In an interview with Christianity Today, progressive evangelical Jim Wallis — who has argued for many years that religious fundamentalists have too much influence in the Republican Party and secular fundamentalists have too much influence in the Democratic Party — advises Democratic leaders to reclaim the political high ground of drawing policies from underlying values and principles.
Specifically, Wallis advises the leadership to build bridges with pro-life Democrats to devote more resources to preventing unwanted pregnancy, rather than simply defending the tragic last resort of abortion.
The pope opposed John Kerry on abortion and opposed George Bush on the war in Iraq. The truth is, President George Bush defied the Holy Father on the war in Iraq. I’d like the media to report that, too. I like the Catholic bishops’ stance, a consistent ethic of life, a seamless garment, so there isn’t only one issue. Some of the most brutal dictators in the world have been against abortion. Some of the most horrific, rightwing political leaders have been against abortion. You can’t run the economy into the ground, ignore the poor, carry out unilateral pre-emptive wars and be okay as long as you’re just against abortion.
To be a single-issue voter is not the most responsible kind of Christian citizenship. I was at Notre Dame this spring with a room full of students and faculty. Most of them were very committed to the poor. They were against the war in Iraq, very pro-environment and pro-life. And they struggled with the Democrats on abortion. One young woman stood up and said, "Four thousand unborn lives were lost today. How can I vote on any other issue than abortion?" I let the question linger a bit, and then another student stood up and said, 9,000 lives were lost today to HIV/AIDS; that’s a pro-life issue, too." Another student stood up and said, "Thirty thousand children died today because of hunger and disease related to hunger." It’s what I call the "silent tsunami." How do we deal with that as a pro-life issue?
At the end of the conversation, these Catholics agreed that there was no consistent ethic-of-life candidate running in this election, neither George Bush nor John Kerry. George Bush is an ardent supporter of capital punishment, he fought a war in Iraq that the Catholic Church opposed, his stance on poverty is under a lot of criticism by Christians who care about poverty, and the budget [he has proposed] is going to make it much worse—and yet he opposes abortion. John Kerry could say nothing more about abortion than to again reiterate his commitment to a woman’s right to choose.