Before an official launch in Washington on June 22 2005, CAP had attracted thousands of members with virtually no publicity. The organization’s arrival on the national stage was received with such enthusiasm that by the end of July, CAP announced that it had about 6,000 new members, swelling the group’s ranks to 10,000.
Shortly after the launch, the religious fanatical icon Jerry Falwell denounced CAP as, "hardly ‘Christian’." He added that the group’s "so-called broad-minded efforts toward tolerance have blinded them to how the Bible instructs us to live."
Falwell went on to remind us that Jesus "was not a hippie do-gooder, but rather the Son of the Living God who came to earth to pave the one way to heaven for mankind."
Reverend Timothy Simpson, CAP’s director of religious affairs, said that while he wasn’t sure what to expect, he really isn’t surprised that CAP has been received with such fanfare: "There is a void out there. There are some top down organizations that are populated by fine people, folks that we admire tremendously, but there isn’t really anything out here in the hinterland being put together by folks out in the hinterland; none of us are famous, we’re just regular people who are fed up."
He said the group was formed in part to counter the right-wing pundits and know-nothing talking heads who claimed that all the "value voters" turned out for President Bush in the 2004 elections.
"We looked around at our selves and said we’re value voters too," Simpson explained, "but we’ve just got a completely different set of values. We decided we can sit around and grouch about that and complain, or we can do something about it."
CAP organizers also believed that a Christian, Scriptural based response could adequately stand up to the fanatical agenda of radical right pundits like James Dobson and Pat Robertson.
"We think that it’s very important to counter text by text, scripture by scripture, theological argument and point by theological argument and point, all of the claims and assertions by those radicals from out of the Christian theological tradition," Simpson explained.
Contrary to popular portrayal, Simpson says the 2004 election offered a clear indication that millions of Jesus loving Christians across the United States are liberals.
"[Someone from] the Washington press-core asked me this last Wednesday: come on, this is all nice and everything and you’ve got a nice press gaggle to cover your little group and everything, but isn’t it really the case that Christians, by and large, are Republicans, and support all that? I said the fact of the matter is that there are tens of millions of people who love Jesus Christ, who love the Church, who love this Country, and who understand the Gospel in completely different terms; and more importantly they understand that the Gospel is calling us to a different kind of politics.
Simpson says it’s liberals who most embody the virtues of Jesus. "Liberals try to be the hands and feet of Jesus," he said. "They work the soup kitchens, they work the homeless shelters, they do social justice ministries. The conservatives buy satellites, they buy television stations, they build humongous radio networks."
Among CAP’s primary concerns is the radical right’s work toward establishing a fresh brand of pop-culture theocracy here in the US. Citing historical abuses of the faith by right-wing extremists, Simpson said the separation of church and state is what has protected America from the kind of horror experienced in other parts of the world.
Beyond the simple boundaries of left and right wing politics, CAP also seems to be leading a revival of Martin Luther King-styled Christian humanism, countering the religious right’s mantra of faith over works. Opening the door to interfaith alliances, Simpson says his group rejects the notion that a person has to be Christian in order to share Christian values.
"An atheist that stands with a neighbor, that stands with poor people; that is concerned about the marginal and the oppressed is somebody who is embodying the values of Jesus," said Simpson. "And we will work with them happily in the political sphere on areas of common concern because that’s what this is all about."
"Ultimately, in Christian theological terms, the question is: how is the neighbor best served," he continued. "And we want the focus to be on that, particularly the neighbors that are in difficulty, that are in distress, that are in the margins; rather than on trying to get the wealthy in this country another tax cut."
Jeff Nall is a community activist and freelance writer. He regularly contributes to publications such as Toward Freedom, the Humanist, and Impact Press. He lives with his wife and daughter in Brevard County Florida.
Christian Alliance for Progress website: www.christianalliance.org
Jerry Falwell, The Conservative Voice, "Another Group Arrives to Combat the Religious Right," July 10, 2005. http://www.theconservativevoice.com/articles/article.html?id=6805