BY ED VITAGLIANO | AFA News Editor
Almost 90 evangelical
leaders have given their approval to a document that calls conservative
Christians to go beyond their usual issues, like abortion and homosexual
rights, and involve themselves in such matters as poverty, justice
and human rights.
Titled For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to
Civic Responsibility, the tome was crafted under the auspices
of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The project was
commissioned by the NAE at its 2001 convention, and nearly two dozen
leading scholars drafted the document.
The document could carry substantial weight in the evangelical
community. The NAE says it represents 30 million people in 45,000
churches and 52 denominations in the U.S.
Giving their assent were evangelical leaders such as Richard Land
of the Southern Baptist Convention; James Dobson of Focus on the
Family; Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship; Diane Knippers, president
of the Institute on Religion and Democracy; and author Ravi Zacharias.
AFA is examining the document, but Chairman Don Wildmon said the
ministry was already in agreement with the general sentiments of
For the Health of the Nation.
"Evangelical Christians in America face a historic opportunity.
We make up fully one quarter of all voters in the most powerful
nation in history," the document states. "Never before has God given
American evangelicals such an awesome opportunity to shape public
policy in ways that could contribute to the well-being of the entire
world. Disengagement is not an option."
While the statement admits that "American evangelicals continue
to be ambivalent about civic engagement," it establishes a framework
for understanding Christians responsibility for the culture
For the Health of the Nation lays out seven principles it
says should guide Christian political engagement. The principles
below are followed by excerpts only, and supporting Biblical references
have been deleted due to space considerations. The full text is
available at www.nae.net.
(1) We work to protect religious freedom and liberty of conscience.
"God has ordained the two co-existing institutions of church and
state as distinct and independent of each other with each having
its own areas of responsibility
. Participating in the public
square does not require people to put aside their beliefs or suspend
the practice of their religion
(2) We work to nurture family life and protect children.
"[T]he family is central to Gods vision for human society
. The mutuality and service of family life contrast strongly
with the hypermodern emphasis on individual freedom and rights.
Government does not have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing
wholesome family life. That is the job of families themselves and
of other institutions, especially churches.
should promote laws and policies that strengthen the well-being
[Issues such as] alcohol, drug, gambling, or
credit-card abuse; pornography, sexual libertinism, spousal or child
sexual abuse, easy divorce, abortion on demand
impair the ability of family members to function in society.
Similarly, employment, labor, housing, health care, and educational
policies concern not only individuals but seriously affect families.
Good family life is so important to healthy human functioning that
we oppose government efforts to trespass on its territory
(3) We work to protect the sanctity of human life and to safeguard
its nature. "Because God created human beings in His image,
all people share in the divine dignity. And because the Bible reveals
Gods calling and care of persons before they are born, the
preborn share in this dignity
. We believe that abortion,
euthanasia, and unethical human experimentation violate the God-given
dignity of human beings.
Human dignity is indivisible. A
threat to the aged, to the very young, to the unborn, to those with
disabilities, or to those with genetic diseases is a threat to all."
(4) We seek justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable.
"Jesus summed up Gods law by commanding us to love God with
all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves
deed and parable, he taught us that anyone in need is our neighbor
. God measures societies by how they treat the people at the
Gods prophets call his people to create just
and righteous societies
. Restoring people to wholeness means
that governmental social welfare must aim to provide opportunity
and restore people to self-sufficiency.
We further believe
that care for the vulnerable should extend beyond our national borders."
(5) We work to protect human rights. "Because God created
human beings in his image, we are endowed with rights and responsibilities.
While it is not the primary role of government to provide everything
that humans need for their well-being, governments are obligated
to ensure that people are not unjustly deprived of them
Governments should be constitutionally obligated to protect basic
[W]e believe that religious liberty, including
the right to change ones religion, is a foundational right
that must be respected by governments
. We also oppose the
expansion of rights talk to encompass so-called rights
such as same-sex marriage or the right to die.
Our churches have a special responsibility to model good race relations
(6) We seek peace and work to restrain violence. "The peaceful
settling of disputes is a gift of common grace. We urge governments
to pursue thoroughly nonviolent paths to peace before resorting
to military force."
(7) We labor to protect Gods creation. "As we embrace
our responsibility to care for Gods earth, we reaffirm the
important truth that we worship only the Creator and not the creation.
We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to
steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which
we are a part."