Last week, word came down the pike that the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America and its board of directors had agreed amicably to part company.
Hmmm, a schism among those who feel they’re God’s BFFs?
The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of the giga-congregation Northland Church of Longwood, Fla., was chosen last summer to head the group, but soon fell out of favor with some state chapters and the CCA’s board of directors over his efforts to expand the group’s agenda to include fighting poverty, reducing global warming, and combating HIV/AIDS.
The Eye managed to sprain several neck muscles on the double-take for that one.
Hunter, author of Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians, argues in his book that a large number of conservative Christians feels their leadership is no longer addressing their concerns because too much attention is being paid to “morals issues” like abortion and gay marriage.
Hunter postulates that evangelical leaders are rapidly losing their effectiveness among the faithful by emphasizing morals issues over economic and environmental questions because those leaders fear being labeled “liberal” by either the media or the competition coming from other pulpits.
Hunter’s departure came after a conference call between himself and the CCA board, including board chairman and Hanahan’s own Roberta Combs (who, by the by, is U.S. Rep. Henry Brown’s (R) cousin).
Hunter told The Washington Post, “My position is, unless we are caring as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as inside the womb, we’re not carrying out the full message of Jesus.”
Well, yeah. Even Ray Charles could have seen that logic, noted The Eye.
He told The New York Times, “When we really got down to it, they said, ‘This just isn’t for us. It won’t speak to our base, so we can’t go there.'”
Sort of reductio ad absurdum, mused The Eye.
The CCA was founded in 1989 by the Rev. Pat Robertson (one of The Eye’s favorite head cases) and quickly became a domestic political force to contend with in the ’90s after former President Bill Clinton was dumb enough to lie about the exercise of piss-poor judgement (what about that girl WASN’T screaming “train wreck.”)
It had, at one point, a $25 million annual budget and was famous for distributing voter guides in churches across the nation. The CCA’s fortunes declined following the departure of Ralph Reed as president in 1997 and even Robertson bailed out in 2001. Now the CCA is $2 million in the hole and shuttering its DC office.
Since Hunter’s elevation as president-elect, CCA chapters in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Alabama mutinied — some using Hunter’s advocacy of “the-least-among-us” as justification.
Roberta Combs will continue in her capacity as board chairwoman and assume the mantle of the presidency temporarily while the CCA searches for a new name for the masthead.
She told the NYT that Hunter’s exit had to do with him asserting his advocacy of economic and environmental concerns without first notifying the board.
More likely, suspects The Eye, Hunter’s departure had more to do with taking the spotlight off Combs.
She commented, “We’re a political organization and there’s a way to do things, like taking a survey of your members and seeing what they need … Joel had a different way of doing things, so he just went out there.”
So that’s what Jesus would do. Spend all his time taking surveys of all those glamorous poor and sick people rather than living among them!
Combs also cautioned about prematurely writing off her group, “I’m sure 10 years from now, people will still be writing our obituary.”
The Eye knows one person who is certainly praying for it.