Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Case of Richard Cizik

Not content to see his nominee for "top climate communicator" be summarily chucked to the refuse pile by the same people at whom his supposedly masterful communications were directed, Matt Nisbet now wants him to be given a prominent role in the Obama administration or -- he said it, I didn't -- the Center for Inquiry.

The communicator in question is Richard Cizik, who was Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals until last week, when he resigned (or rather "resigned") over the furor (or rather bed-wetting outrage) he caused by not hating gays vocally enough and articulating a faith-informed position on something other than despising gays and cherishing blastocysts.

Cizik's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad utterances appear to have been the following, which he let fly during his appearance on NPR's Fresh Air with interviewer Terry Gross:

GROSS: So, in that younger group that you're describing, is gay marriage not a priority issue?

Rev. CIZIK: It's not as high, no. In fact, if you look at some figures, these younger evangelicals, they disagree quite strongly with their elders on that subject.

GROSS: Do you think that that's in part because younger people are growing up in an environment where they know gay people? There are so many gay people who are out, and once you know gay people who are out, maybe it's not so threatening.

Rev. CIZIK: Absolutely. The influence of their generational peers is clear. Four in ten young evangelicals say they have a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian. And so, much different than their elders, younger evangeli-cals they, well, 52 percent favor either same-sex marriage or civil unions. But it's not just on this issue, Terry. For ex-ample, fully two-thirds of younger evangelicals say they would still vote for a candidate even if the candidate disagreed with them on the issue of abortion. And that's in spite of the fact that younger evangelicals, they are decidedly pro-life. But they also rank other issues, economic issues, the environment, these other issues are very important to them. In fact, healthcare is just as important to the younger evangelicals as is abortion. And so they have a more pluralistic outlook than older white evangelicals, and they have a decidedly different posture with respect to the role of government here and abroad.
The lessons seem clear enough. It's difficult to imagine a person better-placed than was Richard Cizik to build bridges between American Christianists and sane people. He had the position of authority, vast areas of agreement, countless professional and personal connections. But when he stopped reciting their favored lines in public, however briefly and reasonably, he was cast out. If he can't widen the ideological blinders from the inside, it seems delusional to expect more from would-be communicators approaching from the outside.

To the extent he makes sense -- and he does here and there -- sane people will listen to Richard Cizik. But his erstwhile fellows bear a Manichean ideology which, like its Islamist fraternal twin, equates conciliation with surrender and compromise with defeat. They want to return to the 12th century more than they want to build any bridges or even complete any bridges already mostly made. The needful task is exposing and widening cracks in the foundation of the ideology.

1 comment:

larryniven said...

I have to disagree with you here, and I think you know why: they aren't upset with him for being too pro-gay, they're upset with him for being too pro-facts. I mean, the guy cited statistics in order to prove a point. What kind of self-respecting conservative religionist does that?