Fall from grace

FALL FROM GRACE…. The Rev. Richard Cizik, as a spokesperson and lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, has ruffled a few feathers on more than one occasion. A couple of years ago, for example, Cizik began an effort to convince evangelical Christians to take global warming seriously. He even labeled climate change an “offense against God” and bought a Prius. Other leading evangelicals were not impressed.

His position with the NAE has been in doubt, as significant contingents of the evangelical community wanted to become more, not less, politically conservative. Cizik’s luck apparently ran out when he showed tolerance for gay people.

A prominent evangelical lobbyist resigned yesterday over his remarks in a National Public Radio interview, in which he said he supports permitting same-sex civil unions.

The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), later apologized for the remark, said the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the 30 million-member organization.

But, Anderson said, “he lost the leadership’s confidence as spokesman, and that’s hard to regain.”

Asked by Terry Gross in a Dec. 2 interview on NPR’s Fresh Air whether he had changed his position on same-sex marriage, Cizik responded: “I’m shifting, I have to admit. In other words, I would willingly say that I believe in civil unions…. We have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and the rest that we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself — heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to reevaluate this and look at it a little differently.”

This did not go over well.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land said Cizik’s global warming concerns put “some distance” between him and the evangelical community, “but this is a whole different order of magnitude for his constituency on the gay-marriage issues — it’s a mega-issue.”

It’s a reminder that while the evangelical community has shifted in recent years, its leadership still really doesn’t like gay people.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.