July 24, 2008
Religious Left is Growing Up Faster than Religious Right Did
The Matthew 25 Network, a new faith-based political action committee started by John Kerry's 2004 faith outreach director, is preparing to launch its second pro-Barack Obama radio ad this week, the group's founder and director said on a conference call with reporters today. Matthew 25 will be spending $500,000 to broadcast the ad on Christian radio in Ohio, Colorado, and Michigan, with hopes of airing it in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Missouri down the road. Technical difficulties prevented the ad from being broadcast on the call, but Matthew 25 chief Mara Vanderslice (pictured) said she expected the ad to be ready later today.
God-o-Meter realizes that Barack Obama might face an uphill climb among religious voters because of the false rumors that he's Muslim and over his liberal stances on social issues like abortion and gay rights. In the primaries, Hillary Clinton trounced him among white evangelicals and Catholics in many places.
But God-o-Meter noticed two things on today's Matthew 25 call that could make it more successful than some other faithy progressive outfits:
1. Some of the religious figures supporting Obama and Matthew 25 re on today's call, including former Vice-President of Catholic Charities Sharon Daly and Rev. Wilfredo DeJesus, Vice-President for Social Justice Ministries at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, are pro-life. They talked about their pro-life positions on the call, and how they hoped Obama would come around to their side.
In the past, Democrats have tended to embrace religious figures who took liberal positions on social issues or who ignored them entirely. This new posture will give Matthew 25 more credibility in the eyes of some values voters.
2. As Bart Campolo, founder of Mission Year, pointed out on the call, The Matthew 25 Network is a real political action committee with real money making real endorsements. Previous liberal faith groups have issued press releases and sponsored an event or two to fetch media attention, but Matthew 25 is on the airwaves making a serious case to Christian voters on why they should support Obama.
In Christian Right terms, this is the difference between the Moral Majority of the 1980s, which held press conferences and issued media releases, and the Christian Coalition of the 1990s, which had real members (hundreds of thousands of them) and helped shape elections with huge get-out-the-vote drives.
Is Matthew 25 the lefty version of Christian Coalition? In terms of size, budget, or influence, it's not even close. But the post-2004 religious left is growing up a lot faster than the post-1976 Religious Right did. It's getting more sophisticated. And it's accumulating a lot more influence early on because of it.
This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.