they're every bit as educated. They're going to good private schools. Many students coming to Georgetown, you know, to study. So it's -- the aanti-intellectualism is still part of the fundamentalist wing, but it really does not characterize the movement as a whole.
WOOLRIDGE: I'd like people to say something about the missionary world, the sheer scale of missionary activity around the world, the sheer scale of evangelical involvement in foreign aid, and what the possible implications of that involvement are for foreign policy.
CIZIK: Well, I'll just give you one quick figure from the last 10 years. World Vision's budget jumped, I heard from -- (inaudible) -- from 350 million (dollars) annually to 950 million (dollars). In other words, it was a huge jump, over a mere decade. That was -- the same thing that occurred in other movements within the evangelical circles.
The biggest institutions, the two biggies are World Vision and Feed the Children, but you have a host of other organizations. The Salvation Army, for example, is an NAE denomination, annual budget of a billion, 300 million (dollars) from the government. But you have many, many others.
And these agencies who strive to do development more than simply emergency aid nowadays are what are indeed reflecting back to their own constituents and supporters what is occurring in the world.
WOOLRIDGE: It's exactly that.
CIZIK: And so look at the priorities. Paul Marshall is here and Paul has really led on religious persecution. But Paul, you would be disappointed by 37 percent saying it's a top priority amongst evangelicals. This was two years ago. What are the top priorities? Terror, 91 percent. Protecting jobs in the U.S., 87 percent. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, 80 percent followed by reducing our dependence on energy resources, drug trafficking and the like. AIDS, 68 percent. What do you get? All the way down to human rights and religious freedom at 31 percent. But what has happened, you see, is despite in the pew, only 31 percent supporting some of that democratic human rights agenda -- what's happening is that the leadership is saying to the movement, "You have to address these other issues" --
CIZIK: -- "even if you don't always feel them personally, you have to. And that's how you have this change occurring. And so it's not just the document in 2004. It's the statements that have come from leaders in these denominations, churches and the like, to their own people saying, "It's a new world and you have to address it, and the old mentalities don't do." And if you ask the average pastor in America today what his number one concern is -- this from Lee Anderson, our president, is called survival. First it's called survival. That's the number one concern. But if you ask them what are there worldviews and the priorities they have, more of them will talk about international concerns and the international gospel -- the Church of Jesus Christ internationally -- than they will domestic politics.
Will they retreat if they don't have a candidate? Well, we'll see. I doubt it. I really don't think evangelicals are going to sit on their hands because they don't have a George W. Bush. Why? Because they know we as a church collective have an interest in U.S. foreign policy and that's why over the last nine years, this movement that has included the NAE, the Southern Baptist Convention and other related entities have passed eight major landmark bills that were cited in part -- previously, the International Religious Freedom Act first in 1998 under Clinton, but then you have a host of these that include the Sudan Peace Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, PEPFAR -- the AIDS bill, but also the North Korea Human Rights Act, the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act --
And look at that. Here you have genocide and world hunger, global climate change -- these are all now priorities. Yet 31 percent said of these evangelicals, "We should strengthen the U.N." Thirty-one percent said -- that's a far cry from the fundamentalists of days of old.
WOOLRIDGE: Gene, could you say something about the involvement of the black church in Africa and the
I mean, one of these things --
WOOLRIDGE: -- that exist there.
On December 10th, I think it was -- 2000 -- someone can correct the date on that -- President-elect Bush held a meeting in Austin, Texas. I don't know, Richard, if you were there. There were a group of -- you know, religious leader types that showed up at this meeting in Austin, Texas. And Dilulio had just come on as the head of the faith-based office and we were flown out to Texas. We sit down and -- it's a fascinating experience for me. It -- the president does a little brief talk then he says, "Well, what are some of the concerns?" And so a hand shot up and said, "President Bush, what are you going to do in Africa? Don't want to start any trouble -- you know, and get -- you know, make this a contentious meeting but where are we on Africa?" And it was just fascinating. He said, "No, no. It's okay. That's okay. Not a problem. I'm going to make Africa a priority." And people's jaws dropped. "I'm going to make Africa a priority."
And President Bush kept his word. Bishop Charles E. Blake, working very closely with John Delulio -- and black churches then began to really push in communication with Condoleeza Rice -- and I should say also and it's interesting -- we were talking about evangelical leadership, no one has yet raised the name Condoleezza Rice, who by theological definition would be an evangelical but who is not paraded out in any of the discussions which may be related to her demography -- we'll say demography, right? But Condoleezza Rice was a --
WILCOX: You mean because she's black.
RIVERS: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no --
WILCOX: -- demography, what do you mean --
RIVERS: It could be -- demography also involves gender as --
WILCOX: Okay. Or race --
RIVERS: Race and gender rights. (Laughter.)
It's a gender thing here, right? (Cross talk, laughter.) Let the church say, "Amen," all right?
So I think that the black churches were given -- and this is interesting. The black churches were given an opportunity to play a greater role in foreign policy discourse around the AIDS issue under a Republican administration as opposed to Democratic. We all love Bubba Clinton and -- you know, and -- you know, and that was all a very warm experience in the whole business. But one of the great ironies of the last 20 years is that Bush was better on Africa and had a closer working relationship with black churches on foreign and development policy as it related to AIDS than was the case with the Clinton administration. And it's one of the most fascinating ironies that's been sort of underexplored in this case. And so --
WOOLRIDGE: I agree with that.
CIZIK: But you also have the Sudan Peace Act, which was again to Bush's credit. He took that as well.
Peter Carrington, one of the grand old men of the British foreign policy establishment, once said that the trouble with science was that it was all invented after he went to school. And I think one of the troubles with evangelicals and foreign policy is most of the evangelical foreign policy was all invented after journalists of my generation went to school and formed their opinions about it. There does seem to be a seismic change in foreign policy thinking and one of the most important of those, of course, is environmentalism. And I'd like -- we're very privileged to have Richard Cizik here, who's taken a leading role in that. And I'd like you to give us some sense of what's happening in that debate and how much pushback you got from the old establishment about environmentalism and how this might feed into future foreign policy decisions --
WOOLRIDGE: -- given that this is likely to wind up --
CIZIK: Yes, there -- yes --
WOOLRIDGE: -- on the agenda.
CIZIK: Look, it is now considered by evangelicals -- self-described evangelicals by the Ellison Research just recently to be a priority of 84 percent of evangelicals. What a priority? Namely a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions. How do you have that? Well, some of us began speaking out in 2002. The climate initiative from the evangelicals was released in '06. This is merely '07 and I sat next to John Warner, who was on the -- who was seated next to Rabbi David Saperstein on the other side. And David said to the senator -- he said, "Senator, you shouldn't be surprised that you have evangelicals right her at this meeting." This was just three days ago.
You shouldn't be surprised because then Rabbi Saperstein recounted the last ten years. And then Warner, who is now shepherding this bill with Joe Lieberman essentially after an hour-long meeting with a diverse group of religious leaders, said he would go to bat in this case for an agenda concern of ours, namely that the auction dollars that come from the cap-and-trade program that is part of this Climate Security Act that he has co-authored with Lieberman would have a healthy percentage, not just the 5 percent -- potentially even the 10 percent of those dollars going -- you see, to the international communities that suffer the most.
So how did this happen? It happened because evangelicals who were out front on tsunami relief, were out front on AIDS, were out front on human rights, on -- including Darfur -- this internationalism -- the new internationalism that Nick Christoff refers to -- not being able to go to any place in the world, Mindanao or wherever, and not find the evangelical missionary movement there along the relief and development agency, it's this change you see which is even going to make the evangelicals the go-to community on climate change. When we will not be intimidated by our critics -- by the way, I say that the NAE motto is not just cooperation without compromise, it's cooperation without compromise or capitulation.
And the reason I say without capitulation is because this isn't really about climate change. This is an internal debate in evangelicalism not just about who speaks for us -- not just the old guard anymore -- we will not stand for that -- but it's about the agenda and will the agenda include all these issues. And we're saying yes, this is a logical extension of this human rights campaign because climate change is the human rights issue of the 21st century. And my father's generation sat on their hands, Eugene. They -- in the south and everywhere in this country -- they sat on their hands on civil rights for black Americans and for others, and were lukewarm at times about women's rights.
CIZIK: We will not be that way. We will not endure, I think, the everlasting shame that has come upon our movement for having behaved that way on this issue. We will not. And so look for the evangelicals to play a role in this one as well.
WOOLRIDGE: I think a lot of what's been said so far would surprise the average French left bank intellectual. And it's all very warm and fuzzy and pleasant, but let me play the part of the French left bank intellectual for a moment.
WILCOX: Please, please. (Laughter.) Let's hear it for the French!
WOOLRIDGE: What about -- I won't do it in French.
What about the clash of civilizations? What about the role of religion in heating up ethnic conflicts and cultural conflicts? Is religion necessarily something that is dangerous, or could it actually be used to reconcile different traditions? Can it be a cure, as well as a cause of conflict? Eugene.
RIVERS: The clash of civilizations business -- like most things in life -- is a much more complicated discussion because it involves nuance. In Africa you have some fascinating developments. For example, one goes to Accra, Ghana -- there's very significant Muslim activity. And it has been referenced that the prosecution of Christians -- which is a real issue, because in the discourse around Muslim-Christian relations, Muslim-Western relations, frequently -- and this is something that a lot of black Christians are mentioning. Listen: We affirm the rights of all individuals in this country. Muslims should be respected. However, we also insist that if Muslims' civil rights are to be respected in the United States -- Muslims must be just as vocal to defend the human rights of Christians in Muslim nations.
And one of the things that's happening in the black community is that there are some fairly candid conversations that say, look, I don't want to hear the civil rights rap about the civil rights of Muslims in the states, and then there is this deafening silence when Christians are being persecuted in Cairo; they're being persecuted all throughout North Africa and there's not one word said by Muslim leadership on the issue. In the case -- the more interesting case is Darfur where one of the things that has concerned me -- and we have challenged Muslims in the United States -- where were you Muslims on the issue of Darfur, which for us has a racial subtext, because you have folk who say they're Arabs, right, persecuting black people. So that has a particular way that it plays in the United States among black people who also happen to be Christians.
So I think that there is a new discussion. I think that -- and I agree with you, Leo. Pentecostalism, in particular, which is a subset of evangelicalism, which is sort of interesting, because as the numbers of Pentecostals grow and evangelicals, you know, sort of wiggle to figure out how they can claim -- right? Because this is a funny kind of definitional -- a contested category, right? I mean, I say, I'm glad to be told that I am an evangelical now. Forty years ago I was a Pentecostal who was viewed very differently. But now that we're successful and we're sort of the big dog, right, we've been invited into the shrinking camp. So I'm flattered that I've been invited to be at the table. (Laughter.)
CIZIK: The Pentecostals were always at the center of the NAE. In fact, in 1945 the American Dictionary of Churches in America didn't include anything other than the AOG. The Assemblies of God --
RIVERS: Well, but see -- the Assemblies -- that's white Pentacostals --
RIVERS: That's a segregationist claim of the Church of God. No, no, that's an important point. You know, that's an important point. And I don't condemn --
MR. WOOLDRIDGE: Let me now say I'd like to invite the members and guests to join our conversation and ask questions. (Laughter.)
Please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it. Please stand, state your name and affiliation and please limit yourself to one question and keep it concise so that everybody can get a chance to engage in this fascinating debate.
QUESTIONER: I just wanted to encourage everyone to go to SBC.net and see Condoleezza Rice's address to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006. The subtext of that is that when we were told the president couldn't come, we were asked who would be a good substitute and I suggested Secretary Rice. She came to Greensboro, North Carolina. She spoke for about 40 minutes. She received 14 standing ovations -- talking about human rights, talking about the fact that slavery didn't end in the 19th century. And her audience, by the way, were about 20,000 elected messengers from Southern Baptist churches -- probably an 85 percent white audience. And she got one of her biggest ovations when she said, "Do you realize that if I serve out my full term as secretary of State, it will be eight years since there was a white male secretary of State," which is -- 12 years since there was a white male secretary of State. And when she finished speaking, the audience broke into a spontaneous acapella rendition of "God Bless America." So Condoleezza Rice is a powerful figure and is one that is tremendously respected. And I think she was stunned by the response she got from the Southern Baptist Convention and we were delighted to have her.
QUESTIONER: Bettye Musham, Gear Holdings.
I understand your fascination with Bush on the African question, but can't you use your prestige, power, access to get him to address the problems of poverty in the black communities in America?
RIVERS: Excellent question.
My sense is this: Well, you touched on something very -- the initial motivation, quiet as it's kept, of the faith-based initiative was to actually address that issue. If you go back to the very origins and what was going on intellectually in the Bush administration was Dilulio. And this is a complicated story, because the breakdown in terms of the success of the faith-based as it related to domestic policy had to do with the racial politics and the vulcanization within the White House.
And so I think it's not clear to me -- and so I think that the internal conflicts within the administration and 9/11 -- I think after 9/11 -- I remember to talking to Dilulio the week after 9/11. He said, "Listen. It's all going to be the war. We wanted to do the programs. We were fighting for it, but 9/11 took everything off the table." And I think that's a fairer statement. I mean, I'm not thrilled that the cities have not experience more, you know, attention. But I recognize the reality that 9/11 changed everything for everybody.
CIZIK: Well, it wasn't just that. I should remind you of that he gave his magnum opus to the NAE in the spring of 2000.
But anyway, it was Dilulio who referred to the Mayberry Machiavelli's.
RIVERS: That's right. True.
CIZIK: And so whether this was -- what?
RIVERS: And correct.
CIZIK: Okay. Fair enough.
In other words, there was a certain partisan edge to this -- a purpose that was then faulted by David Kuo in his book about the White House.
QUESTIONER: Don Shriver from Union Theological Seminary.
Sometime ago Albert Camus's remark, "I love my country too much to be a nationalist" -- I should think that an evangelical retort to that ought to be "I love Jesus too much to be a nationalist." Those statistics that Richard Cizik has been telling us about are very encouraging toward a multilateral position. I wouldn't have to say to Richard that you need to publicize those figures a little more if those trends are to be really honored.
I must say, though, that evangelicals must acquire a multilateral public voice if they are to overcome the reputation of being American nationalists. And this has to do with the exceptionalist business of the American part. I should think that maybe God has a purpose for every nation on earth and universalizing that is not a bad idea.
I must say also, though, that when some of my foreign visitors have come into some Presbyterian churches and see an American flag up in the chancel, they are shocked, because they know that the Christian community worldwide is not a national community.
So my question is, is this really -- secular cynics would say that your and other people's discovery of issues like the climate change and human rights worldwide owes more to the developments in the secular world than it does to theology or theologically motivated public policy. As somebody who is not sure you can make direct translations from theology into some public policies, I'm enough of a theologian to believe there are times in which theology is the major variable.
CIZIK: Major what?
QUESTIONER: Major variable. I'd like to ask you, therefore, what is it in the theology of the evangelicals which you see as now having a rather direct impact on the development of more multilateral approaches to world affairs?
I'm really puzzled as to why, a long time ago, evangelicals would not be among the most multilateralist of us all because of the world mission of the church from Matthew 28, et cetera. So tell me, how do we get theology a more respectable and powerful understanding of what's going on than yielding to those in this Council who are not sure theology ought to be involved in the whole business?
I want to congratulate this Council, by the way. It's the first time in many years that I have felt free to ask an overtly theological question. (Laughter.)
CIZIK: By the way, some of us grew up with signs outside our hometowns, "Get US Out of the U.N." with the reference to the CFR as the Trilateral Commission incarnate. Well, now they've transferred to now they're just you folks here. You're just The New York Times-reading, endive-chomping, Prius-driving, liberal elitists, right. So we've moved from, you know, one to the other. There's still a little bit of a --
WOOLRIDGE: Progress of a sort. (Laughter.)
CIZIK: -- stereotype. So let's not suggest that there isn't still some of that residual kind of attitudinal anti-intellectualism. Os Guinness calls it personalism. He says, "Well, that's the evangelical emphasis on the little man, the little person, as opposed to leaders, by the way." I've been wont to say that the great 10/40 window for evangelicals, that latitudinal 10/40, is really leadership, reaching leaders in the world, not just the little guy.
So there's a large change that is -- (inaudible). It is being led by theology. And listen to Ralph Winter. I just have a quote from him. "Mission theology will lead and follow the growth of the civil stature of the evangelical movement, forcing into existence a recovery of older interpretations." That's the first inheritance of the Bible in regard to the use of that vastly increased influence.
In other words, the increased stature will even change the missions movement, which will then infect, you see, our civil stature as leaders. And you put it all together and you have a very different picture.
By the way, one follow-up. You mentioned the Pentecostal statement opposing the war. Anecdotally, it was October of 2002 and I was asked to bring a statement to the NAE board on the subject of a pending war. And it was essentially not an endorsement by any stretch of the imagination, though I had personally felt at the time I could trust the president's sense and judgment on the threat.
I confess, I was wrong to trust the president's judgment on the threat, because it couldn't be trusted, in retrospect, in my opinion. And that's a very important lesson. It's why the evangelical support for Bush has gone from 78 to around 45.
Now, do a lot of us remain of the opinion that there was a justification, if the threat had been there to go in? Yes. But, see, this re-evaluation is occurring because you see the leaders of NAE in October of 2002 would not even pass a resolution from yours truly to pray for the president. Why? Because they stood up as leaders of parachurch movements; some of them stood up and said, "We have 40,000 staff people in the Middle East alone, and we're not going to jeopardize their security on a threat, a war that we don't really understand." And isn't that interesting?
WOOLRIDGE: Gene, and then I'd like to bring in Professor Wilcox.
RIVERS: See, there has never been, nor will there ever be, an evangelical theology. So we need to reframe that. There is no evangelical theology. I mean, and here again, this goes back to these contested meanings. The evangelical community is actually really quite a pluralistic community. There is a lot more theological variation within the evangelical community than many of the leadership want to concede, because this definitional issue is really a power struggle around who has the monopoly and the power to define who's in and out.
So, for example, when we talk about theological language being used as it relates to policy, the black Pentecostal wing, the black church tradition wing, comes out of King. Here theological language was used in a very public way. It was articulated with a certain level of intellectual sophistication 40 years ago.
So there are evangelical theologies, and we need to get away from the presumption that somehow one demographic is going to speak for everybody, since that obviously doesn't make any sense in a pluralistic theological community and a much more pluralistic world.
CIZIK: But you should watch, everyone here -- and we'll let Clyde comment --
WILCOX: Yes, you're taking over.
CIZIK: Preachers are the one to do that. But watch for the forthcoming statement on defining evangelicalism, because our document -- Os said, "Your document," he says, "Richard, doesn't define us." And I said, "Well, it's not intended to. It's to provide a public theology for what we as a movement have never had."
By the way, in 1992 it was Darrell G. Hart (sp) who wrote a cover story for Christian Century, and this older man in a Caddy going down the road 90 miles an hour, sunglasses, flipping out what may have been a beer can. In other words, the point was, here was NAE at midlife crisis, formed in '42 -- this was '92 -- not knowing where it was going.
And so the younger leaders decided, "Well, we are going to build a public theology." And that's what this is. But there is this need, Os and others believe, to define who we are, because we have been led by what George Marsden says are many fundamentalists. I said, "Now, wait. Who's the 'we'?" The larger movement has been led by, he says, fundamentalists. I say, "Well, who are they?" He says --
WOOLRIDGE: Let's give the professor a chance.
CIZIK: Well, anyway --
WOOLRIDGE: Come on, Professor.
WILCOX: Let me just say one thing here about the importance of individual experience in understanding theology; so, you know, just three quick anecdotes.
First of all, many of the young evangelicals that I teach at Georgetown have been on missions. So why are they suddenly interested in the rest of the world? Because they saw the rest of the world. Now, the theology was there to support that in the past, but until churches started taking up collections to send young people to Guatemala, to Ghana, whatever.
Secondly, in the Iraq war, I'd just come back from West Virginia, where all my relatives are evangelicals, and they've turned against the war in part because their sons are fighting and daughters are fighting. They're hearing back stories, right, so it's a personal thing.
And then tying it into this notion of Islam that you've asked several times, the surveys show that evangelicals are slightly cooler towards other religious traditions than mainline Protestants. That's partly true because mainline Protestants think that there's some truth in all faiths, right, and so -- and evangelicals don't necessarily think that.
But the surveys also show that if an evangelical meets a Muslim, they have the same warming affect that everyone else has. And my mother exactly had this experience when she met my child-care provider, Nabila Amera (sp). And she's from West Virginia, where people wear head scarves dressed as part of the culture. And so when Nabila (sp) is wearing a head scarf, she doesn't immediately think she's Muslim.
She came walking out and she said, "Well, what a wonderful Christian woman she was." And I said, "Well, she's a wonderful woman, but she's a wonderful Muslim woman." So my mother thought about this for about two days, and then she says, "I still think she's a wonderful Christian woman." (Laughter.)
WOOLRIDGE: Walter Russell Mead.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: I just wondered if we could -- oops, sorry; forgot my own rules here. I'd like to hear a little bit more about, within the African-American church, some of the different theological currents and maybe political implications within the African-American churches. As I understand, you know, it's again, "Who's the 'we'?" and who are black evangelicals?
RIVERS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Someone earlier alluded to the prosperity religion, and alluded to the growth of the megachurch phenomenon. And here, if we look at the black community, and the black Christian community, and its continuum, we have similar developments. The more liberal -- more theologically-liberal worshipping communities within the black community -- are in decline.
The growth in black - in the black church community is overwhelmingly Pentecostal charismatic, so that we have - and there's a joke within the Pentecostal circles, we have Pentecostals; we have "Meth-acostals;" we have "Bapti-costals" -- (laughter) -- right. And then we have sort of the charismatics, who are basically Pentecostals, who drive Volvos and - (Laughter.) - you know, and drink Starbucks, all right. So we have Starbucks Pentecostals, or what you call charismatics.
And so now the politics gets fascinating just in terms of nuance. For example, when we talk about the "we" of evangelicalism, the entire meltdown, in terms of the Republican president race, is absolutely fascinating to us. We are howling at the fact that a - if Pat Robertson endorses a pro-choice, pro-gay guy named Giuliani from New York, that's fascinating. All of the lecturing and trash-talking about fidelity to faith and all of this mumbo-jumbo, right. Then the guy -- (laughter.)
CIZIK: It's all about power.
RIVERS: Yeah, right. But see - no, it's actually all about hypocrisy, --
CIZIK: Oh, yeah.
RIVERS: (Laughs.) No, which is the thing that - (inaudible) -
CIZIK: Well, that's different from hypocrisy. (Laughter.)
RIVERS: Yeah, yeah, right, right. (Laughter.) So we get that. And then the, you know, the white evangelicals, "Well, there's the Romney thing" - well, wait a minute now, if you evangelicals have these distinctive -- these theological distinctives, right, does, you know, a guy with the, you know, the Mormon thing, does that work.
Well no, now either you believe this stuff, or you don't. Or you - you sort of bend the thing and, you know, twist yourself out of, you know, whatever you said you believed, you know, in the interest of political expediency. So within the black community now, who are more theologically more conservative just on biblical stuff, "Well, we believe the bible -- we believe King James is the Word of God," right? - (laughter) - the Word of God, right; that stuff just lifts off the page, right? -- and, you know, and are very conservative doctrinally. Yet we will, you know, -- the vast majority of, and this is interesting, the vast majority of, you know, kind of Pentecostal charismatic guys I know are very warm to Hillary for untheological reasons, for pragmatic reasons. And, if you look at some of the polling data, even with Barack Obama - even with Barack Obama, our view is, "Well, nice kid; pretty teeth; nice suits; not ready."
And when you talk to old black preachers, saying "Well, -- (inaudible) - ." Real quick -- I talk to a preacher in a barber shop: Well, what do you think about the presidential contest? And they'll say, "Well, I like the boy, Barack Obama. I like him. A good child. But you never follow a man into a fight that ain't been in one." (Laughter.) "Never follow a man into a fight that ain't been in one." (Laughter.)
"Now, what I got to say about Hill, that girl been in a fight." (Laughter.) "That girl been in a fight." (Laughter.) So here's the punchline, right. So what's fascinating, intellectually, is that within the black community, Walter, you have this remarkably complicated, this genuinely nuanced, right, so they say, "Well, you know, Hillary, we disagree with you on a bunch of this stuff," right. "We disagree, listen, we are theologically the most concerned on the gay business. The gay marriage thing, we're very conservative. More conservative than the white evangelicals, yet we're simply not noisy about it. We're just not going to be --
CIZIK: You see the white evangelicals always said to the blacks, you aren't consistent. You say you believe -
CIZIK: We told you -
CIZIK: -- they're old guard --
CIZIK: "Hey, you blacks, you aren't consistent."
CIZIK: Well, now who's inconsistent?
RIVERS: Yeah, right.
CIZIK: Well, see they were inconsistent then. (Laughs.)
WOOLRIDGE: I think I've been neglecting my far right here. (Laughter.)
RIVERS: We never try and do this in front of them.
QUESTIONER: Chloe Breyer, Episcopalians For Global Reconciliation. At the same conference you referred to in October there was a gentleman there who spoke about the demographic of Christianity in the world, and the way that the "representative Christian," at this point in history is a person of color, from the global south. What he didn't say is she is also female, and I --
RIVERS: And probably from Africa.
QUESTIONER: -- yeah, from the global south, or Africa, or Latin America. My question to you is about the changing role of women's leadership in the evangelical tradition. And also the question of how the evidence points to the education of women as being the number one way that poverty is addressed worldwide, and how those two things are playing out currently in your communities.
WOOLRIDGE: I think that's a fascinating question because the whole shift of Christianity to the global south is surely one of the reasons why evangelicals in this country are more interested than ever before - (inaudible) --
WILCOX: Yes. Absolutely.
WOOLRIDGE: -- and so could can we address that, and the issue of women?
RIVERS: On the women issue, what's fascinating - here again going back to the sociology of Pentecostalism, when the women's issues came up within the mainline churches, sort of 30 years ago -- why is there more recognized leadership in the mainline churches, and why don't we have bishops - we in the Pentecostal community were confused because I have been raised in a Pentecostal religious tradition where I had known about women bishops all my life -- and it's very interesting.
Pentecostalism has this notoriously egalitarian strain throughout it, which is why it has, you know, 600 - you know, you got 600 million people love the thing, right - because there's this remarkably egalitarian idea that, you know, if God called me, the Holy Ghost called me, the boys can't block me because the Holy Ghost will say, God called you to preach, and you get up on that pulpit in that box and you preach. And if you got skills and talents, you know, in 20 years you got a 15,000-member church. And you become bishop Billy Jean Jackson from wherever you are, wherever you are. Now --
CIZIK: By the way, whites always said she could preach too as long as she did it overseas. (Laughter.)
RIVERS: Yeah, right when they're overseas. Okay, so what happens within this pluralistic evangelical community, there are these - listen, TV evangelists, you know, you can get them white who preach black, you can get them black who preach white, I'm there's - but what happens, for status and class reasons, most of the liberal elite intelligentsia never recognized these women because they were working class.
So there's been leadership among Pentecostals on the gender issue throughout the Third World and within the black community, but because they were working class women of color - more to the point black -- they were never recognized. So another irony with the Pentecostal business is that it creates enormous leadership opportunities for women.
In the Church of God and Christ, for example, we don't call the bishop of the Women's Division of the Church of God and Christ, a bishop. Mother Willie-Mae (sp) Rivers from Muscalusa (sp), South Carolina, right, has - jeez, she's got like maybe a million women in the department that she heads -- and the way she negotiated the business is they give her a different title. Now everybody knows that, function, she's a bishop. So there's a bishop within the Church of God and Christ, her name is Willie-Mae (sp) Rivers.
And that's now changing. But here again, subtle, nuanced and more complicated. And there are opportunities for leadership for women that have generally not been, you know, studied because of the class status of the particular actors.
CIZIK: Many of the denominations of NAE - the Pentecostal Holiness, the Assemblies of God, the Four-Square Church, all the rest, they've been ordaining for a hundred years probably. And they, incidentally, are the leading edge of American evangelicalism within the NAE. Now the reform community's saying, now, just wait a minute. You know they'll say, now and then, you know, "Just hang on here, where are you taking this ship? (Laughter.)
But let's face it - and I come from the reforming community, we always say the reform people know how to do government, you know -- (laughs) -- Pentecostals know how to do a lot of other things -- (laughter) -- like church growth, you know, in the South. Phil Jenkins' book is the testimony to this. But look, you were really on to something, and so are we - that is, we evangelicals, we know this. And we're paying attention to what is occurring in the global south as much as anybody. We brought the leaders to our Global Leaders Forum from the south. And so this is one of the biggest issues for the evangelical church, broadly speaking in the 21st Century -- women and how we address their needs and concerns and the rest overseas.
And I'm looking for when Nick Kristoff finishes his book he's writing with his wife to come and advise us in some respects, because --
RIVERS: What's the book on?
CIZIK: It's on women. He's taken a leave of absence from his -- writing his column to write a book on women, particularly in the lesser-developed countries.
WOOLRIDGE: Not an unambitious subject. (Mild laughter.)
CIZIK: Not an unambitious subject, as always, for him.
But I was -- I've been around on 16 different college campuses, evangelicals, from Evangel in Springfield, Missouri, to Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, to Stetson in, you know, DeLand, Florida. All around the country. And in these institutions you find these cultural studies programs where they'll have three or four hundred collegians are who are studying the language, the culture, the politics and everything. And why? Because they want to go overseas, or they want to work for multilateral organizations, and many of them are women and they aspire to leadership, and we are going to give it to them.
WOOLRIDGE: And there's always the great example of Amy McPherson from quite a long time ago.
QUESTIONER: Susan Thistlethwaite, president, Chicago Theological Seminary, woman. (Mild laughter.) I want to go back to Africa, Gene. The situation I know best is South Africa.
QUESTIONER: And the impact of this administration's priority in Africa, which has had the abstinence-only criterion, fails completely to deal with sexual assault --
RIVERS: Yes, absolutely.
QUESTIONER: -- which is the primary way that AIDS is spread throughout Africa.
RIVERS: That's right. That is correct.
QUESTIONER: Sexual and domestic violence in toto as an issue, under- or not addressed at all among evangelicals.
RIVERS: That's correct.
QUESTIONER: And its influence on foreign policy, relative to the very good point that was made about gender, empowerment of women is the empowerment of societies. And without addressing sexual and domestic violence, you ain't going to get to women's empowerment.
RIVERS: Can I -- your point is well taken, and I'd like -- you've given me an opportunity here.
In 2000, a delegation of black Pentecostals went to South Africa. Bishop Blake sent us to really start looking at what was going on on the AIDS issue. We get there and we find out, as you said, rape of women and girls. And then the insanity of, well, there's this popular -- you know the idea -- that the rape of virgin girls cures AIDS. What happens -- there was a show in South Africa, the Oprah is a woman by the name of Felicia, the Felicia-something show. And she had I and some colleagues on the show.
We went on national South African television and said that the rape of black girls in this country by men is a humanitarian crisis and that the government, starting with Mbeki on down, was guilty. And this was a sin against humanity; it was a crime against humanity, this sexual violence of black women by black men. And we went on the record. We did the same thing in Zambia, and said look, as a father who has a daughter, for -- this is a crime. And the South Africa government is guilty of depraved indifference in not elevating the issue. And so we took a position.
Now, what's interesting about the racial politics is that while many white evangelicals knew that, they weren't about to step on the tricky business of talking about black men on black women. They weren't going to touch that, which was entirely appropriate. So that one of our lines in our work when we worked on AIDS in Africa, we said the issue of rape and the violation of the human rights of women is a crime against humanity.
And in fact, the irony was when we got back to the States after our fact-finding mission, we went to the white feminists and said wait a minute. They're raping black women all over Africa. Where are all my fancy liberals from the coasts, standing up in solidarity with the women in Africa? We couldn't find anybody.
RIVERS: And on the white evangelical side -- this is 2000, right? -- on the white evangelical side, the AIDS thing hadn't gotten picked up yet. Al Gore went to the United Nations, made a big -- made an issue of it, and Newsweek put a -- made AIDS the cover, and then we picked up some momentum. But -- your point is well taken, but here again, we've got to be clear about which evangelical community.
Within the black church -- we challenged the black church leaders. You men, we are hypocrites if we -- in committing the crime of silence, ignoring the rape, and we've got to come back to it. What's -- Helen Epstein, in this most recent book she's done on the AIDS business, has now put behavior on the table for liberals.
Because the other part of the difficulty is that liberals were not willing to talk about behavior. So you had two problems. On the right, people just wanted to involve drugs -- I mean, on the right, it was abstinence only, and it wasn't a rational discussion. And so they took that -- and you're correct. On the left, you had a problem where it wasn't -- behavior was not on the table and it was simply about getting them drugs.
And so I think the faith community's unique contribution is going -- unique contribution will be that evangelicals broadly defined will be able to outline a centrist, pragmatic kind of menu of policy proposals that'll avoid both extremes. And I think that's the unique contribution that we can make.
CIZIK: And the trafficking. The trafficking issue, which evangelicals have led on, is an illustration of our sensitivity to this issue.
CIZIK: By the way, there is this debate within evangelicalism over the Global Fund, Global HIV/AIDS Fund and PETFAR over -- abstinence and the rest.
QUESTIONER: Good morning. I said my name earlier, Syed Z. Sayeed. Okay, in terms of the Muslim civil rights in this part of the world, your statement, Eugene --
QUESTIONER: -- is that we cannot really be as forceful about the Muslim civil rights here because there is an issue of the Christian civil rights in the Muslim world. I think we need to take into consideration the most important aspect of these Muslim countries; they can't even talk about their own civil rights, so the issue of talking about the civil rights of religious minorities is really not the kind of thing that you would expect from the Muslim community leaders in that part of the world.
I mean, it might be something that we might want to discuss further, but I just wanted to make that observation.
RIVERS: Why don't the Muslim leaders in this country, who have freedom to speak, speak out on the persecution of religious minorities in the countries from which they come?
QUESTIONER: Okay, as I said, there are many different aspects. The Muslims in this country, they don't talk about the civil rights of the blacks here.
RIVERS: No, they don't.
QUESTIONER: Yes, that's what I'm saying, that it's still a growing situation. People have to sort of get oriented as to where they are living, what kind of issues that we have to deal with. But once things happen to them, they have to fight for their civil rights.
Okay, now going back to this terrorism being the top priorities of the evangelicals, I'm wondering if evangelicals can also see some kind of relationship about the U.S. policies in the Muslim world when it comes to the issues of terrorism?
WILCOX: Well, I would simply respond, first of all, you all should take note of the ad that ran about a week to 10 days ago in The New York Times. The responses of Christian leaders to the Muslim call to dialogue. Are you all tracking with me?
It had a sizable number of evangelical leaders; some were a little hesitant at first, but they came on board. And that's because there is this hangover from the last 50 years of ecumenicalism that, well, we have evangelicals. We don't do that. And it's like the Brits; they say we don't do God. (Scattered laughter.) There are evangelicals who say we don't do dialogue, you know? We don't do dialogue.
Well, I think there are a younger generations -- younger generation like myself who believe, yes, you do. You just don't take off the table, as we believe mainline Protestants did, the issue of proselytizing and evangelism. We sort of believe it was all about peace and justice and we said, "We don't -- (inaudible)." Well, we sort of threw out the baby with the bathwater in the sense that there is -- if you keep this issue of our deepest differences on the table, including those religious differences -- you keep that on the table then you can do dialogue and there won't be this push back.
There hasn't been much for those as far as I know who signed this major statement, and so I happen to think that it is a new day and there are new possibilities, and we're going to have to challenge them with some leaders to speak out on behalf of the persecution of Christians. We've been calling for them to do that. Some of them say they do it. Well, we don't always hear it here but that implies that we have to speak out here as leaders of the evangelical community, plural.
As leaders here we have to speak out when our own government policies betray our tradition, and the NAE statement against torture released in March of 2007 is an incredible statement. Go to evangelicalsandhumanrights.org and so we're attempting to see -- yes, to hold our government accountable when we believe that it violates our own principles and that begins to get at the issue of foreign policy questions that Muslims have a problem with. Is that an answer?
WOOLRIDGE: Professor Wilcox, and then I'm going to take two more questions. So we're going to have to be brief.
WILCOX: And following up on that very strong and wonderful statement on torture -- in fact the survey showed that evangelicals are -- who go to church on a regular basis are more opposed to the use of torture than the average American -- more likely to support closing Guantanamo Prison so, you know, if it's --
QUESTIONER: My name is Fred Broda (ph) and I'm from Chicago, and we heard earlier that in Chicago there is a Muslim population that's significant in the south side. But in the Pentecostal Church or the Assemblies of God there's also seems to me to be a Hispanic movement that's strong and growing that you haven't addressed, and I'd just be curious to hear your comments about it in terms of growth and in terms of importance maybe that's more Latin than African. But I'd like to hear your comments about that please.
RIVERS: Yes. The -- what is called Hispanic, which is a complicated kind of category because it's, you know, it's -- I mean, it's, you know, it's a category that is supposed to describe people from 26 different countries and three difference races, and so that's -- it's sort of hard to aggregate that in a way that's sociologically meaningful just in terms of data and opinion and polling and all that.
That said, the -- when the Church of God and Christ was founded, and this is important to note, and the Assemblies of God, and I don't know if folk know the origins, very quickly -- the Assemblies of God were originally members of the Church of God and Christ -- the black denomination, and after they were ordained split away. Racial thing up and down, right? Ordain us and then we're going to start, as I say, the apartheid wing of the Church of God and Christ -- the AOG. Now, Hispanic whites -- Hispanic whites -- Spanish-speaking whites joined the Assemblies of God. They have -- they're a major player in South America -- major player in South America. They have distanced themselves from the black church.
I was in Los Angeles two days ago at a White House conference. Met with a group of Mexicans. They said, "We're not Hispanics. We're Mexicans." And they said, "We want to develop a new alliance among black Pentecostals and brown Pentecostals because we are frustrated with the race of some of the Assemblies of God. So there are some interesting developments -- major force -- a complicated phenomena.
For example -- and I'll explain what I mean by this last point, Adrian -- a black Dominican in New York politically is a completely different animal than a white Cuban from Miami or a white Mexican in Texas, and what has happened just like the evangelical term the Hispanic term is a conceptually diffuse term that doesn't describe anything with any level of analytic precision. So it aggregates black Dominicans who are hip-hop heads, right, in the Bronx with a white Cuban who doesn't like blacks either, right, with a white Mexican in Texas. And because that -- so that's sociologically incoherent and so what I think is happening is that we're going to see some interesting breakout developments in the Hispanic category.
WOOLRIDGE: I'm going to take one more question.
CIZIK: Fastest growth in evangelical evangelism is in the Latino community. That's why the NAE, for example, is so sympathetic to the comprehensive immigration reform issue because we know this -- if we are wrong -- if we are wrong on that issue vis-a-vis the Hispanics, we will be viewed the same way we are by blacks today about the racism of the 60s.
WOOLRIDGE: And I think the Family Research Council has a different position.
CIZIK: Yeah, they do. But they don't represent evangelicals.
QUESTIONER: On behalf of the Family -- no. (Laughter.) My name is Patricia Patterson, Patterson Investments. You've talked about the present administration and the wonderful work they've done in Africa on AIDS. But it is a voluntary thing that you're promoting. They're not passing out condoms. They're not doing education on sexual affairs that I'm aware of other than voluntary. And it seems to me with the flak you all have with this administration if you believe that there are more things that can be done, and I don't know where you are on that. Where are you on sex education in the schools, more things -- use of condoms and more sex -- more inhibition of --
RIVERS: More sex?
QUESTIONER: No. (Laughter.) But where are you on that domestically and where are you on that? And we go Africa, we think rape's a horrible thing but then what do we do to educate people there and how does -- how do those two things interact?
RIVERS: Just very quickly -- on the condom issue, and I'll just speak for myself, I believe that fidelity is essential just to keep your life together, and that's not a dogma thing. That's a functional practical thing. When we went to Africa in 2000 we didn't go with any preconceived ideas. We did not have a Republican ideology. We went simply in response, in fact, in my case to a Catholic priest who said that if the churches in the United States don't mobilize -- this was in '98 -- mobilize, become a bigger voice, Africa is going to be in a very tough position. I came back and began organizing among black churches.
Now, when we go back to look at the issues I believe that the faith communities have failed across the board on the issue of sex education from their own perspective. If the conservative Protestant community didn't like what the liberals said about sex they should have developed their own curriculum if they had half a brain. Listen -- this idea of just complaining about the world and maternity and liberals is just a loser proposition and generally just not very bright -- just, you know, as a, you know, intellectual matter, right?
And so the argument was that there needed to be some coherent under -- view of sex education provided by faith communities to assist especially the poor. You know, condoms -- if a condom will save a life I'm all for a condom. This is not physics. If condoms work to reduce infections I'm for condoms. Now, of my Catholic friends -- pardon me? Go ahead.
QUESTIONER: What do you mean if?
RIVERS: Well, no -- no. I'll tell you what I mean by if. I'll tell you what I mean by if. The other side of the argument is that some have argued, "Well, the, you know, the --" -- I mean, it's -- I don't want to get into this kind of weird detail. You know, a lot of the things don't work or they break or they tear, and I don't want to get into that discussion. I don't want to argue that. I'm for condoms, all right? Period. Just ideologically I'm for condoms. Condoms a good thing -- right. And sex education needs to happen.
Now, the question is what kind of sex education. I don't believe that 12-year-old girls should be sexually active. That's not a healthy thing psychologically, emotionally, or physically. Now, we're getting off into another kind of discussion and we're here --
WOOLRIDGE: Yeah. Just ten seconds there, then I'm going to bring -- (inaudible) --
CIZIK: We will not -- back to intimidators. Look -- the intimidators won't allow certain conversations to go on in the -- we have been holding meetings with pastors all around the country to reframe the abortion issue because the parties don't really want it -- they just want it as a political football. We believe as Christians we're called to do something about it -- reduce abortions with real means and real campaigns. We have to reframe the issue on that one too. But here's the point. The younger movement of evangelicals -- that's practically everybody under 69 -- we will not be -- look, they're holding a conference this week on HIV-AIDS out at the church -- the big Saddleback -- (inaudible) -- they were told, "Don't -- you know, you can't invite Barack Obama."
RIVERS: That's right.
CIZIK: All the pro-life leaders sent a letter, said, "You can't invite an apostate like --" -- and what did they do out there? They yawned. They said to the NAE, "You can't have someone talking about climate change and global warming." Well --
WILCOX: That was crazy.
WOOLRIDGE: I'm going to stop the discussion now. I think that's been absolutely fascinating. I think now we have the noncontroversial subject of lunch, and then after that, the slightly more controversial subject of evangelicals in the Middle East. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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