Opening Up the Umbrella Group
At a meeting with President Bush in November 2003, after nearly an hour of jovial Oval Office chat, the Rev. Ted Haggard, 48, got serious. He argued against Bush-imposed steel tariffs on the grounds that free markets foster economic growth, which helps the poor. A month later, the White House dropped the tariffs. Haggard wasn't alone in faulting the policy, and he doesn't claim to be the impetus, but as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, he gets listened to. He represents 30 million conservative Christians spread over 45,000 churches from 52 diverse denominations. Every Monday he participates in the West Wing conference call with evangelical leaders. The group continues to prod the President to campaign aggressively for a federal marriage amendment. "We wanted him to use the force of his office to actively lobby the Congress and Senate, which he did not adequately do," says Haggard. He is also working to broaden his group's agenda. A document issued last fall offered a theological justification for civic activism by U.S. Evangelicals, calling on them to protect the environment, promote global religious and political freedom and human rights, safeguard "wholesome family life," care for the poor and oppose racism. Says Haggard: "With the growth of Evangelicalism worldwide, we have to be involved in political and social action to impact the culture worldwide."