A group of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious leaders yesterday criticized efforts of the Christian far right to mobilize a Christian vote in the political campaign.
"Religious and political extremism produce a no-win situation" for everyone, said the Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and currently head of that denomination's massive radio and television operation.
"Churches lose because the anticlerical anger roused by such activities increases harassment by various political leaders at every level of political life," he said. "The religious message loses because its voice is lost in the din of political disagreement."
If the extremists win at the polls, Allen said, "government loses because the deals made with religious leaders put people in power representing a narrow sectarian point of view on matters vital to all the public."
While upholding the rightwing evangelicals such as the Rev. Dr. Jerry Falwell to express their viewpoint, the churchmen yesterday cited the dangers of efforts to "Christianize" government and politics. The Rev. Dr. Charles V. Bergstrom, director of the Lutheran Council's Office for Governmental Affairs, said, "It is arrogant to assert that one's position on a political issue is 'Christian' and that all others are 'un-Christian,' 'immoral' or 'sinful.' There is no 'Christian' position; there are Christians who hold positions."
Msgr. George Higgins, a consultant to the United States Catholic Conference, called the campaign of the Christian right to create a "Christian republic" in this country "ominous and, particularly for Jews, cause for profound anxiety."
Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, interreligious affairs director for the American Jewish Committee, said the emergence of the new Christian right is of concern to "a great many American Jews" as well as Americans generally. Tanenbaum said "there is too much demonology" in political discussions and assailed what he called the far right's oversimplification of complex political issues.