All posts from “September 2008”

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September 30, 2008

Palin speaks to Hewitt on faith

Sarah Palin spoke with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt about her faith earlier today. Here's a section where she talks about her faith:

Hewitt: Do you think the mainstream media and the left understands your religious faith, Governor Palin?

Palin: I think that there’s a lot of mocking of my personal faith, and my personal faith is very, very simple. I don’t belong to any church. I do have a strong belief in God, and I believe that I’m a heck of a lot better off putting my life in God’s hands, and saying hey, you know, guide me. What else do we have but guidance that we would seek from a Creator? That’s about as simple as it gets with my faith, and I think that there is a lot of mocking of that. And you know, so bet it, though I do have respect for those who have differing views than I do on faith, on religion. I’m not going to mock them, and I would hope that they would kind of I guess give me the same courtesy through this of not mocking a person’s faith, but maybe perhaps even trying to understand a little bit of it.

September 30, 2008

Palin speaks to Couric about global warming, abortion, evolution, and homosexuality

Sarah Palin sat down with Katie Couric for another interview to discuss her views on global warming, abortion, the morning-after pill, evolution, and homosexuality.

CBS has not posted the video yet, but in the transcript below, she seems to distinguish her personal views from John McCain's when Couric asked her about abortion and the morning-after pill.

Palin was widely criticized for earlier interviews with Couric. "Her halting interview with Katie Couric on CBS News alarmed many Republicans and gave fodder for a devastating parody on Saturday Night Live," The New York Times wrote today.

Global Warming

Couric: What's your position on global warming? Do you believe it's man-made or not?

Palin: Well, we're the only Arctic state, of course, Alaska. So we feel the impacts more than any other state, up there with the changes in climates. And certainly, it is apparent. We have erosion issues. And we have melting sea ice, of course. So, what I've done up there is form a sub-cabinet to focus solely on climate change. Understanding that it is real. And …

Couric: Is it man-made, though in your view?

Palin: You know there are - there are man's activities that can be contributed to the issues that we're dealing with now, these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns are cyclical. And over history we have seen change there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is: it's real; we need to do something about it.

Abortion

Couric: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, do you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion, and why?

Palin: I am pro-life. And I'm unapologetic in my position that I am pro-life. And I understand there are good people on both sides of the abortion debate. In fact, good people in my own family have differing views on abortion, and when it should be allowed. Do I respect people's opinions on this. Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would also like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to take it one step further. Not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country, but I want them, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal, for them to be supported, and adoptions made easier.

Couric: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who was raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an … abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Morning-after pill

Couric: Some people have credited the morning-after pill for decreasing the number of abortions. How do you feel about the morning-after pill?

Palin: Well, I am all for contraception. And I am all for preventative measures that are legal and save, and should be taken, but Katie, again, I am one to believe that life starts at the moment of conception. And I would like to see …

Couric: And so you don't believe in the morning-after pill?

Palin: ... I would like to see fewer and fewer abortions in this world. And again, I haven't spoken with anyone who disagrees with my position on that.

Couric: I'm sorry, I just want to ask you again. Do you not support or do you condone or condemn the morning-after pill.

Palin: Personally, and this isn't McCain-Palin policy …

Couric: No, that's OK, I'm just asking you.

Palin: But personally, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception.

Evolution

Couric: Do you believe evolution should be taught as an accepted scientific principle or as one of several theories?

Palin: Oh, I think it should be taught as an accepted principle. And, as you know, I say that also as the daughter of a school teacher, a science teacher, who has really instilled in me a respect for science. It should be taught in our schools. And I won't deny that I see the hand of God in this beautiful creation that is Earth. But that is not part of the state policy or a local curriculum in a school district. Science should be taught it science class.

Homosexuality

The governor told us though she's not a member of any church, she visits a couple of them regularly when she's home. She took issue with news reports that one of them, The Wasilla Bible Church, sponsored a conference where gays could be made straight through prayer.

Palin: Well, it matters though, Katie, when the media gets it wrong. It frustrates Americans who are just trying to get the facts and … be able to make up their mind on, about a person's values. So it does matter.

But what you're talking about, I think, value here, what my position is on homosexuality and you can pray it away, because I think that was the title that was listed on that bulletin. And you know, I don't know what prayers are worthy of being prayed. I don't know what's prayers are going to be asked and answered. But as for homosexuality, I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships. I have one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years happens to be gay, and I love her dearly. And she is not my "gay friend," she is one of my best friends, who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice I would have made. But I am not going to judge people.

September 30, 2008

Bush approval ratings dip to a new low

A majority of white evangelical Protestants rated President Bush's performance negatively in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Jon Cohen writes for The Washington Post.

Fifty-two percent of evangelicals rated the president's performance negative, and Cohen says that higher numbers disapprove of how Bush is handling the economy.

This summer, 47 percent of evangelicals approved of Bush’s performance in office, while 48 percent disapproved, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life from July 31 to August 10.

The survey showed that evangelicals were more supportive of Bush than any other major religious group. Those who disapproved of his performance were 61 percent of white mainline Protestants, 67 of Catholics, and 88 percent of black Protestants.

September 30, 2008

'Pulpit Freedom Sunday' Tally: 31+ Sermons, 6 Complaints With IRS

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed six complaints with the Internal Revenue Service after dozens of clergy participated in a challenge to rules that ban politicking from the pulpit.

At least 31 pastors took part in "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" (Sept. 28), according to the initiative's organizers at the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian law firm based in Arizona.

"These pastors flagrantly violated the law and now must deal with the consequences," said AU executive director Barry W. Lynn.

Pastors endorsed Sen. John McCain for president in five of the six churches, Lynn said.

Gary McCaleb, senior counsel with ADF, said: "It's not a matter of separation of church and state when you've got the IRS in the pew. That's oppression of free speech."

McCaleb said 31 pastors who agreed to participate in the plan preached on Sunday. The ADF has asked the pastors, most of whom are evangelical, to send their sermons to the law firm, which plans a court challenge of the IRS rules against partisan politicking by tax exempt organizations.

Asked if all the participating pastors had endorsed a candidate for president, McCaleb said, "I think some had a pretty direct statement." He said the goal was to find a group of pastors who supported an "exercise of faith" that could lead to a Supreme Court case.

Americans United's complaints were filed against: Calvary Chapel on the King's Highway, Philadelphia; Bethlehem First Baptist Church, Bethlehem, Ga.; Fairview Baptist Church, Edmond, Okla.; Warroad Community Church, Warroad, Minn; New Life Church in West Bend, Wis., and First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, Calif.

Earlier: Endorsing from the Pulpit | Pastors launch challenge of IRS rules on endorsements (Sept. 25, 2008).

September 29, 2008

McCain backs out of rally at Christian university

John McCain's campaign canceled an appearance scheduled for today at Cedarville University in Ohio.

Cedarville's spokesman John Davis told CT that a grassroots organization in the Cedarville area rented the Baptist university's space for the rally. The university was told that because of Friday's debate and today's $700 billion bailout vote, the rally was canceled.

Cedarville President Bill Brown announced the scheduled rally during Friday's chapel service but told students later in the day that the event was canceled. McCain and running mate Sarah Palin did appear at a rally in Columbus today.

Buckeye evangelicals were important for President Bush's victory in 2004 and earlier this summer, some questioned whether they would turn out for McCain.

September 29, 2008

Bailout Vote Fails

The Dow Jones industrials plunged this afternoon after the bailout plan failed to pass the House of Representatives.

Christianity Today posted two articles today related to the economic crisis: Christian Financial World Sees Silver Lining in Banking Mess and A Christian View of the Economic Crisis.

September 28, 2008

Finding religion in political cartoons

The Washington Post has received 750 e-mails from readers for posting a cartoon caricaturing Sarah Palin speaking in tongues. The cartoonist drew God telling St. Peter "All I can hear is some dam' right-wing politician spouting gibberish."

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Pat Oliphant's cartoon was not chosen for the print publication, but it was posted on the Post's website on September 9 with other syndicated cartoons that are posted through an automatic feed, The Washington Post's Ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote today. Howell writes that for political cartoonists, "being fair is not a virtue."

"Most cartoonists don't go out of their way to lambaste religion," Howell writes. "But the pope is a frequent editorial cartoon character, as are God and St. Peter at the Pearly Gates."

Here's a sampling of some recent cartoons that did include religion:

Nate Beeler

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Kevin Kallaugher

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Daryl Cagle

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Gary Varvel

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And Pat Oliphant again.

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September 26, 2008

First presidential debate touches on torture

John McCain and Barack Obama argued over foreign policy and the economy during tonight's first presidential debate. You can read a transcript here and watch the first part on CNN.

Torture came up briefly towards the end. (Update: Below are full quotes from the transcript)

McCain: "And we've got to -- to make sure that we have people who are trained interrogators so that we don't ever torture a prisoner ever again."

Obama: "But because of some of the mistakes that have been made -- and I give Senator McCain great credit on the torture issue, for having identified that as something that undermines our long-term security -- because of those things, we, I think, are going to have a lot of work to do in the next administration to restore that sense that America is that shining beacon on a hill."

A recent poll released by Mercer University found that 57 percent of Southern Baptists said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

David Gushee previously wrote a piece for CT on torture, and the magazine has a special section on the issue.

September 26, 2008

McCain will debate

Senator John McCain will attend tonight’s first presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi, The New York Times reports. McCain had said he was suspending his campaign and called for a delay of the debate.

Brian Rogers, the campaign spokesman, put out the following statement:

Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.

September 26, 2008

Richard Cizik: Evangelical Requests to Meet With McCain Unanswered

God-o-Meter caught up this week with Richard Cizik, chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, the nation's largest evangelical organization. Cizik made news earlier in the week in Colorado Springs for questioning whether John McCain was a "principled person" and for "waffling on issue after issue." Cizik told GOM that requests from him and other evangelicals to meet with John McCain have gone unanswered, that when it comes to voting "a lot of evangelical don't think," and spoke candidly about racism Barack Obama may face within the white church.

Despite all Barack Obama's evangelical outreach efforts, polls show evangelical support for John McCain is approaching George W. Bush-like levels. That surprise you?

We do some of our own polling, so I had advance notice that there were some deep-seated suspicions of Obama. I wasn't surprised. I was a little disappointed. Not that I'm an Obama supporter. But I am interested in broadening the agenda of [evangelical] concerns. And I'm of the opinion that some people are going to vote Republican no matter what.... Party line voting in my opinion is unbiblical. It says you don't think. If you're simply voting on same sex marriage and abortion, you're not thinking. What I'm saying is that a lot of evangelical don't think, sad to say. The same is true for African Americans who, no matter who the candidate is they're just going to vote for the Democratic Party. So the African American left and the Religious Right is foolish.

So politically speaking, maybe the evangelical movement is changing less than the news media would have us believe.

There's a demographic shift that's occurring. Young [evangelicals] are less tied to the Republican Party. Those who are disaffected with the GOP are not becoming Democrats. They're becoming Independents. It's a slow moving earthquake that you don't fully recognize. I'm not trying to move anyone to become a Democrat, but to a spiritual, moral, and religious awakening. If all I'm about is making someone a Democrat, that's not real change, to quote Barack Obama. Real change occurs not when someone switches from one party to another but when people shift their way of thinking.

The McCain campaign has beefed up its religious outreach efforts recently. How is their evangelical outreach going?

We put in a request with the McCain campaign and it was never responded to. Many figures in the Republican Party have reached out to the campaign stating their concern that the candidate has not reached out to evangelical leaders, but it went nowhere. And since we're so deep into the campaign, we can only assume that we're not going to get an answer. We had some people, including a governor and a major party official, who said to the campaign, "I think you should meet with some of these evangelicals." I have subsequently interpreted that they didn't think they needed to because they had an idea of their own and that maybe that was Sarah Palin.

Has the Obama campaign reached out to the National Association of Evangelicals?

We put in a request and an answer came back rather quickly: They wanted us to come to a meeting in Chicago with some 25 other leaders. And I went. One is left to conclude that the McCain people have concluded that they don't need such a meeting.

Given those polls showing overwhelming evangelical support for McCain, don't they have a point?

Those polls are a snapshot that may not reflect other realities. The economy is becoming a big issue, and that was before the Wall Street meltdown. So it's not over and this whole bailout picture is good evidence that the party of fiscal discipline and sanity, the Republicans, has become the party of socialized bailouts and fiscal liberalism.

Evangelicals are 50-percent conservative. There are 10 percent that are liberal, and you've got 40-percent that are swing voters. They're the people that McCain has to worry about because if, for whatever reason--the economy, etc.--they go for Obama, then McCain is in trouble. If they decide to vote on economic reasons or the war, then McCain is in trouble. From what the Obama people have said to me, if they can just get the percentage of people that Clinton got, they'll win this election. If I were a betting man, I would have to say the advantage goes to Obama.

But hasn't Obama undermined a lot of his evangelical outreach with very liberal positions on issues like abortion?

As evidenced from Saddleback, where McCain did well by himself and Obama did not, Obama has got some work cut out for him. And there is there is the factor that we all know exists and that few people will talk about: the race factor. Some surveys show that 20-percent of the electorate will not vote for a black man for president, which exceeds the difference between Kerry and Bush in '04.... Somebody's going to vote for somebody not on the basis of the content of his character but on the color of his skin and that' just called sin with a capital S because racism is a sin. And we all knew that racism has been in a lot of the white church.

Are you saying that racist anti-Obama sentiment is more prevalent within the church?

I certainly hope not. I hope and pray not, because if that happens it's a terrible blot on the integrity of our church..... those people ought to be embarrassed, and held accountable in the church. We hold people accountable for sins of other kinds.

Do you still consider yourself a Republican?

After this election, I'd have to evaluate my party. I still consider myself a Republican--a somewhat dissatisfied Republican who's presently disappointed in McCain in some respects. I think he's shifting his position on some long-held issues. That doesn't mean I won't vote for him. If you're evaluating them on environmental issues, Obama's certainly a stronger candidate. There are a lot of people in the GOP who can't stomach McCain's view on the environment and he's going to have to pay homage to those voices. On the other hand, the only person who could change the GOP on that issue is John McCain.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 25, 2008

Obama Religious Reps Bow Out of Debate with McCain Team

Family Research Council Action is alerting constituents that a senior Barack Obama advisor on religious issues bowed out of a high-profile debate with a counterpart from the McCain campaign yesterday:

People hoping for a lively discussion on faith and values from Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign were surprised yesterday when Team Obama failed to show for a media-heavy debate. The capacity crowd that gathered at the Capitol Hill Club had expected Obama's Senior Advisor for Religious Affairs, Rev. Evna Terri La Velle, to square off with Bob Heckman, a representative from Sen. John McCain's campaign. Just hours before the lunchtime event began, members of the sponsoring organizations, the National Clergy Council and Evangelical Church Alliance, received word that Obama's delegation of 11 had backed out. Rev. Rob Schenck, who was scheduled to moderate the debate, released a statement questioning the Obama campaign's genuine commitment to issues of concern to social conservatives. "Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean assured me...that his party would do everything possible to constructively engage Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and other moral conservatives... Barack Obama has made similar promises. They did a couple of high-profile media events, but it appears they were not serious at a grassroots level." While the Illinois senator and his campaign never shy away from talking about faith, they have missed opportunities to let that faith be examined up close to determine how it would impact their public policy positions.

The Obama campaign had no comment, but didn't contest FRC Action's version of events. For conservative Christian groups that are eager to prove that Obama's religious outreach is empty talk, the Obama team just made their job a little easier.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 25, 2008

Praying over Palin

A YouTube video emerged yesterday showing Sarah Palin being blessed in a prayer for her protection from "witchcraft."

The Associated Press reports that a Kenyan pastor Bishop Thomas Muthee prayed over her the the Wasilla Assembly of God where she used to go to church.

"Come on, talk to God about this woman. We declare, save her from Satan," Muthee said as two attendants placed their hands on Palin's shoulders. "Make her way my God. Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus. ... Use her to turn this nation the other way around."

Update: Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writes this:

"A year ago, Mike Huckabee was getting blessings like this one at Pentecostal churches, but the national media was ignoring him at this point, so the episodes never attracted much attention. "Laying on of hands" is a common way of praying in many evangelical churches. [Gov. Huckabee got prayed for this way at a Baptist megachurch in Orlando in January 2008 and at a Charismatic church in Irving, Texas in November 2007.]"

September 24, 2008

Christian college president denounces Obama effigy

The president of George Fox University denounced the hanging of a cutout of Barack Obama and graffiti aimed at a scholarship program that enrolls mostly minority students.

"We absolutely cannot hate those around us and say we love God," President Robin Baker said to the students today. "It is not possible. Yesterday was not a good example of what it means to follow Jesus."

Noelle Crombie of The Oregonian reports that a campus custodial crew discovered the cutout hung by fishing line from a tree yesterday morning. The cutout was accompanied by the words "Act Six reject." Act Six is a scholarship program that was established two years ago and is aimed at including more low-income and minority students in the George Fox student body.

The Associated Press reports that Baker told students he was "disheartened and outraged."

"It has been my dream to establish a university that more adequately represents the kingdom of God," he said. "This act causes some to question our commitment."

George Fox was founded as a Quaker school and is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. University officials said Wednesday they do not know who hung the effigy, which University spokesman Rob Felton said few people saw before it was taken down.

September 24, 2008

Obama waffle story won't die

James Dobson scolded Whoopi Goldberg and ABC's "The View" for linking him and Focus on the Family to Obama Waffles, a product sold at the Values Voter Summit earlier this month (See CT's earlier coverage).

Goldberg linked Obama Waffles to Focus on the Family last week on their show.

"We had absolutely nothing to do with the Obama Waffles," Dobson said. "This is a classic example of the liberal media attempting to marginalize us and other conservative voices in a political season."

David Waters writes on the Washington Post website:

"Conservative bias meet liberal bias. Goldberg and company apparently didn't bother to check whether Dobson actually was involved in the gag (he wasn't). Dobson didn't bother to mention that the two men who created Obama Waffles used to work for Focus on the Family."

September 24, 2008

McCain suspends campaign

John McCain announced today that he is suspending his campaign to return to the capital to focus on the financial crisis, CNN reports.

McCain also wants to delay the first presidential debate scheduled to air Friday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying the presidential debate should go on.

"It would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation's economy," the statement said. "We need leadership, not a campaign photo op."

Aids to Obama told the New York Times that he was inclined to go ahead with the debate. "There are serious global financial issues at stake and the American people deserve to hear how the next president will handle them," a senior Obama adviser said.

September 24, 2008

When the Irreligious Come to Shove

The latest SUSA poll of Washington State serves as an excellent example of how having a big religiously indifferent population works for Obama. Regular worship attenders constitute 37 percent of the population and so do those who attend almost never. Occasional attenders weigh in at 25 percent. The latter divide evenly, 48-48, between McCain and Obama. The regulars break for McCain 54-43, while the almost-nevers break for Obama 68-28. Result: Obama leads in Washington State 54-43.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 24, 2008

Is it The Internet's Fault that More and More People Think Obama is Muslim?

Last March when polls reported that 10% of the population thought Barack Obama was Muslim, I counseled calm: Obama is a new character on the scene. As people get to know him, that percentage will decline.

Instead, it's gone up. The newest poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 13% now believe he's Muslim - and a staggering 19% of McCain supporters believe him to be Muslim. Only 48% of Republicans say Obama is Christian (the balance is unsure).

This is truly frightening - not so much because of the implications for Obama but because of what it says about how we as Americans consume information. With more time, and more information swimming about, the public has become progressively less well informed.

To some extent this is about the politicization of mainstream media. Increasingly, people gravitate to the media sources that confirm their preconceived notions - Fox and Rush and WND.com for conservatives and Olberman and Kos for liberals. If that's true, that represents a searing indictment of conservative media - for either promoting or failing to shoot down a blatant falsehood. (There may be counter examples on the liberal media; please post if you have them).

But this can't be the whole explanation. After all, the percentage of independents who think Obama is Muslim also rose from 8% to 14%.

Then I noticed this: the biggest increase in the percentage who think he's Muslim was among young people. Only 8% of people from 18-29 believed he's Muslim in March. Now, 17% do. By contrast, among those 65 and older, the percentage who thought he was Muslim actually dropped during this period.

What's the biggest differentiator between those groups when it comes to news consumption? The internet. Younger people get their information online. Older people still use print.

As the editor of a website, I hate to even suggest this but is it possible that this Muslim factoid provides chilling proof that web-dependent news consumers end up more poorly informed than in the olden days? Is it possible that all the fuddy-duddy old media people who warned about the internet dumbing us all down were right?

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

September 23, 2008

Dave Ramsey's take on the bailout

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson received a skeptical reception today when he appeared before senators, asking to grant him authority to rescue the country's financial system, The New York Times writes. The administration has proposed a $700 billion plan to buy up and hopefully resell troubled mortgage-backed securities.

Christian financial adviser Dave Ramsey is against the bailout. Feel free to post more evangelicals' reaction in the comments section below.

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Cartoon by Gary Varvel, Indianapolis Star

September 23, 2008

McCain and Palin divided over causes of global warming

John McCain has repeatedly said in his campaign that humans causes global warming while his running mate has publicly questioned scientists' claims, the Washington Post reports.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin established a sub-cabinet to deal with climate change issues a year ago, but she has focused on how to adapt to global warming rather than how to combat it, Juliet Eilperin writes.

"She fought the administration's listing of polar bears as threatened with extinction because of shrinking sea ice" Eilperin writes. "Palin sued to overturn the decision on the grounds that it will 'have a significant adverse impact on Alaska because additional regulation of the species and its habitat . . . will deter activities such as commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration and development, transportation and tourism within and off-shore of Alaska.'"

Several evangelicals have called for policies that care for the environment, but many are still divided over global warming. Christianity Today's earlier coverage of global warming includes news articles and opinion pieces.

September 23, 2008

Battling in the states

Supporters of California's same-sex marriage ban have raised $17.8 million, compared to opponents, who have raised $12.4 million, the L.A. Times reports.

Dan Morain and Jessica Garrison write that Proposition 8 could be the most expensive measure focused on a social issue, according to Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies and an expert on initiatives.

A separate state -- South Dakota -- is preparing for another abortion battle when voters will be asked on the ballot to outlaw almost all abortions.

U.S. News and World Report
writes that Sarah Palin's candidacy has sparked re-emergence of culture war issues like abortion.

Reporter Jay Tolson writes:

"The Palin pick was seen by many as McCain's way of reigniting the culture war - a limited culture war - while not getting too directly involved in it. In fact, says James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and the first scholar to apply the culture-war concept to the American scene, that war had never really gone away but had only moved into the background. The Palin pick, he says, returned it to the foreground, where it now shares the limelight (and headlines) with the economy and the war. But it's not, he believes, the same old battle. 'The lines of the culture war are changing,' he says. 'The gender views, for one, were so much sharper, traditional versus modern. So much has changed in the last 28 years.'"

"Although there is now more enthusiasm for the Republican ticket among religious conservatives, Pew Forum researcher Masci says that evangelicals 'are still up for grabs.'"

September 22, 2008

The role of faith in British politics

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on the Daily Show where Jon Stewart asked Blair to compare his own experience to the prominent role of religion in American politics. The exchange is short, but here is part of the exchange:

Stewart: In British politics, faith is almost something to be cloaked, whereas here if you're not talking to God on a daily basis, you're considered not worthy of the office. Why do you think the difference in how religion is perceived?

Blair: I think religion, in our country, it's just people regard it as something very private. Actually if you look, we recently did some work for our course about how important is religion to you? For America it's something like 65 percent, for Britain, it's something like 35 percent. So there's a big difference. Actually, for countries like Pakistan, it's about 97 percent.

Stewart: Is it because Pakistan is morally better than the rest of us?

Blair: I think probably not, no.

Stewart: It doesn't work that way?

Blair: No.

Stewart: You recently converted to Catholicism. ... Could you have done that as prime minister, or do you think that would’ve been complicated?

Blair: It would’ve been complicated for sure.

Blair speaks on faith and globalization in the earlier part of the clip.


September 22, 2008

Bailout's potential impact on church-state relations

Howard Friedman looks at what could happen for church-state relations if the government's proposed bailout is approved.

The bailout would give the government powers to purchase mortgage related assets (residential or commercial mortgages) from any financial institution with headquarters in the United States. Friedman points to an article by The Deal, which reports that several churches are short in their mortgage payments and face foreclosure.

Friedman writes:

"In many cases the mortgage holders are not financial institutions, but instead holders of church bonds. But where the mortgage lender is a bank, is the draft bailout legislation broad enough to permit purchase of shaky church mortgages by the Treasury? If so, are there any church-state problems with the federal government essentially owning an interest in church buildings?"

September 22, 2008

The Disappearance of Obama's Abortion Reduction Plan: One Political Theory

At the Saddleback Forum, Obama boasted, accurately, about how he'd stuck a sentence into the Democratic platform encouraging support for women who wanted to take a baby to term instead of having an abortion. Pro-life progressives hailed that sentence as a great victory and sign that he might be able to win over moderate evangelicals and Catholics with this new "third way" approach.

Then, the first abortion ads put out by the Obama campaign, didn't mention abortion reduction.

Last week, they put out a second abortion ad, this one trying to deal with the charge that Obama supports infanticide. They had two different (not mutually exclusive) ways they could have gone: Show themselves to be abortion moderates by emphasizing abortion reduction, or show McCain to be an anti-abortion extremist by emphasizing the Republican platform. The Obama campaign chose the second path. Again, no mention of abortion reduction.

Meanwhile, I picked up a copy of the Obama campaign's "Plan to Renew America's Promise." Though it mentions reducing unintended pregnancies, it dropped the sentence about helping women carry babies to term.

My uninformed theory on what's happened:there was always a tension for them between two goals: 1) appealing to pro-choice moderate women and 2) appealing to pro-life moderate evangelicals and Catholics. They've now concluded:

Winning moderate evangelicals is hopeless and, it turns out, centrist Catholics just dont care all that much abortion. Given that, it makes more political sense to reach out to those pro-choice women.

Of course this obviously leaves them open to charges that they didn't believe in abortion reduction all that much in the first place.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

September 22, 2008

McCain: 'my faith is why I'm here today'

John McCain briefly spoke about his religion during yesterday's 60 Minutes.

McCain: I think part of it is a bit private, obviously. But, I also haven't been reluctant to tell various things that have happened in my life, including the fact that my faith is why I'm here today. And my faith sustained me in the most difficult times where I didn't ask for another day or another hour, but for another minute. And so I try to show people that I have the utmost faith in this country, which was founded on Judeo-Christian values. And those are my values.

(h/t Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News)

September 19, 2008

Obama campaign pitches faith tour to journalists

Barack Obama's campaign is reaching out to religious voters, and they want religion journalists to know it.

Obama's faith outreach coordinator Joshua DuBois and evangelical outreach coordinator Shaun Casey pitched the "Faith, Family, and Values Tour" to reporters at the Religion Newswriters Association today, which CT reported last night.

DuBois used an August Barna poll as support for why he believes more evangelicals are supporting Obama. Trinity College professor Mark Silk questioned this poll earlier. The press conference was held shortly after John Green presented on his research, which found that Obama was not making inroads among evangelicals. Casey says he sees more support for Obama among young evangelicals, but he says he will wait for the experts to quantify it after the election.

Former Orlando Sentinel religion reporter Mark Pinsky questioned Barna data’s reliability and said he saw no evidence among young evangelicals in central Florida supporting Obama.

Debra Mason, executive director of RNA, asked why religion journalists have a hard time get a call back from the Obama campaign and the crowd of journalists seemed to murmur an amen. DuBois said he is not on the communications team and wants to continue dialoging.

DuBois declined to say what the campaign’s budget is for faith outreach. Casey said they don’t do direct mail through church directories, something that President Bush’s campaign did in 2004.

Once again, it seems that John McCain's religious outreach takes a much quieter approach, as Mason emphasized that she reached out to his campaign as well.

September 19, 2008

Obama's evangelical outreach not working, survey shows

Barack Obama has made few inroads into the evangelical vote compared to 2004, according to a study released at the Religion Newswriters Association conference today.

As a group, evangelicals favor McCain over Obama 57.2 percent to 19.9 percent as a group, which is similar to the support they gave to Bush (60.4%) and Kerry (19.6%) in 2004.

In the study, John Green of the University of Akron reported evangelicals' support for McCain depending on their category: traditionalist (71.6%), centrist (53.9%), and modernist (35.6%).

Nearly half (45.6%) of evangelicals listed economics as a top priority for in deciding their vote. 22 percent listed foreign policy and 20.4 percent listed social issues as top priorities. Green said that opinions on abortion have not changed since 2004.

"Although social issues are less important, they continue to resonate in the evangelical community," said Green, who is also the senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "The Obama campaign has not yet been able to overcome that."

Thirty-seven percent of evangelicals preferred McCain strongly in the survey, which was conducted before Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen as his running mate.

September 19, 2008

Pro-life group attacks Obama campaign faith tour

The president of the Susan B. Anthony List attacked Barack Obama campaign's new effort to reach religious voters in battleground states.

"Barack Obama knows his extreme record on abortion doesn't resonate with everyday American voters, so now he's trying to soften his image with a so-called 'values tour,'" President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. "It is cynical - because religious language without the actions to support it is so transparently empty. If you can't save one of the 'least of these' - a dying baby who survives an abortion - because you see it as a 'burden,' one wonders who is really at the heart of your faith."

The Susan B. Anthony List will invest $6 million to target 1.4 million pro-life women voters through mail, radio, and phone-banking across eight battleground states: Colorado, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

September 19, 2008

Magazines with women pastors cover pulled from bookstores

Gospel Today was snatched from more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstore racks because the women on the cover are church pastors, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, told reporter Christopher Quinn, "It is contrary to what we believe."

Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been pulled.

"It's really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church," Hairston told Quinn. "I was pretty shocked."

Southern Baptists are opposed to a woman being the pastor of a local church, but Richard Land told Christianity Today why would they support a woman as vice president.

"Mrs. Thatcher said that her husband was head of her home and she ran the country. Queen Elizabeth said that Prince Phillip was head of the home and she was head of the country. If Mrs. Thatcher had been an American, I would've enthusiastically supported her for president of the United States. The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church."

Still, a 2007 survey showed that 44 percent of evangelicals say "Most men are better suited emotionally for politics than most women," USA Today reports. This is compared to 33 percent of evangelical Protestants, more than other Christians and markedly higher than Jews (29%), other religions (23%), and those with no religion (14%).

Cathy Lynn Grossman notes that Baylor University's data were gathered in 2007, when Hillary Clinton was seeking the Democratic nomination, but long before Sarah Palin was selected as John McCain's running mate.

September 19, 2008

Christian groups launch ads

A Christian group began airing a pro-Obama ad with former Congressman, pro-life Democrat Tony Hall today in Ohio.

The ad, paid for by the Matthew 25 Network, echoes biblical phrases in describing Barack Obama in an attempt to attract Bible-belt voters to his ticket. The ad states Obama "cares for the least of these," is a "Christian who believes God calls us to care for those in need," and will feed the hungry if elected.

The Matthew 25 Network is a Political Action Committee that raises support for political candidates it believes uphold biblical principles like promoting life, supporting families, environmental stewardship and working for peace and justice at home and abroad.

Matthew 25 in the Bible contains three parables: the story of the 10 virgins, the parable of the talents, and the story of the sheep and the goats separated on judgment day.

The ad, which emphasizes Obama's empathy with the poor and desire to help them, will air on 10 to 15 radio stations across Ohio.

Catholics United released a pro-life ad criticizing John McCain's policies on Wednesday.

The 30-second spot is directed at McCain and tells him "It's not enough to say you're pro-life – actions speak louder than words." The woman in the ad then cites McCain's voting record on the Iraq War, healthcare and care for pregnant women. Text at the end of the ad reads "Pro-life means ALL life."

Catholics United reports the ad will be running in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania through Friday, September 26.

September 18, 2008

Obama campaign launching faith tour

Barack Obama's campaign enlisted evangelical author Donald Miller on a tour through battleground states called "Barack Obama: Faith, Family and Values Tour," a campaign official told Christianity Today.

Miller, Pepperdine University professor Doug Kmiec, and former Indiana Congressman pro-life Democrat Tim Roemer will speak to groups in community centers and gyms before taking questions. They plan to talk about where Obama and his running mate Joe Biden stand on issues like poverty and abortion.

The tour will begin next week and will last for about a month in states like Colorado, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The Obama campaign has done several of these tours in the past, including a 10-day "40 Days of Faith and Family" in South Carolina and a 10-day faith tour in Iowa last fall. The campaign official said that previous tours were focused more on fact finding and this tour will focus more on why people of faith and values support Obama.

Miller prayed at the Democratic National Convention after Relevant Magazine Editor Cameron Strang backed out. Here is an earlier CT interview with Miller about what issues the Democratic Party should tackle.

September 18, 2008

Pew Premie?

Here's what Pew has to say about religion in reporting its latest poll on the presidential race:

McCain's support among white evangelical Protestants, a key Republican voter group, has inched up to 71% (Obama is supported by 21% of evangelicals). Based only on voters who express a preference between the two candidates, McCain's lead among evangelicals (77%-23%) is comparable to Bush's final margin among this group (78%-21%). McCain has a small edge among white Catholic voters, 48% to 41%. He also holds a clear lead among white Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly (52% McCain vs. 36% Obama). Four years ago, Bush beat Kerry 61% to 39% among this group.

It sure looks as though this race is reverting to type--i.e. to the 2000 and 2004 pattern--when it comes to religion. Thank Sarah Palin for that.

Specifically, the religion (or God) gap is back to previous levels. Among those who say they attended worship weekly or more, the Republican margin has risen from 10 points in August to 18 points in September. Meanwhile, among those who seldom or never attend, the Democratic margin jumped from 19 to 30. Not surprisingly, the Palin choice pulled all evangelicals toward McCain, and a few white Catholics; while the unaffiliated have shifted even more toward Obama. As in the past, frequent-attending white Mainline Protestants showed themselves less inclined to support GOP candidates who cozy up to evangelicals. Between August and September, McCain's margin among this group was cut nearly in half, from 25 points (57-32) to 14 (53-39).

One caveat, however. Pew's polling took place September 9-14--at the height of the GOP convention (or Palin) bounce. Since then, the polls are showing a reversion to the August status quo ante. In other words, this snapshot may be more of a retrospective than a portrait of what's in store.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 17, 2008

Readers say Washington Post cartoon lampooned their faith

The Washington Post is taking heat for posting a cartoon caricaturing Sarah Palin speaking in tongues and God telling St. Peter "All I can hear is some dam' right-wing politician spouting gibberish."

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The Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote on Sunday that 350 readers have complained since the cartoon was posted online September 9, saying the cartoon lampooned their faith.

Cartoonist Pat Oliphant depicts John McCain saying, "She's a Pentecostal and speaks in tongues, and only God can understand what she's saying, but it gives my campaign a direct line to the almighty."

"Readers were right to complain; I will deal with political cartooning in another column," Howell writes. "Political cartoons and comics aren't selected at washingtonpost.com the way they are for The Post in print; they are automatically posted."

Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Pat Oliphant's cartoons, writes: "No one is safe from the acid brush of Pat Oliphant. Oliphant is acknowledged as the nation's most influential political cartoonist. A master of what he calls "confrontational art," Oliphant spares neither the liberal nor conservative, sinner nor saint."

Ken Gurley, who blogs for the Houston Chronicle, is outraged and demands an apology. He writes:

"Had Oliphant mocked the Muslim faith in a similar manner, the response would have been loud and strong. (Anyone remember the Danish cartoonist who tried that?) Or, should the cartoonist have ridiculed the Catholic faith of the Democratic nominee for Vice President, the response would again be swift and profound. But, lampooning Pentecostals is fair game for certain segments of the media who view intolerance as the only mortal sin - unless the intolerance is toward a person's particular faith."

Other Pentecostals who have been central in the 2008 election include Leah Daughtry, Democratic National Convention CEO, and Joshua Dubois, Barack Obama's religious outreach coordinator.

September 16, 2008

Palin paraphernalia skyrockets

valuesbuttons.jpg

Sarah Palin paraphernalia is rivaling Barack Obama merchandise now on sites like CafePress and eBay, CNN reports.

Within hours of McCain's announcement, CafePress had 2,000 McCain-Palin products. Now, there are 323,000, CNN reports.

On eBay last week, listings for Palin-related items increased by 354 percent while Sen. Joe Biden items decreased by 11 percent, Kristi Keck writes.

Several of the Values Voter Summit attendees wore "Palin power" stickers, but I saw few people with McCain paraphernalia.

Several people flocked a man who was selling Sarah Palin buttons at the summit on Friday. On Saturday, they were sold out with just John McCain, Ronald Reagan and anti-Obama buttons left.

September 16, 2008

The ABCs of AOG

A helpful primer on Sarah Palin's denominational ties.

Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy launched Pentecostalism into the spotlight because of ties to the Assemblies of God denomination.

"Pentecostalism has been described as evangelical experience on steroids," reporter Dan Harris wrote for ABC.

Rich Tatum, who attends an Assemblies of God church, wrote a piece for Christianity Today explaining the denomination's history and theology, in contrast to media reports of Pentecostals.

"There's the usual report of tongues, faith-healing, and 'end times' - threateningly caricaturized as 'a violent upheaval that ? will deliver Jesus Christ's second coming,'" Tatum writes. "Then again, news accounts of 'rational faith' have been rather scarce."

Tatum writes that about one in four Christian believers worldwide are Pentecostal or charismatic. "Their four core doctrines are a belief in salvation, divine healing, Jesus' imminent "second coming" (along with the rapture, tribulation, and the millennial reign of Christ), and that the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is a divine gift freely available to all believers," he writes.

"But while Palin may well have been 'a longtime member of the Assemblies of God,' she has not regularly attended an AG church since 2002," he writes. "And a lot can change in six years."

September 15, 2008

Believers unbuttoned

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A few hours ago, I blogged about the Obama campaign's new faith merchandise, noting that the campaign uses the fish outline, a symbol used by Christians.

A faithful reader of the blog pointed out that the buttons are no longer for sale. The website where supporters could purchase the button now says, "You do not have access to this page. Please contact customer service for further details on accessing this password protected section."

The "Believers for Obama" sticker is still selling for $3 and the rally sign is selling for $2.50, but they don't have the fish symbol on it. The campaign has not responded yet on why it was pulled down.

September 15, 2008

Capitalizing on the faith vote

The Obama campaign just launched a line of merchandise, most of which specifically target Christians.

believersforbarack.jpg

The campaign is selling "Believers for Barack," "Pro-Family Pro-Obama," and "Catholics for Obama" buttons and bumper stickers for $3 each and signs for $2.50 each.

The "Believers for Barack" button includes the ichthys, the fish outline that became a secret symbol for persecuted Christians in the early church.

"When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes," Elesha Coffman wrote for Christian History, CT's sister publication.

Also, I've only heard "believers" apply only to Christians. The campaign seems to be targeting Christians specifically, since it usually uses broader terms like "people of faith."

September 15, 2008

The fundamental things apply

In the new Newsweek poll, which has Obama and McCain in a dead heat at 46-46, McCain wins white evangelicals by 69-22--still short of Bush's 2004 margin (77-23) but heading in that direction. McCain wins white Catholics by 59-33, a margin 13 points larger than Bush's in 2004 (56-43). Whites as a whole split 55-37 for the Republican ticket, an 18-point difference virtually identical to Bush's 58-41 margin over Kerry. Non-whites back the Democratic ticket 75-17--a differential 14 points greater than the Democratic margin in 2004. The non-white electorate and the white Catholic electorate are roughly the same in size. My guess is that it will be harder for McCain to pick up non-white votes than for Obama to pick up white Catholic ones.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

September 14, 2008

Young evangelicals straddling the fence

The Palin Effect may not work on younger evangelicals, the Associated Press reports.

"Polls have yet to measure the Palin Effect on younger evangelical voters, whose shifting political allegiances put the demographic in play for both major-party presidential campaigns," Eric Gorski writes. "But a portrait emerges through interviews with more than a dozen pastors, authors and others who either belong to that generation or track it: Conservatives are energized much like their elders, progressives are unimpressed and many undecideds are gravitating toward McCain-Palin."

The McCain campaign tells Gorski that it is reaching out to young evangelicals, but a 26-year-old Southern Baptist pastor says he contacted the campaign to arrange a conference call with young evangelicals and got no response.

"The McCain campaign is really out to lunch when it comes to reaching young evangelicals," Jonathan Merritt told the AP, adding that Palin's questioning of man-made global warming concerns him.

Slate writes about whether the youth vote actually matters, since it was just 17 percent of voters in 2004. But both campaigns are using new groups and tools to help the youth register before deadlines approach.

"If Obama merely pokes all his Facebook friends on Election Day, for example - well, that's 1.2 million pokes right there," Christopher Beam writes.

Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia, announced a new initiative to get the school's 10,500 students registered to vote, the Washington Post reports. Falwell will cancel classes on Election Day, and he promises to make buses available to shuttle students to the polls.

Tim Craig writes that Virginia's 2006 U.S. Senate race and the 2005 state attorney general's race were decided by fewer than 10,000 votes.

September 13, 2008

Vendors asked to leave Values Voter Summit

Two men who were trying to lighten the mood by selling "Obama Waffles" were asked to leave this afternoon after protesters found the boxes racist.

obamawaffles.jpg

Men from Tennessee traveled to the Values Voter Summit to sell yellow boxes of waffle mix that portray a caricature of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama with a Muslim-like headdress and says "Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles." The cover of the box portrays a caricature of Obama's face next to waffles, which three protesters from American Atheists found offensive.

Eric Herrman from American Atheists said the box was racist because it conjures up images of Aunt Jemima, the woman portrayed on a syrup bottle.

"Let's say we sold a pig lipstick product, we probably have to leave for the same reason," Herrman said as he handed out literature outside the Hilton Hotel. "A caribou barbie doll would be considered so sexist."

Herrman and two others from the organization said they sent reporters down to look at the waffle mix. When they found out that the vendors were asked to leave, they high fived each other.

Spokesman for Family Research Council J.P. Duffy said that those in the organization did not look closely at the box until someone brought it up. Duffy said the executive director thinks the box is racist and if Joe Biden were portrayed, it would have been fine.

"He thought it was just about Obama waffling on the issues. We had no idea until looking at it closely what was on the box," Duffy said. "It's just that this could be taken offensively."

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The booth was set up yesterday and displayed large posters of what was on the front and back of the waffle box. Several organizations like Summit Ministries and the Witherspoon Fellowship set up booths, but the booth selling waffles was the only satire product.

"We have dozens of booths and we don't know what kind of material they have. Obviously we don't necessarily approve of the material," Duffy said. "We may have given them permission to purchase a booth, but if there's anything like that that crosses the line, we ask them to cease and they did."

Bob DeMoss, who created the product and said the boxes have been called racist before, packed up his boxes this afternoon.

"What’s wrong with Aunt Jemima? I always looked at that as a symbol of quality. Betty Crocker or Emeril’s are made up characters. They don't get it." he said. "It's unfortunate; they have their freedom of speech and it'd be nice if we had ours."

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DeMoss said that some have been offended by the top of the box.

"Does he have Muslim roots or not? That's a legitimate question. That might offend somebody, but you know what, that's part of the political satire and we're raising the question," DeMoss of of Franklin, Tennessee said. "I'm not questioning where his soul is today, he denies he has any Muslim roots at all. There seems to be contrary evidence to that."

A caricature of Rev. Jeremiah Wright is portrayed on the side as a missing person above "Popular sayings: 'God d*** America' and "Made in the US of KKA." Obama broke ties with his former pastor after portions of Wright's sermons were aired in the media.

"He waffled on the friendship and it's like, well wait a minute," DeMoss said. "You were comfortable for 20 years sitting in the pew, but now you're saying 'I don't want anything to do with you.'"

DeMoss didn't know how many had sold at $10 a piece but said, "They're selling like hotcakes." One man from Ohio bought 10 boxes before his booth was shut down. He began making the boxes six weeks ago and said Books-A-Million already plans to sell them on their shelves.

Obamawafflesselling.jpg

"We're just trying to have a satirical look at it. We're trying to add some humor to the entire exchange," he said. "Letterman and Leno, the New York Times and Newsweek did a piece on how you can't make a joke about him. We're like 'Why? It's the public square.'"

Above the nutrition facts, it says "Limitations of use: Not for use in military settings; product has not been field-tested. Results may be undesirable."

To make "Barack Belgium Beauties," the box says to pre-heat waffle iron and "Environmentally conscious consumers should pay two ozone-offset carbon credits to Al Gore's GreenWorld fund."

Underneath, it includes a "Barry's Bling Bling Waffle Ring recipe rap":

"Yo, B-rock here droppin' waffle knowledge
Spellin' it out, 'cause I graduated college
Some say I waffle so fast, Barry's causin' whiplash
Just doin' my part, made wafflin' a fine art
For a waffle wit style, like Chicago's Magnificent Mile
Spray whipped cream around the edge
Shake it first like Sister Sledge
Then say wit me, I can be as waffly as I wanna be!
(That goes out to my Ludacris posse)"


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The back of the box includes a drawing of John Kerry saying "I know a thing or two about wafflin' and I approve this mix" and Michelle Obama saying "For the first time in my adult life I'm proud of an American waffle."

Obama is depicted with a Mexican sombrero above "Open Border Fiesta Waffles." The description says, "The greatest danger of all is to allow walls to divide us. It's time we opened our borders and our wallets to all who desire a taste of reedom. So put out the welcom mat and enjoy this multicultural celebration."

The fiesta waffle description includes a tip: "While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language? Recommended serving: 4 or more illegal aliens"

Photos by Sarah Pulliam for Christianity Today.

Continue reading Vendors asked to leave Values Voter Summit...

September 13, 2008

Q & A: Bishop Harry Jackson

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of a large, charismatic congregation in Maryland, is one of the leading voices in black religious conservatives. He spoke to me about how the McCain campaign can rally Christian conservatives to vote on November 4.

"I think the election so far has been like being on a roller coaster at a strange amusement park for the first time. You know you're going to have ups and downs but you don't know where the turns are. I was very concerned the McCain campaign was dead on arrival, meaning we stand for some good things but we might see him not incurring excitement in terms of winning. I was very concerned about his commitment to the pro-life community. He has a great record in terms of being anti-abortion, but his position on stem cell research is questionable. I don't think it's as major as abortion is but I do think it shows a little bit of inconstancy."

What do you think will get people mobilized enough to get out and vote?
If they can rally the base of the faith community who work through the largest potential grass-roots organization in the world, the church, he could really see the number of workers on the ground floor multiply amazingly.

If I were advising them ? and they didn't ask for it but I'll give it to them ? first of all I would say they need to make a huge media blitz of Sarah Palin going to all the radio and television networks and having her just interview. Tell her advice, offer anecdotes about her life.

But is Palin enough? She's not the one running for president. Are conservatives convinced she'll make a difference to the ticket in the future?

People who are Dr. Dobson's age these are the "I'm not voting" type. She becomes an important emissary to our community that can cross generational lines, the gender gap, and basically say to them we're all right, we're going to do right for you.

September 13, 2008

Q & A: Sean Hannity

In the two minutes before Sean Hannity's speech this morning, he told me what he thinks evangelicals care about.

"The issues that they care about family values, cultural values, obviously issues involving life. Government policies that impact the family positively, higher taxes impact whether families can make decisions about where they send their kids to school, whether they can go on vacation, whether they can go out to dinner. All of these things impact our families. If there’s burdensome regulation and taxes, that impacts evangelicals.

My opinion based on my interpretation of the evangelical friends I have and of which I’m one, the Republican Party is not a perfect party, but it’s certainly more in tune with their values.
You always vote for the person, their values, their principles. Just because you’re a Republican doesn’t mean you’re right. I’m looking for where are those Reagan conservative values and do they believe in limited government, liberty, freedom, strong national borders. It’s more based on the issues and than one particular party."

September 13, 2008

Fired up against Obama

Yesterday was love of Sarah Palin day but the crowd got riled up against Barack Obama this morning.

"Great to see so many bitter Americans. I see you cling to your guns and your bibles," Fox News commentator Sean Hannity said to a cheering crowd.

"How many of you saw Barack Apollo Obama at Obama's Greek temple designed by Britney Spears' set designer?" he said to those in the audience, some of whom wore buttons with "Nobama" and "Obama" crossed out on them. "Barack descended from the heavens, ladies and gentlemen. He descended the multi-talented God of light, the God of sun, God of truth, the God of prophecy, the God of socialized medicine, sent down from heavens to save you."

"I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure Barack Apollo Obama does not become president," Hannity said as the crowd stood applauding and snapping more photos.

September 12, 2008

Gibson drills Palin on abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell research

Charlie Gibson asked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin some hot button questions tonight during an interview that aired on ABC tonight.

Abortion

GIBSON: In the time I have left, I want to talk about some social issues.

PALIN: OK.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade, do you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should and I think that states should be able to decide that issue. I am pro-life. I do respect other people's opinion on this, also, and I think that a culture of life is best for America. What I want to do, when elected vice president, with John McCain, hopefully, be able to reach out and work with those who are on the other side of this issue, because I know that we can all agree on the need for and the desire for fewer abortions in America and greater support for adoption, for other alternatives that women can and should be empowered to embrace, to allow that culture of life. That's my personal opinion on this, Charlie.

GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue who have a differing.

Homosexuality

GIBSON: Homosexuality, genetic or learned?

PALIN: Oh, I don't -- I don't know, but I'm not one to judge and, you know, I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds and I'm not going to judge someone on whether they believe that homosexuality is a choice or genetic. I'm not going to judge them.

Stem cell research

GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research, John McCain has been supportive of it.

PALIN: You know, when you're running for office, your life is an open book and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there. And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we're getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.

The Washington Post reports that McCain has a new ad on stem cell research, but it doesn't specify between embryonic and adult stem cell.

They're the original mavericks. Leaders. Reformers. Fighting for real change.
John McCain will lead his Congressional allies to improve America's health.
Stem cell research to unlock the mystery of cancer, diabetes, heart disease.
Stem cell research to help free families from the fear and devastation of illness.
Stem cell research to help doctors repair spinal cord damage, knee injuries, serious burns.
Stem cell research to help stroke victims.
And, John McCain and his Congressional allies will invest millions more in new NIH medical research to prevent disease.
Medical breakthroughs to help you get better, faster.
Change is coming.
McCain-Palin and Congressional allies.
The leadership and experience to really change Washington and improve your health.
Paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden also reminded voters of stem cell research earlier this week.

September 12, 2008

'Values Voters' still love Romney

The crowd at the Values Voter Summit still seemed to love Mitt Romney who drew many supporters last year during his run for president.

"Palin herself could put the lipstick on the pitbull," Romney said to a cheering crowd.

The audience drew quieter as Romney focused most of his address on the foreign policy and the economy. When he began talking about religion, gay marriage, and abortion, the crowd became more energized.

"Americans are God-fearing people. Even those who don’t believe in God, in this country, they really believe in something bigger than themselves, as Rick Warren called it, a purpose-driven life. We’re family oriented. We sacrifice everything we have for our spouse and our children. In my view, a family begins with commitment of marriage and marriage is a commitment between a man and a woman."

The "values voters" began booing quietly when he mentioned Barack Obama's remarks at the Saddleback forum in August.

"Americans respect the sanctity of human life. We value life from its very beginning to its very end. Rather than vigorously defending life, Barack Obama just a couple of weeks ago, dismissed an inquiry with a flippant response that it’s above his pay grade. Did you hear what he said would be the most important criteria for selecting a Supreme Court justice? Their empathy. How about respect for the law and the constitution?"

Romney came in first in a straw poll at last year's summit when he was still running for president.

September 12, 2008

Capitalizing on Palin enthusiasm

Sarah Palin and John McCain did not make an appearance at this year's Values Voter Summit, but the campaign's evangelical outreach director Marlys Popma kept busy handing out bumper stickers at a quieter reception this afternoon.

The campaign also handed out DVDs where John McCain talks about his faith.

"I think he’s more comfortable talking about it than people realize it. It comes up a lot in the town hall meetings," said Bob Heckman, who leads the campaign's conservative outreach. "Just because he doesn’t do it on national TV doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen."

The campaign is capitalizing on conservative evangelicals' adoration of Palin. Heckman and several of the summit attenders wore "Palin power" stickers. One man sold buttons that said "Pro-life, Pro-Palin" and "Sock it to 'em" displaying Palin's photo.

September 12, 2008

FRC says thanks but no thanks to Sarah Palin video

The McCain campaign offered to send a video of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to the Values Voter Summit, but the Family Research Council declined the invitation.

"I said, ‘That won’t work,’ because legally we can’t do that," FRC President Tony Perkins told me this afternoon. "Barack Obama wanted to come early on, and if I didn’t extend the same format that I had given to her, we would be open to challenge. We had a complaint filed against us last year which took thousands of dollars. It was cleared up, but I have to be very careful."

FRC will show a video with former candidate Mike Huckabee at a gala tomorrow night.

September 12, 2008

FRC creates PAC, but won't endorse any presidential candidate

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins announced the group's new political action committee that will endorse candidates and raise money.

The PAC will not endorse a presidential candidate, however. "We're not a huge PAC yet and to make a dent, even, in that effort would take a lot of money," Perkins said at a press conference.

He also said, "There are still lingering concerns about some of John McCain’s positions." Conservative Christians have voiced concerns in the past over McCain's over embryonic stem cell research and the federal marriage amendment.

Although FRC extended invitations to John McCain, Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin, none of them will appear. Perkins said he believes Palin could have an impact on McCain's policy decisions.

"I’ve had a number of conversations with John McCain, we’re not golfing buddies by any means … she’s not just window dressing, she’s going to be an active partner," Perkins said. "While it may not have been a vigorous conversation, John McCain and his campaign were listening."

Perkins said the PAC plans to raise about $250,000 and put the money into one of the tighter races.

"We’re not looking to make a huge impact monetarily," he said. "We’re there saying, this is the candidate who lines up with those who are concerned about families."

The PAC endorsed about 80 candidates with just two Democrats on the list: Rep. Heath Shuler and Rep. Mike McIntyre.

September 12, 2008

Media vs. Sarah Palin

Speakers at the Values Voter Summit this morning spoke of their disdain for the media and love of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called ABC's interview with Palin "stunningly distorted."

"They find Gov. Palin quite horrifying because she actually believes in God, she actually believes in family, she actually has five children and she actually is a conservative," Gingrich said. "It's as though John McCain had gone to Mars and brought back an alien."

The crowd cheered Lt. Governor of Maryland Michael Steele earlier when he said, "I know Sarah Palin and you don't want to mess with Sarah Palin. She shoots moose, what do you think she is going to do to a donkey?"

CNN's Lou Dobbs gave the opening speech saying that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins "brought me over to his way of thinking. It may cost me my membership card in the liberal media but that is how it is."

September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin's high value

I’m getting ready to hear Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, John McCain this weekend at the Values Voter Summit.

That’s if the summit is anything like the Republican National Convention. Last year, John McCain came in last of the six Republican candidates in the summit’s straw poll. He received just 81 votes of the 5,776 cast.

The Family Research Council will host the summit for conservative voters with "shared values," and issues like abortion and gay marriage are bound to be common themes.

The New York Times’ story out of last year’s Values Voter Summit was that Christian conservatives were divided over which Republican candidate to support.

Mitt Romney won 28 percent of the votes, with Mike Huckabee trailing him close behind. The Washington Times writes about how Palin rises as the new conservative leader while others like Romney and Huckabee fade to the background.

September 11, 2008

A task from God

I will be covering this weekend's Values Voter Summit, so I was on a plane to DC during ABC's highly anticipated interview with Sarah Palin tonight.

So far, it looks like this was the main religion exchange:

GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.

But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.

That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.

Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.

GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."

PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.

GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?

PALIN: I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.

Melissa Rogers has more questions for Palin:

The other question I think she must answer regarding her talk at Wasilla Assembly of God flows from these remarks:
[Palin] said the state needed more than just economic development.

"Really, all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God," she said. "Your job is going to be to be out there reaching the people - hurting people - throughout Alaska and we can work together to make sure God's will be done here."

What does Palin mean by this, and how do her beliefs affect her public service? Does she think it appropriate, for example, for the government to promote (with its funds or otherwise) conversion or adherence to a particular faith or to some religion? Or is Palin saying that encouraging religious devotion is not the job of government but rather the job of the church?

Either way, does she regard public service as useless if the people being served are not "right with God"? If elected vice president, would she treat (and ensure that other governmental officials treat) people of all faiths and none as citizens of equal value? If so, how would she make good on that commitment?

Update: GetReligion's Mollie takes Gibson to task for his question. I'm hoping that we can just hear simple ABC questions about her faith.

September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin and Rick Warren Chat by Phone

Sarah Palin and Rick Warren are chatting by phone, though it's unclear who initiated. Warren seems less happy than ever with Obama, while still claiming to be above partisan politics.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 11, 2008

'The Worry'

André Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, is worried about Sarah and Trig Palin. Here's The Globe and Mail:

[Some Canadians] fear Ms. Palin's emergence as a parental role model sends a different message. As a vocal opponent of abortion, Ms. Palin's widely discussed decision to keep her baby, knowing he would be born with the condition, may inadvertently influence other women who may lack the necessary emotional and financial support to do the same, according to André Lalonde, executive vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

Dr. Lalonde said that above all else, women must be free to choose, and that popular messages to the contrary could have detrimental effects on women and their families.

"The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada," he said.

In other words: If your unborn child is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, you should abort, lest another mother see evidence that the child is a blessing and be influenced to keep her own unborn Down Syndrome child.

Fortunately, Krista Flint, executive director of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, counters such nonsense: "We know overwhelmingly the message families get is 'Don't have this baby, it will ruin your life,' and I don't think people would look at Sarah Palin and see a ruined life. Regardless of politics, I think it's a good example."

Unfortunately, it's Lalonde rather than Flint who's more likely to be counseling women when they get back their prenatal screening for Down Syndrome.

September 11, 2008

The Religious Right in Florida: It's Alive

In Florida, long a hotbed for evangelical/Christian Right activity, the Miami Herald reports Barack Obama's evangelical outreach is running into some roadblocks:

When two prominent evangelical Christians from Florida agreed to speak at the Democratic National Convention, the party proudly pointed to Barack Obama's aggressive outreach to a traditionally Republican voting bloc.

But one, a Christian magazine publisher, decided not to go on stage, and the other, the Rev. Joel Hunter, who gave the benediction after Obama's speech, said Tuesday he is ''laying low'' until after the election.

Meanwhile, several leaders of the religious right in Florida say they are more enthused than ever about Republican John McCain, pointing to his strong performance at a nationally televised forum at a California church and his staunchly anti-abortion running mate, Sarah Palin....

The Christian Coalition of Florida is preparing to distribute three million voter guides that will not offer endorsements but will outline the candidates' divergent positions on abortion, gay rights and school vouchers.

''That stay-at-home thing is over,'' said Dennis Baxley, the group's executive director. ``There has been a marked shift from people saying they will vote for John McCain to people saying that they will work for the ticket.''

The Herald notes that Obama's Floridi religious outreach is robust:

Obama's camp is not deterred, pointing to 1,677 ''faith captains'' around Florida who are mobilizing voters in their churches and synagogues. In a sign that the campaign is taking pains to reach the African-American slice of the Christian community, two prominent black Democrats, U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and John Lewis of Georgia, are meeting this week with religious leaders in Florida.

But with a new Quinnipiac poll giving McCain a 7-point lead in the Sunshine State, Obama's religious outreach team has good reason to worry about their standing with the formidable bloc of sunbelt evangelicals there.

(Originally posted at Beliefnet's God-o-Meter)

September 11, 2008

Significant?

Christianity Today's Ted Olsen asks whether six points' worth of evangelicals should be considered a significant pickup for Obama, given the amount of outreach he's lavished on them. I guess it depends on what you mean by significant. In 2004, George W. Bush improved his performance among Jews by that amount and the general sense was that it wasn't much to show for his administration's record of devotion to Israel. On the other hand, swings of that magnitude in large voting blocs like white evangelicals can make a big difference in states like Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, etc.

I guess the better way to put it is to note, as pastordan does, how far McCain's numbers fall short of Bush's--16 points. In recent elections, white evangelicals have tended to vote Republican 75 percent to 25 percent. Obama appears to have his quarter locked up. McCain has at this point failed to seal the deal with his entire three-quarters. The battle would appear to be for the 15 percent still undecided.

One final point. Just as the Palin "female" appeal appears to be not to Hillary voters but to Independent Walmart moms, so the Obama religious appeal seems to have made the biggest difference with semi-frequent worship attenders. White evangelicals, like Jews, are not a swing group; so peeling off five or six percentage points is, I would say, significant.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

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September 11, 2008

Nobody Cares?

Fan that I am, methinks pastordan doth protest too much my suggestion that Obama might do well to, well, wrap himself in the UCC's position on abortion. For starters, it seems unnecessarily legalistic to deny that Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ because he recently, under pressure one might say, resigned his membership in his Chicago church. After all, this was the denomination he was baptized into and in which he remained for a couple of decades. And that he shouldn't do so because it would bring back memories of Jeremiah Wright? It's not as if the UCC's pro-choice stance is an expression of black liberation theology.

My point, perhaps not clearly enough expressed the first time around, is that Americans tend to respect each other for abiding by the teachings of their religion. As the Detroit sportswriter put it when Hank Greenberg sat out Yom Kippur during a crucial pennant drive: "We will miss him in the field and we'll miss him at the bat, / but he's true to his religion and we honor him for that."

Religion derives from a Latin word having to do with binding; and the knowledge that a politician is bound by a religious teaching, even if they disagree with that teaching (assuming it is not too far out), has a positive value that makes it easier to accept the politician than if he just came up with the position on his own. pastordan thinks that abortion opponents are so dismissive of liberal denominations like the UCC that this wouldn't cut any ice with them. The question is subject to empirical testing, though I doubt Obama is going to give us a chance to test it in this case.

What really seems to concern pastordan, however, is not that citing UCC authority wouldn't work for Obama but that it shouldn't. In the grand old antinomian congregationalist tradition of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, he writes, "Many many people live perfectly contented lives in UCC churches without a second thought as to what resolutions General Synod has or has not passed. We're just not that into authority." So be it. But it sort of assumes that Obama is still one of them, doesn't it?

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 10, 2008

Palin preaches to the choir

Sarah Palin may possess the evangelical vernacular John McCain needs to win in November, Michael Lindsay argues over on Beliefnet.

"Why would a person seeking the country's second most powerful office talk about governing with a 'servant's heart,' and more importantly, why would she repeat such an odd phrase in the biggest speech of her life? Quite simply, it is one of her main assignments--to mobilize fellow evangelicals for the religiously unmusical John McCain."

Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University, argues that when Palin referred to governing with a "servant's heart," the phrase resonated with millions of evangelicals who have heard that phrase all of their lives.

"When John McCain began his bid for the Oval Office, observers thought he didn't have a prayer of winning their support. With this 'Hail Mary pass' of enlisting the Alaskan governor as his running mate, John McCain's political savior may just turn out to be a pit bull with lipstick."

September 10, 2008

Obama's white evangelicals

Today's Fox poll has McCain leading Obama among white evangelicals by 61 percent to 25 percent. Bush beat Kerry among white evangelicals by 77 percent to 23 percent. So in spite of Sarah Palin's selection, Obama remains ahead of Kerry's pace in this demographic. Should he win his share of the undecideds, he'd reach 29 percent--not as good as Bill Clinton but a significant pickup nonetheless.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 10, 2008

Palin, the Alaska Context

As the scrutiny of Palin's religious views begins in earnest--here's CNN's take on Anderson Cooper last night--it's important to understand the Alaska context in which evangelicals like her operate. Alaskans may seem like rednecks in mukluks, but religiously they are a much better fit with the rest of the Pacific Northwest than with the redneck South. Their rate of religious affiliation is low. According to the North American Religion Atlas (data base developed by the Polis Center as part of the Greenberg Center's regions project), 60.2 percent of Alaskans are religiously unaffiliated or uncounted, putting them in close proximity to Washingtonians (62 percent) and Oregonians (65 percent) but far away from, say, Oklahomans (30 percent). And whereas over half the population of Oklahoma is affiliated with an evangelical church, in Alaska less than 15 percent are.

What this means is that Alaska's evangelicals constitute a distinct subculture if not the kind of self-conscious counterculture that characterizes them in the rest of the Northwest. Nowhere else in the country are evangelicals so skeptical of environmentalism, which in Oregon and Washington has acquired the status of a civil religion in and of itself. (For more on this, see chapter 10 of our new book, One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics.) Under the circumstances, Palin has needed to be circumspect about translating her very conservative social views into either electoral politics or governance. She may have wanted to get immoral books removed from the Wasilla library shelves, but her tentative effort to do so failed. She'll ask fellow evangelicals to pray for a gas pipeline but not Alaskans at large. Wedge politics based on a religious right agenda requires considerable delicacy in Alaska.

Abortion, the premier religious right issue, is the most notable case in point. Alaska is a pro-choice state by a considerable margin; a 2005 state-by-state survey ranked it as the 32nd most pro-life state, with 58 percent of Alaskans describing themselves as pro-choice, as opposed to 37 percent pro-life. There's no question that Palin, who makes no bones about it, is about as pro-life as a politician can get, opposing abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother. But open anti-abortion politics is not a winner in Alaska. In her gubernatorial campaign against pro-choice Tony Knowles two years ago, her campaign insisted that she would not advocate for her anti-abortion views, and in fact she's been very gingerly in pushing for anti-abortion legislation as governor.

No doubt, Palin will be asked about her views on abortion by ABC's Charlie Gibson on the road in Wasilla this week. My guess is that she will, as she did in Alaska, enunciate her pro-life position and then accuse her opponents of using abortion to divide Americans. ("Tony Knowles is working to divide Alaskans by making abortion an issue," her spokesman told the Juneau Empire in 2006.) It's called having your cake and eating it too, and it's pretty good politics in a country that's exactly as pro-choice as Alaska is.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 10, 2008

Bishops v. Biden

The Catholic Bishops are cheesed with Joe Biden for, as they see it, claiming that abortion is just a "personal and private issue." Here's the relevant quote, from Biden's response on Meet the Press last Sunday:

I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view.

According to the bishops, "the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a 'personal and private' matter of religious faith, one which cannot be 'imposed' on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching."

Of course, Biden did not say that the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a private matter. His position is that it is a confessional matter. The bishops can assert until they are blue in the face that what they profess is universally applicable because it's built into the nature of things; but at the end of the day they remain religious leaders asserting the doctrine of their church. And most American Catholics, like Biden, understand them as such.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

September 10, 2008

Another Reason Democrats Must Care About Abortion Reduction: The Latino Vote

Little known fact: most of the impressive gains that George W. Bush made among Hispanics in 2004 were actually among Latino evangelicals. In other words, it was his appeal to evangelicals that did it as much as his appeal to Hispanics. They liked his conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage, and his evangelical faith.

But because the Republicans are now increasingly viewed as anti-immigrant, Democrats have a shot this year. According to Newsweek, these voters are taking a look at the Democrats broader social justice agenda but also still care about abortion.

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

September 10, 2008

Faith-Based False Rumors About Palin

FactCheck.org has posted this list of the false rumors targetting Sarah Palin. Notice how many have a religious tie-in:

Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn't cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.

That sham accusation seeks to undermind Palin's commitment to special needs children as exemplified by her decision to carry her Down syndrome baby to term, largely for religious reasons, ie faith-based opposition to abortion.

She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time. The librarian has said Palin asked a "What if?" question, but the librarian continued in her job through most of Palin's first term.

This one portrays Palin as a narrow-minded Bible thumper.

She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She's been registered as a Republican since May 1982.

OK, that one has nothing to do with religion.

Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a "courtesy" when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state.

This one paints Palin as an out-of-the mainstream culture warrior, though some conservatives took it as proof of her allegiance to the cause.

Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

That one needs no explanation.

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

September 9, 2008

Jews for Jesus director defends remarks

Jews for Jesus came under scrutiny after Politico published remarks made at Sarah Palin's church before she was chosen as John McCain's vice presidential candidate.

Politico reported that Jews for Jesus executive director, David Brickner described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

Brickner.JPG

A spokesman for the McCain campaign said that Palin did not know Brickner would be speaking that day and did not share his views. "Governor Palin does not share the views he expressed, and she and her family would not have been sitting in the pews of this church for the last seven years if his remarks were even remotely typical," Michael Goldfarb wrote in an e-mail to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Brickner gives the same message at churches across the country for Jews for Jesus, group composed of Christians with Jewish lineage. I spoke with Brickner earlier this week, who also defended his message on the Jews for Jesus website.

Did you expect your comments to emerge later?
When I went to Wasilla, I had only briefly heard that Sarah Palin was being considered as a possible running mate, but by then, people were saying, ?No no, it's Pawlenty. It's Romney.' When the pastor told me she was going to have her baby dedicated that Sunday, I just thought, ?Wow that's cool.'

I didn't expect the kind of scrutiny and misappropriation of my sermon for the ends of attacking her. We've been trying to scramble to cover the misunderstandings over the last few days.

When did you think you were being misrepresented?
The comments that were made were taken out of context. They were trying to make it sound like I believed God was sending the terrorists attacks on Israel for not believing Jesus.

Any evangelical would say that the whole world is under the effects of sin, the judgment of God for unbelief. So many things happen in the world, broken families, terrible things that happen in the world. When I was talking about Israel, I was talking about the things that have gone over there, and that this world is broken and Jesus is the only hope.

Do you think Jews find you offensive?
We should think that Jewish people should believe in Jesus, just like everybody else. That often gets criticized, but I had never been criticized for this before.

Obviously Sarah Palin is the real target in all of this and I happened to be fodder in the whole process. I'm sure the story will blow over for Jews for Jesus but I doubt that Sarah Palin will be out of the line of attack until the election.

Sarah Palin naturally had to say ?I don't hold those views' and I would say ?I don't hold them either.'

People are reading and listening to sermon. They're going to hear a message of love, of the message of Jesus." The Jerusalem dilemma is the Wasilla dilemma, which is the dilemma of the heart.

If you had known that people would hear what you said, would you have changed it?
It's hard to say. I might've been a little more thorough in using the illustrations I used. Having just been in Israel, the terrible conflict that is raging in the middle east is symptomatic of all of the problems humans face, being estranged from God. I don't think I would want to be in a place where I would diminish the impact of sin, but I spent more time focusing on the love that God has. When you take one sentence out of a 6 and ? page manuscript you can pretty much distort anything you want.

Did you pay attention to when reporters broadcasted comments Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee had made, and if so, how did you feel then compared to what you are experiencing now?
I think the comparison, which was attempted, is a stretch. One thing is sure. The old adage that you can't believe what you read in the press has been driven home to me. I don't feel any responsibility to try to defend Rev. Wright's comments, that I can assure you.

John Hagee's comment that the Holocaust was God's judgment is a comment that's also been made by many religious leaders, including rabbis. I believe you have to be able to distinguish between Satan's efforts to destroy people, which was the Holocaust and God's judgment. God often used judgment to bring about repentance. I believe there's a huge difference between judgment, which is God's redemptive plan, and the diabolical efforts of the enemy to destroy God's people. I believe the Holocaust is an example of Satan's efforts to destroy God's work and his people. I would never say the Holocaust was God's judgment.

The quotes that were attributed to me were cast in such a way that was the opposite of what I was saying.

You give this message to several churches across the country. Have you tailored your message any differently?
No. I think that maybe I will be more careful to give a context and a caveat when I talk about sin and judgment, but I will never stop talking about it because the Bible talks about it. As Christians, we need to continue to articulate the fact that sin has its consequence and that God does judge sin.


How do you know the difference between God's judgment and Satan's attempts?

I'm sure there are evangelical theologians who won't agree with me on that point. In terms of scope, when the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and took the people captive, God warned the people that this was going to happen and the results of their sin would lead to judgment, but the judgment was never one of extent of what the Holocaust was.

The intent was never on the part of others to annihilate all of the people. God when he judges, he allows things to happen. God's intent was always to call people back to himself.

What do you think about Palin's candidacy?
Jews for Jesus is not a political organization. My personal view was that she is somebody who is an evangelical Christian who loves the Lord and believes in life and lives that out. As for her pastor, I know he's a godly man and he has a genuine evangelical conviction. I would stake my confidence in the messages he's preaching.

Jews for Jesus provided the photo of Brickner speaking with an Israeli in Tel Aviv a few months ago.

September 9, 2008

Caring for the disabled and stem cell research

Sen. Joe Biden reminded voters of stem cell research on the campaign trail today.

"I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have both the joy, because there's joy to it as well, the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect. Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem cell research?"

Some evangelicals have raised concern about John McCain's support of embryonic stem cell research. McCain's campaign responded to Biden's comments.

"Barack Obama's running mate sunk to a new low today launching an offensive debate over who cares more about special needs children," McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said. "Playing politics with this issue is disturbing and indicative of a desperate campaign."

Biden spokesman David Wade said Tuesday that Biden's comments were not directed at Palin who said in her acceptance speech last week that parents of disabled children would have "a friend and advocate in the White House."

"We've heard not a dime's worth of difference between the McCain-Palin ticket and the Bush Administration on medical breakthroughs that millions of parents and doctors believe could save lives and transform the quality of life for countless Americans," Wade said.

Wade's point would probably be something a James Dobson type would want to hear.

September 9, 2008

Belief barrier: What Palin's religion could mean for the race

Journalists are still searching for Sarah Palin's religious ties to her policies, but Family Research Council President Tony Perkins doesn't see any yet.

This is a clip from a CNN interview:

Roberts: Do you have any idea at this point about how her faith will inform how she governs?

Perkins: No. There's not a lot of evidence in Alaska other than, you know, she's conservative. I mean there's not -- you can't point to a lot of policies that people say [she adopted] because she's a conservative evangelical.

Steve Waldman at Beliefnet created a list of statements Palin has made that seem to tie her faith to her policies. Waldman tries to explain which ones could be scary to those on on the left and which aren't.

September 9, 2008

Up for Grabs

The God gap grows in Washington.

A little evidence that the God Gap has increased since Sarah Palin's nomination comes from the latest SUSA poll of Washington State. Compared to SUSA's last Washington State poll of a month ago, the gap among regular attenders has increased by three points, from 59-36 for McCain to 61-35. Among those who almost never attend, Obama's margin has grown very slightly, from 62-32 to 63-32. But the biggest shift has come among the occasional attenders, among whom Obama's margin has dropped from 57-39 to 49-41. As I noted a few days ago, that's the group that's in play, and if the addition of Palin to the ticket enables McCain to round up a significant number of them, Obama's in trouble. In Washington State, SUSA shows McCain gaining only two percent of them, while the undecideds have doubled from two percent to four percent and those supporting other candidates have doubled from three percent to six percent. They're up for grabs.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 8, 2008

Me, My Church, and I

Referring to Barack Obama's "above my pay grade" response to Rick Warren at the Saddleback forum last month, Tom Brokaw asked Joe Biden on Meet the Press yesterday how he would instruct his ticketmate on the question of when life begins. "I'd say," Biden said:

"Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life--I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society."

The role of a church's teaching in American electoral politics is a complex thing. Back in 1960, John F. Kennedy had to make clear that he would not take orders from the pope, and pointedly disagreed with the American Catholic hierarchy on its two top priority issues: aid to parochial schools and an ambassador to the Vatican. Forty-four years later, disagreeing with his church on abortion put John Kerry crossways with the very same people--conservative evangelicals--who were troubled by JFK's Catholicism.

The JFK/Kerry contrast is easy enough to follow. A subtler situation is that of Virginia's Catholic Gov. Tim Kaine, who made it clear, in his 2005 race, that his opposition to the death penalty was rooted in his Catholicism; and that seemed a lot easier for the very pro-death penalty electorate to stomach than if he had simply declared that he was against the death penalty because he believed it was wrong. As Princeton's wise old scholar of American religious history John Wilson likes to point out, pointing to the teachings of one's religion is as likely to ease tension over policy differences among citizens as to exacerbate them.

So what I'm wondering is this. What if a Barack Obama, instead of flying solo on the deeply controverted moral issue of abortion, simply said that he embraced the position of his denomination--the United Church of Christ; to wit:

The United Church of Christ has affirmed and re-affirmed since 1971 that access to safe and legal abortion is consistent with a woman’s right to follow the dictates of her own faith and beliefs in determining when and if she should have children, and it has supported comprehensive sexuality education as one measure to prevent unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, and to create healthy and responsible sexual persons and relationships. (General Synods VIII, IX, XI, XII, XIII, XVI, XVII, and XVIII)
We have also supported that women with limited financial means should be able to receive public funding in order to exercise her legal right to the full range of reproductive health services. What is legally available to women must be accessible to all women.

The United Church of Christ is one of the founding faith groups of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, formed in 1973 as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. Over the years, RCRC has continued to bring a strong voice of faith on the moral and religious issues that swirl around public debate over abortion, contraception and pregnancy prevention. Because there are many religious and theological perspectives on when life and personhood begin, the UCC joins others in advocating that public policy must honor this rich religious diversity. Our position is not a pro-abortion position but a pro-faith, pro-family and pro-woman position.

My guess is that hewing to the position of his church--which is, in fact, his position--would sit more easily with many pro-life Americans who themselves are influenced, as Joe Biden says he is, by their church's teaching. (Incidentally, I also suspect that Mitt Romney would have done better with pro-life evangelicals had he embraced embryonic stem-cell research--like the entire Mormon contingent in the U.S. Senate--on the grounds that his church teaches that "ensoulment" only occurs at implantation.) The point that Biden was at pains to make is that opposition to abortion is a religious teaching, but one that not all religious groups subscribe to; and in America we don't impose religious teachings on those who don't subscribe to them. There are counterarguments, of course, but this is a powerful argument to counter.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 8, 2008

Keeping faith on the DL

Reporters keep searching for hints of Sarah Palin's faith, but it looks like the campaign is keeping it on the down low.

Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, told the New York Times that Palin had been baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, but declined to comment further.

"We're not going to get into discussing her religion," she said.

Comella also declined to talk about her background to the Wall Street Journal. "I think talking about where she worships today and how she characterizes herself speaks for itself about where she is today on this issue," Comella said.

So since the campaign is quiet, reporters are digging up speeches and videos of her speaking or sermons her pastors have given.

Here's a clip that Chicago Tribune reporter Manya A. Brachear dug up.

"I can do my job there in developing our natural resources and doing things like getting the roads paved and making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded," she said in June to ministry students at her former church. "But really, all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God."

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has changed the entry under Palin's religion from "Protestant" to "Attends several evangelical Christian churches in Alaska."

Sen. John McCain has always been quieter about his faith. He grew up in an Episcopal church but has been attending North Phoenix Baptist Church for more than 15 years. Although his wife has been baptized there, McCain has not, telling the Chicago Tribune, "Oh, it's just something I'll be able to work out with Pastor [Dan] Yeary."

Reporter Brachear recalled when a journalist covering the 2000 campaign asked McCain to name his favorite Bible verse.

When McCain came up with nothing, the reporter suggested John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

"Is that the one about the end of the world?" McCain quipped.

McCain told the Tribune that he began attending North Phoenix Baptist because pastors there offered a message of spiritual redemption.

"The message was more in tune with what I was seeking in the way of spiritual assistance and guidance," McCain told the Tribune. "All of us are human. None of us is without sin or failings. The key to it is to try to move forward and be better and do better."

September 8, 2008

Do vice presidents really matter?

According to Legal Times, they matter quite a bit in picking Supreme Court nominees and other judges. (Link via Melissa Rogers.)

September 8, 2008

Why Not to Trust Online Polls

If you're surprised that two-thirds of people taking the CT poll are supporting Barack Obama, please note that a number of folks are coming from Democratic Underground. There may be Republican sites trying to game the results on the other end of the spectrum, I don't know.

But this is part of the reason why online polls should be viewed as for entertainment purposes only. Actually, while many people enjoy taking these online polls knowing they're not actually involved in research, ultimately they're not for entertainment purposes. Websites use them basically because they increase site traffic, which adds a bit of revenue. Hmmm. Never mind. Online polls are really, really important! McCain supporters unite! Go tell all your friends about the poll and get your side to win! And Obama supporters: Keep up the pressure! Tell all your friends to click on Obama!

This is entertaining after all.

September 5, 2008

The Gap, The Gap

Gallup has a terrific new survey out on the religious attendance gap--God Gap if you will--among non-Hispanic white registered voters in re: presidential preference. In a nutshell, McCain is rocking along at a better than 2-1 clip among those who say they attend worship at least weekly (33 percent), while Obama enjoys a 12 percentage point lead among those who attend seldom or never (47 percent). These margins are almost identical to the margins between Bush and Kerry in 2004. But there's a shift in the swing group of those who say they attend monthly or nearly weekly (19 percent). Where Bush led Kerry among them by 62 percent to 36 percent, Obama has cut the gap down by two-thirds, pulling to within 9 points of McCain, 41-50. That's where Obama's religious outreach is making its mark, for a pickup of 5 points in the entire non-Hispanic white electorate.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 5, 2008

Q&A with Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran against John McCain in the primaries, spoke at the Republican Convention shortly before Sarah Palin's acceptance speech Wednesday. I interviewed him Thursday.

How does Sarah Palin’s candidacy change the race?
I think it’s really energized the base of the party and given people a reason to be excited about the ticket. There was a lot of anxiety about McCain picking Lieberman. He really gave people a reason to be not just accepting about the ticket. Everyone I’ve talked to is excited about the ticket. It’s a completely different atmosphere than it was a week ago.

Do you think Palin’s pregnant daughter will change whether people will vote for her?
The way the media went after the daughter is the most shameful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. If anything, it just caused [evangelicals] to run to her. Everyone understands that the basis of being a Christian is that everyone has fallen short of God’s ideal. Everyone understands that. We do understand is that when there’s a problem or failures, the family sticks together. We saw a mother who gave her unconditional love to her daughter. That embodies what Christianity means. We all mess up, the issue is how we respond to it. What she showed us is exactly what we wanted to see in terms of a witness.

The religious outreach is much less public here than it was in Denver. Why do you think that is?

For Republicans to recognize the value voters is nothing new. It’s not out of the ordinary. It’s not just recognizing them as an extraordinary. It represents what’s in the heart in soul of the convention. It’s not like we have to reach to that which is right in the party.

Do you think the issues that evangelicals care about have changed?
I think one of the things that is positive is that while they are still steadfast on life and marriage, but there’s a broadening of the issues. People are care about hunger, poverty, and diseases. It’s one of the things I’m very, very thrilled to see. I’ve advocated for a long time education reform, health care reform, and conservation. Those are issues that touch everybody.

How has your faith affected your policies?
In two ways. I don’t have to wake up every morning and think what do I want to believe today. You sense that public policy ought to be a direct result of your deep convictions, not just trends that you can pick up on through polling. I believe in my heart of hearts that sanctity of every human life is important. I don’t support traditional marriage because polls show I should. It’s the foundation of our society. In that way, I think it’s a part of shaping your views and the priorities you have.

Some have called you economically more liberal.
Totally false. Absurdly false. That was one of the most ridiculous attacks I’ve ever heard.

I cut taxes, balanced the budget, I was one of the strongest supporters of fair tax. When people said those things, they based it not on objective fact finding … they drank the Kool-Aid. But when then they did their own research, they saw I have a strong conservative record on fiscal issues.

What challenges will McCain have to face before the election?
I think he did it with [Palin's] selection. I don’t see any barriers at this point.

Do you think he’ll receive as many votes from evangelicals as President Bush did in 2004?
I’m beginning to believe he is. I’ve heard nothing but excitement and energy. I just really sense that there’s a completely different attitude than there was a week ago.

McCain doesn’t talk about his faith the same way that Sen. Obama does.
Some people eat their soup louder than other people, but it doesn’t mean the soup tastes better.

What about the evangelicals who may be taking a second look at Obama?
I think his appearance at Saddleback really hurt him among people who are looking for a candidate with their values. It was absurd for him to say that the definition of when life begins was above his pay grade.

What are your future plans? Do you have plans to run again?
I have no idea. My own plans are to help Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin get elected.

September 5, 2008

Q&A with Sen. Brownback

Sen. Sam Brownback, who originally ran for president against John McCain, believes that the biggest challenge McCain faces among evangelicals is getting them out of their houses on November 4.

Here's a portion of the interview earlier this week:

What do you think of the Palin pick?

It’s excellent. I think it was a game change. You know, the American public wanted to vote for history, and that was some of the appeal of Barack Obama to show yes, we can do something like this. Well, now you can vote for history by voting for the Republican ticket, by placing the first female vice president of the U.S.

What challenges do John McCain and Sarah Palin face, particularly among evangelicals?

You know, I don’t think they face much challenge among evangelicals now, other than getting them out to vote and pushing their neighbors to get out to vote. It’s probably more of an organizational challenge at this point. And that can take some time but it’s doable.

Do you think people will be as excited about McCain on November 4 as they were for Bush in 2004?

That’d be hard to do. You know, because Bush was one of them, really spoke the language and knew it in his heart, and John loves the country but is a different candidate. I think he’s going to get their votes and now with the pick of Palin who may become one of the future leaders of the overall movement, I think he’s really endeared himself to the faith base of the party even if they don’t see it in him as much as they’d like to.

Barack Obama speaks more openly about his faith and has an intense religious outreach. Do you think that will work?

I don’t think so, because he’s just off on the core subjects. That came through so clear at Saddleback, that he’s not there on life, he’s not there on marriage. It came through at the Democratic convention in his big speech – he talks about supporting abortion and same-sex marriage. And I just think those for a lot of people are the portal issue. You’ve got to get the basics right before I can look at you on other issues. And if you can’t get the basics right, how can I trust you on a broader set of issues?

At the Democratic National Convention there was more religious outreach. Why is there less here?

It’s because it’s woven into our program here, it’s in the DNA. It’s the priest or the pastor that kicks off the convention and prays in the name of Jesus. It’s people speaking of their faith or their testimony. It’s more woven into who we are and what the party is.

What objections do evangelicals or Catholics raise when they’re talking to you about whether to vote for McCain or not?

Individuals raise the issue of stem cell research to me – that’s the major one I get. But then when they weigh it against Obama who’s for stem cell research and not even for protecting a child that’s accidentally born in a botched abortion, that one’s so over the top pro-abortion that there’s not even a choice here.

Have you heard any objections to Palin because of her daughter’s pregnancy?

From the media I have. From other people I get a yes and amen, that life happens and things happen that you wish didn’t, but this is how you deal with it. You don’t kill the child. You have the child and you try to make a go of it as a family and you surround the child and the family with love and affection. For most people it’s been yes, that’s how we deal with the things that happen in life that you wish didn’t. So it’s been, by and large from the faith perspective, a yes, this is what you do. And it’s been a good common object discussion with the country about what it means to be pro-life.

There’s been talk of the evangelical agenda broadening, and some think that may be a chance for Obama to get more votes. Do you see that?

Yes, I see it happening, particularly in younger evangelical voters, and I don’t think that’s all a bad thing. But I don’t concede then those voters to Barack Obama. I have to stand upstairs – I don’t concede the social justice agenda to Barack Obama when McCain’s the guy that led the charge for a reform immigration system and opposed his own party to do that, when McCain’s the guy who endured torture and is opposed to torture. I think we fight on this new terrain when McCain’s the guy putting forth proposals to deal with global warming.

Usually people enter politics because of a topic. In this case it may have been the pro-life movement or it may have been when they were driving and got out at the public square that for a lot of people faith came in. But then once you’re in the system you broaden because now you have a thousand issues to deal with. You may have come into politics because of that but now there are a bunch of issues you have to deal with. You can’t just say well I don’t care I only want to deal with my set. If you’re an elected official or otherwise you have to deal with them.

September 5, 2008

Rodriguez: Republicans need to accommodate immigrants

Immigration remains a central issue for millions of Americans this election, but the issue was barely touched at either convention.
Eva Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Evangelical Women’s president, said that many Hispanics are confused about this election. Rodriguez gave the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.

How did you get invited to pray at the convention?
I know they were Googling names. I guess my name came up. I run the women’s task of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference. They saw my videos and they also know my husband, Samuel Rodriguez. He’s been with McCain a few times and they know each other personally.

Did they ask you to change the prayer at all?
They did not. I sent it in a week prior so they knew what they were getting into.

Do you have any sense of how Hispanic evangelicals will vote this year?
I think we’re very confused this year. Out of all the elections, this has been a very difficult one to pick, because we have a brown person in the Democratic Party. You gotta be honest, it makes you proud. I think at the end of the day, you look at morals. It’s awesome to have a brown person running. We always go back to morals.

Barack Obama doesn’t have morals?
Well he does, but not to the extent that the Republican Party does – Marriage between a man and a woman and abortion. Those are the two main issues that have been brought up. Of course, immigration, John McCain has fought for.

What kind of immigration policy are you looking for?
We’re looking for something in between, but we’re not getting anything right now. I’m very disappointed because here, they haven’t touched it. About 60 percent of the people in my congregation are immigrants. Our hope is that John McCain will continue on with immigration reform.

What do people think of Sarah Palin’s candidacy?
We are very excited, not only because she’s a woman, but her religious beliefs are there. When it comes to morals and having a woman I think has been awesome – awesome pick.

What do you think about the election so far?
I think immigration is going to be a big one. The Republican Party has to try to accommodate us a little bit. We’re going to make the majority in a few years. They need to start thinking about us. We’re going to be important, but in about eight years, we’re going to be extremely important. We’re talking about down the road, the Republican Party is going to have to change, whether they like it or not. They need to listen to McCain a little bit more. Hispanics are growing, we’re moving up, we’re going to college, our kids are graduating. Our votes are going to count.

September 5, 2008

The Home Stretch

As the presidential race enters its final phase, where do things stand on the religion front?

The Democrats in general and the Obama campaign in particular have made a fair showing that they are not the anti-faith party. Given that Americans have grown a bit leery of mixing religion and politics, the party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Obama is pretty well attuned to the country's current mood: faith by all means, but nothing too intrusive. On the constituency front, African Americans, Latino Catholics, non-Judeo-Christians, and Seculars are fully locked up, while Jews are a less iffy proposition than they seemed to be a week ago. The big question mark has to do with Mainline Protestants.

As for the Republicans in general and the McCain campaign in particular, the evangelical base of the party now seems locked and loaded (though I'm still keeping my eye open for regional variations). As the NYT's David Kirkpatrick points out in a must-listen interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" yesterday, McCain and company have been hard at work since June cultivating evangelical leaders; in this regard, the choice of Palin is the culmination of an ongoing effort than a bolt from the blue. And, as Kirkpatrick very importantly points out, McCain has never been the opponent of the religious right that the main narrative--based as it is on his "agents of intolerance" remark in South Carolina, holds. Otherwise, the Palin appointment weakens McCain's ability to peel off Jewish voters; when Christians are on the march, Jews run the other way.

What about non-Latino Catholics? My sense is not so much that they are up for grabs as that they will simply mirror the electorate as a whole. The ordinary Americans.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

September 5, 2008

What's In a Word?

NYT has a cool graphic this morning showing the number of times speakers at the two conventions used particular words. As it turns out, GOP speakers invoked the name of God ("God") nearly twice as often Democratic ones, 43 to 22. But when it came to the tickets themselves, the invocations were tied: Biden and McCain, 8 each; Obama and Palin, 2. In other words, those candidates most identified with religion mentioned God least.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics.)

September 5, 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 September posts. Here's August.

September 4, 2008

The prayer from John McCain's pastor

"Father, we think that he has been prepared for such a time as this."

House Minority Leader John Boehner had to bang the gavel twice to get people’s attention to stop popping the balloons and start praying.

These are the words Sen. John McCain’s pastor Dan Yeary prayed:

"Almighty God, we are grateful for the gift called America. We are thankful for the freedom to celebrate what we are doing and have done this week. We have repeatedly invoked your blessing on our country. And as we do, we are reminded of the words you gave to Solomon: if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, you will hear from heaven and heal our land.

So we pray, humble us Lord, humble us as a people to serve you, help us to seek your face alone. Give us the courage to turn from our self-centered, wicked ways. Hear us, oh Lord, as we ask you to heal our land. We ask you to still the storms … tonight that we ask that you protect our young men and young women who are protecting us from terrorism.

Lord, we ask a very special blessing on our brother John McCain. (cheering)
Father, we think that he has been prepared for such a time as this. We ask that you give him wisdom and courage, wisdom that comes from you, and courage that comes from his relationship with you. We ask your blessing and divine protection on Cindy and the children. May they see such honor and integrity in their parents that they rise up and call them blessed.

Oh Lord, in humility, we ask that you remind us that we cannot put our country first unless you are foremost. For as Jesus taught his disciplines, thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."

September 4, 2008

'What Good Fortune. ... The Stars Are Aligned'

Not to be a party pooper, but it seems to me that one of the most memorable lines tonight came not from McCain's speech, but from the video that introduced him. Here's how it ended:

"What a life. What a faith. What a family. What good fortune, that America would choose this leader at precisely this time. The stars are aligned. Change will come."

The stars are aligned?

There have been discussions about McCain being superstitious, but I can't imagine that the McCain campaign was really intending to offer a "dog whistle" to astrology fans.

But what were they going for? Gravitas? Were they jealous of the Obama comments they included in their very own "The One" ad?

Whatever the intent, it's an off-key note to sound if you're trying to rally a religious conservative base.

September 4, 2008

God talk on the last night

At least two speakers talked about God tonight - the last night of the two conventions.

"It's my hope the Republican Party, with the selection of John McCain and Sarah Palin, will be a part of a return to God's word that will lead America to a spiritual revival so that God can truly bless America." Joe Gibbs, who recently retired as the Washington Redskins coach.

Earlier in his speech, Gibbs said,

Think about this, then. If you and I are playing the game of life, God's our head coach. Would he put us here without a game plan? Absolutely not. He's done that, and down through history when we followed God's game plan, his Bible, his Word, it leads to success for both individuals and -- (cheers, applause) -- for both individuals and countries.

Now, my life is a personal example. I'm a testimony. When I veered away from God's game plan and became a foolish person, I suffered the results. It led to a financial disaster, a vocational struggle, and a serious health issue.

But yet, then again, when I followed God's game plan, His word, this average person, with that game plan, was able to have some of the greatest experiences in the world.

Pat and I right now have a great family with eight grandkids. (Cheers, applause.) We also have been able to enjoy Super Bowls and NASCAR championships. (Cheers, applause.) Right game plan leads to what? Success. Bad game plan, falling away from God's word, leads to disaster. I'm a personal testimony to that.

Now, this -- this convention has created and crafted the political game plan for our leaders and our country. What great issues we're tackling. Wouldn't it be great going forward in the future, when we're discussing some of these great issues, wouldn't it be great to have someone say, "I wonder what God would think about this?" (Cheers, applause.)

After all -- after all, when you think about it, God sent his son to this Earth. He selected some very average people. He crafted the greatest game plan of all time that continues to this day to change the world.

And then American decathlete and 2008 gold medalist Bryan Clay:

My priorities are: God first, family second, and track third. I can tell you that without my faith -- in God, the support of my family and friends, and my strong work ethic -- I would not be standing before you today with a Gold medal hanging around my neck.

My coaches, mentors, and most importantly, God and my family are a big part of my success, on and off the field.

... [W]hether your platform is a classroom, a conference room, a track or the White House, we all must stay true to our principles.

Correction: The remarks posted earlier were pulled from a prepared transcript.

September 4, 2008

Sen. DeMint butts heads with McCain but thinks Palin will keep him on track

Sen. Jim DeMint has "butted heads" with Sen. John McCain, but he thinks that Gov. Sarah Palin will hold him accountable.

Here's the interview:

A couple of weeks ago I kind of thought we would come to a convention with really divided interests maybe and not a lot of excitement. I think the Governor Palin nomination, which has given a lot of us as conservatives an indication that McCain is going to really go after reform ideas and move to the conservative side rather than going the other direction. In the same swoop he's bringing a lot of youth and energy to the party. We need to develop new leadership, and Governor Palin is a great indication of where we could go.

Evangelicals and conservatives seem to be more excited about Sarah Palin than John McCain, do you think that's true?

Well, I think they have a lot in common. I know they're both tough, and they don't back down. I'm excited about her because she's kind of the next generation of leadership for our party. And I'm more and more excited about McCain because if you look at the key issues that facing us as a country today, which I think are national security, energy security, and wasteful Washington spending. So I think we've got just a good complement, a good team. McCain and I have butted heads on a lot of things, but we need somebody who's tough in dealing with a lot of our foreign issues right now. We don't need someone who's never done anything with executive or leadership type things like Obama.

Sen. Obama has tried to reach out to religious voters pretty heavily ? do you think that will work?

I think religious people are smarter than that. All you have to do is look at how he votes. You look at votes like voting against the born alive infant protection act. I don't think he has any claim to a moral compass that people are going to buy into. I don't think you se anything in his past that suggests that he is going to do more to create religious freedoms in this country. We don't need the government to be pushing religion, but what the government has been doing is purging religion and values from our culture. That's a huge problem, and I think he would continue that purging.

You said you've butted heads with McCain ? what challenges does he face among conservatives?

Well I think he's got to listen. I think John McCain's heart is usually in the right place. It was on campaign finance, but the bill that was written I didn't think was that good. I think his heart was in the right place on the immigration issue, but the bill turned out to be an amnesty bill without any good border control. He's still coachable, and one thing good about Palin is, I think she'll help hold McCain accountable on a lot of the conservative issues.

What about the Republican platform on poverty? It seemed to emphasize global poverty and not domestic poverty?

That might be a little for political correctness that snuck in. The more poverty around the world can be addressed more through open trade and economic relationships. We've seen trade with China, for instance, take millions of people out of poverty. But, we're not going to be able to help the world unless we're strong at home. And we're losing that from the economy point of view, from the energy point of view. So regardless of what's in the platform, my intent is to hold their feet to the fire on country first.

September 4, 2008

Tom Delay on Palin's Inspiring Christian "Worldview"

In a brief interview I had today, the former House Majority Leader said he was deeply unenthusiastic about McCain but now shares the prevailing ecstasy about Sarah Palin.

"It's obvious that's a woman with a world view. I could see it in the way she looked at her family. I could see in the discussion around her child. It's obvious her faith is her foundation. A Christian has a world view that allows you see a situation...they've made the bad choice. So do you see it as a punishment as Obama does or as a blessing as Christians see it?"

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

September 4, 2008

Rep. Pence: evangelicals remember McCain's 2000 race

But Pence says it's ancient history.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana believes that any lack of enthusiasm for John McCain is because of the 2000 race, when evangelicals put their support behind President Bush.

What objections do evangelicals raise when they talk about not voting for John McCain?

Well I think the arguments with Sen. McCain are more a reflection of the affection for George W. Bush in 2000. And you know elections get a little bit rough. There have been differences on issues like campaign finance reform and the marriage amendment, which Sen. McCain did not support on the federal level, but he supports traditional marriage and has supported initiatives in Arizona. I think most of the frustration is derivative of the contest between George Bush and John McCain in 2000 – and all of that is ancient history now. What I’m seeing among evangelicals and social conservatives is a tremendous amount of energy for John McCain, and that has only accelerated by his selection of Sarah Palin.

Several people have attacked Sarah Palin on experience – she’s only had one term as governor, and John McCain previously criticized Sen. Obama’s lack of experience. What do you think about those attacks?

Well I certainly think if Democrats want to fight this election on experience I’m very comfortable with that. I believe Gov. Palin has much more executive experience than the Democratic nominee for president. And John McCain has geometrically more experience, particularly on national security and national defense and bipartisanship, than Sen. Obama. But I actually think what some think is a weakness for Gov. Palin is actually a strength. I think Americans are tired of business as usual in Washington, D.C., and so I really do believe that if she carries a transformational message of reform along with John McCain to the country, it’s going to resonate with Americans.

There’s talk of the evangelical agenda broadening, and some think that may be an opportunity for Sen. Obama to get more evangelical votes. Do you agree with that?

No, I don’t. I think that values voters vote their values. At the end of the day, I believe that Christians like me are looking for people that are willing to tame a moral stand for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage in the public square. Quite frankly, Barack Obama is not just out of sync with most conservative Christian voters in the country, he’s extremely out of sync. He’s on the extreme left wing of even the liberal wing of the Democratic Party on those issues. And I think ultimately the substantive differences between Barack Obama and John McCain will determine the direction of values voters.

September 4, 2008

Surprised?

Sixty-six percent of white evangelicals are now backing McCain, up from 57 percent this weekend, according to a new CBS poll.

Cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

September 4, 2008

Which Party Is Better on American Poverty?

I'd like to take a brief break from politics to talk about an actual issue of concern to many religious voters.

Both Republicans and Democrats this year devote extensive portions of their platforms toward helping to alleviate poverty in Africa. The new emphasis in the Republican Platform reflects both George W. Bush's significant work in this area and the seismic shift in the evangelical movement, emphasizing African poverty like never before. This has prompted conservative evangelicals to argue that they care just as much about poverty as liberals, who have been arguing aggressively that the Religious Right agenda misses the voluminous teachings by Jesus about the poor.

But when it comes to American poverty, there are still rather striking differences in the two parties' level of interest, at least judging from the platforms.

For one thing, the Democratic platform has a section called "poverty" and the Republicans doesn't.

To be fair, the Republican Party position has always been that a growing economy, individual initiative and a thriving charitable sector were the most important cures to poverty. So they would argue that the platform planks on tax cuts and energy production would count as anti-poverty measures. Still, it must be said that the Democratic Party platform committee appears to have spent a great deal more time thinking through the implications of policies specifically for the poor. Certainly they've spilled a lot more ink on the subject, devoting about four times as many words to the topic.

For now, I offer no assessment of the quality of their proposals, and note that the volume of words doesn't equate to effectiveness. But I wanted to merely lay out what they had to say. If religious voters are serious about poverty becoming part of the Christian agenda, they need to look at how the parties approach the topic.

Here are excerpts from the two party's platforms related to poverty:

Continue reading Which Party Is Better on American Poverty?...

September 4, 2008

Hastert: VP pick ‘quintessential John McCain’

I ran into former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert just before he was about to go on the radio. He agreed with my hunch: evangelicals are more excited about Sarah Palin than John McCain.

"I wasn't necessarily a McCain guy, but I think [the vice presidential pick] is certainly quintessential John McCain. That's what the American people are looking to, and that's what his vice presidential choice was: non-conventional and somebody who I think represents the quintessential American family. The kids aren't going to Ivy League schools, the son got out of high school and went into the army at 18-years-old, so it's something that people can relate to. And even the problems the family has are problems every family has, someone down the street, or somebody at our church, or in the neighborhood.

It seems like evangelicals are more excited about Sarah Palin than McCain. What do you think?

I think so, and I think that's kind of typical. I just watched my wife and she just kind of lit up. She just thinks it's really amazing.

What about evangelicals, do you think their agenda is broadening, and if it is, will that help Barack Obama get votes?

Where you really look at evangelical responsibility, I think the evangelical creeds [emphasize] individual choices and individual responsibilities. John McCain and Sarah Palin represent that much more than Obama. Obama believes that government is good for people, it ought to make decisions for people and it's all encompassing

What about Obama's religious outreach? He's done a lot.

Well it's because he has to, because he doesn't have any otherwise."

September 4, 2008

An excerpt from Cindy McCain

Here's an excerpt from what Sen. John McCain's wife Cindy McCain is expected to say tonight.

"Forgiveness is not just a personal issue: it's why John led the effort to normalize relations with Vietnam retrieve the remains of our MIAs... to bring closure to both sides. That's leadership - national leadership. And it's leading by example."

September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's religious background and what it could mean

Reporters are scanning church Web sites, listening to clips of sermons, and digging through policy decisions for more details on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's whether her faith affects her politics.

Her religious background and its influence on her public policy are still emerging, reporters for the Associated Press write.

Eric Gorski and Rachel Zoll write:

As Alaska governor, she signed a proclamation as Alaska's governor honoring Christian Heritage Week and said creationism shouldn't be barred from classroom discussions.

She used traditional evangelical language in praying that a natural gas pipeline be built in Alaska and that the U.S. mission in Iraq was a "task that is from God." Yet she's also said she would not force her views on others.

Suzanne Sataline writes at the Wall Street Journal that the McCain campaign isn't eager to talk about Palin's spiritual beliefs.

"I am not going to get into that. I think talking about where she worships today and how she characterizes herself speaks for itself about where she is today on this issue," says Maria Comella, a campaign spokeswoman told Sataline.

Sataline writes:

"Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right also for this country," Gov. Palin said, in a video of the talk posted on the church's Web site. Pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we're praying for: that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

David Gushee, a Christian ethicist at Mercer University in Atlanta, says he is troubled that a public official might presume that government action could be God's intent. "I would never think it is appropriate to describe the actions of the United States military or the strategies of our commanders as a plan from God," Mr. Gushee says.

Mr. Gushee says Gov. Palin should explain her beliefs concerning the inevitability of a cataclysm and the end of time. "To me, it is highly relevant to someone who potentially has her hand on the nuclear button," he says. "If that is her worldview, I would want to know about that."

September 4, 2008

More praying at the convention

Eva Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Evangelical Women's president, gave the closing prayer at the convention last night. Unfortunately, I left because of a massive headache. And unfortunately, C-SPAN cuts off the ending, so I don't know if she prayed "in Jesus' name." Terry Mattingly wrote on how that has come up at conventions in the past. Still, Rodriguez's prayer begins fairly politically.

Here's the text of Rodriguez's speech:

"Let us pray. Righteous God, Heavenly Father, we give you praise, and declare that your mercy endureth forever. In the midst of moral decay, a global war on terror, a frontal assault on the institution of marriage, the taking of innocent life in the womb, social injustice and strife, we declare that America needs the fresh move of God's holy spirit.

Let the spirit of truth move from New York to Los Angeles, from Dallas to St. Paul, let the spirit of freedom sound the alarm of righteousness and justice. From Wall Street to Main Street, from our classrooms to the courtrooms, almighty God, we pray that all Americans come together: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, let us unite under the canopy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We stand against the voices that attempt to draw us apart, and commit ourselves to focusing on what holds us together, our love for God, family, and country.

Lord, we continue to intercede for regions impacted by the hurricane. Also, we pray for Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin. Cover them, protect them, and anoint them, as they lead the charge and defend faith, family and freedom, that at the end of the day, Lord, we may declare, ?Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,' for the kingdom of God is not of meat or drink, red state or blue state, man or woman, native or immigrant, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
In the name that is above (C-SPAN cuts off)"

September 4, 2008

The Servant

In her acceptance speech, Sarah Palin repeated the line from her Dayton announcement speech in which she signaled fellow evangelicals that she was one of them, to wit: "We are expected to govern with integrity and goodwill and clear convictions and a servant's heart." John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter explained the enthusiasm that greeted the final item the first time around as follows:

That reaction wasn't simply about approval of good government; the phrase "servant's heart" is a popular bit of Evangelical terminology, used as a short-hand for Christian humility. A quick web search reveals thousands of churches, ministries, and bands that use some variation of "servant's heart" in the title; there's even a residential cleaning service in Calgary called "Servant's Heart."

The term is so common, in fact, that Christian comedian Tim Hawkins has poked fun at it. "I hate it when somebody tells me I've got a servant's heart," Hawkins says. "It means they want me to start stacking chairs."

When Palin pledged to govern with a "servant's heart," Christians, especially those with an Evangelical background, had no trouble recognizing one of their own, even without the convenience of a denominational label on Palin's resume.

Lest you thought the culture wars were over.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

September 4, 2008

Palin pushes Dobson over the edge

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has Focus on the Family founder James Dobson on her side.

"A genuine reformer. A deeply committed Christian," are Dobson's words.

On a Focus Action radio broadcast, Dobson said Palin has helped change his mind on McCain.

"If I went into the polling booth today, I would pull the lever for John McCain," he said.

Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins, Kelly Shackelford, and Tom Minnery also expressed unanimous support for McCain and Palin.

"I don't remember this kind of electric moment since I went to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan," Dobson said.

This is seven months after he said he would not vote for John McCain.

September 3, 2008

Conception

No comments on abortion from Sarah Palin tonight (at least according to the prepared remarks; she's speaking now). But it sure came up a lot tonight from the podium.

"America's hope is in a seasoned, strong leader in this dangerous world ... a President who knows in the core of his soul that human life begins at conception," said Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams.

Mike Huckabee had a similar comment: "It is not above John McCain's pay grade to grasp the simple fact that human life begins at conception, and he is committed to protecting it."

And GOP Chairman Michael Steele told the crowd, "John McCain knows we must empower working families and stand with them against the erosion of our constitutional rights, the corruption of our school systems, the weakening of our families and the taking of human life - born and unborn."

September 3, 2008

Auntie Anne's Pretzels founder cites personal faith, Bible verses as reasons to give

Anne Bailer, who founded Auntie Anne's Pretzels cited her own faith and two Bible verses as reasons to give money to others.

Tonight in St. Paul, she told the audience that in 1975, her daughter was killed in a farming accident when she was 19 months old. "Although I had faith in God, and my family surrounding me, I felt despair," Bailer said.

Bailer announced the opening of The Family Center of Gap, a community-based center in Pennsylvania to help hurting families with physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Here are a few excerpts:

True prosperity is a richness of heart and spirit. In Psalm 49, it says, 'Do not be overawed when people become rich, when the wealth of their house increases. For when they die, they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them.'

I've found -- with prosperity, comes responsibility. To whom much is given much is required.

Under John McCain's leadership, we will recommit ourselves to a greater good. To be our very best. To give hope to the hopeless. To give courage to the weak.

The prophet Isaiah said, we must, "share our bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into our homes." This will cause our spirits to prosper.

I have learned the value of spiritual prosperity. Although my parents were not able to leave me an inheritance, they gave me the greatest gift of all -- a rich, Godly heritage.

As a woman of faith, I am committed to run the race, to stay the course and to be a beacon of light that will pierce the darkness so others may find their way.

September 3, 2008

Steve Strang's Charisma Endorses McCain

"Obama's presidency would be a disaster in many ways," Charisma magazine's Steve Strang writes in an endorsement editorial published today. "McCain's would move our country in the right direction."

It's not really a big surprise, since Strang already told his readers, "I am opposed to the leftist political stands of the Democratic Party and of Obama specifically." He told them he "didn't really want to attend" June's meeting between Obama and several Christian leaders. "But I was curious what the junior Senator from Illinois would say to Christian leaders when it's well known that he supports abortion and the gay rights agenda. In addition, he has ties to Islam as a child through both his father and stepfather."

That message continued, and it's clear that meeting Obama personally didn't change his mind. In today's editorial, Strang said he can't support the Illinois senator.

"One reason is his lack of experience. He does not have one major accomplishment to his name in his life as a public servant. Another reason is his view on the sanctity of life. ... The third reason we cannot support Obama is his sympathy toward those who are attempting to legitimize homosexuality."

But there's a difference between opposing Obama and supporting McCain, and Strang had earlier made clear that McCain was not his first choice. (Mike Huckabee was.) "The fact he divorced the wife who stuck by him and raised his children while he was in a prisoner of war camp to marry a much younger woman, doesn't sit well with those of us who believe marriage is for life," Strang said.

Strang's positive remarks on McCain started with lauding McCain's views on limited government, then continued, "When asked [at the Saddleback Civil Forum] about evil, Obama mentioned Darfur and child abuse - both standard liberal answers. But McCain didn't hedge about evil in the world. He said he'd stop at nothing to get Osama bin Laden."

Help me out here, comment box user types. Are Darfur and child abuse really just liberal issues? And wouldn't you expect an orthodox charismatic Christian like Strang to have a view of evil that didn't quite localize it all in one guy?

Anyway, what struck me most about Strang's endorsement of McCain, though, was how highly Strang ranked "McCain would allow offshore drilling to solve the dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Obama would oppose it." He lists this even before noting that McCain and Obama "would each support very different candidates for the Supreme Court." The Family Research Council just sent out an Action Alert on the issue, too. I understand people are concerned about energy, but I'm surprised that it's becoming such a talking point for religious conservatives.

Strang, whose son Cameron had been scheduled to give the first night's benediction at the Democratic National Convention (but withdrew), calls Sarah Palin "an extra reason to vote for John McCain." But Strang says he wants a chance to interview her personally and to research her background" before he says much more about her.

September 3, 2008

Excerpts from Sarah Palin's speech

Here are excerpts from Sarah Palin's prepared remarks tonight:

"I had the privilege of living most of my life in a small town. I was just your average hockey mom, and signed up for the PTA because I wanted to make my kids’ public education better. When I ran for city council, I didn’t need focus groups and voter profiles because I knew those voters, and knew their families, too. Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities."

"I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion - I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

"Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America’s energy problems - as if we all didn’t know that already. But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines...build more nuclear plants...create jobs with clean coal...and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources. We need American energy resources, brought to you by American ingenuity, and produced by American workers."

"Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election. In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change."

September 3, 2008

Palin's former pastor scrutinized

Another pastor has been thrust into the spotlight this election since Sarah Palin came onto the scene.

The Huffington Post reviewed sermons preached by Rev. Ed Kalnins, pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God.

"Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war 'contending for your faith;' and said that Jesus 'operated from that position of war mode.'"

"Whether I influenced Sarah, I don't know," Kalnins told Religion News Service's Robert Stern. "You can take any kind of a sermon ... without an introduction and without a conclusion and say that this guy is weird."

A spokesman for the McCain-Palin ticket told RNS that during the last seven years, she and her family have attended a nondenominational evangelical church in Wasilla.

September 3, 2008

McCain's pastor to pray at RNC finale

John McCain's pastor Dan Yeary is giving the invocation tomorrow night before McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

"John and I are friends, he has called on me to minister to the family in times of challenge and difficulty," Yeary told Reuters in March. "John and I are having continual dialogue about his spiritual pursuits."

Eva Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Evangelical Women’s president is scheduled to give the benediction tonight, and Robert Certain, an Episcopal priest who was a former prisoner of war in Vietnam gave the invocation last night.

September 3, 2008

Hush hush religious outreach

The religious outreach at the Republican National Convention seems to be much quieter than the show put on by the Democratic National Convention.

I blogged several times last week about the interfaith service and the faith caucuses. Other than the brief prayer breakfast this morning, I haven't found a religious event sponsored by the RNC or the McCain campaign.

Well, apparently all the evangelicals met last Friday before I got here. At least that's what David Kirkpatrick at the New York Times writes.

"At a lunch Friday in Minneapolis, two of his top advisers - Charlie Black, a veteran political operative, and Dan Coats, a former senator from Indiana - were extolling Ms. Palin's virtues to about 150 influential evangelicals as evidence of Mr. McCain's ideological commitments," Kirkpatrick writes. "That night, at a larger gathering of Christian conservatives, the campaign sent Frank Donatelli, vice chairman of the Republican National Committee, to reinforce the message: Mr. McCain would be a 'pro-life' president, which could make a crucial difference with two Supreme Court justices close to retirement."

My plane arrived late Friday night, but either way, I didn't get the memo (and I asked the RNC and campaign several times for those types of memos). Maybe the RNC relies on groups like the Eagle Forum to host events. In any case, there's definitely a difference between Denver and St. Paul.

September 3, 2008

Palin's former church swamped with Web hits

Sarah Palin's former church Wasilla Assembly of God's Web site is being swamped since the Alaska governor was announced as John McCain's pick.

Here's what happens when you go to the Web site:

WasillaAG.net was never intended to handle the traffic it has received in the last few days.

Due to technical limitations, WasillaAG.net will be unavailable for the immediate future.

Thank you for your visit.

Official Statement Concerning Governor Palin

Governor Sarah Palin did attend Wasilla Assembly of God since the time she was a teen ager. She and her family were a part of the church up until 2002. Since that time she has maintained a friendship with Wasilla Assembly of God and has attended various conferences and special meetings here. This June, the Governor spoke at the graduation service of our School of Ministry, Master's Commission Wasilla Alaska.

We have had some inquires into Governor Palin's beliefs. We do know that Gov Palin is a woman of integrity. She is a servant of the people, she is a strong leader. As for her personal beliefs, Governor Palin is well able to speak for herself on those issues.

As Alaskans we are excited about our Governor being selected as the nominee for Vice President. As residents of Wasilla, we are ecstatic about one of our own being thrust to the national forefront. However, as a church, it is not appropriate for us to endorse any one candidate over another. As believers, we are reminded in 2 Peter 2.13 that we are to submit to those in authority. 1 Timothy 2.1-2 tells us pray for those in authority. This we will do no matter who is elected. We wish the best to Governor Palin, and Senator McCain, as well as to Senator Obama and Senator Biden.

May God continue to bless America.

(h/t, Jeffrey Weiss, Dallas Morning News)

September 3, 2008

Alaska isn't that religious

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public life has put together a page on Alaska's religious profile, showing that the state really isn't that religious. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is a self-described "Bible-believing Christian" and her vice president candidacy has thrilled several conservative evangelicals.

Thirty-one percent of Alaskans say that religion is not important in their lives, 15 percent higher than the national average, and 47 percent seldom or never attend religious services, which is 20 percent higher than the nation. Twenty-six percent of the Alaskan population are evangelicals, which is the second largest religious group behind unaffiliated.

September 3, 2008

Invoking the Saddleback forum

The Saddleback Forum at Rick Warren's church is brought up again and again here at the Republican National Convention. Last night, Fred Thompson mentioned Obama's remarks on when life begins, and tonight, Mitt Romney will invoke McCain's remarks on what he defined as evil.

"And at Saddleback, after Barack Obama dodged and ducked every direct question, John McCain hit the nail on the head: radical Islam is evil, and he will defeat it! Republicans prefer straight talk to politically correct talk!"

September 3, 2008

Former U.S. treasurer on Palin: If I could do cartwheels, I would

Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin has a few things in common with Governor Sarah Palin. Marin was mayor of a small town. She was named miss congeniality at a beauty pageant. And she has a child with Down Syndrome.

What do you think about John McCain’s vice presidential pick Sarah Palin?

I love her. If I could do cartwheels, I would. I just think she’s awesome. I’m very excited. My child is 23-years-old and her baby is six-months-old. So I just think that she herself her person her persona is able to communicate and relate to so many working mothers, career professionals, political professionals in trying to balance life. And I think that we have no better example of the working woman the working professional woman who somewhere somehow by the grace of God is able to manage all of that. And I think that many women across the United States like me say ‘Wow, if she can do it so can we.’

Can you tell me what it’s like to raise a child with Down Syndrome?

There’s a difference between her and me. I did not know that my child was going to have Down. It was my first child, hers is her last child and she knew that her child was going to have Down Syndrome. The pain is no less the same still because regardless you are expecting a different child not this one. Yet you love this one, this is yours your flesh and blood, you love him and you don’t see the Down Syndrome. The difference is she knew and yet you know she made the right choice, she chose to keep this baby, just when it would be so easy not to when it would be very understanding by many people. The fact that she chose to keep this child I think speaks volumes. Not better, not worse, just volumes about a woman.

I think that you have to live your faith. Here’s a woman who has lived her faith in a very crystallized way. I mean it’s very clear this is a woman of faith and she chooses to live her faith and all her decisions are founded in her faith. I remember when I thought I was going to lose it because he had many different medical problems. That I talked to God, yelled and scream at him because I said, ‘Please don’t take him.’

After my first child I got pregnant and had a miscarriage. And that was very difficult, very, very difficult. I got pregnant a third time, and fortunately the baby was born and she’s now at Columbia University and she wants to be a civil engineer. But I also know how many other women have chosen a different decision for them. And because I have a special relationship with God, I believe that that decision, whatever it is, it’s a decision between that woman and her God, I cannot impose upon somebody my own beliefs, my own philosophy. But I do tell people pray a lot and the right decision will come. And what is right for you is what is right for you.

What do you think about the McCain-Palin ticket?

Fabulous. Absolutely brilliant. You know I just think that there is so much more to offer and I think there are so many women who would see themselves reflected on her. I think it will change the debate.

Were you as excited about the ticket before Palin was chosen?

I trust McCain’s judgment. The best thing about us is we have excellent choices. I mean Mitt Romney was wonderful, Governor Pawlenty was awesome and certainly Sarah Palin is just fabulous.

September 3, 2008

Gary Bauer: voters are picking a president, not a pastor

Gary Bauer defended John McCain when I spoke with him earlier this week, even though there were several more religious outreach events at the Democratic National Convention last week than here in St. Paul. Bauer served as head of Family Research Council before he ran for president in 2000.

There doesn’t seem to be as many scheduled events for religious voters here as in Denver. Why is that?

Clearly the Obama campaign is making a play for the religious vote. But I think they will actually end up with less of that vote than Sen. Kerrry and Al Gore got, for this reason: the positions they’re taking are so out of step with faith-based voters that I think they’re doomed on making any progress here. Christian voters are not hiring a pastor; they’re picking a president.

He is so far, so extremely pro-abortion that it’s almost hard to comprehend. On marriage he opposes almost every idea on how to safeguard marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But worse than that, he has cited the Sermon on the Mount as the reason he supports the gay rights movement. Nancy Pelosi the weekend before last cited St. Augustine for her pro-abortion position, which is actually deeply offensive to religious voters. If anything, their attempt to get these voters is a concession on their part that it has hurt them in recent years to be on the wrong side of all these cultural issues.

I know that you began supporting McCain in February, but were you pulling for another candidate before that?

I did speak favorably of Fred Thompson, but I think he waited so long to get in the train had left the station. I know this will irritate some conservatives, but I think Sen. McCain is the only person we could have nominated this year that will actually win in November. He does have because of his maverick reputation an appeal to swing voters. And given what’s happen to the Republican brand name in the last few years having that ability I think is going to be central to winning the election in November.

What about the platform?

It’s very solid. The original draft that we got was already much more pro-life than previous platforms. Now [John McCain] is not with us on all those things, most notably stem cell research, but he’s got several briefings on the issue, he’s said repeatedly that he’s hoping recent breakthroughs will trump this debate about embryonic stem cells. I would say this is probably the most conservative, pro-life platform we’ve ever had.

What do you think about Sarah Palin?

Grand slam. Home run. There were a lot of people on his list, not all of who would have exactly enthralled conservatives. I understand why he was considering some of those people like Sen. Lieberman (a unity government in a time of war), but I think he ultimately made the right decision.

The story about the governor’s daughter is indicative of the fact that every American family is wrestling with these values issues. I think every parent will attest that you do the best you can and at the end of the day your children have free will, and they make mistakes. The important thing is what to do when a mistake it made. In this case they’ve embraced their daughter and they’ve embraced life. It shows that the Republican party and conservative Christians are not pointing our finger at everybody else, we are struggling with what everyone else is struggling with, but we are trying to hold our country to a higher standard.

Do you think it will make evangelicals uncomfortable voting for her?

I don’t. I was trying to explain to some other reporters that why is there a pro-life movement; it’s to help young women in crisis pregnancies. And you know it’s not Governor Palin that got pregnant out of wedlock; it’s one of her children. So I don’t think it will have any negative effect at all, although I already see some signs that the left is going to try to use this as a club.

John McCain doesn’t talk much about his faith. Will that matter to voters?

Sen. McCain at Saddleback showed a side of himself that a lot of people haven’t seen when he talked about how faith sustained him in the POW camp. When you go back and look at Ronald Reagan, he did not talk that much about his personal faith. I think we need to be careful not to expect from our candidates what we would expect to hear in church.

September 3, 2008

God-o-Meter Q&A With Sarah Palin's Biographer

There's been lots of confusion and questions about Sarah Palin's faith life since John McCain picked her as his running mate last Friday. God-o-Meter caught up with Kaylene Johnson, author of the new book Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear to set the record straight. An important note: Johnson's book covers the period up to Palin's 2006 election as governor of Alaska, so she didn't have much information about the role that religion or religious groups has played in her role as her state's chief executive.

Sarah Palin was baptized as a Catholic but became active in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God church while still young. How did she go from one tradition to the other?

It was through her mother, Sally. Sarah was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church. And her mom discovered a more meaningful experience at an Assemblies of God Church in Wasilla, where Pastor Paul Riley had really formed a community. And Sally enrolled her kids in church camps and Bible school. This was when Sarah was about 12. She asked to be re-baptized. The whole family was baptized at the same time, at a lake right here in Wasilla called Beaver Lake. I don't know that her father was baptized--it was a mom and the kids. It was a milestone that Sarah never really forgot. She knew she claimed a moral compass that would stay with her.

Was that pastor--Pastor Riley--a major influence in her life? Can you talk about him?

Pastor Riley and his wife became lifelong family friends to Sarah because she grew up in that church. Now he is retired and serves as a chaplain in jails. They are known for taking people in, including--sometimes--prisoners that Pastor Riley ministers to. He was at Wasilla Assemblies of God for 44 years.

How active did Palin become in the Assemblies of God once she was re-baptized?

She was active in high school. She used to sign her yearbook with Bible verses. She was the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at her high school. She was a basketball star, and as a junior her team went to a state tournament in Juneau and they lost a really close game. The coaches told me a story about the game, where the following morning the coaches met for breakfast and they didn't see the girls. They waited for the girls to come down from their hotel rooms and wondered if they had stayed up all night and partied. And the coaches got up to walk out and saw the girls walking back from somewhere. They had Bibles in their hands. They'd gotten up early to go the church. And Sarah Palin was kind of the ringleader. It was pretty telling.

Today she attends an Assemblies of God Church in Anchorage and a nondenominational church back home in Wasilla, right?

It's a Bible church that she attends in Wasilla, a nondenominational church. So her faith tradition is eccentric in the sense that she's a Christian but doesn't hold one tradition in higher esteem than the other.

How does her faith influence her worldview and politics?

It's really central to who she is and how she views the world and her job. One of the things I felt with talking with her is that, unlike with a lot of politicians who are running for office, there's not a sense of political ambition as much as there is a sense of service. I think that' s unique. She comes at her job as a servant.

But how do her religious beliefs shape her policy views?

I can't talk about how her faith influences policy because I haven't spoken with her about that specifically.

Adding Palin to the ticket has helped McCain excite religious conservatives a couple months before Election Day. Did she make her faith and values an issue in her campaign for governor?

Her faith didn't play a big role. It's a very big part of who she is but she's also very private. It's not something she uses as a campaign tool. I don't think she would hold it secret at all if asked about it directly. She would freely speak her mind about it. It would be interesting to see how she responds to that question because it's such an important part of her life.

Palin has become a darling of the nation's conservative evangelical leadership. Was she close to that community in Alaska? Did they play a big part in her election as governor?

No, not really. I would not say that I was sort of amused [by Palin's rollout as a family values candidate] because she is a family person and is not shy about saying so. But it's not something used in her campaign. Her campaign was really about her call for ethics in government. That's what clinched the deal.

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

September 3, 2008

Is Obama's Evangelical Outreach Now Hopeless?

I asked Mark DeMoss, Christian PR mogul who earlier said Obama was making real inroads in the evangelical community, whether it was now "game over" for Obama and his evangelical outreach efforts. He paused and thought for a moment. "Yes. I think so." Obama has been hurt by three things:

1. 1) Obama's poor performance on abortion at the Saddleback candidates forum
2. 2) Obama's position that faith based charities couldn't get federal money if they hired people only if their own faith
3. 3) McCain's pick of Sarah Palin.

"That's three strikes," said Demoss.

I think there's one more variable: if Obama pushes a plausible abortion reduction agenda, he might still convince moderate evangelicals that he has a moderate approach. But early signs are that the Obama campaign is not headed that way. A new radio ad hits McCain for opposing abortion, without mentioning Obama's abortion-reduction ideas.

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

September 3, 2008

Public and Private

Anyone interested in the place of religion in American public life owes a thoughtful read to Paul Vitello's fine piece on pastors' web electioneering and the IRS. In the old days, what was said in church more or less stayed in church; it was a semi-private space where pastors could speak to their congregants without concern that the outside world was listening in. Stuff about truth and who gets saved and, yes, who you might could vote for that was too uncivil or impolitic to say out loud in public was OK to utter in the sanctity of your own sanctuary. And if congregants learned about it in a newsletter or other piece of church-produced literature, well, that was pretty private too.

But in an age when everyone puts just about everything on the web, the private space of churches can become mass media in a twinkling. When the sermons of a James David Manning get picked up by a Rush Limbaugh, it's not just a question of how interested the IRS should become--or of what if anything to do about the requirement that non-profits eschew politicking if they want to keep their tax exemptions. The larger question has to do with a redefined public square in which whatever is said in church is readily available to the community at large.

This article is cross-posted from Spiritual Politics.

September 3, 2008

Prayer breakfast held in Christian nightclub

The Republican National Convention hosted an unconventional prayer breakfast this morning in a Christian nightclub.

Each president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which thousands to the event hosted in the Washington D.C. Hilton hotel. Those who attended this morning's breakfast sipped orange juice out of plastic cups and some sat on bar stools in a church called Club 3 Degrees in Minneapolis.

The Christian band Sonicflood performed and former Congressman J. C. Watts addressed a group of a few hundred.

"I've got my slate that I'd love to see win. I'm gonna work to help them win. But you know what, friends, I don't care who your candidate is," Watts said. "If we put our faith in man, I promise you, we're going to be disappointed."

September 3, 2008

Rachael Lampa sings at Republican National Convention

Christian singer Rachael Lampa sang "When I Fall" and "Blessed" at the Republican National Convention tonight, bringing back memories to when the Christian band Third Day sang at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Miles McPherson, pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego and former professional football player gave a prayer referencing Hurricane Gustav.

"It is true, there are times when no one can help you, not the police, not the National Guard, not even your mama. But y'know, we are never completely 'on our own.' Thank God that no matter how bad things get, He is always with us. Amen?"

He ended: "Finally, thank You God for Always being there for us. Thank You for making America the greatest country in the world. We pray these things to the Lord our God. Amen."

September 2, 2008

Is Obama's outreach to evangelicals over?

Sen. Barack Obama has launched an ad slamming John McCain's opposition to abortion rights, Politico reports.

"Let me tell you: If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the lives and health of women will be put at risk. That's why this election is so important," says the nurse-practitioner who narrates Obama's ad. "John McCain's out of touch with women today. McCain wants to take away our right to choose. That's what women need to understand. That's how high the stakes are."

"Goodbye Evangelical Outreach" Mark Hemingway writes at National Review.

Fred Thompson's prepared remarks tonight included: "We need a president who doesn't think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade."

Obama's new ad is an interesting contrast to the events I attended last week where several Democrats placed an emphasis on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

September 2, 2008

Talk show host believes Pelosi remarks could hurt Democrats religious outreach

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt said tonight that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments on when life begins signified a turning point for religious voters.

Pelosi said on TV last week that "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins.

What about on the Democrats' attempts to reach out to religious voters?
I think the Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to distort Roman Catholic Church on Meet the Press led to an avalanche of Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals denouncing her attempt to confuse and mislead mass-attending Catholics. That, in turn, triggered a re-evaluation of the Democratic platform and the story about Sen. Obama’s voting against the born-alive infant protection act got a lot of traction because of Sen. Pelosi. It was a turning point in the religious vote, and I don’t see him making significant in roads whatsoever. The evangelical vote is going to turn out and it’s going to be overwhelmingly for McCain.

When I was at the Democratic National Convention, there were several religious outreach events. Here, there’s hardly anything.
The whole schedule got jumbled as a result of the hurricane. A lot of people suddenly said, ‘We’re not going.’ I think a lot of it went to the enthusiasm gap and to the chaos surrounding the hurricane. We had a lot of faith-based events in 2004.

What do you think of this convention so far?

This one has an emotional content to it that I haven’t seen before. There was a lot of enthusiasm for President Bush in ’04 and ’00, but the Sarah Palin experience is truly phenomenal because it has engaged women conservatives in a way I haven’t seen before.

A Pew Forum poll most recently showed that evangelicals have not be enthusiastic about John McCain.
Some were, many weren’t, almost all will not be. I think Dr. Dobson led the way on Friday after the announcement of Governor Palin who said, ‘I will pull the lever for John McCain.’ I have not yet heard a senior figure on the evangelical side or the Catholic vote say other than, ‘This is a great choice.’

What about John McCain, who doesn’t talk about his faith much?
Sen. McCain is of a generation that does not often speak of faith bluntly. The Rick Warren conversation I think demonstrated convincingly I think to a lot of evangelicals that his faith is real and it matters to him.

There’s been some talk about the evangelical agenda is broadening, do you think that’s true?
I think the evangelical agenda has always been broadened. It’s always been about a heart for the poor. I think the social agenda of the church is reflected in missions around the world. I never really accepted the rhetoric that the evangelical agenda is other than broad, it’s always been broad. It has its emphasis on life, of course, and that issue has always been and will remain of particular importance.

September 2, 2008

From discouragement to excitement

Americans United for Life Action president Charmaine Yoest is both relieved and excited about Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential pick. Yoest spoke with me about the difference between last week and this week.

"Last week, you saw the conservative base of the Republican Party really demoralized and discouraged when they were hearing all the talk about putting in a pro-abortion vice presidential pick. Now with such a solid platform coming out of the deliberations last week and a solid pro-life ticket, everybody’s really excited.

People have been talking about the broadening of the evangelical agenda. Do you think that’s happening?
As the leader of a pro-life organization, I find it really troubling when people try to juxtapose a pro-life agenda with other issues, like poverty, and saying there’s some sort of zero-sum gain, that if you concentrate on life issues that doesn’t mean you don’t care about other issues as much.

Last week, Democrats were trying to emphasizing the idea of reducing the number of abortions. What did you think about their platform?
They included language about welcoming and supporting motherhood, and we were troubled by the moral equivalency that the Democratic platform was trying to make, that all choices are equal. I find that to be disingenuous and a pretty egregious case of political spin.

Do you think Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy will cause some people to re-think her candidacy?
There may be some people who react that way. What I’m hearing from people is that she’s a human being, this happens in an awful lot of families. The real question is, how do you respond when it comes along? Let’s face it, we’ve all made bad choices. Some of us have to bear more public consequences for them than others."

September 2, 2008

Sarah Palin cancels appearance at pro-life event

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin canceled an appearance at a pro-life event this afternoon in St. Paul, but the crowd still cheered at her name.

Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum said the group had scheduled Palin two months ago, but her appearance was canceled last night.

"I don't think it was a smart thing to do because this is the cream of the pro-life movement. I think it was a mistake," Schlafly said. "However, we're certainly enthusiastic about Sarah Palin and the ticket. What she has done is make people be enthusiastic about John McCain. That's really an achievement."

Several hundred people packed into the event where talk show host Laura Ingraham took Palin's place.

"The cause of life is the driving line in our culture, and it has been for decades," Ingraham said. "Sarah Palin is a woman who dared to cross that line."

The crowd, dressed in cowboy hats and red, white, and blue colors, seemed more excited about Palin than Sen. John McCain. One man plastered the name "Sarah Palin" on with duck tape to his black t-shirt.

Two protesters interrupted the event, one holding a hot pink sign that said "pro-life = universal health care." The crowd erupted into chanting "Sarah. Sarah. Sarah."

September 2, 2008

Actor: Bristol Palin 'going through a lot of hell'

Actor Jon Voight's eyes started watering when he spoke to reporters this morning about Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol Palin's pregnancy.

voight

"We're all human beings, we've all made mistakes in our life, unless we're really some kind of saints that have never participated in human decisions. This kid's going through a lot of stuff right now. I say, let's put our attention on this kid with love and not make this trauma worse than it is. Can you imagine her in a room trying to make a decision as to whether to tell her mom and dad about this situation? I mean that's what I think. I think she's going through a lot of hell, and we can make it worse or take care of her."

Voight said he thinks Palin was a "magnificent choice."

"I think that since her nomination, she's taken over the spotlight in such a remarkable way because it came out of no where. Seeing her was very moving to me because she had such confidence, her reputation was so extraordinary, she has an 80 percent rating in Alaska as governor. In two years, she's done enormous things, she's been an activist against corruption. She's such a graceful person. The pride with which she introduced her family with love, I think she's fantastic. I can't wait to meet her."

September 1, 2008

Indiana governor: Palin is ideal

Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels praised John McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin today.

"I had hoped to see a woman on the ticket of our party for a long, long time," he said. "I think now that it’s happened, the woman that we’ve waited for is ideal."

We just found out that Sarah Palin’s daughter is pregnant. Will that have an impact on voters?
I don’t know. They’re handling a difficult and all too common dilemma that millions of American families face. It’s just another mark of authenticity of this family and the way they’re handling the young couple in question, I think, is the right way. I hope that people will personally give them a little room for privacy. But since it’s public, I think they’ve done the right thing.

Do you have any thoughts on how the McCain campaign can reach out to evangelicals?
As a believer, I always felt that the God I know was larger than politics. The work of the religious leaders is more important, far more important, all important, than the work of temporary public employees like me. I’m always happy when people of faith decide that they want to be involved in public activity, but it should never distract us from what’s primary, from the mission of saving souls.

September 1, 2008

Former senator calls evangelicals 'on board' with Republican ticket

Former senator of Indiana Dan Coats said evangelicals are 100 percent on board with what he called the McCain-Palin ticket the "perfect combination."

"People are just sky high over the ticket. I think everybody believes we have exactly the right ticket for the election and for this time. John McCain has experience, has ability to assume the role of commander in chief, the role of president of the United States, combined with a woman who brings outside experience but relates to families, relates to women in a way that no one else can. It’s the perfect combination. The last thing we need is somebody else who has a lifetime of experience in Washington. So you have Sarah Palin who’s a maverick, a reformer, but a mother, a leader, and someone who lives her faith, demonstrates her family, leadership and demonstrates her public faith, combined with John McCain, it’s a dynamic ticket.

A recent Pew Forum poll showed that evangelicals aren’t as excited about McCain as they were about President Bush four years ago.
That was true until a combination of John McCain’s interview with Rick Warren where he touched on issues of importance to evangelicals and the Christian right. They were able to learn that his core thinking is very much what their core thinking is, and combining that with the values of Sarah Palin. They’re 100 percent on board, enthused and ready to go.

What about Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter?
Not every family has to face this specific issue, but every family have to face issues with children. I think the way they’ve handled this, the decision to not abort it, to marry, and to raise the child, demonstrates the kind of person Sarah Palin is, the kind of family that they have. We ought to support and praise that as well as her decision with her Down Syndrome child. She not only talks the talk in terms for support for life, but she walks the walk."

September 1, 2008

Richard Land glows over Palin pick

Richard Land is "ecstatic" over Sen. John McCain's decision to pick Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as vice president, and the women in his office are just as excited.

"They were absolutely giddy, and saying ‘I’m going to volunteer’ after Sarah Palin was picked," said Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "There’s something going on in the conservative independent sisterhood that I can’t tap into. I can’t comprehend it, but it’s there."

I spoke with Land just before news broke that Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

"I recommended her but I had no reason to believe that they would do it, but I’m happy they did. I think it’s going to tap into all kinds of things. I must say I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the depth of the response among women, among evangelical and Catholics. Clearly, her nominations tapped into something, which I can observe as a white male but can’t experience. My wife says to her Sarah Palin is what the feminists’ movement was all about. You can have a family and a husband and a career, that you can do it all. My wife has a Ph.D. in psychology, she’s in private practice as a psychotherapist.

I find these questions about ‘how can she take care of her children and be vice president’ sexist. Nobody asked that question to any of the male candidates. That’s a family decision. As long as she and her husband are comfortable with it and they seem to have done a wonderful job with the children they have, it’s nobody’s business.

What will this do for John McCain?
The enthusiasm gap has been closed considerably. Let me answer a question you haven’t asked me. I had two secular reporters ask me, ‘Dr. Land, you as a Southern Baptist believe that women are not to be pastors of churches and women are not to be head of the home. Wouldn’t it mean that if Sarah Palin were elected vice president, her husband would tell her what to do? And I said, ‘If you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an asinine question, but I’ll answer it.’ Mrs. Thatcher said that her husband was head of her home and she ran the country. Queen Elizabeth said that Prince Phillip was head of the home and she was head of the country. If Mrs. Thatcher had been an American, I would’ve enthusiastically supported her for president of the United States.
The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church. That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.

I was just in Denver where there were several religious outreach events. There are very few things officially scheduled at the Republican National Convention. What does that say about the parties?
The party that feels they’re not getting the fair share of a constituency are the ones who practice outreach. If the constituency is an integral part of the decision making part of your party, you don’t have to practice outreach. It’s not going to fundamentally shift things. Obama’s not doing as well as John Kerry so far. He’s the most radically pro-choice candidate ever nominated by a major party. That’s a vertical mountain to try to climb with evangelicals and with pro-life Catholics. He’s going to get 20 to 22 percent of the evangelical, because 20 to 22 percent of evangelicals are liberal evangelicals. That’s fine, but I don’t think he’s going to do any better than John Kerry did.

Does he get any credit for trying?
Sure he does. You’re going to attract more voter support in the long term with honey than with vinegar. If you can demonstrate that you at least respect people of faith and that they’re important to you, you’re going to do better than Howard Dean who said Job was his favorite book of the New Testament. If he had been running against Rudy Giuliani, he might’ve gotten half of the evangelical vote, but he’s not, he’s running against a pro-life candidate who has picked a very strongly pro-life running mate."

September 1, 2008

Thousands protest in St. Paul

Thousands of people are protesting here in St. Paul, making it difficult to get around.

I walked by a building with smashed in windows, one of which looked like a bullet had poked through it. Police are in riot gear, and the Star-Tribune reports that 53 have been arrested so far.

Most of the TVs are showing waves from Gustav crashing against the coast, but the Xcel Center is relatively quiet.

First Lady Laura Bush was greeted with a standing ovation, where she said, "Our first priority for today and in the coming days is to ensure the safety and well-being of those living in the Gulf Coast Region. And to all of those living in the Gulf States, please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you."

September 1, 2008

Reaction to Bristol Palin's pregnancy

Here are a few comments from the conservative evangelicals on Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol Palin's out-of-wedlock pregnancy. These evangelicals were thrilled when Palin was chosen as vice president.

Dr. James Dobson statement:

"In the 32-year history of Focus on the Family, we have offered prayer, counseling and resource assistance to tens of thousands of parents and children in the same situation the Palins are now facing. We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way. That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.

"Being a Christian does not mean you're perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect. But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord. I've been the beneficiary of that forgiveness and restoration in my own life countless times, as I'm sure the Palins have.

"The media are already trying to spin this as evidence Gov. Palin is a 'hypocrite,' but all it really means is that she and her family are human. They are in my prayers and those of millions of Americans."

"I think it's a very private matter," said Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America told the Associated Press. "It's a matter that should stay in the family and they have to work through it together. My prayers go out to them."

Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law, told Liz Sidoti of the AP: "We're all sinners. We all make mistakes. Certainly, the ideal is not to get pregnant out of wedlock. But she made the right decision after her mistake. It's absolutely shameful to put her child in the spotlight. She's not running for office. When someone can't face issues, they try to tear down a family."

September 1, 2008

Faith vs. government

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus were noticeably absent from today's lunch sponsored by the Faith and Politics Institute because of Hurricane Gustav.

Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota lauded his own state's emphasis on volunteerism as convention officials are making plans to create care packages for those who fled the hurricane's path.

Coleman later argued that the founding fathers were trying to protect religion from government and government from religion.

"The real danger comes when you build a wall between faith and government, not between church and state, but faith and government," Coleman said. "Now that's a dangerous wall." "The founders ? created an environment for the flourishing of religion like a place the earth has ever seen."

September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin's daughter is pregnant

Sen. John McCain's vice presidential pick Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, Reuters reports. The announcement was intended to knock down rumors liberal bloggers spread that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.

"We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us," the Palins' statement said.

"Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support," the Palins said.

"Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media, respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates," the statement concluded.

CNN reports that The 17-year-old, a senior in high school, is about five months along, in her second trimester, according to the aide. Reuters reports that Senior McCain campaign officials said McCain knew of the daughter's pregnancy when he selected Palin.

September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin's pastors

Spiritual mentors and pastoral endorsements have brought a few pastors to the forefront in the 2008 election. Sen. Barack Obama broke with his long-term pastor and Sen. John McCain eventually rejected endorsements from pastor John Hagee and pastor Rod Parsley.

Now, Harper's Magazine reporters have dug up sermons from Sarah Palin's pastors.

Palin has attended the Juneau Christian Center, where Mike Rose serves as senior pastor. Her previous pastor was David Pepper of the Church on the Rock in Palin's hometown of Wasilla.

Sebastian Jones found links to some of their sermons.

Rose said during a July 28, 2007 sermon: "Do you believe we're in the last days? After listening to Newt Gingrich and the prime minister of Israel and a number of others at our gathering, I became convinced, and I have been convinced for some time. We are living in the last days. These are incredible times to live in."

Pepper said during a November 25, 2007 sermon: "The purpose for the United States is? to glorify God. This nation is a Christian nation."

September 1, 2008

Panelists argue over Democrat's platform on abortion

Three panelists debated this morning over whether the Democrats' platform on abortion is a step forward.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, praised the platform for introducing sentences about the party's desire to reduce the number of abortions. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called it even more pro-choice because of it's "unequivocal" support of Roe v. Wade. Steve Waldman, founder and editor of the spirituality Web site beliefnet.com called it two steps forward and two steps backward.

The debate came during a panel in Minneapolis hosted by the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. Wallis argued that the evangelical agenda is broadening to include issues like poverty and the war in Iraq. "The monologue of the Religious Right is over," he said.

Waldman said that the evangelical leaders are passing the torch, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. "The voters in the rank and file evangelicals have different interests than their parents. I don't think the impact [of older evangelical leaders] has waned. There is now more of a counter point to it." And Land argued that abortion and gay marriage are still important issues for evangelicals. He said, "Younger evangelicals want a broader agenda, but they're not going to exchange their agenda."

Moderator of the forum Krista Tippett, who hosts a public radio show called "Speaking of Faith," had to say "Let's try not to talk about abortion for the next half hour."