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Southern Baptists on ‘most influential’ list

LONDON (BP)–A London newspaper recently published a list of the most influential conservative and liberal Americans, and Southern Baptists on both sides of the political spectrum made the cut.

The Daily Telegraph published its list of top 200 conservatives and liberals in America on its website Nov. 3.

Topping the conservative side, the head of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Richard Land, ranks at No. 65. Other Southern Baptists making the cut on the conservative side include former House speaker Newt Gingrich at No. 4; former GOP House majority leader Tom DeLay, No. 35; Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., No. 43; actor Chuck Norris, No. 71; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, No. 81.

On the liberal side is Southern Baptist and former President Bill Clinton at No. 1 and former President Jimmy Carter, at No. 72. House majority leader Steny Hoyer, D.-Md., also a Southern Baptist, is at No. 50 on the list.

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., also a candidate for president, ranked ninth in the tally of conservatives. He has been attending a Southern Baptist church for several years.

Land, author of “The Divided States of America? What Liberals and Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match!” previously also was named as one of The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America by Time magazine in 2005.

And the ERLC president is in good company in his location on the Telegraph list, one spot below prominent economist and author Thomas Sowell, and followed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Joining Clinton in the top five most influential U.S. liberals is political strategist Mark Penn, No. 3; Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.-N.Y., No. 4; and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D.-Calif., No. 5.

On the most influential U.S. conservatives side, presidential candidate and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was identified as the most influential; U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus ranked No. 2; Matt Drudge, Internet journalist and radio commentator, No. 3; and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, No. 5.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I.-Conn., has the distinction of appearing in the 47th slot on both the conservative and liberal lists.

It was “no straightforward task” to craft a list of “200 principal political figures in such a diverse, ideologically intense and divided country in a time of war,” the Telegraph’s Washington correspondents who compiled the list explained.

“We consulted widely among our contacts across the political spectrum and outside it, as well as engaging in vigorous internal debate before deciding on our choices,” they wrote in a section introducing the lists.

“The key to inclusion was the term ‘influence’ — which people do, and will, most affect American politics both in terms of ideas and the enactment of policy,” the paper’s writers continued.

Many may take issue with the rankings. For example, Republican presidential candidate Giuliani perches atop the most conservative list, yet many conservatives cite his positions on abortion and homosexuality as particularly troublesome.

Surprises — in inclusion if not placement — on the conservative list include Petraeus, commander of multinational forces in Iraq, in the No. 2 spot on the list of most influential U.S. conservatives; Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” at No. 27; blogger and journalist Andrew Sullivan, No. 33; Jack Abrahamoff, the convicted former lobbyist, No. 38; Drew Carey, new host of “The Price is Right” game show, at No. 39 and Sen. Larry Craig, R.-Idaho, arrested in June for elicit behavior in an airport bathroom, No. 89.

Surprises on the liberal side included former U.S. senator and the Democrats’ unsuccessful candidate for president in 1972, George McGovern, No. 79; and first-term congressman and the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, known best for using a copy of the Koran at his swearing in service, No. 54.

The paper’s Washington-based reporters placed Elizabeth Edwards at No. 19 on the influential liberals list, ahead of her husband and presidential candidate John Edwards at No. 24.

On a Telegraph blog, reporters explained why President Bush wasn’t included in the top 20 influential conservatives. Emphasizing the list is about the “future rather than past,” they said Bush lacks relevancy in the final year of his term and will “fade into relative obscurity after 2009.” They contrasted Bush’s future with Bill Clinton’s staying power after leaving office.
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The entire list of influential Americans is available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/exclusions/uselection/nosplit/listintro.xml

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  • Dwayne Hastings