Once again, we grieve with the survivors of a mass shooting in the United States. This time it was Virginia Beach, VA. As our media devotes less and less attention to the kinds of atrocities that used to galvanize our national attention and conscience for days on end, it’s an unavoidable reality that many Americans are slowly growing numb to random bloodshed in our midst. What that means for our future is up to the psychologists to divine. What it means for our collective spirit is worth pausing to consider.
Now, here’s what you’ll hear on this week’s State of Belief Radio. The last time our host and our guest met was some thirty years ago. The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, President Emeritus of Interfaith Alliance and host of State of Belief Radio had walked away from the increasingly radicalized and politicized religious right that had long been his home. The Rev. Robert Leonard Schenck was a leader in that political takeover of White American Evangelical Christianity.
The fruits of that takeover are everywhere today. A woman’s right to choose has all but disappeared in a growing number of states, and Roe v. Wade is in the political religious right’s crosshairs. Extraordinary new interpretations of “religious liberty” are being used to codify every form of anti-gay discrimination you could think of. And guns are worshipped as a divine right, with rhetoric that would make the golden calf blush.
At the same time, persons of faith and of no faith are uniting as they haven’t since the Civil Rights Era to resist, in moral and ethical terms, assaults on the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The stories are so inspiring that even mainstream media has begun to acknowledge a resurgent “religious left.”
It is in this environment that Rob Schenck, a prominent and powerful anti-choice leader and activist, a man who for decades had the ear of some of the most influential politicians on Capitol Hill and far beyond, a general in the culture wars who led the charge for the shocking changes we see happening today, stood up and walked out. Rob renounced his positions in the name of faith, conscience and empathy in an emotional and articulate book titled Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love. And he began what he describes as his new life’s work – to undo some of the damage he feels he has done.
Thirty years after those last encounters, Welton and Rob sat down at the Human Rights Campaign Studios in Washington, DC, for an hour of unfiltered, at times painful, but ultimately cathartic conversation. These are two men who dedicated their considerable talents to pushing our nation in diametrically opposite directions. It’s one of the most important episodes of State of Belief we’ve ever made. And we hope you will find it as challenging, provocative, and ultimately inspiring as we did.
Shunned by his former supporters and condemned by his former allies, Rev. Schenck is heedlessly continuing his campaign of conscience. This week, he published a powerful op-ed column in The New York Times headlined, “I Was an Anti-Abortion Crusader. Now I Support Roe v. Wade.”
State of Belief is made possible in great part by the generous support of our listeners. Please consider making a donation to help keep us on the air at this critical time.