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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)


Give McCain a break! The guy is a little busy trying to fix our nation's economy and preparing for a national debate. To take something like his lack of time for a meeting and turn it into an accusation that he isn't sufficiently concerned about issues evangelicals care about demonstrates a real ignorance about the political process. The guy is tremendously pro-life on abortion (unlike Obama) and will make a fine president. Please keep non issues like this non issues.

Steven Ertelt

McCain's got more important things to do right now than to meet with the National Association of Evangelicals. In this election, many evangelical leaders have seemed to take the attitude that the candidates should bow down to them. This article gets it right: that it's the swing voters that will determine this election, not the far right including these evangelical leaders. Now, speaking as an evangelical, I'd love to see evangelical leaders, associations, etc. get out of politics and spend their time preaching the Word. If they did that, then problems like abortion, gay marriage, etc. wouldn't be so prevalent.

Why should McCain be given a break on this? I am sure the request was not to meet on Friday night during the debate. People keep knocking Obama for trying to reach out to Evangelicals, but then ignore the fact that McCain won't reach out to evangelicals. There were virtually no meetings of Christians at the Republican Convention, but at the Dem Convention there were meetings with religious groups almost every day. If you think that he is really going to do something about abortion, stem cells or another issue but won't make time to meet with people who care about those issues, then I am not sure you should count on that support.

Why is he still playing the "evangelicals are up for grabs" story? Has anybody heard anything about that since Obama bombed at Saddleback?

"If you're simply voting on same sex marriage and abortion, you're not thinking." So a thinking person could not conclude that abortion is the most significant political issue facing the nation? I think someone is angling to be head of religious outreach for the 2012 Democratic campaign.

Finally, an intelligent "evangelical" who I agree with and who has voiced what I have been thinking. I could not agree more on the topics of single issue voting (gay marriage and abortion) and sadly, the role race plays, even subconsciously, in the predominantly white evangelical world.

When will evangelical realize that both candidates takes evangelical for fools and idiots. Obama with his double talk on abortion and gay marriage and his non-evangelical background (his Church background being closer to mainline black Churches more concerned with liberation theology that what you would fimd in black or other evangelical churches) McCain with always elusive\unsubstantiated faith and new found friendship with evangelicals (despite a clear history of disdain for them). Do not be fooled by the selection of Palin, she will not make the policies and will be on little consequence once the election is over. The fact that McCain does not even acknowledge the request by Evangelicals to meet with him (he did not accept to accept to meet with them, just respond to it) shows how much he values evangelical concerns and how much of a show Saddleback forum was.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…

Abortion and cultur-of-life issues are decisive. 3,000 pre-born children die in our nation daily. God cares more for them than about melting ice caps. McCain is pro-life, Obama is not.

On international relief and help for the persecuted church, McCain supports the current Administration's anti-poverty and anti-AIDS initiatives in the developing world and might in fact even be tougher on those who are attacking our brothers and sisters for their faith.

But hey, I'm just a thoughtless Evangelical voter. Sorry, Mr. Cizik. Never mind me.

The One who said "Follow...holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" is far more interested in the spiritual quality of America than in other aspects of our society. On Sep. 28th there will be another public fair in San Francisco featuring gross nudity and perversion on a public street where children are! Google "Obama Supports Public Depravity" and click on "Up Your Alley Fair" to view a similar fair that occurred there a few weeks ago. While recovering, Yahoo "God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up" and "Dangerous Radicals of the Religious Right." Listen, God won't forever withhold His wrath against our nation if it continues to embrace unspeakable abominations including abortion - even if Billy Graham were to become our President! Jeanette

I agree with Cizek 100%, at least on his analysis of shifts in thinking among Christians. I often feel ashamed when I hear unreflective, incurious - and highly conservative - political pronouncements made by people with whom I often share a church pew on Sunday mornings. The church has been chained to the GOP for too long. As independent voters, my wife and I are having some uncomfortable conversations with fellow believers of late: about unqualified nominees, racism, an unjustified war, the environment, crass materialism... and why we are voting for Obama.

I appreciate Richard Cizik careful analysis of our political environment, but I would go much further than he does as an evangelical in supporting most of Obama's position. We get nothing but lame, negative observation from the "old man" that I am beginning to feel sorry for him on many issues. Give me the professorial analysis of each issue (all of which I may not agree) than the hackneyed responses of the so-called favorite of my colleagues, the evangelicals.

Here's my question about single issue voting:

If you found a candidate who was right about everything but segregation, would you vote for him?

I wouldn't. And the same holds true for abortion. I simply will not cast a vote for a person who is as enthusiastic about reproductive laissez faire as Barack Obama.