Evangelical Who Was Forced to Resign After Supporting Civil Unions Talks to NPR July 29, 2010

Evangelical Who Was Forced to Resign After Supporting Civil Unions Talks to NPR

In December of 2008, Richard Cizik, the vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air. He told host Terry Gross that he was ok with civil unions for gay couples… and was shortly thereafter forced to resign from the NAE.

Yesterday, he came back on the show to give updates on his life. He stands by what he said about civil unions — though he’s still undecided about gay marriage:

… I agree with what I said then and I agree with it now. What’s changed since then — even over the last year — according to a poll released just this week by Public Religion Research Institute, is that a majority of evangelicals — not just younger evangelicals — say that they agree either with same-sex marriage or civil unions. That’s a majority of white evangelicals in California. And evangelicals around the country are looking at this in new light and new ways and evaluating this in terms of the Constitution and in light of our Christian values. And that’s good.”

A majority of evangelicals seem to be coming to their senses. But the old white, male, Protestant guard isn’t about to let up their power so this argument will continue for years to come… unless younger Christians take them on directly.

If young Christians want to change the fact that their religion is perceived as bigoted and anti-gay, they need to be on the front lines in support of gay marriage.

Cizik is taking steps in that direction. I wish he’d take larger leaps. But it’s nice to see a Christian-in-power speaking some sense about social issues.

(Thanks to everyone for the link.)


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  • OMG he’s being persecuted for his beliefs! Where’s the ACLJ? Where are all the Christianists rending their garments for this poor man?

  • Rob

    I agree wholeheartedly with the article, but…

    The “blame the old white guys” line is getting out of date. The driving force behind homophobia in evangelical christianity is increasingly coming from black and hispanic evangelicals, as Prop 8 showed.

  • JD

    Usually, if an evangelical is willing to accept anything at all, they are OK with civil unions, but not marriage. I’m not sure what the difference is other than the words used. The word marriage itself seems to be treated as sacred. They seem to treat the word itself as more sacred than half of them treat the institution / union, if you go by the divorce rate of Christians, i.e., as a group they’re no better at staying married than anyone else is.

  • Bob

    Speak up?

    If it were a question of rational debate, that might work.

    But we’re dealing with closed, irrational minds to begin with. To accept change on something like gay marriage calls every element of their faith into question. Since they don’t want to ‘lose’ their faith or have the evil libruls ‘take it away’ – they cling to it ever tighter.

    I’m not even sure they understand or know what it is they’re hanging onto in the first place.

  • p.s.

    Hemant, will you please explain to me why you write a positive post about an evangelical supporting civil unions (not marriage) in the same day you give anne rice a big “so what” for renouncing bigotry in christianity? I realize I’m being a bit of a lurker, but these last few posts just seem really inconsistant and I am confused.

  • p.s.

    Hemant:
    my mistake, just saw your update on the other article. sorry about that!

  • “But the old white, male, Protestant guard isn’t about to let up their power so this argument will continue for years to come… unless younger Christians take them on directly.”

    That’s true, but it’s only half the truth. Remember who let the gay community down in California…African Americans? They were absolutely strident in their opposition to gay marriage.

  • @p.s. —

    Hemant, will you please explain to me why you write a positive post about an evangelical supporting civil unions (not marriage) in the same day you give anne rice a big “so what” for renouncing bigotry in christianity? I realize I’m being a bit of a lurker, but these last few posts just seem really inconsistant and I am confused.

    You said you saw my update, so this is more for others.

    Cizik has no problem being a Christian and he’s trying to change it from the inside. I like that. I appreciate that. I still think he’s wrong about a whole host of things, but on this particular issue, he’s going in the right direction.

    Rice *is* a Christian but won’t admit it. She claims to be a tolerant, independent person, which is nice (and I don’t deny it), but I don’t like her distancing herself from Christianity when she does believe in the story of Jesus/resurrection/etc.

  • p.s.

    Rice *is* a Christian but won’t admit it. She claims to be a tolerant, independent person, which is nice (and I don’t deny it), but I don’t like her distancing herself from Christianity when she does believe in the story of Jesus/resurrection/etc.

    I don’t believe in god, but I don’t belong to any atheist club. Does that mean I can’t call myself an atheist? A good amount of christianity is personal, so if she chooses to not belong to the christian “club” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  • I don’t believe in god, but I don’t belong to any atheist club. Does that mean I can’t call myself an atheist? A good amount of christianity is personal, so if she chooses to not belong to the christian “club” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    Who says you have to belong to a group to call yourself an atheist? I certainly don’t. A non-belief in a god is enough.

    What does it mean to be a Christian? I don’t think going to church is a pre-requisite. But thinking that Jesus rose from the dead and is the only path to God? I think that would do it…

  • bluezinnia

    Why would anyone want to get married?
    It seems civil unions should be the way for everyone to go in the secular arena.
    Leave marriages to the churches.

    Also, why would a civil union just have to be between sexual partners? Why couldn’t close friends who have no/few relatives be given the right to inheritance and the ability to make decisions regarding end of life medical treatments?

  • Samiimas

    And evangelicals around the country are looking at this in new light and new ways and evaluating this in terms of the Constitution and in light of our Christian values. And that’s good.”

    I should be happy about this, but every time I see a story like this it just reminds me that history is being completely whitewashed and a few decades from now were gonna have people claiming that “no REAL Christian ever hated gay people” and ranting they’re objective eternal rules never change despite the fact that where personally watching them flip-flop on this issue.

  • p.s.

    What does it mean to be a Christian? I don’t think going to church is a pre-requisite.

    I’m not sure. What would you call someone who doesn’t want to belong to the christian “flock?” I always assumed that christians belonged to a church of some sort, or at least belonged to a christian group of some sort, and a “follower of christ” describes a more personal relationship. but I’m not christian, or a follower of christ, so I’m just guessing. This is pretty off topic, so I’ll move these questions to the forums 🙂

  • Technically speaking, christianity is a personal relationship with jesus christ. As far as going to church, most christians are content with the belief and the church is more of a social event plus the indoctrination. As a former methodist, I disliked the churches I went to but still held to christian beliefs. Church is not necessary for religious/irrational beliefs.

  • Steve

    “Civil Union” can mean lots of different things, depending on the jurisdiction. There are states that have domestic partnerships which are legally equal to marriages on a state level (like Washington or California) and there are states with CUs that only grant some rights.

    And many people are only ok with CUs if they grant only limited rights. Like Hawaii’s governor who vetoed a Civil Union bill because it was allegedly “marriage in all but name”

  • “The driving force behind homophobia in evangelical christianity is increasingly coming from black and hispanic evangelicals, as Prop 8 showed.”

    No, Prop 8 didn’t show that.

  • Aj

    Rob, TooManyJens,

    According to a Pew Forum poll “blacks” and “whites” are almost equally against gay marriage. “Blacks” hold a more unfavourable opinion of homosexuals than “whites”. Hispanics are more favourable to homosexuals and less against homosexual marriage than either “whites” or “blacks”, although so are Catholics. However “black” protestantism is slightly less favourable to homosexuality than “white” protestantism. My impression is the “black” church has a greater undeserved voice and control over communities than the “white” church. so what you’re more likely to hear isn’t necessary what everybody thinks.

    National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute claims “blacks” and Hispanics did proportionally vote more in favour of Prop 8 than “whites”. The Pew Forum Landscape Suvey suggests more “whites” are non-religious than “blacks”. The “black” church proportionally doesn’t change much with generation, the “white” church proportionally has greater membership incrementally with older generations, and “non-religious” is heavily weighted towards the younger generation the opposite of the “white” church. Homophobia is strongly correlated with membership of a Protestantism, to a slightly greater extent with “black” protestantism.

    TooManyJens’s link goes to an article about something entirely different, new voters, it doesn’t mention “Hispanic evangelicals” and the claim about “young black votes” is nothing more than an unsubstantiated unreferenced guess. “Black” protestants proportionally seem to be an increasing proportion of protestants according to the polls, both group and sub-group being more homophobic compared to other groups. While this suggests that Rob may be correct in an increasing influence of the “black” church as a driving force in homophobia, submitting Prop 8 as evidence doesn’t make sense because one data point can’t suggest an increasing trend. It could be that homophobia was equally driven by “black” evangelicals before Prop 8, and that they would have voted against gay marriage proportionally the same in the past.

  • Silent Service

    Richard Cizik is great for coming out against the bigotry. It cost him his position and the authority that came with it, but he stuck to his guns and is working within the institution to make change to the institution that he belongs too. More power to him.

    Ann Rice is a hypocrite for trying to distance herself from the negative of Christianity, but not actually doing anything about it. She gave up nothing and acted like it’s a big deal. She is still a Christian, as she still believes in Christ as the Savior, but doesn’t want to deal with or be associated with all the negative crap in the Catholic church. What a bunch of self serving crap. When Ann Rice stands up and challenges Darth Ratzinger, gets herself excommunicated, shunned by the Catholic church, and loses something of value to her, then I’ll buy it. Until then she’s a self serving hypocrite, and I probably won’t buy any more of her books.

  • p.s.

    Silent Service:

    Ann Rice is a hypocrite for trying to distance herself from the negative of Christianity, but not actually doing anything about it. She gave up nothing and acted like it’s a big deal. She is still a Christian, as she still believes in Christ as the Savior, but doesn’t want to deal with or be associated with all the negative crap in the Catholic church. What a bunch of self serving crap. When Ann Rice stands up and challenges Darth Ratzinger, gets herself excommunicated, shunned by the Catholic church, and loses something of value to her, then I’ll buy it. Until then she’s a self serving hypocrite, and I probably won’t buy any more of her books.

    So your basically saying it would have been better if she was fired rather than submitting her resignation? Either way she’s out of the club. Either way she’s lost something. I think it is more honorable for her to stand up to her beliefs and not put up with any of that nonsense. How is it self serving? What does she gain?

    If you feel you can’t read her books because of her moral views (moral views which aren’t presented in her books) then I suppose you do a thorough background check of all your favorite authors?