WASHINGTON The religious right is not dead, but growing, two of its leaders declare in a new book, "Personal Faith, Public Policy," while examining seven "urgent issues" the country faces that the authors call on people of faith to solve.
Harry R. Jackson Jr., a black Democrat and senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., and Tony Perkins, a white Republican and head of the Family Research Council, joined forces to write the book, released in March by FrontLine. The Jackson-Perkins team is no accident and used specifically to illustrate their point that the religious right is not what the media or "the left" paint it to be.
"The day when the words 'religious right' brought to mind a stern-looking, gray-haired white man raised on prune juice are over or should be," they write. "The fact that this book is being authored by two men of different races and very different backgrounds is emblematic of the Right's present demographic."
They hope their work will "lay out a strong moral platform and a strategy that will enable Bible-believing Christians of every color to stand together at this defining moment in the history of our nation," according to the text.
"Like iron sharpening iron, we've worked through the issues in this book yielding to the ultimate truth test not what do Republicans or conservatives say or Democrats or liberals think, but rather what does God's word say," Perkins and Jackson write. "We have done this not because we believe we have all the answers, but because we see not only an opportunity but also an absolute need to bring evangelicals and conservative Christians, regardless of color, into unity on key public policy matters that will shape our nation's future."
The book not only lays out what the authors feel is the direction the country should take, but also describe the face of the religious right.
"People of all different races, cultures, ages and religious backgrounds now find a home on the religious right," they write.
"The movement is building bridges and alliances with people and organizations some might find surprising."
They note that Asian and Hispanic evangelicals are part of the "culture diversification" of the movement, along with younger people joining as illustrated by dozens of youth camps and programs across the country with thousands of participants.
Perkins and Jackson point out that a common theme from pundits and other media during the 2008 election as well as in the past has been that the religious right is dying or on life support.
But at the book's release at the National Press Club in Washington, Perkins said: "I feel amazingly well."
"This book is evidence of the changing religious right," Perkins said.
In the book, the men write that the religious right is not fading away but "growing, expanding and being rejuvenated."
"The range of issues on which its leaders are willing to take a stand is expanding, and the movement is finding surprising partners and creating new coalitions," they write, adding, "It is adapting to the changing political environment and broadening its ranks while holding firmly to the principles that have united us thus far."
Jackson said there is "an amazing coming together" now among different groups.
"We are simply saying an old thing a new way," Jackson said. "Our movement is not dead. Our movement is maturing."
The 230-page book begins with a history of the religious right movement, from the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979 until today, and outlines what Perkins and Jackson see as two main tasks the right must keep in mind as it ascends "to a new level of influence."
"We must keep the core values that have defined the movement the sanctity of human life, the preservation of marriage and the defense of our Christian faith as our top priorities," according to the book. "Secondly, without neglecting these core issues, we must also reshape our message and agenda to include other important issues that face our generation issues like immigration, poverty, the environment and racial reconciliation."
They write that God has a plan for the nation, and it ultimately will be accepted by the secular community "because of its fairness, simplicity and clarity."
They lay out seven key issues ranging from reforming immigration policy to restoring marriage and family and how they think the nation, and church, should handle the growing issues.
"We are convinced that the church must take bold action on each of these issues to reverse America's present moral and cultural decay," according to the book. "The statement that America has lost its moral compass has become a cliche today. But the average American Christian, with the exception of major elections, appears to be in denial of the true depths of moral depravity that has gripped the nation in hopes that it will go away."
Jim Wallis, president and executive director or Sojourners and author of the "Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in A Post-Religious Right America," said at the book's release that it is important to note the "red and blue, left and right" are not religious categories."God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and people of faith should not be in the pocket of either political party," Wallis said.
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