The Agenda

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So what does the “Come Let Us Reason Together” agenda consist of? Four items. The most important in the realm of religious politics is what has come to be called “abortion reduction.” The idea is that pro-choice and pro-life folks can jointly support various measures to reduce abortions short of making them harder to obtain. There does seem to be enhanced willingness on the part of pro-choicers to think beyond easier access to birth control as an abortion-reduction strategy. And while such an approach will do little to satisfy the organized pro-life community, it could have an impact on social conservatives generally. The Obama folks seem to want to seize the opportunity.
Next in importance is comprehensive immigration reform–though here, it’s not clear to me that there was much common ground that needed to be reached. In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention itself passed a resolution backing comprehensive immigration reform–’nuff said. So what exactly has Third Way achieved? The same might be said for opposition to torture, which the National Association of Evangelicals condemned in a 2007 statement. So again, what exactly his Third Way achieved?
This brings us to the most problematic item: “Protecting the Rights of Gay and Lesbian People to
Earn a Living.” As a society, we are way past guaranteeing gays and lesbian the right not to be discriminated against in hiring. But protecting the right of “faith-based organizations” not to hire gays and lesbians, as the document does, opens a major can of worms–including the question of employment paid for by public funds. Meanwhile, there’s not a word about housing discrimination or the rights of life partners. Evidently, the parties could achieve no further agreement on these matters–but as a way forward it looks to me like a complete non-starter.
Then there’s what does not appear in the document. Much of the discussion of the “new evangelical agenda” has centered on climate change, but there’s nary a mention of that here. Nor a word about poverty or health care or Darfur or AIDS. And likewise nothing on the issue that has most engaged religion in domestic politics over the past decade–faith-based social service provision. All these are matters of concern to many in different religious communities, and deserve mention in any “governing agenda” from a common ground religious group. Perhaps such additional items will be forthcoming as Third Way proceeds along its way. Until then, it a pretty limited exercise.