Christian Leader Resigns Because of His Almost-Tolerant Views of Homosexuals

Richard Cizik is probably still seen as intolerant from this side of the fence since he’s still not sure about that whole “gay marriage” thing. But he does support civil unions.

He was on NPR’s Fresh Air last week:

In a short portion of the program, [host Terry] Gross asked him, “A couple of years ago when you were on our show, I asked you if you were changing your mind on that. And two years ago, you said you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more with younger voters, would you say you have changed on gay marriage?”

Cizik responded, “I’m shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage from its traditional definition, I don’t think.”

As vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), those views are unacceptable to the others in charge.

To them, it was as if Cizik went in front of the press and said there was actually something to be said for the theory of evolution…

On Wednesday, he resigned from his position. Forced to resign, really. Too many evangelical Christians were complaining about his sudden streaks of near-tolerance and almost-equality-for-all.

That’s too bad. I want to believe there were many more evangelicals who agreed with Cizik than any of them would care to admit. But the NAE doesn’t take too kindly to any reference to them being lenient on the issue of homosexuality.

This is, after all, the organization that was headed by male-escort-loving Ted Haggard not too long ago.

The civil union comment wasn’t the only thing that have evangelicals riled up.

Cizik’s statements on climate change — “that evangelicals have a biblical responsibility to the environment that includes combatting global warming” — are apparently shocking to them as well.

Last year, Dobson and other Christian conservatives unsuccessfully pressured the NAE to silence Cizik about global warming.

“It was time for him to go,” Tom Minnery, a Focus on the Family senior vice president, said Thursday. “He no longer represents the view of evangelicalism. He has not represented those views for some time.”

More tradition-minded evangelical activists believe an environmental focus distracts attention from abortion and gay marriage, or they don’t believe in global warming or that human activity causes it.

I do hope Cizik plays a role in shifting Christian attitudes. It’d be nice if more Christians who agreed with him would speak up.

I’m also wondering how this sort of debacle would play out in the atheist world. What if the president of an atheist organization went on TV and said that he still wrestled with the strong evidence he found for certain claims in Genesis? Or that he felt America was indeed founded as a Christian nation?

Would membership drop for his group? Would he be forced to step down? Would you still think he was a “true atheist”?

It’s not like we have the membership of the NAE — and it’s likely that no one outside our circles would even care — but I’m just trying to find the appropriate analogy.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Maybe Bobby Jindal is looking for a job?

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    I think the analogy to atheist organizations is not on point. An “atheist” who found credible evidence of claims in Genesis would be indicating support for religious claims and to that extent would not be an atheist any more.

    But Cizik is indicating support for various political positions that do not have a lot to do with the teachings of his faith one way or the other. He is still opposed to same-sex marriage, and thus toes the Christian “party line” on that issue. A civil union or a domestic partnership is not marriage and entirely a creature of contemporary law. The Bible says nothing at all about environmental issues.

    Cizik is being forced out of the NAE for deviating from the group’s political dogma, not its religious teachings. Atheists can and often do disagree about political issues. Apparently, evangelical Christians do not enjoy that luxury.

  • Chris N

    Perhaps a good analogy would be if the leader of an atheist organization adopted the view that “freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion” and didn’t oppose displaying the ten commandments in courtrooms, nativity scenes on government property, etc. because they felt the government wouldn’t technically be establishing an official religion. This wouldn’t make them any less of an atheist (as would the belief that Genesis was true), it would just mean that they wouldn’t reflect the views of the members of the organization.

  • Tao Jones

    Ditto what Transplanted Lawyer and Chris N said.

    Also…

    What if the president of an atheist organization went on TV and said that he still wrestled with the strong evidence he found for certain claims in Genesis?

    I for one would absolutely love it if atheists stopped summarily dismissing the bible. The bible exists so there must have been some sort of cultural benefit to it. That’s natural selection, no? So I would love for a prominent atheist to research and talk about some of the stories in Genesis.

    It is clear to me that most of the stories are about the Agricultural Revolution. Understood in the proper context, some of these stories would really shed some new light on today’s environmental issues.

    Take the story of Adam and Eve for example. As I describe in that link, I’m fairly convinced this was a metaphor for a historical event which was the invention of god, rather than the creation of humans.

    Edit:

    Also, I believe this shift with Cizik is indicative of a shift that is going to happen within Christianity. It is soon going to co-opt the environmental movement and we’ll see all sorts of green churches popping up.

  • Polly

    I wonder if such deviation from the political dogma of his organization indicates a latent freethinking tendency. Maybe in a few years he’ll decide the whole thing is bunk. Certainly, the hypocrisy and rigidity have had an impact on his morale.

    I predict that at the very least, he’ll cease to be a biblical literalist.

    Did anyone else listen to NPR’s interview with Frank Schaeffer – the guy who helped create the religious right? Interesting how it all started with good intentions and absolutely nothing about condemnng gays. He converted to Greek Orthodox to get away from the modern politico-religious culture he created within protestantism/evangelicalism.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Tao Jones:

    So I would love for a prominent atheist to research and talk about some of the stories in Genesis.

    Check out Robert Price. He’s brilliant, and of an atheist/agnostic bent (although not in the same religion-bashing sense as some of the others). He has a number of books out, including The Reason Driven Life (which is more self-help than about biblical history, but there is plenty of stuff about the Bible in there), as well as a his Bible Geek podcast

  • Jasen777

    They sure make it hard to view them as a religious group instead of a political one.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Frank Schaeffer – the guy who helped create the religious right?

    Actually, Frank is the son of Francis Schaeffer, who was the “guy who helped create the religious right”.

  • Polly

    writerdd,

    Ah, I stand corrected.

    I kept getting it mixed up even when listening to the interview (on and off as I was running errands with the car). He talked about his father but he also said “we” a lot. So, I couldn’t quite figure out who was the one responsible.

  • Adam Jennings

    Chris N said:

    This wouldn’t make them any less of an atheist (as would the belief that Genesis was true), it would just mean that they wouldn’t reflect the views of the members of the organization.

    That is apparent with the wide range of political believes that different atheists have. There could actually be hope for conservatism in America if it wasn’t for the stranglehold that the religious right has on the party. The rest of us can separate our views into different categories and still find the common ground when it comes to things that we are militant about.

  • llewelly

    Now where is Larry Huffman saying Cizik should not have been so ‘in your face’?

  • llewelly

    Actually, Frank is the son of Francis Schaeffer, who was the “guy who helped create the religious right”.

    Frank Schaeffer’s book is Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back .
    Highly recommended.
    As he explains in his book, he had at least as much – if not more – to do with creating the religious right than his father.

  • llewelly

    Tao Jones:

    The bible exists so there must have been some sort of cultural benefit to it. That’s natural selection, no?

    Daniel Dennett refuted this fallacy in this video:
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/download/video/3632/talk/116

    As Dennett points out in his book Breaking The Spell , there may well be benefits to religion, (someone up thread already pointed to Bob Price’s books, which make the most convincing case for this), but the fact that religion exists is not evidence that it benefits those who believe in it. In the video, Dennett refers to dangerous ideas in general, not to religion in particular. In his book, Dennett refers to religion in general. However – it’s clear the same arguments apply to any idea, and thus to the bible.

  • http://josephbales.com Joey

    I heard that interview and it was very hard for me to believe that this guy was an evangelical, let alone a leader in the NEA. He should be glad they kicked him out. They aren’t worthy of this guy’s work and friendship.

  • http://deeplyblasphemous.blogspot.com Chris Bradley

    I for one would absolutely love it if atheists stopped summarily dismissing the bible. The bible exists so there must have been some sort of cultural benefit to it. That’s natural selection, no?

    Only if it actually provided a long term benefit, and it can be argued it hasn’t. I mean, even if I had much faith in this kind of evolutionary psychology stuff – and I do not – it is nevertheless true that evolution leads to extinction all the time. Like pandas and their inability to digest anything other than certain bamboo shoots. While, perhaps, momentarily advantageous, as a long term survival mechanism it’s a disaster. And Christianity has only existed for 2000 years – it is not possible to seriously discuss it on an evolutionary time scale, and in any event even if you do you have to acknowledge that not all mutations that become distributed through a population are to the benefit of that population.

    More generally, humans are pretty much out of the whole cycle of evolution because of the extent to which we can control our environment. There is no evolutionary pressure on us – when it’s cold, we go inside and turn up the heat. When we’re hungry, we ship produce in from places that have it. No environmental pressure means no evolution.

  • Tao Jones

    @llewelly:

    I’m not sure if that video was the one you intended to post as it actually reinforces my point. I’m saying we can’t just dismiss the bible the same way we can’t dismiss the HIV virus. We need to approach the stories of the bible scientifically — not just dismiss them out of hand. It’s not enough to know that Adam and Eve weren’t the first two humans, I want to know where the story came from and what it originally meant.

    Religion, however, is far more complicated. It’s not just a matter of believing in the supernatural. Religion, and its associated memes, enable many more memes. I’m not sure if you read the piece I linked to previously but if I’m right about the connection between the story of Adam and Eve and the Agricultural Revolution, and how religion enabled this new form of making a living, then don’t we have to rethink the way of making a living once we decide that religion is false?

    @Chris Bradley:

    You’re actually taking this to the next step. Of course religion is destructive and overall detrimental to humanity. But to a culture of believers it is highly beneficial as an enabler of a number of other memes.

    Believing in god isn’t just incorrect, it’s destructive. It is not, however, the belief in god that is destructive, it’s all the other things that the belief enables. Destructiveness is a latent effect.

    Apologies for the rush job on this.. I have to be at the bar in 18 minutes for my friend’s birthday party and I still need to SS&S. :)

    Maybe this video will make more sense.

  • http://deeplyblasphemous.blogspot.com Chris Bradley

    Tao,

    Well, I, for one, am not sold on the idea of memetics as used by most people, anyway. The idea that ideas compete for space in people’s minds and there’s a reason for it is fairly self-evident. But as far as I know the memetic idea of treating ideas as viral infections that transmit themselves isn’t really well supported by evidence – there’s way to describe in a meaningful way why one idea succeeds and the other fails other than to justify the successes as being successful and creating a narrative to justify that success – but that’s a tautology. Obviously ideas that are widely held are “successful”, but their success does not describe any mechanisms, however (which is how it differs from virology – we know a lot of the mechanisms of success for a virus). So, saying that there’s a reason why religion is successful because it’s been successful doesn’t really tell us very much.

    So, when you say that the Bible gave some kind of benefit – that is said without describing the precise nature of the benefit, which is essential to talk about if you’re to say that there was a benefit. Was there an overall benefit in choosing one religion instead of another? Or being religious at all? That’d be tough to demonstrate.

  • Tao Jones

    Chris,

    Well that’s the point isn’t it. We need to explore and understand the full power of religion. We need to study it and understand exactly why and how it is successful. We also need to see what other ideas (if you don’t like the word meme) are influenced by religious ideals. Part of this will involve studying the stories of the bible to find out what they may have originally represented. The earliest stories must have been important enough to those people that the stories survived. I’m less concerned about later stories which were built on the foundation laid by the earlier stories.

    Again using the Agricultural Revolution as an example, is it really a coincidence that two massive revolutions (Agricultural and religious) were going on at the same time in the same area? When the Bible says “go forth and multiply,” is it really a coincidence that this new form of agriculture allowed for an unprecedented population explosion? Is there really no connection between our economics today — where growth is so important — and the economic system this new form of agriculture allowed? Is it at all surprising that biblical sexual morality always supports the side favouring population growth?

    The benefit of religion? It’s what enabled and encouraged one human culture to take over the world. That one culture has been so successful at taking over the world that most mistake that one culture for humanity itself… is this not a benefit? Unfortunately, a disastrous side effect is that limitless expansion is a myth which brings us to the environmental and ecological challenges of today.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    I’m not surprised that Cizik got resigned from the NAE. As someone who has gotten resigned from an evangelical institution myself over “liberal” political views (though mine were even further left than Cizik; I was unreserved in my support for gay marriage), I know that many evangelicals can be more dogmatic about their politics than their theology. Not to mention that there’s a growing trend towards neo-fundamentalism among many conservative evangelicals (I just wrote a 35-page research paper on the trend actually), and it seems that attitude is starting to infect even “big tent” groups like the NAE now.

    However, there are still plenty of evangelicals out there who do agree with Cizik and appreciate his concern for the environment and the global poor, and his movement towards increased compassion towards GLBT folks. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a job offer from Sojourners soon. Or maybe even go start his own new organization for progressive evangelicals.

  • Clearsighted

    re: Tao Jones:
    “The benefit of religion? It’s what enabled and encouraged one human culture to take over the world. That one culture has been so successful at taking over the world that most mistake that one culture for humanity itself… is this not a benefit?”

    Your line of thinking here isn’t what I would call critical thinking. Was Nazism beneficial because it took over most of Europe, and built some good roads, and got a lot of people to stop smoking? And where is your evidence that “most mistake that one culture for humanity itself”?

  • http://www.queervoice.net Zach

    I used to think that the religious right had taken over the Republican party and the conservative movement, but I’m beginning to re-think that.
    I think perhaps the political movement has taken over a religious one. Even in the movie “Jesus Camp” (which I haven’t been able to watch all the way through because I keep having flashbacks) you can see that the messages coming from today’s fundamentalist churches are not religious ones at all, rather political messages wrapped up in religious terms.
    I think this defies all of the rhetoric spouted about loving homosexuals and hating the sin. This shows that the religious right wont stop until being gay is outlawed and even supporting, or semi supporting gays is an offense punishable by jail time or worse.
    So much for “God’s love”.

  • Tao Jones

    @Clearsighted:

    I never said religion was beneficial so you may want to check your lenses before invoking Godwin’s law. You’ve clearly shown (and there are many more examples) that something can have benefits without being beneficial. So why can’t you accept the same thing for religion?

    And where is your evidence that “most mistake that one culture for humanity itself”?

    Take a poll of 10 people at random and ask them something about the destiny or role of humanity. I guarantee you that at least 9 of them will give you an answer applicable only to our culture and not even remotely applicable to the Yanomami, Maasai, or Jarawa.

  • Clearsighted

    re: Tao Jones
    “I never said religion was beneficial”

    My dictionary defines “beneficial” as “producing benefits, advantageous, favorable, receiving benefit.” Maybe you were thinking of another word? It sounds like we agree that religion is not beneficial to humanity.

  • Tao Jones

    I know what the word “beneficial” means which is why I didn’t use it. So no, I was not thinking of another word not to use when not using “beneficial” satisfactorily didn’t convey a meaning I wasn’t expressing.
    I said:

    … religion is destructive and overall detrimental to humanity.

    So how are you confused?


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