Labeling Imbalance, Biased Sources As LA Times Trumpets 'Evangelical Agenda Fight'

A front-page article in today's Los Angeles Times (Saturday, March 10, 2007) trumpets that an "Evangelical Agenda Fight is Heating Up." The piece is by Stephanie Simon, whose slanted coverage we've once cited here. Among the number of problems in Simon's latest piece:

1. In the article, Simon tags James Dobson of Focus on the Family as a "conservative crusader." Fair enough. But the Rev. Jim Wallis, who openly advised Democrats and Sen. Kerry during the 2004 campaign (here), avoids any "liberal" tag. He is simply identified as the "best-known champion of such causes" as "citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions." Wallis and some other pastors want to expand the evangelical agenda to include issues such as global warming.

Who really is Rev. Jim Wallis? A 2005 article called "God's Democrat," from The Weekly Standard, nailed his ideology. In reviewing his book God's Politics, which claimed to take aim at both the left and right, Katherine Mangu-Ward noted, "A liberal Democrat will find almost nothing here to challenge him, unless he balks at praise for 'healthy, two-parent families'; a conservative Republican almost nothing to agree with." (bold mine)

Wallis identifies himself as "pro-life," but this is misleading. A genuine pro-lifer wishes to abolish elective abortions. However, on page 73 of God's Politics, Wallis defines "pro-life" as "meaning really wanting to lower the abortion rate" (emphasis mine). In other words, Wallis harps a line not that much different than the one Bill Clinton once voiced ("safe, legal, rare").

Wallis' work has been further debunked here and here.

Oops. Did I mention that Wallis also blogs at Huffington Post?

(1.5 Simon writes, "When [Wallis] preached recently at a conservative evangelical college, Wallis said, he was besieged by students furious at the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who recently described global warming as a satanic plot to divert Christians from more pressing moral issues." Hey, Stephanie. Hey, Jim. Does this "conservative evangelical college" have a name by any chance?)

2. Simon cheers that "a new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include ... global warming," Simon, unfortunately, simply takes man-made global warming as "fact." Simon doesn't mention anything about the fact that the entire issue of global warning is itself a subject of much debate. There is no mention that the claims made by Al Gore and the like have been seriously challenged. I guess Simon hasn't read The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism) by Christopher C. Horner, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years by Dennis T. Avery and S. Fred Singer, or any of the recent articles (like this one) from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

3. Simon prints some quotes from a guy named Randall Balmer, who says of the evangelical "fight," "It's the old guard trying to hold on." Simon merely identifies Balmer as "a professor of religion at Columbia University in New York." What she doesn't tell you is that Balmer's most recent book is a full-on slam against the Christian right. His 2006 book is called, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament, in which he claims "the Religious Right constructed an abortion myth." Last June, Balmer was spotlighted by NPR (emphasis mine):

[Balmer] says blind allegiance to the Republican Party has distorted the faith of politically active evangelicals, leading them to misguided positions on issues such as abortion and homosexuality.

"They have taken something that is lovely and redemptive and turned it into something that is ugly and retributive," Balmer says.

In the Times article, Balmer also criticizes traditionalists for "moral myopia."

The bottom line: Simon's article fails to identify the so-called "evangelical agenda fight" as a simple battle between traditional conservatives and liberals. Simon has danced around an undisputable truth: Liberals want traditional evangelicals to let up in their fight against abortion and "gay rights." Rather than word it in this fashion, Simon has framed this fact into a dubious "evangelical agenda fight."

Religion Los Angeles Times