The inclusion of the “straight and gay” clause is particularly bold given the heated political climate over gay marriage in the evangelical community, and that is precisely the point. Rodriguez, Daly and others hope that the Imago Dei message sets a new tone for evangelical conversations about controversial political topics. “We have broken this down into simply battle language, culture war, and I think it is frankly unhealthy,” Daly explains. “We need to express the Christian message in a different way.”
Gays are created in the image of God. So are liberals. The rich. The undocumented. Unbelievers. Everyone, even, and most importantly, the people with whom you do not agree.
That’s the message of the Imago Dei Campaign, a new movement of prominent evangelical groups launched on Monday to erode the culture war battle lines that have helped define evangelical discourse for the better part of half a century. The Imago Dei, or Image of God, pledge is simple: “I recognize that every human being, in and out of the womb, carries the image of God; without exception. Therefore, I will treat everyone with love and respect.”
Recognizing that every human is made in God’s image may seem like an easy statement for evangelicals to agree on, but the contemporary political implications are deep. The campaign takes pains to clarify what “every human being” really means—“For the image of God exists in all human beings: black and white; rich and poor; straight and gay; conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever.”
The leader behind the movement, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says the goal is to change the narrative of evangelical engagement in the public square, especially when it comes to traditional culture war issues. Other heavy hitters have joined him. President of Focus on the Family Jim Daly, televangelist James Robison, producer of The Bible Series Roma Downey and her husband, Survivor producer Mark Burnett, and vice president of the Liberty University Mat Staver have all signed on. The launch of the website was pegged to Martin Luther King Day as a reminder that the Biblical message and justice go hand in hand.
The Imago Dei signers are not making a political statement about hot-button issues like gay marriage. But the Imago Dei campaign does mark the first time, Daly says, that Focus on the Family—a group that opposes gay marriage—has publically stated that gays are created in God’s image alongside straight individuals.