Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently shared the stage with evangelical leader Rick Warren during the Saddleback sponsored "Global Summit on Aids and the Church" conference. Her appearance at the conference, sponsored by a supposedly conservative mega church ,left many questioning why. Why Hillary and why now? Similar questions were raised at last year's conference when pro-abortion Senator Barak Obama was invited to address the crowd. This year, Hillary was joined via videotape by Senator Obama and four other presidential contenders including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Arizona Senator John McCain, former Senator John Edwards and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Because Rick Warren is a fellow evangelical and has rightly earned the respect and trust of many in the evangelical community (myself included) I am reluctant and yet compelled to question the judgment of including people on the program who do not support the Bible's teaching concerning the sanctity of life and the protection of the family. Many argue that conservative evangelicals should agree to work with those with whom they disagree on an issue that is as important as the AIDS epidemic. I have no problem with working with people I disagree with when we share a legitimate common cause as long as the cause is correct. Many times I have marched in Washington D.C. with people from the ellipse of the White House to the Supreme Court building when the only thread of commonality binding us together was the sanctity of life.
I understand both the urgency of the AIDS crisis and the critical need for the Church to come to the assistance of those who are suffering. As believers in Jesus Christ we should be the first in line to offer love, compassion, comfort and economic resources to help stem the rising tide of AIDS. At the same time we should "speak the truth in love" about the real solution to all sexually transmitted diseases…..one man for one woman for life and all within the context of marriage. If we could somehow find the courage to return to this simple yet powerful biblical model we could come very close to eradicating the AIDS virus in a generation.
But there is a huge difference between standing shoulder to shoulder with someone and offering them the opportunity to stand on our shoulders for a political boost. Senator Clinton has a keen understanding of what happened to the radical left leaning agenda of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. She watched as a surge of evangelical voters kept President Bush in the White House and widened the Republican majority in both the House and the Senate. Determined to prevent evangelicals from derailing her trip to the White House in 08 she hired Burns Strider as an "evangelical consultant" for her campaign. Strider joined the campaign in December of 2006 to help Senator Clinton speak the language of Zion without stuttering or being misunderstood.
According to Christian Today writer Anne Thomas, Strider was the director for the Democrats Faith Working group, which was formed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi when Democratic strategists realized the party was failing to reach "centrist and conservative voters in rural areas, who tend to be churchgoers concerned with moral issues."
There is no question Burns Strider is earning his pay. When asked about Senator Clinton's appearance with Warren at Saddleback Strider said, "Obviously coming to Saddleback being with Rick and Kay Warren and all these leaders brought together, it's a substantial opportunity for anybody."
I wonder exactly what kind of substantial opportunity Strider is talking about. If he means it was a substantial opportunity for Hillary to present herself in a positive light next to a respected evangelical leader so she can capture an air of Christian legitimacy for her campaign she appears to have succeeded. Several evangelicals who attended the conference said Hillary's appearance "softened their view of her." Cindy Logan told WorldNetDaily she "saw a softer side of her that I haven't seen before." She went on to say, "She was very articulate. I liked her approach."
Tonie Kennedy, another member of Saddleback was even more complimentary. After hearing her speak she concluded, "Inviting Clinton was a good decision. It shows me she has her own faith and that she has an interest in what 's going on in the churches."
And therein lies the problem with offering a platform to those who would turn it into a springboard for the advancement of an overall agenda that would make most evangelicals blood run cold. The Democrat Party would like for evangelicals to forget they are the party of radical homosexual activists who would destroy the biblical concept of the family and who would like nothing better than to pass hate crime legislation that would criminalize Christian teaching on sexuality. They would like for us to focus exclusively on the AIDS epidemic and ignore the moral implications of abortion on demand.
If prominent, respected evangelical leaders continue to provide unintentional Christian cover for those who preach a scripted gospel and who would use the power of the government to redefine Christian morality we will reap the consequences of a confused Christian electorate come Election Day.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.