Friday, July 25, 2008

What's Missing (Once Again) From the Compassion Agenda

This week, megachurch pastor Rick Warren announced that on August 16th, the two major candidates for President will participate in a televised "Saddleback Forum" on what its co-sponsor "Faith in Public Life" identifies as compassion issues.

I'll leave it to my fellow faith bloggers like Street Prophet's Pastor Dan to raise the political issues around why this event, like the earlier one at Messiah College, are particularly targeted to evangelical Christians when faith voters are so much more diverse. I can only pray that one day one of these events will take place in a religious environment that fully welcomes LGBT persons.

But, what I want to once again raise our concerns about is the definition of what is a "compassion issue." On the Faith in Public Life blog, compassion issues are listed as "AIDS, climate change, human rights and poverty", "keeping compassion issues on the agenda and marginalizing wedge politics." Given that Rev. Warren publicly opposes abortion and marriage equality, I think it's fair to say that sexual justice issues are included in that definition of "wedge politics."

Yet, how can global AIDS be addressed without discussing the need for prevention of HIV, which in turns requires addressing sexism, the lack of power women have in heterosexual relationships to insist on condom use, or homophobia or economic injustice -- no less the need for accurate and complete sexuality education. How is it that preventing unplanned pregnancies -- many times higher among low income women and teenagers -- is not a compassion issue? How is it that denying same sex couples more than a thousand federal rights that accrue by federal marriage isn't a compassion issue? Why aren't preventing domestic violence, sexual abuse, and violence and discrimination against LGBT person part of a compassion agenda?

I could go on, but you get the point. People of good faith may disagree about these issues, but that doesn't mean that those points of view are not equally grounded in sacred texts and tradition, or that they should not be addressed. In the next few weeks, we will be releasing a letter to all of the campaigns on the moral and ethical foundations for sexual justice. Stay tuned.

PS For those of you keeping track of our campaign on clergy endorsements for marriage equality, as of 2 p.m. today, more than 1350 clergy have endorsed our Open Letter on Marriage Equality.

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