Clinton Comment on 'Great Sin' of Christian Right Draws Criticism

Former president Bill Clinton praised and offended some evangelical Christians on Thursday for his remark that some Christians’ ‘‘great sin’’ is their belief that they have the ‘‘full possession of the truth.’’

Speaking as he accepted an award from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in New York, Clinton praised evangelical Christian efforts on global warming and debt relief for poor nations saying evangelicals “were instrumental in the biggest debt relief initiative in history in my last year as president because they believed in the admonition of the Scripture to alleviate the burdens of the poor,” as reported by The Associated Press on Thursday.

However, Clinton’s comment on the “great sin” of liberals and conservatives in the United States has sparked response from a group of evangelical clergy.

"For people in America who are a part of my political tradition, our great sin has often been ignoring religion or denying its power or refusing to engage it because it seemed hostile to us," Clinton said. "For ... the so-called Christian right and its allies, their great sin has been believing they were in full possession of the truth."

In response, the president of the National Clergy Council, the Rev. Rob Schenck said, “Bill Clinton is in no position to pronounce judgment on anyone's particular sins … it was Jesus who said we can indeed, 'know the truth.' When we Evangelicals say we have the truth, it's only because we know Christ, who is 'the way, the truth and the life.'"

Clinton, a Southern Baptist, noted that there was once a resolution at his denomination's convention to expel his church because of his positions in favor of abortion rights and gay rights, reported The Associated Press. It failed.