All posts from “August 2008”

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August 31, 2008

RNC to begin Monday despite Gustav

The Republican National Convention will begin in abbreviated form tomorrow. Mike Duncan, Republican National Committee chairman, said the party will adopt rules, elect officers, and adopt the party platform.

Sen. John McCain said he was optimistic that the mistakes of Katrina would not be repeated.

"As Governor Haley Barbour said, ?Pray for the best and prepare for the worst.' And I think that's what we're doing as a nation." McCain says he hopes normal operations will begin again shortly, but "some of that is frankly in the hands of God."

Update: CT will be covering Gustav developments on its liveblog.

August 31, 2008

Convention schedule in flux

As tens of thousands of people flee Hurricane Gustav's path, White House officials announced that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not speak at the Republican National Convention Monday night as planned.

Sen. John McCain said that the convention schedule will be altered, the New York Times reports.

"We must redirect our efforts from the really celebratory event of the nomination of president and vice president of our party to acting as all Americans," McCain said in Mississippi. "We have to go from a party event to a call to the nation for action, action to help our fellow citizens in this time of tragedy and disaster, action in the form of volunteering, donations, reaching out our hands and our hearts and our wallets to the people who are under such great threat from this great natural disaster. I pledge that tomorrow night, and if necessary, throughout our convention if necessary, to act as Americans not Republicans, because America needs us now no matter whether we are Republican or Democrat."

CNN reports that a federally supported computer projection says Gustav could cause up to $29.3 billion in property damage. It also projected that Gustav is headed toward 4.5 million people, 59,953 buildings, including 170 hospitals and at least 1,100 police and fire stations.

Yesterday, Gustav was reported as a category 4 storm but is being reported as a category 3 storm, the same category as Hurricane Katrina three years ago that killed thousands of people.

August 31, 2008

Palin and the Other Women

The campaign (and pundits) seem to think picking Palin will pick up disaffected Hillary voters. I doubt it. Let's think about who the Hillary voters are. First, some are ardent feminists, furious with the rejection of a highly qualified woman. It's unlikely that they'll go for a pro-life, relative3ly unqualified candidate. A second bloc are those who don't want to vote for black. They'll vote for McCain (or more accurately against Obama) in any case, regardless of the VP.

While I do think the Palin pick might help lure women, it's not the women all the pundits are talking about. The Palin pick will help attract moderate, young evangelical women, whom Obama had targeted, and it will insure that conservative evangelical women will show up at the polls and work hard. It might also with undecided, independent women who were not Hillary supporters and are still on the fence.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 30, 2008

The Best Thing About Sarah Palin

The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate has all sorts of interesting political implications, which are being diced and parsed as I write. But I'm more interested in the long-term cultural implications of the choice of Palin, whether the McCain?Palin ticket wins or loses in November, for one of the most vexing horizons of impossibility in our culture: the abortion rate among unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Upwards of 85 percent of parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome elect to terminate the pregnancy, according to several studies in the peer-reviewed journal Prenatal Diagnosis. A 1999 British study in that journal found the termination rate to be between 91 and 93 percent. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I remember seeing many people my age and younger who had the distinctive facial and behavioral characteristics of Down children. These days I rarely see a Down Syndrome child at all.

What is peculiar about Down Syndrome as a reason for termination is that, plainly put, you rarely meet a Down Syndrome "sufferer" who is notably unhappy. The condition has a range of manifestations, some more disabling than others, but many, many persons with Down Syndrome thrive as children and adults, even if they may not have the same range of capabilities as you or I do.

The fact that this syndrome has become a reason for termination is evidence of the terrible power of culture. A culturally neutral artifact (prenatal diagnosis of congenital diseases) combined with a culturally tragic artifact (elective abortion) begins to make it plausible that parents should avoid the challenges and risks of a Down pregnancy by ending it. The decreasing number of children born with the condition begins to make it more difficult to imagine that "normal" families can absorb the stresses of raising such a child, and undermines public support for public programs that support families who have made that decision. Which, over time, makes carrying a Down Syndrome baby to term ever more inconceivable, leading to increased rates of termination, leading to decreasing plausibility . . . until one day the burden of bringing a Down Syndrome child into the world is seen as so grave that less than 10 percent of parents take the risk.

But Sarah and Todd Palin have done it. I cannot think of any other public figures in my adult life, at least of the prominence they are about to enjoy or endure, who have made this decision. They will cause many, many families to reconsider the horizons of the possible. Their public example could very well lead to a cultural sea change - a dramatic shift in the "horizons of the possible." That phrase from my book is no metaphor. Those horizons are so real that, for a future generation of children and their parents, they are quite literally a matter of life and death. For this reason, which utterly transcends politics and this year's election, the sudden prominence of the Palins is, in the deepest sense, an extraordinary act of public service.

(Cross-posted from Andy Crouch's Culture Making.)

August 30, 2008

John McCain says he may postpone convention ... and he's praying about it

John McCain said the Republican National Convention may be postponed Hurricane Gustav approaches New Orleans, Politico reports.

"It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near-tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster," McCain told Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday," in an interview taped for tomorrow. "So we're monitoring it from day to day and I'm saying a few prayers, too."

President Bush, first lady Laura Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are scheduled to speak on Monday, the convention's opening day. Just three years ago, McCain was celebrating his birthday with Bush when floods were hitting New Orleans.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, told the San Antonio Express-News that there's too much time, money, and energy tied into the event to change it.

"Only the toughest partisan would criticize a convention for going on as scheduled. It's not like people can change a hurricane," Sabato told Peggy Fikac. "Maybe they should put Pat Robertson to work to pray it away."

August 30, 2008

Is Palin an evangelical?

John McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin has a Pentecostal background, but reporters seem to be struggling to define her faith.

A profile in the Wall Street Journal says she's Lutheran.

The Washington Post writes, "Her evangelical Christian faith -- she believes in creationism and is adamantly opposed to abortion -- may help [McCain] court skeptical social conservatives."

Palin1.JPG

Hm. I'm not sure those two beliefs necessarily link to an "evangelical Christian faith."

Instead of assigning a label to her faith, Eric Gorski of the Associated Press reports that a business administrator in Pentecostal Assemblies of God told him that her home church is The Church on the Rock, an independent congregation. A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign told Gorski that Palin attends different churches and does not consider herself Pentecostal.

Tennessean religion reporter Bob Smietana writes that Palin grew up among evangelicals, and attended the Wasilla Assembly of God as a teenager and young adult. Smietana writes that while in Juneau, Alaska's capital, she sometimes attends Juneau Christian Center, an Assemblies of God congregation.

Boston College professor Alan Wolfe writes at The New Republic that Palin is an evangelical, shaped by the region in which she lives.

"... she is not a Southern evangelical, and therein lies a tale."
Southern Baptists, he writes, became preoccupied with sin, while those in the west were more libertarian where sins could become forgiven.

He writes, "Sarah Palin named two of her children after witches, once took drugs, and refused to sign a bill forbidding domestic benefits for gay couples. Any one of these--especially the first--would raise suspicion in the eyes of a traditional Southern Baptist."

With Richard Land's high praise, however, I'm not seeing that suspicion quite yet.

"Palin, the gun-toting mom, has a libertarian streak in politics and a libertarian streak in religion," Wolfe writes. " ... [W]hile Palin may be quickly endorsed by men speaking in Southern accents, she is neither a Billy Graham nor a Jimmy Carter. American evangelicalism, like John McCain, has many mansions. Sarah Palin inhabits only one of them."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life broadly describes Palin as Protestant. Although it's clear that some evangelicals are excited about her, I wonder whether she calls herself an evangelical.

Update:

Fred Barnes wrote last summer in the Weekly Standard how Palin's faith impacts her politics.

"Her Christian faith--Palin grew up attending nondenominational Bible churches--was a minor issue in the race," Barnes wrote. "She told me her faith affects her politics this way: 'I believe everything happens for a purpose. In my own personal life, if I dedicated back to my Creator what I'm trying to create for the good . . . everything will turn out fine.' That same concept applies to her political career, she suggested."

Jay Newton-Small at Time Magazine asked Palin some religion questions two weeks ago.

What's your religion?
Christian.

Any particular...?
No. Bible-believing Christian.

What church do you attend?
A non-denominational Bible church. I was baptized Catholic as a newborn and then my family started going to non-denominational churches throughout our life.

As a side note and not religion related, someone asked me if I feel a kindred spirit with Sarah Palin because our names are so similar. Apparently, her middle name is Louise, so it's Sarah Louise Pulliam vs. Sarah Louise Palin. Just a few typos and I'd be running for VP.

Another update: Mollie over at GetReligion criticizes Wolfe's mention in The New Republic that Palin named two of her children after witches.

Todd Palin told People: "Sarah’s parents were coaches and the whole family was involved in track and I was an athlete in high school, so with our first-born, I was, like, ‘Track!’ Bristol is named after Bristol Bay. That’s where I grew up, that’s where we commercial fish. Willow is a community there in Alaska. And then Piper, you know, there’s just not too many Pipers out there and it’s a cool name. And Trig is a Norse name for 'strength.'"

August 30, 2008

Cizik's caution vs. Dobson's elation

I'm finally in Minneapolis (the airline lost my luggage, but at least I have my laptop), and I'm catching up on the Sarah Palin developments.

Although I've seen thrilling remarks in the press releases from conservative evangelicals, Suzanne Sataline from the Wall Street Journal talked with one evangelical who is more cautious.

Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said he was initially stunned because he had never heard of the Alaskan governor.

"Do we have a Dan Quayle on our hands? I'm open to being persuaded otherwise if she proves herself," Cizik told Sataline.

"I like some of the personal choices she's made, such as carrying a Downs child to term,'' Cizik said, referring the governor's infant son who has Down Syndrome. "So will millions of evangelicals.''

Cizik has been an outspoken advocate for environmental issues, which drew heavy criticism from some conservative Christians, including Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Cizik said he and other evangelicals need more information about Palin's views on the environment and global affairs.

"I don't think evangelicals are going to vote for this team for superficial partisan reasons. I think lots of people are looking beyond labels this time around,'' he said to the Journal. He told Sataline he hasn't decided how he will vote.

On the other hand, Dobson is pretty excited. Even though six months ago he planned not to vote for John McCain, he told Dennis Prager, "But I can tell you that if I had to go into the studio, I mean the voting booth today, I would pull that lever."

He said in a statement: "Sen. McCain's selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is an outstanding choice that should be extremely reassuring to the conservative base of his party. She is a strong executive who hates corruption and puts principle above politics. After floating the names of Tom Ridge and Sen. Joe Lieberman in recent weeks ? selections that would have created consternation among pro-family Republicans ? Sen. McCain has chosen a solid conservative who has a reputation for espousing common sense."

August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin's faith

I am watching all the positive press releases from conservative evangelicals roll in on Sen. John McCain's vice president pick. So far, I haven't seen a negative one.

I am dying to blog more, but like the other 15,000 reporters, I have to get to the Denver airport to make it to Minneapolis.

More coming, but for now, Dallas Morning News reporter Jeffrey Weiss writes about her Pentecostal background and Mollie over at GetReligion has pulled together several articles on the religion angle.

Update: The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has put together a biographical page on Sarah Palin. Right now, it's mostly background information but a closer look at the new Vice Presidential candidate's faith will be coming.

August 29, 2008

System Update: Previous Posts

We’re having trouble with our blog template, so there’s no "previous posts" link right now at the bottom of the page. In the meantime, this link will take you to all of our August posts.

August 29, 2008

Rice sociologist calls McCain's pick 'strategically brilliant'

Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, believes that Sen. John's McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a strategically brilliant development. Lindsay is author of Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite. I spoke with Lindsay this morning.

"The only dirt I know on [Palin] is that there’s some kind of indication that she was using political pressure to get [her ex-brother-in-law] fired. She has a lot of appeal for evangelicals. She’s pro-life, that’s something that’s important to evangelicals. No Republican has ever won the White House without evangelicals."

"If [McCain] had chosen a pro-choice candidate, like Ridge or Lieberman, [evangelicals] would have voted McCain, but they wouldn’t have mobilized around him. [Palin] is pro-life, she was involved in [Fellowship of Christian Athletes] growing up, she has the right background. Her child has Down syndrome. That shows not only a commitment to pro-life, but to living it out. That will be important for evangelical supporters of McCain. I think evangelicals honestly are probably relieved that McCain chose a pro-life candidate. In my research, the reason so many of these leaders were Republican was because of abortion."

"The real liability McCain faces is that he’s built his campaign against Obama on the issue of experience. Here’s a first term governor who was mayor of a small town in Alaska. Not a lot of executive experience, but McCain may be able to say there are different elements in the campaign that are important."

"I don’t know enough about [Palin] to say if she’s a perfect candidate. She doesn’t have the national profile that Mike Huckabee has. It is possible that McCain can introduce her to evangelicals in a way that’s winsome in the next couple of days."

Is she an evangelical?

"I don’t know what her church attendance is like. She’s been involved with groups that cater to evangelicals, but I don’t know if she is or not."

What about Sen. Obama's religious outreach? Do you think it's working?

"I think he’s very smart in terms of religious outreach. He’s got some great people working on his staff working on that front. The thing about Senator Obama’s campaign is that he does not have to win large segments of the evangelical votes. All he has to do is carve off some of votes in certain places. The cosmopolitan vote is the one most up for grabs."

"A cosmopolitan evangelical is someone who is less interested in converting the country or taking the country back for Christ; they are interested in seeing their faith as attractive. They’re less prone to see the evangelical subculture as their primary point of reference. It’s the cosmopolitan evangelicals that [McCain] has to win over in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida."

August 29, 2008

McCain picks Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for VP

Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, and so far, it seems like bells and whistles from the conservative evangelical community.

Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America said in a statement: "Governor Sarah Palin is a bold choice for Vice President who is a courageous advocate for unborn children. In addition, she is a conservative who is a reformer not afraid to shake up the establishment."

Back on Aug. 8, Richard Land told CBS she would be the pick that would most excite Southern Baptists and other conservatives.

"Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist."

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins said in a statement:

"On February 11th of this year, for example, she signed into law the 'Safe Haven for Infants Act,' facilitating the safe surrender of an unwanted newborn to a place of safety and hope. Her actions contrasts sharply with the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who when he was in the Illinois Senate repeatedly helped to kill a bill that sought to protect babies who survived abortion."

Over on the Between Two Worlds blog Andy Naselli has found an article from four months ago when Al Mohler highlighted the Palin family in an article ("Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin") and on his radio show (also titled "Welcome to the World, Trig Paxson Van Palin").

Here's a description of the radio show:

A little boy with an extra chromosome was born on April 18. His name is Trig Paxson Van Palin and his new home is the Alaska Governor's Mansion in Juneau. His mom is Governor Sarah Palin, who along with her husband Todd, has welcomed Trig as their second son and fifth child.

On today's show, Mohler explains why Trig's very existence defies the Culture of Death and gives us all hope.


In 2006, the Anchorage Daily News included her religion in a series of articles on her.

"Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings)," Tom Kizzia wrote. "They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years."

August 29, 2008

The view from the floor

Ted and Collin made astute observations about Barack Obama's acceptance speech and the benediction tonight.

fullinvesco.jpg

I'm honestly wiped out.

Invesco Field was packed with Obama supporters, stomping their feet and yelling the "Yes we can" slogan.

It felt like a football game, thanks to long lines for drinks and the fallen nachos crunching under my feet.

The fireworks set to cheesy music were pretty grand, but then finding my way out and getting around Denver has been a little nightmarish this entire week.

barackobama.jpg

Here are a few photos to give you a better picture of tonight's event. If you look very, very closely at the second one, that's Barack Obama.

During 'the traditional values' portion of Obama's speech, the crowd seemed to get the most excited about his last part about same-sex marriage.

"We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination."


Photos by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

August 28, 2008

Because This Blog Needs More Don Miller

Sarah promised she would not post any more on Don Miller. So I guess it's up to me to point you to Miller's correspondence with Obama, which he has posted on his new blog.

August 28, 2008

The Other Benediction

After Hunter came Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose final words of the Democratic Convention were a kind of benediction of her own:

"Now let us go forward and work hard to elect Democrats at every level of government and to send Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House to take our country in a new direction. To make the change America needs. Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can. God bless you. God bless America. Amen."

Amen? "God bless America" is a frequent closer for politicians. But can anyone name me someone else who tags it with "Amen"?

August 28, 2008

Joel Hunter's Benediction

Yes, he prayed in Jesus' name. But I don't think I've ever seen that long of a preface to praying in Jesus' name.

Not familiar with Joel Hunter? Francis FitzGerald had a recent profile in The New Yorker that's worth reading.

A transcript of the benediction after the jump, along with a few words from Hunter's blog about why he accepted the invitation to give the benediction even though he's a Republican.

Continue reading Joel Hunter's Benediction...

August 28, 2008

Obama's Code Language

Democratic nominee borrows from New Testament.

I doubt any commentators will accuse Sen. Barack Obama of using religious code language in his acceptance speech. Yet two famous New Testament passages made an appearance. As is typical of civil religion today, God was replaced by the "American promise."

"Instead, it is that American spirit – that American promise – that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend," Obama said, borrowing from 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Obama then concluded his remarks this way: "Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess."

This statement comes from Hebrews 10:23. But the context of this passage explains something far more beautiful than the American promise. "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:19-22).

Editor's Update: There's some confusion in the comments below, so some explanation may be helpful. Collin Hansen wrote this, but was having trouble posting it. So Ted Olsen posted it to the blog. The first comment (which begins, "Your observation is a shrewd one") is from John Hubers. The second is from Bethany Pledge Erickson, and so forth. (Oh, I didn't realize you'd gotten married, Bethany! A belated congratulations to you.)

August 28, 2008

Historic Moment ... From Our Sponsors

One CNN commentator (I think it was Campbell Brown) stopped talking when Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter got up to speak after Obama's acceptance speech, encouraging viewers just to hold off one moment for the benediction. Hunter got in about four words before Wolf Blitzer jumped in. "Well, let's not interrupt our discussion of what a historic moment this is. If people want to see what's going on at the podium, they can go to CNN.com. And we'll be continuing our discussion right after this break."

That's why they call it the Almighty Dollar, I guess.

August 28, 2008

The Abortion Line

I'm just watching on TV. Sarah Pulliam is actually at Invesco. But it sure seemed like the abortion line got a lot of applause.

August 28, 2008

Speaker: How the 'Obama Is a Muslim' E-mail Made Me an Obama Voter

An interesting testimony from Monica Early from Cuyahoga Falls, who says the circulating e-mail that says he's a secret Muslim led her eventually to support the candidate.

Early's my.BarackObama.com page says she supports Obama because "he speaks to my spiritual beliefs."

August 28, 2008

The 'Traditional Values' Part of Obama's Speech

Not a lot of God talk in Obama's speech tonight, but there will be talk about abortion, same-sex marriage, and traditional values (as well as a promise to "end our dependence on oil from the Middle East" in ten years). From the prepared remarks:

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

August 28, 2008

Joel Hunter: I Got Graham's Advice on Benediction

Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter told Beliefnet editor Steve Waldman and me that Billy Graham gave him advice in what to pray for tonight's benediction.

"We had this fairly long communication where I was just saying, 'Hey give me some counsel here.' The gist is, he saw this as a magnificent opportunity. He said, 'I'm proud that somebody of your stature gets to do this.' He just gave me some council, 'Just say what God gives you to say.' He's so frail, he can't hear right now, so his assistant was the one who sat down with him. It takes him a while now to communicate. His assistant was the one who was telling me all of this.

"He said he'd be praying for me, and he'll be watching."

August 28, 2008

Why Cameron Strang's inbox is overflowing

Founder of Relevant Magazine Cameron Strang has received more than 3,000 every day since he backed out of giving the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. He’s still standing, though, and gave a brief address at the faith caucus today.

Tell me about the reaction you’ve been getting.
Since your story got out, and I had to respond to your story on my blog, things hit the fan. You did a story and then the AP, CNN, Fox News and other places have inquired. The message that I’ve tried to explain is that there are areas of correctness and incorrectness with both parties.

My potential involvement with the DNC this week was simply as an opportunity to build bridges and emphasizes areas of agreement, build on common ground. I thought my involvement in praying would be perceived on national television as an unequivocal endorsement and it just gave me pause so I backed out.

Since then, the extreme right wing, the fact that I have the audacity of saying that some Democrats might have it right in some areas, or that I’m not sure who I’m going to vote for yet, that automatically means to the extreme right wing that I am going to hell. And they have no hesitation of telling me so, or sending me pictures of aborted babies.

The extreme left wing says I’m everything wrong with Christianity, that I’m a coward. Everybody’s entitled to their opinions. I’m just trying to navigate these waters, unchartered territories the best way I know how and that’s to talk about my convictions.

What about the reaction from the campaign, are they upset?
Their job is to promote that their candidate is the right candidate, so if somebody has hesitation in making the same declaration, … obviously, they’re not thrilled, nor would the RNC be thrilled about a similar declaration. I understand where they’re coming from, and that was not my intention to make them look bad. I’ve talked about the positive and proactive thing that the Obama campaign has done to emphasize agreement with young Christians. I think that that’s admirable.

I think it’s incredible that they gave Donald Miller the benediction in my place. They value our voice and our involvement, that’s huge credit to them. The same thing right now can’t be said about the McCain campaign or the RNC. They have not talked about things, they aren’t talking about the things that matter to us proactively. I’m sure they will. I think that that’s an absolute credit to the Democrats that they’ve seized this opportunity. I’m here today to continue the dialogue and show support for the areas where we agree. It’s not an all or nothing thing for me.

Are you going to the RNC?
It’s funny, the Obama campaign goes to us. Whenever the Obama campaign comes to us, I go to the McCain campaign so as not to be perceived as favoritism. I got the invitation to come to the DNC and I reached out to the RNC to say, ‘Are young Christians at the table?’ Not necessarily me, but are we involved? The only thing I’ve heard is, ‘We’ll get back to you.’

Am I going to be at the RNC? Not as of now. If they wake up to it eventually, better late than never I guess. Definitely, the Democrats are taking the lead in reaching out to the young, Christian vote.

August 28, 2008

A peek into Obama's view of faith

Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine University Law School revealed a portion of the meeting Barack Obama had with religious leaders in Chicago a few months ago in the faith caucus this afternoon.

"Franklin Graham asked him, 'Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life?'
"Sen. Obama paused and he thought. And he thought very carefully. He said, Reverend, he is my way.
"(Graham) No, no, is he THE way? Of course, the Reverend was making a point.
"(Kmiec) Our senator, the next president of the United States, a man of great intelligence and great integrity and great honesty, even if he’s not speaking in a place where he’s completely welcome. His message is consistent. No, Reverend, the person in my life who was of great service and most wonderful exemplar was my mother, and she never had the blessing of baptism. It is my understanding of faith that I will see her again in eternity. That she was not lost to salvation. One can dispute the theology, one can dispute the traditions, one can’t dispute the senator’s faith, commitment, his love of family and his authenticity. Barack Obama’s the real deal, and even Republicans can see it."

August 28, 2008

Howard Dean appears at faith caucus

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made a surprise appearance at the faith caucus this afternoon. His microphone was muffled, so here are the portions I could catch:

"For those of you who are from new England … you know it’s hard to talk about religion. I think we’ve made a lot of progress for the last couple of years.

"We in the Democratic party don’t believe that you have to change your values in order to cater to people of faith. I mean broadly including people who are evangelicals … faith is faith. Faith in God is something that is common to human beings.

"We talk about faith differently than Republicans do. In this party, we have other values that matter to us. We talk about respecting everybody’s faith.

"It is important for us to use an important word - separation of church and state. Everybody is entitled to follow their faith. It was the dream of the founding fathers. We speak differently about our faith, it doesn’t mean it’s less important. It matters how you live, not necessarily what you say every Sunday.

"We are reaching out to voters of faith, let voters of faith decide which party represents their values."

August 28, 2008

Instead of sleeping

News never seems to stop here in Denver.

At least 500 church members expect to serve about 50,000 meals to emergency workers by the end of this week, and tonight I watched them dish the food.

About 23 churches in Denver became involved in the project called "Love Denver," a massive project to reach out to the people in charge of keeping the city safe.

"Someone else who has been around for a long time was saying that this is the largest undertaking of the southern Baptist churches in Denver," said Denise Blythe, a pastor at Riverside Baptist. "I don't know of anything that has come together in this size."

The group I followed left just before 1 a.m. to prepare food during a six-hour shift for several police officers sitting in the lounge in a hotel. The volunteers in bright green t-shirts prepared sandwiches, fajitas, apples, tea, coffee, energy bars, and other food for the officers.

"When all this is done, they'll be licking their wounds," co-coordinator Bill Winter said. "We just want to serve them."

August 28, 2008

What it means to be a pro-life Democrat

Congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois finds it very challenging to be a pro-life in a party that unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade. He is one of 17 Democrats given 100 percent pro-life rating by the National Right to Life Committee, and we spoke at a Democrats for Life reception earlier this evening.

What obstacles do you face as a pro-life Democrat?
It’s always a difficult issue for a pro-life Democrat, because the Democratic Party is not going to have a pro-life platform. It’s not going to happen. It’s very unfortunate, but I think it’s very important for the Democratic Party to have pro-life party. As some of my pro-life Democratic colleagues say, it’s no use preaching to the choir. You have to go out and evangelize. We just have to keep working on fellow Democrats. It’s a tough position to be in. I think the party from the top and leadership has been much more open to pro-life Democrats. Unfortunately, there are still some groups really trying to get rid of pro-life Democrats. I had a tough primary. I people come up to me and ask me, ‘what are you doing in the Democratic Party?’ The pro-choice groups gave funding to my opponent.

Why are you a Democrat?
I believe in so much of what the Democrats stand for, basically standing up for middle class families, for working people. I believe the government does have a role in some important areas of our society, helping to protect the environment, helping to protect workers, seniors. I think there are some places where they should be involved and I think it’s much better with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party. But it’s not easy being a pro-life Democrat. So t’s not easy in the Democratic party. I have a lot of a pro-life constituents, too.

Why are you pro-life?
Because I believe life begins at conceptions. It comes from my faith as a Catholic. I don’t think it’s the only place that it comes from. Ever individual has to make a decision about when life began. Why draw a line somewhere else? We were all once an embryo. With the proper conditions, the natural conditions, I think an embryo becomes a child. That’s where we all started from, and that is where I think the line should be drawn. I think drawing lines in other places leaves room for where do we draw that line? I believe in the sanctity of life and it’s something I feel very strongly about.

I truly believe that the Democratic Party, especially now, has a better view of the future and where we should be going, but it’s not perfect. I’m willing to, when I think the Democratic Party is wrong, I’m willing to say it. I’m willing to speak up and willing vote for what I think is right.

What about Barack Obama?
I wish Barack Obama were pro-life. He’s not. I don’t have any expectation that in the future the Democrats are going to have a pro-life presidential candidate. Its disappointing to me, but I am a Democrat and will support the party.

August 28, 2008

Any Movement on Abortion?

Reader Fred Tennedy writes:

"how can you not realize that the Democratic plank is more pro-abortion than it has been? Any "pro-lifers" who think they are getting even a crumb are truly deceived!"

I think that for pro-lifers the platform was one step forward, one step back. The step forward was language promoting policies that will help make it easier for women to carry a baby to term. The step back was the strengthened advocacy for Roe v. Wade and (arguably) the loss of the "safe, legal and rare" language.

But I will say this: I've never seen so many pro-life Democrats being given platforms to speak. The opening interfaith service featured a vivid declaration against abortion by the lead speaker, Bishop Blake. The official DNC Faith Caucus panel featured a strong speech from former Rep. Tim Roemer advocating a 95% reduction in abortion. Bob Casey, the son of the man who was blocked from the 1992 convention for his pro-life views, had a prime time speech last night (though not about abortion). There's a Democrats for Life event later today, and Catholics in Alliance just released an interesting study making the case for a Democratic-style abortion reduction agenda.

Now, none of this will mean much if Obama himself doesn't get fully behind this (especially given the controversy over the Born Alive bill). He made some positive comments about it at the Saddleback forum. The next test will be whether the campaign actually issues a plan for reducing abortions and whether he and Biden push the idea more persistently.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 27, 2008

Minnery disappointed by religious outreach, not thrilled with McCain

Tom Minnery, a senior vice president with Focus on the Family, is attending many of the religious outreach events at the Democratic National Convention this week. He spoke with me about the Democrat’s religious outreach and the challenges Sen. John McCain has to overcome with evangelical voters.

What do you think so far?
I was entirely disappointed in their supposed outreach to conservative evangelical believers. It was a fraud. There was a panel, a faith forum, how can progressives work with conservative, religious people. Not a single conservative among then nine speakers and it was tired old leftist dogma. There was absolutely no discussion about responsible fatherhood. There was not a single solution proposed that didn’t involve the government.

What did you think about the interfaith service?
It’s interfaith as long as it’s on the left. I didn’t see a prominent conservative leader speak. Rev. [Blake] who spoke about the evil of abortion, I suspect he won’t be part of the interfaith dialogue in the future. It doesn’t exist. What a shame. I was hoping to see if there was real fruit in this dialogue in the supposed reach out to conservatives. They now have a candidate Barack Obama who is comfortable talking about religion, but his is a traditional liberal theological viewpoint and they went with the flow. Jim Wallis is an increasing disappointment. He may be evangelical theologically, but politically he’s liberal. Rick Warren said last week in that interview with the Wall Street Journal that his book is an agenda of the Democratic Party and I agree with that.

What about the Democrats’ efforts to reduce abortion?
There’s only a reason that abortions should be reduced, and that’s for the very same reason it should be eliminated. If it’s not life, what’s the problem with it?

What about John McCain? He’s struggled to talk about his own faith.
He does. I’m not sure of the extent of his saving faith if there is one. We as evangelicals would have hoped to hear a lot more. I hope those who are Christians who are around him are talking to him. He usually talks about that Vietnam soldier’s faith. It loosened his bonds, scratching a cross in the dirt, I’ve heard that about six times. He does seem to have viable Judeo-Christian worldview, which means that things of God are significant, the church needs to be vigorous and independent, he knows the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

Continue reading Minnery disappointed by religious outreach, not thrilled with McCain...

August 27, 2008

System Update: Previous Posts

We’re having trouble with our blog template, so there’s no "previous posts" link right now at the bottom of the page. In the meantime, this link will take you to all of our August posts.

August 27, 2008

Democrats for Life practice what they preach

A couple of the people involved with Democrats for Life went a couple of blocks over and cut potatoes at the Denver Rescue Mission for a dinner for the homeless.

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Earlier this afternoon, the group met to talk about ways to preserve life from conception to natural death.

The Rocky Mountain News has an update on the state's plans for the homeless.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless ditched plans to hand out 500 movie tickets and to visit the Denver Zoo, museums, and other cultural centers.

"But the DNC plan caused a public flap, and a volunteer told the Rocky in July that it 'sounds like another way to get rid of them,'" Denise Malan writes.

Malan writes that the coalition is hosting a lunch and three events this week to register homeless people to vote and to raise awareness about homeless issues.

Photo of Kristen Day, President of Democrats for Life, by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

August 27, 2008

Rep. Shuler wants more diversity in the platform

Rep. Heath Shuler spoke with me about the Democratic platform on abortion for about 40 seconds after the Democrats for Life Forum.

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Shuler is a pro-life Democrat and a new Congressman from North Carolina.

"Obviously reducing the number is very important. There are other issues that I have a lot of difficulty with.

But I think with the panel we have today, and what I feel the influence of the blue dog members – Lincoln Davis and Bob Casey – we can strengthen that.

My hope is to say that within the platform of the Democratic Party, there is diversity and that we do have people who are pro-life."

Photo by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

August 27, 2008

Democrats for Life event focuses on pregnant women

The Democrats for the Life event turned into mostly a couple of speeches on taking care of pregnant women.

Sen. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania drew a crowd of media behind him, but his speech did not not really address abortion.

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A few of Casey's remarks: "One area where I think we can bring both sides together, in my judgment, the only way we can bring sides together is to come together on a central priority ... and that priority is pregnant women. What our government and society should do is show solidarity with a woman who is facing a crisis pregnancy. If the law of the land is that a woman has a choice to make, that she has a constitutional right to have an abortion. We ought to also make sure that she has the choice to carry that child to term."

Rep. Heath Shuler, a Baptist from North Carolina said, "The Democrats have it right when it comes from birth to natural death. Whether or not women have access to health care, that's pro-life. We have to make sure all children, unborn or throughout the entire life, that they can count on Congress on this issue."

Rep. Lincoln Davis, a Southern Baptist from Tennessee, spoke on the reduction of abortion.

"It is a blessing to know that at least for the first time our Democratic platform ? has made abortion reduction as a major part of the platform," Davis said. "We need to start giving assistance to those ladies ? who see no hope other than abortion."

Photo of Casey by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

August 27, 2008

New abortion study released

New research shows that women who live below the poverty level are more than four times likely to have an abortion than women above 300 percent of the poverty level.

The study was released by the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good today. Alexia Kelly, executive director for the organization, presented the results to about 50 people who showed up for the Democrats for Life event this afternoon.

Three-fours of the women cited having a job, child care, or education as a factor for having an abortion, Kelly said.

The study of the U.S. 50 states from 1982 to 2000 finds that benefits for pregnant women such as employment, economic assistance to low-income families, quality child care and removal of state caps on the number of children eligible for economic assistance in low-income families has reduced abortions. However, permitting Medicaid payments for abortions increased the abortion rate.

Joseph Wright, a political science professor at Penn State University, and Michael Bailey, a American government professor at Georgetown University conducted the study.

August 27, 2008

Democrats for life and Democrats for choice

I'm about to go into the Democrats for Life event where pro-choice Democrat Bob Tuke & pro-life Democrats Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Lincoln Davis will speak.

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I ran down to the convention center to look for examples for some of the abortion protesters I've seen holding megaphones and posters of bloody babies.

Instead, volunteers for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice were handing out stickers with the slogan "Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice!"

I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but their event is almost at the exact same time as the Democrats for Life group.

Photo by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

August 27, 2008

Video: Donald Miller's wish list

I promise this is my last post on Donald Miller, who gave the benediction last night at the Democratic National Convention.

He accepted the invitation last week after Relevant founder Cameron Strang backed out, he spoke with me yesterday and then prayed after Michelle Obama's keynote last night.

I overheard a conversation today that pointed out that although Miller used the name of Jesus, he seemed to emphasize the word "I." He said, "I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice." Why do you think he worded it that way?

Here's the video I took of our interview yesterday in a restaurant. I cut down the full interview for those with short attention spans, but he said something later I found noteworthy when I asked him about negative reaction he has received. He said, "It's interesting that you could do something scandalous like deny the trinity and get less flack than support a Democrat for president."

The video focuses on the issues he believes should be important to the Democratic Party.

August 26, 2008

Former faith-based initiatives director praises Obama's plan

I caught up with John DiIulio, the first director of President Bush's office of faith-based and community initiatives after the faith caucuses today. DiIulio quit his job after only seven months on the job because of a struggle with Congress to get financial support for the office.

Is Barack Obama’s plan for the faith-based initiatives better than President Bush's?
I don’t think it’s better, but I think it’s different. It’s got sort of a thicker operational spine at this stage than I will say at this stage in 2000 either the plans Gore or Bush plans had. It’s also got a much broader vision behind it. It’s not just about faith-based and grants, it’s an idea about labor and business representatives. When he talked in July, he had a line when he talks about the faith based office or council being a moral center of his administration, that was intimating or suggesting this notion of having diverse religious leaders involved in thinking out loud about other policy issues, immigration, education, health care, the way labor and business and other sectors have usually been represented. That’s an interesting twist and different I think from before.

I know something that has been an issue has been whether organizations can hire based on religion.
It seems to me that he’s endorsing the status quo, the constitutional, the administrative, and the statutory status quo, versus those on the one side who would want to expand that so you want sort of a cart blanche. I think he’s taking a center left position. I have asked people including many of my friends in the evangelical community to tell me specifically what has been said, because there hasn’t been anything that would change the existing constitutional administrative and statutory status quo. The overall plan is very good because it focuses on getting real resources, human and financial, where hope hits the streets.

August 26, 2008

Shaun Casey's evangelical outreach

Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary is coordinating evangelical outreach for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign. As he walked to a meeting, we spoke about how the religious outreach at this convention is different from 2004.

"It’s completely different in the sense that there were only sort of side groups talking about religion, and here it is the party itself at the heart of what it’s doing. That’s a radical departure.

What did you think about the interfaith service?
You heard a variety of views, clearly no screening of the speakers. You heard a variety of positions taken and embraced. It showed the diversity of the Democratic Party and its openness to evangelicals, there were mainliners. It was an accurate reflection of the diversity of the party.

What do you think about the Democratic platform on abortion?
It’s something that evangelicals ought to take quite seriously that the Democratic Party has made a commitment to reducing the number of abortions without reverting to criminalization. Based on my conversations with evangelicals, I think that resonates, I think a lot of evangelicals find that attractive, they find that helpful and hopeful, and it’s a reflection of who Sen. Obama is.

Barack Obama’s sympathetic, he’s open to evangelical voices, he’s serious about global poverty, domestic poverty, global climate change. I think a lot of young evangelicals will find that very, very attractive."

August 26, 2008

Little mention of abortion from Sen. Bob Casey

Sen. Bob Casey barely mentioned abortion during his speech tonight at on the floor of the Democratic National Convention.

In 1992, former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr. wanted to discuss his opposition to abortion but was denied a speaking slot. His son barely touched on the subject in his speech tonight.

"Traveling around Pennsylvania, and looking around this room, I have no doubt that is exactly what we're going to do. So now let us work together, with a leader who, as Lincoln said, appeals to the better angels of our nature. Barack Obama and I have an honest disagreement on the issue of abortion. But the fact that I'm speaking here tonight is testament to Barack's ability to show respect for the views of people who may disagree with him."

August 26, 2008

God-o-Meter Talks to Bob Casey Jr. Before Tonight's Convention Speech

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr's landing a prime time speaking slot at the Democratic convention is another step in the party's campaign to burnish its image among pro-lifers. Casey's dad, then-Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 Democratic convention because of his pro-life views. Casey Jr. called God-o-Meter to talk about his role at the convention and to give a little preview of tonight's speech:

Many pro-life Democrats were pushing for the opportunity for you to speak at the convention because of what it would represent symbolically, since your father was famously denied a speaking role at the 1992 convention over his pro-life views. Were you pushing for a speaking slot for that same reason?

We were invited to speak by Senator Obama's campaign and were grateful for the opportunity. But when you're in your first 18 months in the Senate, you shouldn't expect it. So I didn't ask.

Did your father's experience color your own reaction to learning that you'd been accorded a speaking role during prime time?

Everybody remembers 1992, but I also have memories of the 1988 convention, when [my father] did speak about the economic struggles our state had. So I think about more than one convention. What happened in 1992 is something people are talking about, the subject of a lot of discussion, but it's important to look ahead and not just recollect about the past.

Does your inclusion on tonight's speakers' lineup send a message that the Democratic Party has changed on abortion?

The fact that I'm speaking is really a testament to Senator Obama's willingness to reach out to people who disagree with him even on important issues. It's emblematic of his ability to put coalitions together on an issue and to bring all sides together. He's not just talking about that, but acting.

Do you see signs that pro-life voters are getting that message?

It's hard to tell. A lot of what will come before voters between now and Election Day. Most of the hard work of a campaign like this and most of the weighing that voters do when they decide who to vote for will come after the convention. That's the real decision period and the time for the really hard work.

How did you decide what you're going to speak about in your limited time tonight?

I'm speaking with about ten other governors, about the economy and about what I know about Barack Obama personally and about his ideas and his personality. That'll really be the focus of almost every speech at the convention. And also trying to bring people together. If Democrats are going to make the case that they can bring the country together, it's important to bring our party together.

Will your speech address the life issue, which is what many in the party identify you with?

Yes, it will. But it's mostly a night and an opportunity when we've been invited to focus on the economy and frankly what a lot of folks are struggling with in Pennsylvania. But certainly not only that. There's been a lot of discussion about '92, but there is an obvious disagreement I have with Senator Obama and we want to make sure that people understand that difference of opinion.

One of the things that's missing in this important debate in American politics is candid and honest talk about disagreements and an honest effort to try to find common ground. It's much easier to say you don't agree with someone and to continue fighting and discontinue the dialogue. It's much harder but it's important to be honest and show respect for others that we disagree but to actually work to bring the sides together.

One way to do that, and neither party has done enough on this, is to be very supportive of pregnant women. And the Pregnant Women Support Act is the only vehicle and the best vehicle to do that. It's a challenge to the left and a challenge to the right and helps not only bring the sides together but provides affirmative options for women. When a woman becomes pregnant, for most women that's a time of happiness and joy and they look forward to bearing a child. But to some it's a crisis because they don't have the economic wherewithal and the support they need. And a lot of women feel all alone and we don't do enough to show solidarity with them. As Pope John Paul II said, we should show radically solidarity with the woman facing these challenges. This piece of legislation is the one vehicle in American government for bringing the sides together and for providing women with options.

But is Senator Obama supporting it?

He's spoken about it. I have gotten to know him on the campaign trail and he spoke about the concept when he was at Rick Warren's church. So I believe he will be supportive. We have not talked directly about the bill but it's something I will be discussing with people in both parties. It's going to take a lot of work.

Also check out God-o-Meter's interview with Senator Casey in the run-up to the Pennsylvania primaries in April.

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

August 26, 2008

Faith caucus interrupted by abortion protester

Susan Thistlewaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, spoke at the first faith caucus and said, "I’ve been a pastor for 30 years, and I’m in favor of choice." One person shouted "Yeah!" and a few people clapped.

She then said she was in favor of a women being able to terminate a pregnancy if the other choice is not having health care or being able to provide adequate education.

A man stood up and yelled, "Are you saying it’s convenient to murder a child? Does that child have a choice?"

He was ushered out before she finished.
"I am proud of our Democratic platform because it is innovative on common ground," Thistlewaite said. "What kind of a choice can you make if you have no pre-natal care? Common ground for common good means you are not alone."

August 26, 2008

First faith caucus focuses on common good

Jim Wallis launched the Democratic National Convention faith caucuses this afternoon by listing the issues he believes is on the agenda of people of faith: poverty, climate change, immigration, the sanctity of life, Darfur, human rights, and Iraq.

"Let's be honest, religion has been used and abused by politics and by politicians. People of faith are those who should speak prophetically more than in a partisan way. It's important that we speak to those issues that are at the heart of God's heart, and try to make politics more of an accountable tool. In November, you won't be able to vote for the kingdom of God. It won't be on the ballot. There is a biblical basis for seeking the common good."

DNC CEO Leah Daughtry made a surprise, brief appearance and said she wants to make the faith caucuses a permanent part of the Democratic Party.

"I was talking with a reporter this morning, who asked about the separation from my faith from my work. I said there is no separation. My faith is part of who I am and it's not something I check at the door. Our faith walks with us through every part of our lives and it informs our decisions."

Rev. Jennifer Kottler, who has served as deputy director of Protestants for the Common Good urged those in the audience to lobby for raising the minimum wage. "A job should raise you out of poverty, not keep you in it," she said. "We have to make a difference in the lives of the least of these."

Rabbi Jack Moline of the Interfaith Alliance spoke on strengthening education and
Bishop Wilfredo DeJesus urged the crowd to support immigration legislation.

"We have failed to pass a law that respects family values, and Barack Obama respects family values, DeJesus said. "Let us support a system of bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the mainstream."

Tim Roemer, former congressman from Indiana who sits Sen. Barack Obama's Catholic advisory council praised the Democratic platform on abortion and John Hunter spoke on prisoner re-entry into the population.

August 26, 2008

Who's on Tonight: Not Just Clinton

All of the buzz today is on Hillary Clinton's big speech tonight (and, to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton's speech tomorrow night).

But this is also a fascinating night at the Democratic podium for a several other reasons. First, this is the night of Bob Casey Jr.'s address. It's an important symbolic moment because of the decision in 1992 to deny then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr. a speaking spot at the convention. Casey had wanted to talk about his opposition to abortion. Some suggest that the invitation to Casey Jr. demonstrates a Democratic Party that's more open to prolifers. Others say he's not as prolife as his father was.

It's unclear whether Casey will talk about abortion, but a few hours before his speech you'll almost certainly hear the subject come up as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards addresses the convention. A big difference: Casey is speaking in prime time. Richards is on around 4 p.m. (Casey also has a much better slot than Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Casey's opponent in the tumultuous 2002 primary race for governor. Reckon that has more to do with Casey's strong support for Obama over Rendell's major backing of Clinton than it does with either's views on abortion.)

Another speech tonight that could be more conservative or more religious than usual: that of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. The United Methodist minister did very well among evangelicals in 2006.

Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp won't be speaking tonight, but their presence will be felt. Their old organization, Common Good Strategies, is credited with helping Strickland, Casey, Kansas Gov.Kathleen Sebelius, and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm -- all of whom are speaking tonight -- win election in 2006 by emphasizing their religious backgrounds. All the podium is missing is Sen. Sherrod Brown (Oh.) and Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), but if they did that they'd probably have to make one of those video tributes to Vanderslice. (Vanderslice is now with the Matthew 25 Network. Sapp is at the Eleison Group.)

August 26, 2008

Will an interfaith service attract religious votes?

If you want a good summary of the interfaith gathering, Mollie over at GetReligion has raked through the mainstream press with excellent analysis.

She notes that several of the reporters wrote that the interfaith event was an effort to reach out to "values voters."

"Now if the reporters actually think that the interfaith service would woo evangelicals in the GOP, they are probably high or know nothing about culturally conservative evangelicals," she writes.

Mollie also wrote a piece for National Review with a nice summary and background. She has been to several interfaith services and said that this one followed suit with a few exceptions.

Looking back, it barely felt like a worship service to me. There were readings (from everything but the New Testament), there was beautiful choir singing, and there were read prayers. But because of the heavy politics in the speeches, it felt a little more like a pep rally than a worship service.

As Mollie writes, "Will the interfaith gathering help more religious voters feel comfortable with the Democratic party? Only time will tell. It’s somewhat difficult to imagine which religious voters would be swayed by a worship service with such liberal political advocacy."

In an earlier post, columnist Cal Thomas pointed out how many other evangelicals might feel about interfaith services.

"What do Christians have in common with Islam and with any of those other so called faiths that were there? Jesus said, 'I’m the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.' Why waste time on other things?"

August 26, 2008

Archbishop of Denver not pleased with Democrats' new abortion language

Evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Joel Hunter quickly praised the new Democratic platform on abortion a month ago, but Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput is not impressed. This is what he told me tonight at the vigil in front of Planned Parenthood.

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"I think [the Democrats] committed themselves without any doubt to choice on the matter of abortion, and I don't think that's a start.

I think caring for women who want to have their children is essential. That's a given. That isn't a step in the right direction, that's where we should all be standing from the beginning.

I stand with that with great enthusiasm, but it doesn't distract me from the fact that platform still allows for abortion and the destruction of unborn human life.

"Bishop Charles Blake did a marvelous service for all of us, and especially to the Democratic Party. He reminded us in the midst in social justice, one of the most important social issues is the protection of human life."

August 26, 2008

Thousands march around Denver Planned Parenthood

More than 2,000 people marched around a new Planned Parenthood Clinic in Denver tonight instead of following the Democratic National Convention.

Alveda King, a niece of the late Martin Luther King Jr., and Archbishop of Denver Charles Chaput spoke to the crowd before they lit candles and circled the gated clinic.

Alveda King's mother conceived her daughter when she was a freshman in college. She had wanted to get an abortion, but Martin Luther King Sr. told her mother she could not abort her baby.

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"This little baby human girl was allowed to live," she said to the cheering crowd.

King later aborted two of her children.

"People say, ?Aren't you embarrassed and ashamed to stand up and say you had abortions?" King said. "I'd be more embarrassed if I didn't tell you, because it is wrong, and without the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, I would not have been forgiven. Jesus Christ said, ?Go and sin no more.'"

She then praised Bishop Charles Blake's pro-life message at the interfaith gathering yesterday.

"He delivered some very startling and surprising words. They expected the rhetoric that always proceeds. But he began to tell the audience, ?I am a pro-life Democrat.' We want to commend those men and women and say that life is a civil right, life is precious, and that it transcends politics."

King wrote a guest column last week for the Denver Post, calling abortion an "industry of racism. She does not plan to vote for Sen. Barack Obama unless he changes his stance on abortion.

"People in every party should say, ?We're for life,'" she told Christianity Today. "They should not be held captive by politics in the battle and the struggle."

August 25, 2008

Cameron Strang on Fox

Flipping channels, I saw Relevant publisher Cameron Strang signing off an interview on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. Strang, as you probably know, was due to give tonight's benediction but bowed out. Anyone catch the interview? Did he say anything interesting that he didn't say in our earlier interview? (The sentence or two I saw suggested he was getting a bit of rough treatment.)

Update: Thanks to Jeremy Moore for the link to the video. Strang says being on stage and giving a benediction wouldn't let him talk about the issues his generation wants to talk about. He'd rather talk at the forums during the week, he says.

August 25, 2008

Don Miller's Benediction

Updated post: Here's the video of Miller's benediction:

Did anyone else wonder whether his introductory comment about the appropriateness of praying for good weather was a reference to the (pulled) Focus on the Family video on praying for rain?

Earlier Monday, Miller posted the text on his website. (They're posted after the jump.)

Continue reading Don Miller's Benediction...

August 25, 2008

Want a taste of the interfaith gathering?

Here's an excellent slideshow from the National Journal on yesterday's interfaith gathering.

Update: If you want the whole thing, C-Span has the video.

August 25, 2008

Words of wisdom from Cal Thomas

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas offered a few words of wisdom about the Democratic National Convention, but don't expect anything too political. His column runs in 550 newspapers and he is heard on over 300 radio stations.

"It’s whole matters little in eternity. It’s all a diversion from things that matter most. You look around and you see all the promises of politicians pledged to make our lives better, but no politician can make our lives better. That’s up to each individual. Plus, of course, the one glaring omission from all of this in Denver and in St. Paul is an accurate diagnosis of the human condition, which is, that we are sinners and do not need to be reformed as much as we need to be redeemed, which is something no politician has the power to do."

"That sounds rather blanket, but my first convention was when I was a copy boy for NBC in 1964. I’ve been to many of them since them, and I’ve not noticed that any politician has made any significant difference when it comes to poverty, race, war and peace issues, AIDS, education and the long list that Republicans and Democrats continue to address. That’s because they address it from the outside instead of from the inside where the problems lie.

"I notice the Democrats think they’re making inroads among the religious. The Democrats are trying to do some of the same thing at the Republican Party, that is to cynically manipulate Christians into believe that there’s more power in this world than there is in the kingdom not of this world."

(On the interfaith gathering)
"What do Christians have in common with Islam and with any of those other so called faiths that were there? Jesus said, 'I’m the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.' Why waste time on other things?"

(On the Democratic Party’s religious outreach)
"This is an attempt by man to bring God down to his level. The only time that God has stooped to our level is Jesus Christ so that we might be brought up to his level."

August 25, 2008

A sneak peek at Donald Miller's planned prayer

I just met with Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller who accepted an invitation last week to give the benediction at the DNC tonight.

I will post a longer interview later, but he gave me a few hints about his prayer tonight.

"I wrote a version of it and it was awful. It just sounded like something that was like every other political speech of idealistic language. I knew it when I wrote it and sent it to some friends and they said, ?huh.' I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it, got off the plane in Denver yesterday, stopped at a Mexican restaurant, on my way to the rehearsal where we had to enter the text into a teleprompter, I said ok, ?If there were no cameras on me, and there was no microphone on me, what would I pray, what would I request of God for the people who are in the room?' And I wrote that prayer.

"It's not very shocking, but it's, ?Be with people of power, and give them wisdom to come up with policies that will help the least of these, with opportunity to success, help to support people not causes, help us get our hands dirty, and then a sort of affirmation that we need God. All of our best efforts have not worked so far. We need him to show up and help us. And that's it.

"This is a prayer where I use the name of Jesus, and there was no push back at all. In fact I think I had something that they considered it to be a little tense against Republicans when I talk about our standing in the world and restore favor. They actually backed down some of the language.

"I'm telling you, if Christians were to show up here they'd be very, very surprised. You can find what you want to find if you believe these people are evil and hate you. You can find that much easier when you can find the evangelicals who are protesting, the things that they're doing and the language that they're hearing. They use blow horns, so they're easier to hear."

August 25, 2008

More interfaith gatherings, but over lunch

Several politicians spoke at the Faith & Politics Institute lunch today, but they tended to talk more broadly about faith without being too specific.

Here are some of Sen. Bob Casey's remarks:

"As a public official, one of the best ways to confront this issue of faith and how you talk about it in a campaign and the public square, is not only talk about your own reflection. One thing that’s been missing is a respect of people of other faiths. I think politicians think it’s best to talk about what you believe. Listening to others and their friends is as important as what we have to say.

"All of us need to do more to bring faith into the public square, to bring faith into our politics, because unless we do that, those we seek to help … cannot be helped in the way they need to be helped unless we bring this discussion into more and more campaigns."

Here are a few remarks from Katheleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor from Maryland, author of Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way.

"I really believe that children are not born good and they are not born bad. You have to teach them. That’s what I learned from my Catholic faith. I think it’s important to teach the values I learned as a child. Kids need to learn to serve, to care about others, to think about others. It came from my faith. In politics, what your faith gives you is to do things that aren’t popular but is the right thing to do.

"Faith gives you a way to deal with the toughest things in your life. We’ve dealt with a lot of tough things in our life. You have two choices. You can grow scared and angry and hit or you can say that that teaches you. We share these moments of difficulty with others, and if we open our hearts to others, our lives will be open to others. That’s really what I’ve learned from my faith."

By the way, the event ended with a prayer, er, a moment of silence.

August 25, 2008

Are evangelical votes up for grabs?

Faith in Public Life is holding a panel this morning to discuss the roles of evangelical and Catholic voters this fall and the energy around a common good agenda.

The panelists are Steve Waldman from Beliefnet, Ron Stief from Faith in Public Life, Alexia Kelley from Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good, Zack Exley from the blog revolutioninjesusland.com and moderator Amy Sullivan from Time.

Here are a few snippets that give you an idea of what they're saying.

Steif: People of faith are embracing a broader agenda. We’re seeking common ground, and we’re seeking new dialogue. The religious right no longer controls the values debate in this country.

Waldman: In 2004, I think there was one faith caucus meeting. It was a sad little affair. The key line from the last convention speech was John Kerry’s speech. He welcomed people of faith. It sounded like it was some other group that he was welcoming. In this case, they’re saying ‘we are people of faith.’ It’s a big open question, which way this goes. There’s a de-alignment of evangelicals, but they have not yet gone over and signed with the Democrats. They’re right in the middle.

Exley: A few years ago, I stumbled in from the secular left into this white, evangelical, most of these suburban, working class culture. I sort of married into this. I became an accidental anthropologist in this culture. I was just shocked the first time I went into these megachurches. The young people are becoming pacifists. I know there are a lot of people who voted for Bush in 2004 and will vote for Obama.

August 24, 2008

Video: Burns Strider's reaction to the interfaith opener

Burns Strider ran the religious outreach for the Hillary Clinton campaign and now runs the Eleison Group with Eric Sapp. Here are a few of his comments following the interfaith gathering.

August 24, 2008

Faith in Public Life's reaction to the interfaith gathering

Rev. Ron Stief, director of organizing strategy for Faith in Public Life, gave me his initial response to the interfaith gathering.

"In Boston back in 2004, I had 15 faith leaders come to a lunch, and that was it. A lot of faith leaders were saying, 'What was that? What did you just invite me to?' because it was so new. People weren't used to being invited to bring our issues into the conversation. Here, it's a major interfaith event, it launched the entire convention. What I like about the faith community is and probably why we haven't been invited before you can't control us, we work based on our own moral convictions.

"The fact that the party could put something together and let the faith community speak from their heart what needs to be done, if that doesn't indicate openness by this party to a range of issues, I don't know what does. The forum itself was just amazing, about letting the faith leaders come and speak. This will probably be one of the most open discussions that happens in this convention. This was to bring what is the mood in the country. There's a tremendous mood for change in the faith community. That's why these folks are here.

"This was a chance really for the black evangelical and Pentecostal community to say, 'Hey we're part of the evangelical community, too.' I think it's good for people to understand the diversity of the evangelical community.

"I don't know if I would've changed anything [about today]. I actually think they got it right, which is not easy to do. I've done enough interfaith events. It was very broadly represented of what this country looks like demographically with faith. We put out capital punishment, torture, abortion reduction, poverty, the environment. Maybe the Democratic Party can just vote on our agenda and go home, save themselves three days of the convention. I was pretty impressed with the platform that was laid out here."

August 24, 2008

Politicians at the interfaith gathering

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter invoked a passage of Micah as an example of how faith intersects with politics.

"Politics is about us as spiritual beings understand that there is a God, that this is a created world," he said. "In Micah, it says love justice, be merciful and walk humbly with our God."

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) sat in the front row.

The theater seating 5,000 inside the convention center was not packed, but an impressive number attended the first official event.

"This is just the beginning for us as people of faith," DNC CEO Leah Daughtry said. There will be caucuses for people of faith later in the week.

August 24, 2008

Catholic activist speaks out against death penalty and torture

Sister Helen Prejean spoke against the death penalty and torture during her address at the interfaith gathering.

"It reveals the deepest wounds of our nation ? a readiness to use violence to solve social problems. We've killed over a thousand people in our killing chambers. It's the death of white people that causes outrage in our country.

"90 percent plus on death row are poor. Our DNA instinct of this country is to kill people. If needed, torture the enemy since he's not human like we are anyway. We are not worthy of the death penalty as a people. I invite dialogue with both political parties.

"There's a deep religious underpinning. When you start talking about the death penalty, the image of God comes forward. Many people still have an image that God demands an eye for an eye, it's God who's pleased with a sacrifice.

"There's a deep religious underpinning. When you start talking about the death penalty, the image of God comes forward. Many people still have an image that God demands an eye for an eye, it's God who's pleased with a sacrifice.

"There are those in the Christian community that say ... when we kill criminals for their crimes, God accepts their death as payment. What kind of father would demand the death of a son? Is it a God or an ogre? We project a God of vengeance. Jesus forgave his executioners and showed us the way of compassions. Jesus showed such a way of loving that no one can be called enemy, at least for long. He said, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice. Not a life for a life." Jesus said, "Pray for those who persecute you."

"Our faith goes hand in hand with our understanding of human rights. Every human being has the right to life and no human being should be tortured. All religions teach humans have sacred life."

August 24, 2008

Interfaith keynote addresses abortion

The keynote for the interfaith gathering is a pro-life pastor who did not shy away from the abortion issue in his address. Maybe it was just me, but I felt the room tense up as soon as he called himself a pro-life Democrat.

Here are some of the remarks from Bishop Charles E. Blake, presiding prelate of the Church of God In Christ, Inc. and pastor of West Angeles Church of God In Christ.

"Surely we cannot be pleased with the routine administration of millions of surgically terminated pregnancies. Something in us must be calling for a better way. We know that our party will acknowledge the moral and spiritual pain because of this disregard for the unborn. Those of us who support the Democratic Party support it because the Democratic Party supports more of the positions that are relevant to the lives of our people, the people of America in general, and the people in the world. Others loudly proclaim their advocacy for the unborn, but they refuse to recognize their responsibility and the responsibility of our nation, to those who are born. (standing ovation) Senator Obama and all of us should follow up and elaborate on his stated intention to reduce the number of abortions (interrupted by clapping) … We should support him in this endeavor."

August 24, 2008

No New Testament reading?

The religious leaders and the interfaith gathering read from a diverse list of religious texts, but there's nothing from the New Testament.

The leaders read from the Torah (Gen. 45 and 48), Metta Sutra, the Qur'an, and the New American Bible (Isaiah 58).

August 24, 2008

Yes, there are people of faith who are Democrats

DNC's CEO Leah Daughtry gave the first speech at the interfaith gathering. Here is part of the speech where she emphasizes how there are people of faith in the Democratic Party.

"Over the past few years, many have had much to say about our efforts to ‘bring faith’ to the Democratic Party. With all due respect to the commentators and my friends in the media, we didn’t need to bring faith to the Democratic Party, faith was already here. (clapping). Those of us know that Democrats, are, have been, and continue to be people of faith.

"We believe we are created equal and each one of us deserves the opportunity to live full and prosperous lives. Our responsibility to our neighbor is at least as important as our responsibility to God. These values of fairness, opportunity, inclusion, and respect are central to my faith. While our party may not be perfect, it is perfect for me. We stand at crossroads today. Our jobs are disappearing. We are working harder and earning less.

"Today is a celebration of our faith and our values. The best tradition of the Democratic Party. Today we respect our differences while striving to find our commonalities. It remains true that there’s more that unites us than divides us."

August 24, 2008

Interfaith gathering interrupted by anti-abortionists

The start of the DNC's interfaith gathering was less than peaceful.

One man stood up and said, "Obama supports the murder of children by abortion." He was quickly booed and ushered out.

After the choir sang, another man stood up after a choir song and said, "Abortion is murder."

Between songs, a third man said, "Obama is a baby killer." The crowd began chanting "Obama. Obama. Obama."

August 24, 2008

DNC launches interfaith gathering

The Democratic National Convention is about to launch its interfaith gathering, but I don't see any evangelical pastors from Denver on the list:

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr.
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Presiding Prelate of the Church of God In Christ, Inc. and Pastor, West Angeles Church of God In Christ
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America
Social Activist Sister Helen Prejean
Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, Executive Vice President of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Governor Howard Dean, DNC Chairman
Leah D. Daughtry, DNCC CEO

Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center
Rabbi Steven Foster from Congregation Emmanuel
Dr. Polly Baca, Center for Spirituality at Work
Reverend Lucia Guzman, Director, Human Rights/Community Relations
Richard Smallwood & Vision
The Spirituals Project
Trinity United Methodist Church Choir
The Denver Indian Singers

August 23, 2008

Biden's Abortion Record -- Pro-Choice Centrist

Below is a collection of the ratings of Joe Biden by various abortion-related groups.

Here's the bottom line: Biden is a pro-choice centrist on abortion. What does that mean? He votes consistently with the pro-choice forces on most matters, and is a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade -- but he departed from pro-choice orthodoxy on two of the biggest abortion issues:

--Unlike Obama, he opposes federal funding for abortion, arguing that has pro-choice views should not be imposed on others. "I still am opposed to public funding for abortion," he said on Meet the Press in 2007. "It goes to the question of whether or not you're going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote."

--Unlike Obama, he voted for the ban on late term abortions.

On most other issues - stem cell research, banning abortions on military bases, etc - Biden supported the pro-choice position.

Now for the ratings:

Biden got a 60% rating from the National Abortion Right Action League in 2007 and a 36 in 2003. (NARAL's ratings for Biden are very confusing. One part of the website lists him as having a 60% rating, another part says he has a 75% rating but was absent for five of the six votes. ) In 2006 he apparently got a 100% .

The National Right to Life Committee gives him a consistent zero.

Democrats for Life gives him a 33%

In earlier years, he got lower ratings from the pro-choice groups and higher ratings from the pro life groups, for instance , he got 34% in 1997 from NARAL and a 41% from the National Right to Life Committee.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 23, 2008

Biden's Rosary

For those who don't have time to read the full Christian Science Monitor piece on Joe Biden's faith, here are the most salient parts.

He went to high school at a Catholic boys school called Archmere, and goes to mass almost weekly. "I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It's my time alone," he says.

He carries a rosary. When he had brain surgery for an aneurism he asked the doctors if he could keep the rosary under his pillow.

In Junior high he briefly considered entering seminary to be a priest but his mother urged him to wait until after he'd had some experience dating girls. "I told him: 'Wait until you start dating girls, then go,' " said Mrs. Biden

When he faced unspeakable tragedy - his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident - he turned heavily to faith. The Monitor reports:

His spiritual crisis was not so readily resolved. "I never doubted that there was a God, but I was angry with God," he says. "I was very self-centered: How could God do this to me?"

Friends close to Biden during this time credit his faith for helping pull him through the despair. "In times of crisis, he goes to church a lot," says Ted Kaufman, a former chief of staff who was with Biden for 22 years.

What also helped break his rift with God was a cartoon his father, Joe Biden Sr., gave him. It showed "Hagar the Horrible" blasted by lightning. The bubble read, "Why me, God" - and the answer: "Why not." Biden says: "I realized, who am I to think that I'm so special?"

He was as Vatican II Catholic, meaning he was encouraged to question and discuss Church doctrine. "Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged," Biden says. He recalled a question in ninth-grade theology class at Archmere:


"How many of you questioned the doctrine of transubstantiation?" the teacher asked, referring to the teaching that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist. No hands were raised. Finally, Biden raised his. "Well, we have one bright man, at least," the teacher said.

The teacher didn't say criticizing the church was good. "He led me to see that if you cannot defend your faith to reason, then you have a problem," Biden says.


More thoughts soon on how Biden's Catholicism has affected his views on public policy.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 23, 2008

Obama chooses Biden

The guessing games are finally over, and Sen. Barack Obama's campaign sent the official text message at 3 a.m. declaring Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has a nice site set up giving a brief bio and links to articles on Biden's Catholic background.

August 22, 2008

Donald Miller to Give DNC Benediction

The author will replace Relevant founder Cameron Strang, who pulled out of the prayer earlier.

Best-selling author Donald Miller will give a benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. He replaces Relevant Magazine founder and CEO Cameron Strang, who decided not to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention as previously planned.

Christianity Today featured Miller on its cover in June 2007, and his spirituality book Blue Like Jazz has sold more than one million copies.

"Don is one of the top names among young evangelicals," said Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Barack Obama campaign. "We didn't think he would do it. We're just ecstatic. I love Blue Like Jazz myself. I think it sends a huge signal that someone who's is helping to lead off the conventions is an evangelical of his calibre."

I spoke to Miller this morning.

Why did you choose to accept the invitation?
Somebody calls you and asks you to pray, you do.

You get three minutes to pray? Have you thought about what you're going to pray?
I've not written the prayer yet, but I really wanted to hone in on the theme of unity, even unity between Republicans and Democrats. In the convention, as we highlight our differences that we wouldn't forget that we're unified, we have more in common than we don't. That's the focus of the prayer.

Cameron Strang was in that slot before and said that people perceived the prayer as showing favoritism. Are you worried you'll receive the same reactions?
I'm not. I'm a registered Democrat. While that's perceived as black or white, or hostile toward the Republican Party, I grew up in the Republican Party. I even attended as a kid the Republican National Convention when it was in Houston when Bush Sr. was running against Clinton. I changed parties about five years ago. I really felt like the Republican Party was taking advantage of the evangelical community by throwing us abortion and gay marriage, really not giving the heart of Christ more thought. I felt like it was the party of the extremely wealthy and they needed this conservative base in order to get a majority and so they pandered to us.

(The rest of the Q & A is posted after the jump.)

Continue reading Donald Miller to Give DNC Benediction...

August 21, 2008

Americans: churches should stay out of politics

Many Americans wanted religious institutions involved in politics over the past decade, but a recent study shows that a the majority (52 percent) say churches should keep out.

Among evangelicals, 36 percent say that churches should keep out of politics, a hike from 20 percent who said the same thing in 2004, a study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows.

The study also shows that 68 percent of evangelicals said they support Sen. John McCain, which is down slightly from the 71 percent of evangelicals that supported President Bush in August 2004.

There has been a lot of talk about the broadening of the "evangelical agenda" since 2004 because evangelicals care about the environment and poverty. The study shows abortion and gay marriage rank fairly low on the "very important" list, but so does the environment, and poverty isn't listed.

The chart below shows the list of what evangelicals consider "very important" from top to bottom.

August 20, 2008

Cameron Strang pulls out of DNC benediction

Magazine founder recommended author Donald Miller.

Relevant Magazine founder and CEO Cameron Strang decided not to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention as previously planned.

Strang said his planned prayer was perceived as showing favoritism, so he pulled out and recommended Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller instead.

Strang sent the following statement to me in an e-mail.

"As a pro-life voter, I never intended my participation to imply unequivocal endorsement, and the DNC knew that and were fine with that. I viewed it simply as an opportunity to continue positive dialogue, show support for a continuing emphasis on faith issues, and pray in a forum where faith isn't typically thought to be emphasized. I wanted to show that this generation of values voters doesn't necessarily need to draw battle lines politically the way previous generations have, that we can work through areas of disagreement to further the common good.

"However, the reality is, through RELEVANT I reach a demographic that has strong faith, morals and passions, but disagreements politically. It wouldn't be wise for me to pick a political side, when I've consistently said both sides are right in some areas and both sides are wrong in some areas. My desire is to keep an open dialogue with both campaigns and talk about the issues that matter to my generation of Christians. If my praying at the DNC was perceived as showing favoritism and incorrectly labeling me as endorsing one candidate over the other, then I needed to have pause. And that's what was happening.

"So I brought that concern up to the DNC, and they understood. I recommended bestselling author Don Miller as a much better representative of our audience than I am, and they were glad to invite him to give the invocation in my place. I think this will ultimately be much better for the DNC. The campaign and I still have positive dialogue, and I'm thankful for that.

"Like I mentioned, they've invited me to participate in a "Faith in the '08 Election" panel on Thursday, which seems to be a perfect fit. It allows me to continue a positive conversation with the DNC and be involved a bit more behind the scenes. I want to make sure our generation of Christians has a place at the table, so to speak, and this will afford us that chance -- even moreso than if I was to give a prayer onstage.

"As an aside, in a "put your money where your mouth is" move this week, I changed my party affiliation from Republican to Independent. I want to vote because of values and convictions, not party affiliations. To me, that's an important part of being a thinking, values-minded Christian."

August 20, 2008

The international media's take on Saddleback

Media outlets are still parsing Rick Warren's forum with the presidential candidates on Saturday. Tom Heneghan at Reuters' religion blog took a look at some of the international headlines.

"It's striking how many chose the term 'confession' to describe the event," he writes. Here's a sample:

U.S. religious forum would not have happened here - The separation of church and state is more notional than real in the U.S. (Montreal Gazette, Canada)

Obama&McCain:Confession in front of puritans (Journal du Dimanche, France)

McCain and Obama confess their sins (Elsevier, Netherlands)

Campaign launched for religious voters ? Obama and McCain "confessed" to the pastor of the nation (DieStandard.at, Austria)

Obama and McCain reveal their dark sides on stage (La Stampa, Italy)

Confession road to the White House (El Peri?dico de Catalunya, Spain)

August 19, 2008

Would McCain choose a pro-abortion candidate?

Vice presidential candidate guessing games continue

Sen. John McCain told the Weekly Standard last week that he would consider a pro-abortion candidate, but Fox News reports today that has ruled out former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Republican National Committee officials told Fox today that McCain is no longer considering Ridge, who supports abortion rights. McCain has announced that he will announce his running mate Aug. 26, the day after the Democratic National Convention ends.

Fox reports that senior McCain advisers and aides have told RNC officials that McCain "got the message" last week that choosing a running mate who supports abortion rights would not be helpful.

The National Review reported yesterday that the McCain campaign had called state Republican officials around the country the last couple of days to weigh consequences of a pro-choice running mate.

The Associated Press reports that McCain's top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Sen. Barack Obama may announce his running mate this Saturday. His short list includes Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh.

August 18, 2008

Rick Warren gave candidates an early glance at questions

Saddleback pastor Rick Warren gave the presidential candidates an early look at some of the questions he planned to ask them Saturday, the Washington Post reports.

He gave three examples of questions: What is your greatest moral failure? What is America's greatest moral failure? Who are the three people you rely on for wise advice?

Warren's spokesman A. Larry Ross told the Post that Warren provided McCain and Obama with the four subject areas: leadership, stewardship, worldview and international compassion. He also gave them a sense of the themes he would ask about, including topics such as energy and taxes.

On "Larry King Live" tonight, Warren said he thought Sen. John McCain had been in a "green room," what he called a "cone of silence" during Sen. Barack Obama's answers. Instead, McCain was in a car on the way to the church. Warren said that he takes McCain's word that he did not gain an advantage by hearing.

August 18, 2008

Rick Warren to God-o-Meter: Obama, Dems Can't Just Talk Faith

In an interview with Beliefnet's God-o-Meter on the day after his Saddleback Civil Forum with John McCain and Barack Obama, the Rev. Rick Warren sounded pretty dubious about Barack Obama's and the Democrats' chances of making inroads among evangelicals. The full interview will run Monday on Beliefnet. Here's a preview:

Before last night, McCain had been widely criticized by Christian activists for keeping mum about his faith and about values issues like abortion and marriage Last night seemed to change that. How much headway did McCain make among skeptical evangelicals?

I'm a pastor, I'm not a prophet, so I would not predict how evangelicals are going to vote. I will tell you they're not monolith. That's a big myth. They're going to make up their minds based on the hierarchy of their values. For many evangelicals, of course, if they believe that life begins at conception, that's a deal breaker for a lot of people. If they think that life begins at conception, then that means that there are 40 million Americans who are not here [because they were aborted] that could have voted. They would call that a holocaust and for them it would like if I'm Jewish and a Holocaust denier is running for office. I don't care how right he is on everything else, it's a deal breaker for me. I'm not going to vote for a Holocaust denier...

It all depends on the hierarchy of their worldview of what matters most to them. My gut reaction when it was over was that Obama will pick up probably some younger votes and McCain will probably pick up some older votes and it might come down to which group winds up showing up that the polls.

The Democrats recently added language to their party platform that they say is aimed at reducing demand for abortion. Do you think it represents a significant step toward a pro-life position?

It is a step, there's no doubt about that. I've been getting a lot of feedback on it. I was out of the country and people starting writing me about it. The general perception was 'Too little too late--window dressing". I'm not saying I would say this, because I haven't even read it, but what I was hearing form people was that [Democrats] were saying 'It's OK to be pro-life and be a Democrat now. In other words, 'You can join us. We're not changing our firm commitment to Roe v. Wade, but you can now join us.' Well, for a person who thinks that abortion is taking a life, I'm sure that's not going to be very satisfactory to most of those people. And to put it in right at the last minute at the end of a campaign, there was some question about that: Why are they doing this?

When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying 'it's above my pay grade.' Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?

No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, 'Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out' because if I was wrong then it had severe implications to my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.

That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about 'Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now. And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts. But I really think it's wishful thinking on a lot of people who think they're going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda....

If an evangelical really believes that the Bible is literal--in other word in Psalm 139 God says 'I formed you in your mother's womb and before you were born I planned every day of your life,' if they believe that's literally true, then they can't just walk away from that. They can add other issues, but they can't walk away from the belief that at conception God planned that child and to abort it would be to short circuit the purpose.

Then it sounds like it would be unconscionable for an evangelical to vote for a pro-choice candidate like Obama.

Well, we're going to see what happens. All I can say is you'll see what happens. This is why there's a difference between simply talking the lingo... after the 2004 election the Democratic pundits were saying 'The Democrats lost in '04 because they didn't talk the language of faith.' And actually that's kind of, not paternalistic, but it's talking down. It's basically saying 'If you just get the right words, then they'll think you've got the lingo.' And just because a person can say 'God' and 'Jesus' and 'salvation' and whatever doesn't mean they have a worldview. And people want to know what do they believe, not just their personal faith. It's just like how many different beliefs do Jews and Christians have and still call themselves Christians or Jews? It's all over the spectrum.

Some Obama supporters are claiming that McCain saw the questions before the forum began, giving him a leg up on Obama.

They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes. They both did fantastically well. The only question he knew, I gave them the first question and I was changing the questions within an hour [before the forum began.] I talked to both of them a week before the debate and told them all the themes. I talked personally to John McCain and I talked personally to Barack Obama. I said, 'We'll talk about leadership, talk about the roles of government,' I said I'd probably have a question about climate change, probably a question on the courts. I didn't say, 'I'm going to ask which Supreme Court justice would you not [nominate]. They were clearly not prepared for that.

A source at the debate tells me that McCain had access to some communications devices in the few minutes before he went on stage with you and that there was a monitor in his green room, in violation of the debate rules.

That's absolutely a lie, absolutely a lie. That room was totally free, with no monitors--a flat out lie.

(Originally posted at God-o-Meter.)

August 16, 2008

Joel Hunter and Cameron Strang to pray at Democratic National Convention

Jim Wallis will moderate the faith caucus.

Relevant Magazine founder and CEO Cameron Strang and Florida mega-church pastor Joel Hunter will pray at the Democratic National Convention later this month, according to a DNC press release.

Strang will give the benediction on Monday, August 25 and Hunter will give the benediction on Thursday, August 28. Sojourners head Jim Wallis will moderate the faith caucus on "Common Ground on Common Good" and "Faith in 2009: How an Obama Administration will Engage People of Faith" on Tuesday, August 26.

David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, will be a panelist on the caucus on "Moral Values Issues Abroad" on Thursday, August 28. The full list of religious speakers is below.

Continue reading Joel Hunter and Cameron Strang to pray at Democratic National Convention...

August 16, 2008

In case you missed it

The transcript of the Saddleback forum is available here.

August 16, 2008

The candidates on Supreme Court justices

One of the more surprising questions from Rick Warren was, "Which Supreme Court justice would you not have nominated?"

Barack Obama said Clarence Thomas.

"I don't think that he was as strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution. I would not nominate Justice Scalia although I don't think there's any doubt about his intellectual brilliance because he and I just disagree, you know. ... One of the most important jobs of I believe the Supreme Court is to guard against the encroachment of the executive branch on the power of the other branches and I think that he has been a little bit too willing and too eager to give an administration whether it's mine or George Bush's more power than I think the constitution originally intended."

John McCain said Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens.

"This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record of strictly adhering to the constitution ... and not legislating from the bench. Justice Alito and Justice Roberts are two of my most recent favorites. I’m proud of President Bush for nominating them."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

More on Obama and abortion

CBN's David Brody interviewed Sen. Barack Obama right after the Saddleback forum, and when he asked about the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, Obama became pretty heated.

"They have not been telling the truth ... I have said repeatedly that I would be completely support of the federal bill, which is to say that you would provide assistance to any infant that was born. ... That was not the bill that was presented at the state level. It was trying to undermine Roe v. Wade."

Brody will post the full video later tonight.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Georgia, the Christian Nation

Why does McCain keep bringing religion into the Georgia-Russia conflict?

McCain had some criticism earlier this week among some religion-and-politics bloggers when he noted that Georgia is "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion."

The criticism earlier focused on the church-state aspects of the comment.

"First of all, a nation cannot 'convert' to Christianity -- only individuals can choose to follow Jesus Christ," Wake Forest University's Melissa Rogers wrote on her blog. "Second, while some nations do establish an official religion, I find it disturbing that an American presidential candidate would seem to describe that as a good thing."

Steve Waldman thought the line was political, communicating:

1) I think having Christianity as an official religion is a fine idea in general
2) This is just like the Cold War when the forces of Christianity are at war with the forces of Atheism
3) I view the protection of Christians from attack worldwide as an important goal

Mark Silk just thought McCain's comment was weird.

But tonight, after McCain repeated the line, recent Eastern Orthodox convert Rod Dreher just got mad. "Total and shameless pandering to Evangelicals," he blogged. "As if Russia isn't a Christian nation. As if Russia hasn't been Christian for over a thousand years. As if Christianity had anything to do with this conflict."

Seriously, though, if you're looking for a good religion angle on the conflict, check out George Pitcher's Telegraph article on church responses.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

McCain on stem-cell research, abortion, marriage, and evil

Conservative evangelicals have raised John McCain's support of embryonic stem-cell research in opposition to his candidacy.

McCain addressed it briefly in his response to Rick Warren's "worldview questions." "For those of us in the pro-life community, this is a great struggle. … I’ve come down on the side of stem cell research, but I’m wildly optimistic that skin cell research … will make this debate an academic one."

Rick Warren: At what point is baby is entitled to human rights?
John McCain's answer: At the moment of conception. I have a 25 year pro-life record in congress, in the senate. This presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment to you.
Warren's answer: We won’t go longer on that one.

Warren: Define marriage.
McCain: A union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. The court overturned the definition of marriage. I believe they were wrong. I’m a federalist. I believe states should make that decision. That doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into legal agreements, that they don’t’ have the rights of all citizens.

When asked a question on evil, McCain said, "If I have to go to gates and hell and back, I will get Osama Bin Laden."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

McCain's faith

Rick Warren's question: How does faith work out for you on a daily basis?

John McCain's answer: "It means I’m saved and forgiven."
He then told a story about worshiping with another Christian during his captivity in Vietnam. On Christmas, a North Vietnamese guard walked with him in the yard, and drew a cross in the dirt and quickly scratched it out.

"For a minute there, it was just two Christians worshiping together. I'll never forget that."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Moral failure

Obama has already had a lot of ink spilled on what he told Warren his biggest moral failure was: using drugs and alcohol and selfishness in his youth.

McCain's answer was short: "The failure of my first marriage." Background is here if the answer was a surprise.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Gotcha?

How's Warren doing as moderator?

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder asks a good question: If "which Supreme Court member would you not have voted for" (and, I'd add, "what's your greatest moral failure") don't count as "gotcha questions," what's a gotcha question?

As for Warren, so far Rod Dreher thinks he's doing a bad impression of a journalist. but Steve Waldman points out that "Warren's questions are MUCH better than the TV journalists that moderated previous debates."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

The candidates' and the country's greatest failures

Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama just stood on the same platform for the first time this campaign.

One of the first questions Rick Warren posed to the candidates was: What would be the great moral failure in your life? What would be the great moral failure in America.

McCain said his personal failure was the failure of his first marriage but didn't say anything further on it. The country's greatest failure was its own self-interest.

"I think after 9/11, my friends, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, expand the military, serve a cause greater than your self-interest," he said.

Obama's answer about himself:

"I had a difficult youth ... I experimented with drugs and drank ... I trace this to a certain selfishness on my point ... I couldn't focus on other people. The process of me growing up is to recognize that it’s not about me."

On the country's greatest failure:

"We still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me. That basic principle applies to poverty to racism and sexism. It applies to not thinking about ladders of opportunity to get in the middle class. As wealthy and powerful as we are don't spend enough time thinking about the least of these."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Obama on abortion

Pastor Rick Warren posed a question on abortion to Sen. Barack Obama.

Warren asks, "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?"

Here is some of Obama's answer:

"Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade.

"Let me speak more generally about the issue of abortion. One thing that I am absolutely convinced of is there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. ... I am pro-choice...not because I'm pro-abortion. But ultimately I do not think women make these decisions causally.

"I am for limits on late-term abortion.

"If you believe that life begins at conceptions, and you are consistent in that belief, then I can’t argue with you on that. That is a core issue of faith for you. What I can do is say are there ways to work together to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
As an example of that is, how do we provide the resources for women to keep a child? … Have we given them the options of adoption?"

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Obama is still not a Muslim

Twelve percent of respondents believe Barack Obama is Muslim, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

Rick Warren asked Obama: What does it mean to you to trust in Christ on a daily basis.

"I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed by him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone. I know if I can get myself out of the way, I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends. Those things that I have on a fairly regular basis will get washed way. It also means an sense of obligation to embrace not through just words but deeds the expectations God has for us. That means thinking about the least of these. It means acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

What about Proposition 8?

Leaving marriage to the states? Really?

At the Saddleback Civil Forum, Obama just said that he opposes a federal marriage amendment because he thinks it's not something the federal constitution should decide. It's a state issue, he says.

He also says he supports civil unions, but thinks marriage is between a man and a woman.

So why does he oppose California's Proposition 8? It only deals with marriage, but would allow civil unions.

If "leaving the issue to the states" doesn't mean allowing a state to define marriage, what does it mean?

Too bad Warren didn't ask a follow up question on it, considering it's his own state.

Update: Warren, who said he'd ask the same questions of both candidates, just asked McCain about the California Supreme Court decision and Proposition 8. McCain says he thinks the states rather than the federal government should define marriage, but does support a federal marriage amendment if necessary. He has also supported Prop. 8.

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 16, 2008

Presidential candidates face off at Saddleback

California mega-church pastor Rick Warren will interview the presumptive presidential candidates at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

The candidates will probably not introduce new political stances, but they may pitch new ideas of how to respond to issues like abortion or the environment.

So far, though, it seems as though several people are more interested in the questions Warren will ask. Warren has been kind of a poster child for evangelicals who have expanded their "agenda" from abortion and homosexuality to HIV/AIDS and the environment.

"I think Rick is in an unenviable position in that he stands to get attacked from the right and the left, based on what direction he takes," Mark DeMoss, an evangelical public relations specialist told Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press. "As an evangelical, I am much more interested in his list of questions than in either of their answers."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.

August 14, 2008

McCain's POW church riot

Sen. John McCain was once dubbed a "Hell's Angel" when he and other prisoners of war rioted against their captors in order to hold a church service during the Vietnam War, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Vietnamese told the prisoners they could not hold a church service, and once they began singing songs, the captors marched about 20 of the prisoners out of the room at gunpoint. The Vietnamese then moved them to a camp where conditions were unsanitary.

Just before his upcoming appearance at Saddleback Church this Saturday, McCain, who is usually quiet about his faith, opened up even more about his POW experience to reporter Jill Zuckman.

Every Sunday, the highest-ranking officer would cough loudly and say the letter 'c' for church, Zuckman writes. The prisoners would then say the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. They used diarrhea pills mixed with cigarette ash - or charcoal or dirt - to write lines of Scripture and share them, Zuckman reports.

"We wanted to actually just have a chance to do what we felt was a fundamental human right ... and we got spiritual comfort from being able to worship together," McCain said.

McCain's fellow prisoners eventually made him informal chaplain. Zuckman writes:

His first lesson - he doesn't like to call them sermons - recounted the biblical story of the man who asked Jesus whether he should pay taxes. Jesus replied, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's."

McCain's point was that the prisoners should not pray for freedom, nor for harm to come to their captors.

"What I was trying to tell my fellow prisoners is that we were doing Caesar's work when we got into prison, so we should ask for God's help to do the right thing and for us to get out of prison if it be God's will for us to do so," McCain said. "Not everybody agreed with that."

McCain also organized a Christmas service where he copied sections of Matthew, Mark and John describing the birth of Christ so he could read them aloud while other POWs sang Christmas carols.

"In our case, faith is private," said his wife, Cindy, adding that once voters get to know him, "they will know he is a man of faith."

Pastor of Saddleback Rick Warren compared McCain to Jerry Ford in an interview on Thursday with David Brody of CBN.

John's faith is more like the faith of say a Jerry Ford. Jerry Ford was a born again believer. He just didn't believe in talking about. In fact when you go back over the last seven or eight Presidents -- you go through Jerry Ford, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. What do these men have in common? Nothing. They're all opposite except every one of the men claimed to be born again. Some of them talked about it more than the others, but some of them didn't which shows that a person could have a born again faith and be way on the difference in politics.

August 14, 2008

The National Storyline

The latest Pew poll, showing a three-point lead for Obama (down from five points in June), has McCain increasing his margin among Protestants from one point to seven--entirely from evangelicals, since he's lost three points off his margin among mainliners. Obama, meanwhile, has gained ground among Catholics, increasing his margin from two points to five. That's thanks to a shift among white Catholics who in June were supporting McCain by six points and now just by one. Nationwide, white evangelicals support McCain 68-24 (hello, Barna?) and white mainliners 50-39. In 2004, John Kerry lost the Protestant vote to George Bush by 19 points and the Catholic vote by five. So Obama is currently running ahead of Kerry in both cases by the nearly identical margins of 12 and 10 points respectively. White mainline Protestants are moving away from McCain and white Catholics are headed in Obama's direction. I'd say it's time to start writing stories about McCain's Catholic problem.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

August 14, 2008

Huck v. Romney

It's time to connect the flip-flop charge to the anti-Mormon thing.

Huck tells Fox that the Mittster would be a bad choice for VP because of his flipflopping, but not because he's a Mormon: "I think there are better choices for Sen. McCain that have the approval of value voters." It's time to connect the flip-flop charge to the anti-Mormon thing.

Many values voters--i.e. evangelicals--distrust Mormons. Why? Because, in evangelical eyes, Mormons claim to be something they're not; to wit, Christians. People who change positions are not trustworthy because they claim to be something they didn't use to be. The suspicion is they're sailing under false pretenses, pretending to be something they aren't. So what I'd say is that by so vigorously embracing all the values values voters embrace--rather than maintaining a certain distance--Romney actually reinforced anti-Mormon sentiment among evangelicals. (As in: "He says he's just like us? What else would you expect from a Mormon?") Just the opposite of what he intended. And at this point irremediable.

Originally posted at Spiritual Politics.

August 13, 2008

CT Readers Flip Flop

Christianity Today online readers declared more support for Sen. John McCain than Sen. Barack Obama in our poll this week, flip flopping from their support of Obama last month.

The Barna Group's most recent survey found that McCain holds a narrow lead among evangelicals of 39 percent to Obama's 37 percent. Twenty-third percent of evangelicals are still undecided about who they will vote for, Barna says.

In this month's CT online poll, McCain pulled ahead of Obama (44%) with 48 percent, while Obama drew 51 percent to McCain's 41 percent last month.

Last month, 3,189 readers voted compared to this month's 2,532 votes. The polls are conducted online and are usually left up for about three days.

August 12, 2008

Focus on the Family Action Pulls Video

Focus on the Family Action pulled a video off its site Monday that asks people to pray for rain during Sen. Barack Obama's anticipated acceptance speech in Denver later this month.

Stuart Shepard, director of digital media at Focus Action told Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Mark Barna that the video, posted July 30, was meant to be "mildly humorous."

Tom Minnery, Focus Action vice president of public policy, told the Gazette that the video was taken down Monday because several Focus members complained that prayer shouldn't be used to bring harm on someone else.

"We are not about confusing people about prayer," Minnery said.

August 12, 2008

Obama's Squandered Opportunity on Abortion -- and How He Could Turn It Around

Earlier today I listened in on a phone press conference with leading pro-life religious liberals called by Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners. (Click here to listen to the call.) They were praising the new draft Democratic Party abortion plank which advocates government policies to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. (Click here to read the new plank and the 2004 platform). Wallis called it a "real step forward," while Rev. Joel Hunter called it "a historic and courageous step."

What am I missing? It seems to me that, on balance, if you're pro-life this platform is about the same as the 2004 platform -- slightly better in some ways and, actually, slightly worse in other ways.

Continue reading Obama's Squandered Opportunity on Abortion -- and How He Could Turn It Around...

August 12, 2008

Not pro-abortion

In their proposed new platform language, the Democrats toss a bone to the pro-life community by spelling out ways to make abortion rarer:

We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

Brody, who's got the old and new text side by side, is somewhat impressed--but claims that the proof of the pudding will be whether the Democrats in general and candidate Obama in particular say they're prepared to sign on to concrete anti-abortion measures such as parental notification. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one. Douglas Kmiec, who as Obama's most prominent conservative Catholic supporter had a hand in the new language, contends that it represents a significant (if not, by his lights, sufficient) move. Naturally, his erstwhile friends on the right don't think so, and are contemptuous of him for making the case. They recognize that the language will enable Obama and party to make the case that they are not, as the pro-life community always puts it, "pro-abortion."

Continue reading Not pro-abortion...

August 11, 2008

A Balancing Act

Abortion has created a semantics battle for the Democrats' platform drafting committee as the writers try to perfect the language before the convention later this month.

Eric Zimmermann over at The New Republic writes that the party does not want to anger feminists, many of whom were upset at Hillary Clinton's defeat. But "... ongoing outreach efforts to religious voters and swelling ranks of pro-lifers in Congress mean that the abortion-reduction message will likely persist," he writes.

David Brody at CBN posted the new platform:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

This is compared to the Democrats' current platform on abortion:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Evangelicals Tony Campolo, Joel Hunter, and Jim Wallis will respond to the Democratic Party's platform on abortion tomorrow.

August 11, 2008

Richard Land's VP Advice to McCain: Pick Sarah Palin

It's not the name you typically hear on the lips of Christian Right heavies leaning on John McCain to pick a rock-ribbed social conservative as a running mate: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But that's Southern Baptist Convention public policy chief--and Beliefnet blogger--Richard Land cited in his recent CBS News interview as his top veep pick:

CBSNews.com: Who's on the list of people mentioned for VP that you think would most excite Southern Baptists and other members of the conservative faith community?

Richard Land: Probably Governor Palin of Alaska, because she's a person of strong faith. She just had her fifth child, a Downs Syndrome child. And there's a wonderful quote that she gave about her baby, and the fact that she would never, ever consider having an abortion just because her child had Downs Syndrome. She's strongly pro-life.

She's a virtual lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She would ring so many bells. And I just think it would help with independents because she's a woman. She's a reform Governor. I think that, from what I hear, that would be the choice that would probably ring the most bells, along with Mike Huckabee, of course, who's a Southern Baptist.

On Mitt Romney, meanwhile, Land is personally enthusiastic but says a good chunk of evangelicals would oppose him on religious grounds:

CBSNews.com: And what about Mitt Romney?

Richard Land: I think Mitt Romney would be an excellent choice. There are people in the evangelical community who would have a problem with his Mormonism. I am not one of them. I mean, I'm very clear that I do not believe Mormonism is a Christian faith. But that does not disqualify someone from being President or Vice President. And my guess would be that, probably, about 15 to 20 percent of the evangelical community would have a problem with his Mormonism.

So Palin, eh? If Land's saying it, her name must be making the rounds in evangelical circles. And God-o-Meter thinks Land's got a strong point about her ability to deliver independent women voters. How many other vice presidential picks could excite both cultural conservatives and swing voters?

This article is cross-posted from Beliefnet's God-o-Meter.

August 11, 2008

Obama Making No Progress Among Evangelicals?

A new CBS poll has McCain winning among white evangelicals 58% to 24%. Mark Silk notes that if undecideds broke 50-50, Obama would end up with almost one third of the white evangelical vote, a hefty jump over Kerry's 22%. True enough.

But there's another way of looking at it: despite the months worth of outreach to evangelicals, the speeches, the Very Christian campaign literature, the interviews with Relevant and Christianity Today and Christian Broadcasting Network, the Newsweek cover story, etc -- Obama is still not doing any better than Kerry did. (And Kerry did worse among evangelicals than any Democrat since Mike Dukakis).

Perhaps that's just the nature of the moment. For some evangelicals, shifting from voting Republican to Democrat is a big deal. Maybe they need to pause for a few months in Undecided Land. But it's clear that Obama has not come close to reeling in those fish. And I think it's time for them to be asking whether their approach so far is sufficient.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 11, 2008

Undecided evangelicals

The latest CBS poll has white evangelicals choosing McCain over Obama 58 percent to 24 percent, with 15 percent undecided. If the undecided break 50-50, that would give Obama nearly one-third of the white evangelical vote--a big improvement over Kerry's performance in 2004. For him, opportunity knocks. McCain, by contrast, has got to ratchet up his evangelical outreach. By the Republican Convention he should have locked up this part of the GOP base, and as of now he hasn't.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

August 7, 2008

Toward Saddleback

Over at God-O-Meter, Dan Gilgoff has a nice dissection of Barack Obama's short pre-Saddleback "on Faith" essay for Time, showing how well calculated it is to appeal to evangelicals. I agree that it hits a lot of evangelical buttons, though not, perhaps, the most important one. It says nothing about his personal born-again experience--something he has written and talked about elsewhere. Perhaps that would remind people too much of that pesky Trinity church he used to belong to. Or perhaps it would strike non-evangelicals as, well, just a little too evangelical. And then there's this remark: "The next President will have to lead Americans of all religious and secular backgrounds and will navigate a range of tough values issues." The evangelicals Dan thinks Obama is directing his appeal to don't tend to regard the values issues as in themselves tough, but rather see the tough part as actually treading the straight and narrow. So I think we should at least entertain the possibility that this is what Obama actually believes.

As for John McCain, his essay sticks almost exclusively to a vision of faith as something that sustains a person in extremis. He tells the story he always tells about the Christian guard who loosened his bonds when he was a prisoner of war, and throws in one about his father praying for him at the time. There's a short paragraph about caring for the least among us (with a little pro-life pitch), but it's sandwiched in, in a kind of obligatory way. Then he returns to the importance of religion in the "dark" and "solitary" places. I'm inclined to think that that's the real deal when it comes to McCain and religion, and why shouldn't it be? Being a prisoner of war seems to have been the defining experience of his life. That the McCain faith has real resonance for many people I don't doubt. But it's far from the guiding of one's choices in daily affairs that tends to be what Americans are looking for when they seek to know how a candidate's faith will inform his conduct in office. The contrast with Obama couldn't be greater.

(This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.)

August 5, 2008

McCain Campaign Targets Obamessianism

Mara Vanderslice says a recent McCain ad is a dog whistle suggestion that Obama may be the Antichrist. For what it's worth, Hal Lindsey says the Antichrist "won’t be Barack Obama, but Obama’s world tour provided a foretaste of the reception he can expect to receive."

But that doesn't stop University of Pennsylvania anthropologist John L. Jackson Jr. from claiming that the ad is more than just an effort to paint Obama as the Antichrist -- it's an effort to paint him as Left Behind's Nicolae Carpathia.

Apocalyptic interpretations aside, Georgetown's Jacques Berlinerblau says the McCain ad is "is nothing less than an attempt to nuke Obama's religious appeal and credibility into oblivion."

David Waters says it's just old hat.

Judge for yourself. What do you think the message is?