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Evangelical Leader Suggests It's Time To Collaborate


The election has also triggered some soul-searching among evangelical Christian voters. For decades, some in the movement have talked about being under attack for their beliefs in what they see as an increasingly secular country. They say there's a culture war going on in America, especially over polarizing issues like abortion and gay marriage. Now, one of the movement's top leaders says it's time to stop the war rhetoric and start reaching out for compromise.

Jim Daly is the president and CEO of Focus on the Family based in Colorado. He stopped by our studios last week during a trip to Washington.

JIM DALY: We've got so many problems right now. So the question that I have is can we find people who can work together? Even though we may be divided on certain policy issues, can we find solutions on life? I know a lot of people in the pro-choice community that would like to see the number of abortions reduced. Well, so would we. So are there ways that we could actually work together in order to place babies in the arms of parents who are waiting? That would be a good goal.

I think what we need to be talking about, from a Christian perspective is, are there ways to collaborate to hit and tackle the big issues of the day?

MARTIN: So how do you do that?

DALY: Yeah, I think by - you know, it's interesting. I think human beings were geared for relationship. And unfortunately relationship today tends to be between us and cable news. And it's one of the reasons I meet with people on all sides of the divide. Because once you get to know somebody and you create friendship - even though you may have different opinions on deeply held viewpoints - there are ways to find some consensus, I think.

And immigration is a great idea here. Before the election, I signed the National Association of Evangelicals paper on this. And for me, I took a lot of criticism for that.

MARTIN: Can you tell me what that - was it a pledge or what was...

DALY: Well, basically to say we've got to find a way out of this mess and what can we do? We're not going to deport 11, 12 million people. Is there a way that we can get people in a line that moves? If they've come in illegally, maybe they have to get to the back of the line; perhaps get them a worker's card. Then I think we've got to be very careful about wrapping ourselves around the axle of politics.

MARTIN: But politics create policy change. As we saw in this election, voters in Maryland, Maine, and the State of Washington approved same-sex marriage. Advocates of same-sex marriage called this a watershed moment. Do you think the country as a whole is moving away from the position that you and your organization have on this issue?

DALY: Well, I think, you know - again, this is a deeply divided country when it comes to this issue and we understand that. And as Christians we want to be compassionate, we want to express the idea that we're all made in God's image. We get that. We understand that when it comes to policy is this a good thing? I think from our perspective, we believe for a child it is not, and we can disagree on that.

But when you look at the record of the defense of marriage - traditional marriage, one man/one woman - we also have 32 states over the last few years that up until this election, it was 32 for 32. We didn't talk about that in terms of a watershed. So we have four states, I think arguably more liberal more states in those states that you mentioned with the exception of maybe New Hampshire, that has voted for same-sex marriage of some type. And I think we've done a poor job for marriage.

I mean, when we get right down to it, especially the Christian community where, you know, divorce is quite high. And I think part of the problem is that marriage has lost its bluster and it's in a weak moment. And for that, that's what gives me great sadness, 'cause I think the institution of marriage is so critical to the foundation of the culture.

MARTIN: So how do you find common ground on this issue that is so emotionally polarizing? You talk about the need to sit down and develop relationships with people. Do you have gay friends that you sit down and kind of battle this issue out?

DALY: I actually do, and we talk about it. And I think as Christians, we need to anchor down, not with hostility but with humility, and just ride this forward and continue to talk to people about the message of Christ, what the Gospel means. And if that resonates and if people connect, I think the other issues will come in line.

MARTIN: Jim Daly, he's the president and CEO of Focus on the Family. He joined us here in our studios in Washington. Mr. Daly, thank you very much.

DALY: Good to be with you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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