'Hispanic Karl Rove' Helps Craft Democratic Party Centrist 'Third Way' Position on Gay & Reproductive Rights
"Progressives and evangelicals have begun to build coalitions on issue like the environment and Darfur, but we believe that we can go even further." - Rachel Laser
"We have radical Muslims. Radical homosexuals. Radical abortionists. We need radical, born again, spirit filled Christians to arise ! Do you follow me ? We don't need any sissy Christians, Oprah Winfrey Christians. We need prophetic, devil stomping, demon rebuking, blood washed, Bible believing, free-from-sin Christians !" - Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, prominent Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Agenda co-author.
As Rachel Laser, Culture Program Director for the Third Way announced during a press conference on October 10th, 2007, "[t]wo years ago, we launched an initiative that few thought could be successful: finding common ground between centrist evangelicals and progressives on the most divisive cultural issues of our times... The Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Agenda represents the fruit of these labors and maps a joint path forward to heal a nation torn apart by the culture wars."
In early 2009, days before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the 'Come Let Us Reason Together' effort re-launched its 'Governing Agenda' with a flourish, by announcing a press teleconference and sending a letter to the new President-Elect and Congressional leaders from both major US political parties which began, "For the last few decades, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, America has been polarized by an angry culture war, fought over such divisive issues as abortion and gay rights."
One of the touted contributors to the re-launched "Governing Agenda", the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, purports to represent 15 million Hispanic Christians, has actively incited the culture wars, endorses the militant wing of the antiabortion and antigay movement, is affiliated with top leaders and institutions of the hard theocratic Christian right, and has earned a nickname, the "Hispanic Karl Rove." Rodriguez prayed together with Barack Obama, in a special private ceremony prior to the new president's inauguration.
Billing itself as "the leading think tank of the moderate wing of the progressive movement," the Third Way is a highly connected inside-the-beltway effort that boasts, as honorary co-chairs, eleven members of the US Congress from the Democratic Party: six House members and five Senators.
The Come Let Us Reason Together agenda was created as a joint effort between the Third Way and Faith in Public Life, a 501c(3) organization which according to its mission statement "is a strategy center advancing faith in the public square as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion and the common good." The Governing Agenda contains four points: " Reducing abortions (reducing abortion through reducing unintended pregnancies, supporting pregnant women, and increasing support for adoption)", "Supporting employment protections for gay and lesbian people", "Renouncing torture", and "Creating secure and comprehensive immigration reform".
The Third Way / Faith in Public Life initiative has provoked considerable criticism from the liberal and progressive left [1,2,3,4] as well as rebuttals [1,2] of that criticism from Governing Agenda authors.
As journalist Frederick Clarkson and other critics have pointed out, the Governing Agenda approach to reproductive rights seems to derive from a strategy hatched over a decade ago, to reframe the discourse in a way that would exclude, marginalize, and undercut the position that access to reproductive health care is an essential and inalienable right of all American citizens. A decade later, legal abortion is now unavailable across wide swaths of the continental United States. 87% of US counties lack a single abortion provider according to a study from the Guttmacher Institute.
During a January 15, 2009 Faith in Public Life / Third Way press teleconference to herald the Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Agenda, Samuel Rodriguez described an "[e]vangelical agenda that stands committed to building bridges rather than building walls. The 2008 Presidential Elections demonstrate how Hispanic Christians, as the fastest growing religious demographic in our nation, stand poised to facilitate an unprecedented platform for Faith in Public Policy that does not establish camp in the extremes but rather on common ground."
As Rachel Laser noted during the October 2007 press conference heralding the launch of the Third Way / Faith in Public Life "Come Let Us Reason Together" position paper, the phrase "Come Let Us Reason Together" was taken from the Bible's Book of Isaiah. Laser explained that "The title of this paper, 'Come Let Us Reason Together', is a Biblical passage from Isaiah where God calls to his people to reconcile their differences through respectful engagement". It was at best a dubious exegesis; The Book of Isaiah concerns Isaiah's vision from God in which the Lord castigates nations of Israel as sinful, rebellious, and corrupt and promises Isaiah that they will be made pure again but that those who continue to resist and rebel "will be devoured by the sword."
In terms of the American culture wars, the connotations of "Come let us reason together", from the Book of Isaiah, did not suggest evangelical moderation or conciliation at all.
Sammy Rodriguez has been identified as a leader in an allegedly moderate, centrist group of younger Christian conservative leaders dubbed the "new evangelicals." But while the image that the Rev. Rodriguez presents to mainstream media seems much less abrasive than that of leading Christian right culture warriors such as the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or John Hagee, he wears a different demeanor when playing to Christian conservative audiences.
In a November 19, 2006 Utah sermon the Reverend Samuel Rodriguez declared: "We have radical Muslims. Radical homosexuals. Radical abortionists. We need radical, born again, spirit filled Christians to arise ! Do you follow me ?
We don't need any sissy Christians, Oprah Winfrey Christians. We need prophetic, devil stomping, demon rebuking, blood washed, Bible believing, free-from-sin Christians !"
While Samuel Rodriguez could be found, in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential election, praying together in a private service with Barack Obama, he has also described Sarah Palin a "kindred spirit." And Rev. Rodriguez has signed onto a statement, released May 7, 2008 from a group of prominent evangelicals, which lamented the politicization of Christianity. But, Rodriguez is also listed on the advisory board of Lou Engle's TheCall, an effort which is now mainstreaming violent antiabortion rhetoric that was common on the extreme fringe of the militant wing of the antiabortion movement during the 1990's.