Politics, religion take center stage at church meeting

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Conservative journalist Fred Barnes, host of "The Beltway Boys" on Fox News, will headline a "town meeting" on politics and religion Saturday at Christ Church at Grove Farm, Ohio Township.

The occasion is the church's observance of "Choose Life Month," expressing opposition to abortion. That cause, Mr. Barnes said, was the single most important factor in creating what became known as the religious right, and its only close rival is the more recent issue of gay marriage.

Beyond that, he said, there is great diversity on public policy among theologically conservative Americans.

"Abortion is still the fundamental concern," he said. "When you talk about foreign policy and the broader domestic issues, you may not have agreement at all."

He will take questions at a 7 p.m. forum moderated by KDKA political analyst Jon Delano. Although he is best known for his TV work, Mr. Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative political review.

Mr. Barnes, 63, was raised Episcopalian, but said he lost his faith at 17. Not until 1980, he said, did he and his wife, Barbara, become adult converts to Christianity. They are active at The Falls Church, in suburban Washington, D.C., one of seven Virginia parishes that recently left the Episcopal Church to affiliate with Anglicans in Africa.

Christ Church at Grove Farm is an independent church that split years ago from St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Sewickley.

Mr. Barnes does not believe that the recent Democratic triumph in Congress has badly harmed the anti-abortion cause, in part because some newly elected Democrats also oppose abortion.

"In Congress there weren't as many pro-life losses as there were Republican losses -- only about half as many," he said.

He believes that conservative Christians have been misrepresented in the mainstream media, in part because journalists often chose to interview activists outside the evangelical mainstream.

"They call on Jerry Falwell, when he is not representative of broad evangelical Christianity," he said. The public would gain a more accurate picture of evangelicals if it turned to one of its flagship institutions, such as Wheaton College in Illinois, or to pastors such as Purpose-Driven Life author Rick Warren, he said.

"I have to say that the media has caught on to Rick Warren," he said. "I thought that John McCain, when he wanted to repair his relationship with the Christian Right, made a mistake when he went down and talked to Jerry Falwell. He would have been much better off talking to Rick Warren."

Ann Rodgers can be reached at arodgers@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.


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