Is Richard Cizik Trying to Get Fired?

It is no secret that Religious Right leaders have had it out for Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals for some time now, starting back in 2007 when they tried to get him fired for branching out into the global warming debate because they feared it was undermining the focus on their traditional anti-choice, anti-gay agenda. 

He certainly didn’t make any friends before the election when he blasted John McCain for selling out to the Religious Right … and now he has even fewer friends among the old-guard right-wing leaders thanks to this recent interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” where he all but admitted that he voted for Barack Obama, said that Dick Armey had good reasons for calling people like James Dobson bullies and thugs, predicted that climate change is going to become an issue on which evangelicals become increasingly active, pledged to work with the Obama administration to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies in this country, and admitted that his opposition to marriage equality is “shifting

GROSS: Let me ask you; you say that you really identify with the concerns and priorities of younger evangelical voters and one of those priorities is uh—it’s more of an acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage. A couple of years ago when you were on our show I asked you if you were changing your mind on that and two years ago you said that you were still opposed to gay marriage. But now as you identify more and more with the younger voters and their priorities, have you changed on gay marriage?  

CIZIK:  I’m shifting; I have to admit. In other words, I would be willing to say I believe in civil unions. I don’t officially support redefining marriage, from its traditional definition, I don’t think. WE have this tension going on in our movement between what is church-building and what is nation-building, and I lean in this spectrum at times, maybe we should concentrate on building our values in our own movement. WE have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and the rest, we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself—heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to re-evaluate this and look at it a little differently.

Not surprisingly, his statements have generated controversy in evangelical circles, forcing the NAE’s president to assure its board that the organization’s priorities remain the same:

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals reassured the organization’s Board of Directors as well as media outlets this past week that the group remains fully committed to its long-held stance on abortion, marriage and other biblical values after several controversial statements were made by the group’s vice president.

In a letter to the NAE’s Board of Directors, the Rev. Leith Anderson said that the wording of the Rev. Richard Cizik, NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, during a recent interview with NPR (National Public Radio) “did not appropriately reflect the positions of the National Association of Evangelicals and its constituents.”

“Our NAE stand on marriage, abortion and other biblical values is long, clear and unchanged,” Anderson wrote in the letter to the directors, a portion of which he forwarded to several news agencies including The Christian Post, on Saturday.

He added, “Richard has strongly assured to me of his own support and agreement with our NAE values and positions. This was not understood by listeners from what he said.”

Tony Perkins, for one, isn’t buying it, saying that Cizik “left the reservation a long time ago” and wanting to know why he is still employed by the NAE:

How else can you explain enthusiastic support for what will probably be the nation's most pro-abortion, anti-family president in our nation's 232 year history?

The question, however, remains. If Cizik does not speak for the NAE, as the Rev. Anderson has said, why is he on Capitol Hill representing NAE and claiming to speak for Evangelicals? Is it possible for a human being to come with a disclaimer?

The Institute on Religion and Democracy wants to know the same thing:

"Is Richard Cizik representing typical members of the Assemblies of God, the Salvation Army, or the Presbyterian Church in America, along with millions of other evangelicals, when he suggests, even momentarily, support for liberal issues like civil unions? If not, then why is he NAE's chief spokesman? Should not that spokesman consistently espouse traditional evangelical beliefs?"

As do representatives of Concerned Women for America:

Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, said, “Mr. Cizik claimed that his views are five years ahead of his constituency, but these views are not anywhere close to Biblical orthodoxy, traditional Christian theology nor the bulk of Evangelicals who ground their faith in the Bible. Perhaps this is why he espouses them in forums to which most of his supposed 'constituency' do not listen.”

Janice Shaw Crouse, Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, said, “The NAE consists of 45,000 churches, 50 denominations and 30 million constituents. I cannot believe that they are happy to have a spokesperson, who supposedly represents them, expressing views that are contrary to Biblical authority and contradict theological orthodoxy. I think, perhaps, my dear friend Rich has been inside the Beltway for too long and has swallowed too much of the NPR and Vogue Magazine Kool-Aid.”

One has to wonder just how many more times Cizik can get away with repudiating and alienating the traditional Religious Right movement and its agenda before the powers-that-be at the NAE finally succumb to the pressure and fire him.