Updated Thursday morning and again Thursday afternoon and Friday morning
AP - Many veteran Christian activists on the right side of the political spectrum do not support the declaration. James Dobson, founder of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, reviewed the document and was invited to sign it, but did not, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Dobson. Dobson consulted the group's board of directors — a common practice — and the board agreed he shouldn't sign "due to myriad concerns about the effort," Schneeberger said.
Dallas Morning News - There's an unusually high ration [ratio?] of meat-to-bun in this one, whether you agree with it or not.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State - Adopting the language of right-wing Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus, they warn against the “partisans of a naked public square, those who would make all religious expression private and keep the public square secular.” This strikes me as completely bogus. Christopher Hitchens does not have a multi-million-dollar broadcasting empire or an army of devoted Irreligious Left followers. Sam Harris heads no Anti-Christian Coalition with chapters around the country seeking to block religious voters from going to the polls. Religious persons freely speak out on public affairs in this country, and there is no serious effort to stop them.
CBN News - Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America told CBN News the authors of the manifesto were definitely trying to distance themselves from the religious right. "Basically, they were saying 'those of you who care about abortion, who care about homosexuality, who care about the family disintegrating don't speak for us, because we are too intellectual, we are too sophisticated to be concerned about those kinds of things.'"
Reuters - Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said of the statement: "It's a sign of maturation of the evangelical movement ... It's an important theological document but it will have limited political influence because it is making a essentially a theological argument.
World Magazine - the timing of the document's Washington, D.C., release, during the "home stretch" of the presidential primary season, caused some journalists at the event to suggest that claim was disingenuous. [The Washington Times' Julia Duin asked about the timing. Her coverage is here.]
God's Politics (Jim Wallis) - We have a serious image problem. People think that we should stand for the same things as Jesus did. So it's time to change the image.
The FundamentaList (Sarah Posner) - And even though it appears to chastise both conservative and progressive evangelicals equally for such politicizing of issues (if someone can tell me who those progressive evangelicals are, that would be mighty interesting), it's the right that has taken umbrage at its exclusion from the drafting process. People close to the writing process have told me that no one was excluded, but another person with knowledge of it interpreted it as a rebuke of the tactics and tenor of the culture wars. I'll have more later in the day over at TAPPED. [That was earlier in the day. It's late evening and there's nothing at TAPPED yet.]
Updates (latest last):
Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said several signers of the declaration should confess their own involvement in political activity they now condemn.
"Those who claim to want to recover the word evangelical played a nasty role in creating political fundamentalism, advancing the anti-everything public image that conservative evangelicals rightfully have, fostering the cultural narrative that GOP stands for God's Only Party and truncating the biblical witness' moral agenda to a few so-called non-negotiable issues," Parham said.
Parham said some signers, like steering committee member Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, "helped the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention which strengthened Christian Right and its agenda of dominion and theocracy."
David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, worked over a decade at SBC-related Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Union University in an era when Southern Baptists earned reputation as one of the most stalwart defenders of the Republican Party. Since joining the faculty of a moderate seminary associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Gushee has moved away from fundamentalists on some issues like torture and global warming.
Parham said others signers, like Liberty Theological Seminary President Ergun Caner, "have helped to spread a mean-spirited anti-Islamic fear." Caner's book, Unveiling Islam, was cited as the source for former SBC President Jerry Vines' 2002 statement describing Islam's founding prophet "a demon-possessed pedophile."
Caner stood by Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell until Falwell's death last May. In 2005 Caner lionized old-guard SBC leaders like Adrian Rogers and Jimmy Draper, who helped build bridges between Southern Baptists and the Religious Right in the "conservative resurgence" movement launched in 1979.
By one Internet account Caner "brought the house down" with a statement aimed at supporting President Bush during a 2006 sermon at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., a prominent SBC church whose pastor, Johnny Hunt, is reportedly running for SBC president this year.
[The article contains more of the same kinds of instances for signers from the left and the right.]
- [Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council] "Theirs is an ivory tower perspective," said Mr. Perkins, who was not asked to sign. "It's an age-old problem with people who are concerned with being spoken well of. They want to rid the world of evil but they don't want to get their hands dirty. It's not true that you can't preach the Gospel and be engaged in taking on the culture." [...] Janice Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America, criticized the paucity of female signers (six out of 77) and the "contradictions" in the document. "While calling for more civil dialogue, they called the 'politically visible public voices' of evangelicalism 'political zealots' and declared that their 'emotional responses' harmed the brand name of evangelicals," she said.
Wall Street Journal (Alan Jacobs) - Once all the self-description is out of the way, it turns out that the heart of the document is a kind of urgent appeal: Please don't call us fundamentalists or confuse us with them. This strikes me as a regrettable tack.... At the bottom of page 15, these words appear: "The Evangelical soul is not for sale." This is what is called "burying the lead."