Richard Cizik's New Venture
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
The Rev. Richard Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals lobbyist who was forced to resign after expressing support for same-sex unions, is forming a new organization that will embrace a far broader agenda than the issues long claimed by the conservative Christian movement.
In his first published interview about his new venture, Cizik said yesterday that the new group will focus on the "new evangelicals," or "new-agenda evangelicals" as he variously called them -- those that, polls show, are eager to see the evangelical movement expand beyond opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.
"What I'm in essence doing is creating the future," said Cizik. "I'm attempting to provide a way for the new evangelicals to be more effective."
Cizik, who became a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation shortly after leaving the NAE last December, said he is basing his new organization on a 2004 paper he helped write for the NAE entitled "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." While embracing the traditional opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, the paper, and an accompanying Web site, moved radically beyond those areas. In addition to blaming humans for global warming, it called for making reduction of global poverty a central concern of American foreign policy, helping the poor with adequate health care, nutrition, and education, and spoke of the legacy of racism affecting many African Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities that made them vulnerable to a variety of social ills.
"It was a little bit too much for the NAE types," Cizik said yesterday.
Cizik said he does not want to create an organization that competes with the NAE. But he clearly is aiming at harnessing the frustrations of evangelical Christians who are turned off by the movement's narrow focus on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Evangelical are a "slow moving earthquake," Cizik said yesterday. "They're changing. They don't understand themselves quite how they're changing."
Cizik lost his job last December after remarks on a "Fresh Air" broadcast on National Public Radio, including this comment on gay marriage: "I'm shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say I believe in civil unions. I don't officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I think."
After his resignation, the NAE said Cizik expressed regret for the remarks.
Yesterday, in an interview after a speech on caring for the environment to the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, Cizik wouldn't discuss his departure from the NAE. He said his new organization is not intended to compete with his former employer.
Before his ouster from the NAE, Cizik had increasingly earned enemies in the conservative evangelical movement for pushing to broaden the evangelical agenda, particularly into the area of "creation care," which argues that there is a biblical mandate to take care of the earth. Cizik repeatedly teamed up with faith leaders outside of conservative Christianity to warn that climate change was a crisis that urgently needed attention.
The NAE backed Cizik up on his environmental stances, but dropped him after his remarks on civil unions.
Posted by: DCsuburbs | April 20, 2009 6:06 PM
Report Offensive Comment
The comments to this entry are closed.