Generous Orthodoxy  

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Could this be a genuine turning point for "the new evangelicals"?

I do not ordinarily use this blog to ask people to sign things, but this is different. Forget Jerry Falwell. The pendulum may truly be swinging. A Senate committee wants to know if evangelicals oppose torture, and David Gushee needs your support.

Who is David Gushee? He came into my line of vision about fifteen years ago when his doctoral dissertation from my seminary (Union in New York) was published under the title, Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust. There were nowhere near enough righteous Gentiles, but there were some, and Gushee's book is both disturbing and inspiring at the same time.

Since then, Gushee has become a prominent spokesman for what The New York Times and other media observers are calling "the new evangelicals." In particular, he has been a leader in the campaign against torture, and in that capacity he has lifted some of the burden from George Hunsinger of Princeton Seminary, who has borne the heat of the day for a long time. A very encouraging email has just arrived from David. It is directed to those of us who have already signed "An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture" and it offers an opportunity for others to sign. I urge readers to do so, particularly in view of the Senate Judiciary Committee's interest in knowing how much support there is in the evangelical community for this declaration. David's email follows:

First of all, thank you so very much for adding your support to our declaration on human rights and torture. As you have seen, the declaration has been received with much attention since its release in March. Over 200 signatures have been added, and most of you will also know that it was approved overwhelmingly by the National Association of Evangelicals.

I was asked by Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to weigh in on an important issue which we address in the declaration. I took time to familiarize Sen. Leahy and Sen. Specter with our approach to certain moral and ethical issues surrounding habeas corpus rights, sending them the letter that is attached. It is being considered this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on habeas corpus.

Because the Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over many of the issues we addressed in our declaration, not just habeas corpus, at the request of the committee I took the liberty of sending the entire statement to them. And because they wanted to know how broad the support was for this declaration in the evangelical community, I sent along the current partial signatory list, which can be viewed at
I hope that this meets with your approval. I assumed that if you have already signed this public document, with some of your names listed publicly on the internet for several months, that you would not be opposed to this opportunity to amplify its impact.

EHR now stands as its own organization, and we are contemplating its next steps as an organization. Please feel free to check out the website, which is regularly updated:

Certainly we want to encourage more signatures to the declaration. Your help would be invaluable in this--simply direct people to the website,, where they can read and sign the statement.

One thing we are considering is reorganizing EHR in a somewhat more formal way and trying to become a center for mobilizing the evangelical community on torture and human rights issues. We will be getting back with you in the summer with ways you can be involved and about what EHR will be in the days to come.

I am grateful to God for you and for your courage in signing the declaration. I believe we are in the right here, representing a faithful and biblical perspective. Let us pray that God will bless the work of our hands.

In Christ,
David P. Gushee
Chair, Evangelicals for Human Rights

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bulletins from the road

Readers will understand that my blog will be spotty for a few weeks. I am in Virginia and unhooked from the Internet. Mourning the loss of our cherished mother will take a while for my sister and me. Going through her clothes closets will be a simple matter compared to the search we will make through her remarkable mind as we sort through dozens and dozens of drawers, envelopes and files stuffed with clippings, letters, photos--almost all of them of the greatest interest. Her intellectual curiosity and passion for knowledge of all kinds has always amazed us, and I have always sought to emulate it, but feeling the loss of her brain power and unique way of looking at the world is truly (to paraphrase something Alex Haley is reported to have said) like watching the burning of a great library.

When Mother died I was in New Orleans, mourning for something else--the disaster that befell a great culture. There is so much bad news that it is hard to realize, at first, how much hopefulness there is. Everyone urged me to go back North with the good news, the incredible signs of renewal, so much of which has been initiated by churches. And in today's news, reports of a madly successful Jazzfest lift the heart.

And so from New Orleans I bring back the message so often heard there, repeated today in The New York Times story by one of the jazz musicians: "Don't forget about us."