All posts from “November 2008”

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November 24, 2008

Huckabee: Palin 'looks better in stilettos than I do'

Mike Huckabee said that he was surprised that John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate because he believes the only difference they have is that "she looks better in stilettos than I do."

In an article posted by The New Yorker, Huckabee initially responded to a question about Sarah Palin with, "She, uh, was an appropriate choice, because she put John McCain back in the game."

Later, he tells Lauren Collins:

"It was funny that all through the primary - I mean literally up until McCain got enough delegates to win - people said, ?You know, Huckabee's really running for Vice-President. Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.' And from that day forward, when I actually was no longer running for President, nobody ever said, ?Gee, Huckabee would be a great Vice-President.' "

"I was scratching my head, saying, ?Hey, wait a minute. She's wonderful, but the only difference was she looks better in stilettos than I do, and she has better hair.' It wasn't so much a gender issue, but it was like they suddenly decided that everything they disliked about me was O.K. . . . She was given a pass by some of the very people who said I wasn't prepared."

Huckabee sounded more positive about Palin when he spoke to Christianity Today the week after she was chosen. The former candidate seems to be unleashing months of frustration in the post-election weeks. Last week, he released a book criticizing several evangelicals for not supporting him.

November 24, 2008

Blessed Are the Hungry? Not So Much

Food pantries are struggling. Food prices are up, donations are down, and need is growing.

(Examples: Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Oregon, North Carolina, Florida, to name a few.)

Charity navigators lists the best food pantries by location and rating.

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

November 21, 2008

Report: Hillary Clinton to Accept Secretary of State Position

Hillary Clinton will accept the secretary of state position and give up her senate seat, the New York Times reports.

Obama and Clinton agree on broader foreign policy, but they disagreed sharply during the campaign over how to deal with Iran and Pakistan. However, friends told the Times that she was disenchanted with the Senate, where she remaines low in the ranks of seniority.

Peter Baker writes that the transition team heavily vetted Bill Clinton:

The decision followed days of intense vetting and negotiations intended to clear any potential obstacles to her taking the job due to her husband’s global business and philanthropic activities. Lawyers for Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton combed through his finances and drew up a set of guidelines for his future activities intended to avoid any appearances of conflict of interest should she take the job.

People close to the vetting said Mr. Clinton turned over the names of 208,000 donors to his foundation and library and agreed to all of the conditions requested by Mr. Obama’s transition team, including restrictions on his future paid speeches and role at his international foundation.

November 21, 2008

Court orders Arizona to allow `Choose Life' license plates

A federal court has ruled that the Arizona License Plate Commission must approve an anti-abortion group's "Choose Life" specialty license plate.

The Arizona Life Coalition applied for the specialty license plate in 2002, but the Arizona License Plate Commission, which oversees the requests, rejected its application.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Center for Arizona Policy filed a suit in September of 2003.

Pro-life groups shouldn't be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs," ADF senior counsel Gary McCaleb said.

Last January, the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the commission had violated the Arizona Life Coalition's First Amendment right to free speech by rejecting its application. The commission appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision, but the high court refused to hear the case.

In a decision issued Nov. 19, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt ordered the commission to convene by Jan. 23 and approved the license plates.

"Many other groups have been allowed to participate in the Arizona specialty plate program. The commission had no legitimate reason to selectively exclude this group," McCaleb said. "We're pleased that the plates will soon be available to the public."

The "Choose Life" license plates are available in at least 19 states, according to Choose Life, Inc., a Florida-based non-profit that waged a six-year legal battle to make Florida the first state to offer the plates.

South Carolina, which offers a "Choose Life" plate, will soon start making "I Believe" license plates that feature a cross and stained glass window. Those plates are already the subject of a legal challenge by Jewish and Hindu groups.

November 21, 2008

Fred Thompson Heading Back to the Stage

Fred Thompson dropped his bid to lead the Republican National Committee and will return to acting, the Associated Press reports.

During his candidacy, Thompson told voters he didn't attend church and said he would not talk about religion on the campaign. He received an endorsement from the National Right to Life, but dropped out after a limp reception in the primaries.

November 20, 2008

Religion Made up 4% of Campaign Media Coverage

Religion-related campaign stories made up 4 percent of overall media coverage, the Pew Center found.

The most religion-related coverage revolved around the rumors that Obama is a Muslim, followed by the focus on Sarah Palin's religion and family.

Meanwhile, there was little attempt by the news media during the campaign to comprehensively examine the role of faith in the political values and policies of the candidates, save for those of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

And when religion-focused campaign stories were covered by the mainstream press, often the context was negative, controversial or focused on a perceived political problem.

Key findings include:

* While [religion coverage] was less than coverage of the Iraq war (6%) or the economic crisis (9%), it was more prominent than coverage of energy issues (2%) and the environment (less than 1%), and equal to coverage of the Republican National Convention (4%). During the general election, storylines related to religion received as much attention by the press as those that focused on race (4%).

* In all, Obama was the lead newsmaker in more than half (53%) of the religion-focused campaign stories. By contrast, McCain was the focus of just 9%. Palin (19%) was more tied to religion than her running mate, though less so than Obama. Examination of Palin’s family values, church background and related issues made up one-fourth of the newshole devoted to religion in the campaign.

* The single biggest religion storyline in the general election phase of the campaign centered on rumors that the Democratic nominee, who is a mainline Protestant Christian, is a Muslim (30%). An additional 5% of the religion-focused coverage dealt with evangelical broadcaster James Dobson’s criticism of Obama’s positions.

* Attention to clerics Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger and John Hagee alone made up 11% of religion coverage in the general election.

* The Aug. 16 Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency, moderated by Warren at his California megachurch, drew brief but intense media coverage. Still, that was enough to have that one event account for 11% of religion-focused campaign coverage in the general election.

* Culture war issues were not a driving narrative of this election cycle. Together, social issues – including abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research – composed 9% of religion-focused campaign news but less than 1% of campaign news overall.

November 20, 2008

Calif. Gay-Marriage Ban Goes Back to the Courts

The California Supreme Court will hear several legal challenges to a new ban on gay marriage, but gay couples to will not be able to continue marrying before it rules.

The court accepted three lawsuits that argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuits argue that voters improperly abrogated the judiciary's authority by stripping same-sex couples of the right to wed after the high court earlier ruled it was discriminatory to prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying.

"If given effect, Proposition 8 would work a dramatic, substantive change to our Constitution's 'underlying principles' of individual on a scale and scope never previously condoned by this court," lawyers for the same-sex couples stated in their petition.

Earlier this year, the court ruled that gay couples could marry and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has already twice vetoed a legislative attempt to allow gay marriages.

November 19, 2008

Huckabee says neglected `value voters' are key to GOP future

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, often mentioned as someone who could shepherd the GOP out of the political wilderness, says Republicans neglected religious conservatives this year and need to maintain their support as the party regroups.

"They were welcomed to the family table two days a year, and that was the primary and Election Day," the former Arkansas governor said at a press conference Wednesday (Nov. 19). "I think there's a point of frustration and exasperation where people are saying. `You know what? If you don't want us, just say so.' "

Out with a new book, "Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America," Huckabee spoke about the past and future of the Republican Party.

"There should not be the disconnect between value voters and those who consider themselves the fiscal conservatives," he said. "The truth is, most value voters are fiscal conservatives, but not all fiscal conservatives are value voters."

Huckabee said he has no immediate plans for a second White House run or for any other office and that the GOP would be "insane" if they tried to move away from issues like abortion or marriage that are key to religious conservatives.

"It's been an important part of our overall message, which is that traditional values still reach many people in this country," he said of the marriage issue. "And I think the sanctity of life issue is still an issue that draws people to the Republican Party who otherwise might not necessarily feel that much of a loyalty. It's not that it's the only
issue, but it's an issue that we have to be faithful to."

But Huckabee also was critical of conservative religious leaders including Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Bob Jones University Chancellor Bob Jones III and former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who passed him over and endorsed other GOP candidates.

"I came to the conclusion that political expediency and pragmatism had supplanted prophetic principles among those who aspired to influence the process but unwittingly had become influenced by the process and, in fact, were held captive by it," Huckabee wrote.

Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was disappointed in Huckabee's book.

"It is unfortunate ... at a time when the GOP needs to close ranks and seek unity, that Governor Huckabee in his new book has aimed his fire at his fellow Republicans," Bauer said.

Huckabee said he expected his words would anger some readers.

"I'm telling the honest facts of the story," he said. "I don't think I'm unfair or unkind, but I'm honest."

Huckabee said he thinks former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has "a great future ahead of her" after rallying the Republican base, but he was noncommittal about his own political future.

"I'm not ruling anything out for the future but I'm not making any
specific plans to do something in the future politically," he said.

November 18, 2008

Can Obama Call Himself a Christian?

A mini debate has exploded on several blogs over whether President-elect Barack Obama can call himself a Christian.

If you're just catching up, first read this 2004 interview with Obama, but here are the relevant sections.

FALSANI: Who's Jesus to you? (Obama laughs nervously)

OBAMA: Right. Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he's also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher. And he's also a wonderful teacher. I think it's important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.

On Sin

FALSANI: What is sin?

OBAMA: Being out of alignment with my values.

FALSANI: What happens if you have sin in your life?

OBAMA: I think it's the same thing as the question about heaven. In the same way that if I'm true to myself and my faith that that is its own reward, when I'm not true to it, it's its own punishment.

On Hell

Obama: ?There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

FALSANI: You don't believe that?

OBAMA: I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup.

On Heaven

FALSANI: Do you believe in heaven?

OBAMA: Do I believe in the harps and clouds and wings?

FALSANI: A place spiritually you go to after you die?

OBAMA: What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be rewarded. I don't presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.

Here are just some of the bloggers weighing in.

Joe Carter

1. Obama is not a orthodox Christian. He may call himself a "Christian" in the same way that some Unitarians use the term to refer to themselves. But his beliefs do not seem to be in line with the historic definition.

2. In the 20 years that Obama attended Trinity, did he never hear a clear exposition of the Gospel? Did the Rev. Jeremiah Wright never once preach on the need for a saving faith in Christ? If not, then that is more scandalous than any of the anti-American remarks Wright made from the pulpit.

3. Although I already pray for Obama (as the Bible commands me to do) I now realize that I also need to pray for his eternal soul and not just that he be an effective leader of our nation. I also pray that he will find a spiritual leader who will help lead him to a true knowledge of Christ.

Rod Dreher

Unless Obama was being incredibly and uncharacteristically inarticulate, this is heterodox. You cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense and deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. You just can't.

Alan Jacobs

So when people say "I am a Christian" I accept them at their word, just as I hope that they accept me at my word when I make the same claim.

But the conversation doesn't have to end there, does it? It seems to me that, having taken President-elect Obama at his word when he claims the Christian faith, we can then go on to discuss what he thinks Christianity is, who he thinks who Jesus is, what obligations he believes a Christian takes on by virtue of being a Christian, and so on. And as that conversation proceeds we might say to him that we think his understanding of Christianity sadly limited, or the place of Christ in his theology to be insufficient and wrong-headed, or whatever.


Daniel Larison

Rod and Carter are correct that by any formal, credal standard of traditional Christianity in any confession, Obama is heterodox. It is important to distinguish this from the more loaded question of whether or not he is a Christian. It is relatively easy to demonstrate heterodoxy, but more difficult to show non-Christianity, and this is as it should be.

Ross Douthat

Now it's true that if he had been asked about Christ's nature, Bush - or Ronald Reagan, to take another conservative President with an idiosyncratic religious sensibility - might have given a more Nicaean answer than Obama did in the interview in question. But then again maybe not! (And God only knows what John McCain, the most pagan Presidential contender we've had in some time, might have said.)

Andrew Sullivan

The Incarnation is just such a bridge and a mystery. I guess I find a modern Christianity that is not attuned to that mystery, not willing to reimagine and undergo God in ways that may not always merely repeat orthodoxy to be ... well, moribund as a faith. I don't think Obama's engagement with it to be unChristian, merely modern.

Tony Jones

So I'll end with this: It seems that there is one sine qua non for Christianity, and it was articulated by St. Paul in Romans 10:9,
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And it is abundantly clear that Barack Obama has, on many occasions, affirmed that Jesus is Lord.

I have nothing to offer, except to offer our readers a place to comment (on theology, not Obama's politics).

November 18, 2008

Child Hunger Rose 50%

Campaign coverage perpetuated a myth that the economy suddenly went south when Lehman brothers collapsed in October. For many people the effects of the weak economy had been felt long before that.

Here's the most striking example:

New government figures show that almost 700,000 children went hungry in the United States at some point in 2007, up more than 50 percent from the year before to mark the highest point since 1998. And that's even before this year's sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.

For those who need an economic reminder why society traditionally frowned on unmarried women having babies outside of wedlock, consider that the highest rates of "food insecurity" were families headed by single mothers.

In practical terms, what does this mean? 93% of those in this category said they were "eating less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food" and 65% said they "had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food."

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

November 18, 2008

About Them Jabs. . .

Does Mike Huckabee know his Bible? I can't believe I didn't catch this, but Frank Lockwood did.

Huckabee describes other elders of the social-conservative movement, many of whom meet in private as part of an organization called the Arlington Group, as "more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that had originally motivated the Founders." Later, Huckabee writes, "I lamented that so many people of faith had moved from being prophetic voices - like Naaman, confronting King David in his sin and saying, ?Though art the man!' - to being voices of patronage, and saying to those in power, ?You da' man!' "

It's the Prophet Nathan who confronts King David, (2 Samuel 12:7). Naaman, on the other hand, is "a mighty man of valour" (2 Kings 5:1-9) who suffered from leprosy.

November 18, 2008

Film Fest Director Supported Gay Marriage Ban

Richard Raddon, a Mormon, supposedly turned in resignation, but board turns it down.

According to gay publication Advocate.com:

Film Independent released a statement on Friday in response to Los Angeles Film Festival director Richard Raddon's donation to the campaign for Proposition 8, which succeeded in banning gay marriage in California. "As a champion of diversity," the statement said, "Film Independent is dedicated to supporting the civil rights of all individuals. At the same time, our organization does not police the personal, religious, or political choices of any employee, member, or filmmaker."

David Poland of MovieCityNews also blogged about the story.

November 17, 2008

Huckabee Takes a Few Jabs

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee mocks a few of his fellow Republicans - including a few evangelicals - in his book being released tomorrow.

Time magazine reports that the sharpest words go to Huckabee's former rival, Mitt Romney, who Huckabee describes as "anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president."

Michael Scherer writes that Huckabee's book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America, "spared neither the rod nor the lash" for many conservative Christian leaders.

Huckabee writes of Gary Bauer, the conservative Christian leader and former presidential candidate, as having an "ever-changing reason to deny me his support." Of one private meeting with Bauer, Huckabee says, "It was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade - whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a 'problem' that made my candidacy unacceptable." He also accuses Bauer of putting national security before bedrock social issues like the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

Huckabee calls out Pat Robertson for endorsing Rudy Giuliani and Dr. Bob Jones III for endorsing Romney. He says he spoke to the Rev. John Hagee by phone before the Texas pastor endorsed John McCain. "I asked if he had prayed about this and believed this was what the Lord wanted him to do," Huckabee writes. "I didn't get a straight answer."

Huckabee also describes the Arlington Group as "more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that had originally motivated the Founders." Later, he writes, "I lamented that so many people of faith had moved from being prophetic voices - like Naaman, confronting King David in his sin and saying, 'Thou art the man!' - to being voices of patronage, and saying to those in power, 'You da' man!' "

November 17, 2008

What Church Should Obama Attend?

As Barack Obama scopes out his family's new home, most of the buzz seems to be focused on his daughters' education.

But Amy Sullivan at Time wants to know where Obama plans to go to church. Sullivan cleverly interviews a few who offer their advice.

On the short list? People's Congregational Church, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, Metropolitan A.M.E. Church, Church of the Epiphany, Washington Community Fellowship, and Memorial Chapel at Fort Myer.

Is there an obvious choice? What do you think?

November 14, 2008

Hagan drops lawsuit over Dole's 'godless' ad

Senator-elect Kay Hagan, the North Carolina Democrat who ousted Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, has withdrawn a defamation suit over a Dole ad that linked Hagan with a 'godless' group.

Hagan filed the suit Oct. 30, saying Dole inaccurately accused her of having ties to an atheist political action committee. Hagan filed a motion to dismiss the suit yesterday.

"It's clear that the people of North Carolina have rejected personal attacks aimed at dividing people of this state instead of bringing them together to solve the problems at hand," said Colleen Flanagan, communications director for Hagan's campaign.

"This lawsuit would just continue the focus on a very personal and negative attack against Kay, instead of focusing on the people of North Carolina."

In the suit, Hagan charged that Dole and her campaign maligned her reputation with an ad that "falsely implies that (Hagan) shares the views of an entity that calls itself the Godless Americans PAC."

The two campaigns created dueling ads in which Dole defended her initial attack against Hagan, and Hagan denying the alleged connections with the atheist group.

Hagan stated in the suit that she attended a September fundraiser at the Boston home of Woody Kaplan but never took contributions from the Godless Americans PAC.

Ellen Johnson, executive director of Enlighten the Vote, the new name of the PAC, responded to the controversy by saying Kaplan, a former advisory board member, was involved in the fundraiser independently of the PAC.

A spokesperson for the Dole campaign could not be reached immediately for comment.

The original ad can be viewed here.

November 14, 2008

Will Obama Pass the Genocide Test?

The situation in east Africa is already evolving into a major test of the world's resolve to prevent another genocide from developing.

This time, it's eastern DR Congo. This region of the world has proven to be a safe haven for militias of all kinds, including groups responsible in part for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

This area of eastern Africa has been the setting for some of the world's worst humanitarian disasters. Think Darfur, genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, the LRA killings in northern Uganda, deadly political reprisals in Kenya.

It has traumatized by HIV, malaria, TB, the list of horrors goes on and on.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden was right: Obama is going to face a major foreign policy test. But the timing is all wrong. The test starts right now, professor Obama. The US and the international community are already looking to Obama for guidance about what to do.

All of Washington is in transition mode. But time marches on. This week, I spoke by phone at length with an very high level foreign policy official under the Bush administration. He is very active in this part of Africa, working for peace implementation.

For global evangelicals, he had some important words, which I will partially quote, where he specifically addressed evangelical advocacy:

The more people who follow what is going on ... the better. The more they’re kicking up dust in the press and with their elected representatives the better. Because my view, Tim, is there are lots of things the United States of America has to deal with, a lot of things at home as this economic meltdown shows, and also a lot of challenges beyond our shores. And the first priority of this President and the President-elect is our national security and protecting vital interests.

One can argue these issues of moral necessity are less compelling. What’s made America great are the values and the faith upon which we were founded. Therefore, those values and that faith have to animate our foreign policy. But they get crowded off the stage by the immediate.

If it’s mischief by Russia in Georgia, if it’s Ahmadinejad in Iran trying to get nuclear weapons, the list goes on ... Our humanity and, frankly, the American ideal compel us to deal with difficult issues especially when it grows to the point where you have massive ethnic cleansing and genocide.

So my view is the more people that are raising Cain the better. And the more they do to try to get members of the House and Senate to raise Cain the better, I think 99 percent of Americans fundamentally want the same thing even if we disagree on the best way to get there.

We just need to keep some of the Americans engaged and recognize that we have a moral obligation to act.

For starters:

White House comment line: 1-202-456-1111

President George W. Bush: president@whitehouse.gov
Vice President Richard Cheney: vice.president@whitehouse.gov

To my knowledge, the Obama transition team does not have a comment line set up as yet.

If you have ideas for advocacy and action, email me or post them below:

TMorgan@christianitytoday.com


November 13, 2008

The States that Ban Gay Marriage

Protests over Proposition 8 continue, and gay-marriage advocates are attempting to collect signatures for a ballot initiative to reverse the ban in California, the Associated Press reports.

The AP reports that Connecticut issued 58 marriage licenses to same-sex couples yesterday, the first day that gays and lesbians could get married in the state.

Twenty-six states have amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage, and the always-excellent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released a helpful graphic that which states banned gay marriage when, starting with Alaska in 1998.

November 11, 2008

Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani

The most detailed and fascinating explication of Barack Obama's faith came in a 2004 interview he gave Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani when he was running for U.S. Senate in Illinois. The column she wrote about the interview has been quoted and misquoted many times over, but she'd never before published the full transcript in a major publication.

Because of how controversial that interview became, Falsani has graciously allowed us to print the full conversation here.

Falsani is one of the most gifted interviewers on matters of faith, and has recently published an outstanding memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. To get a free download of the audio book, click here.

* * *

At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter (I am now its religion columnist) at the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee joint at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, to interview him exclusively about his spirituality. Our conversation took place a few days after he'd clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won. We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the Sun-Times called "The God Factor," that eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (FSG, March 2006.) Because of the staggering interest in now President-Elect Obama's faith and spiritual predilections, I thought it might be helpful to share that interivew, uncut and in its entirety, here.
--Cathleen Falsani

Interview with State Sen. Barack Obama
3:30 p.m., Saturday March 27, 2004
Café Baci, 330 S. Michigan Avenue

Me: decaf
He: alone, on time, grabs a Naked juice protein shake


FALSANI:
What do you believe?

OBAMA:
I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences.

I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10.

My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.

And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.

(A patron stops and says, "Congratulations," shakes his hand. "Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.")

So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

And so, part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe - I'm 42 now - and it's not that I had it all completely worked out, but I'm spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values.


FALSANI:
Have you always been a Christian?


OBAMA:
I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.

FALSANI:
Any particular flavor?

OBAMA:
No.

My grandparents who were from small towns in Kansas. My grandmother was Methodist. My grandfather was Baptist. This was at a time when I think the Methodists felt slightly superior to the Baptists. And by the time I was born, they were, I think, my grandparents had joined a Universalist church.

So, my mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve. We'd go to church for Easter. She wasn't a church lady.

As I said, we moved to Indonesia. She remarried an Indonesian who wasn't particularly, he wasn't a practicing Muslim. I went to a Catholic school in a Muslim country. So I was studying the Bible and catechisms by day, and at night you'd hear the prayer call.

So I don't think as a child we were, or I had a structured religious education. But my mother was deeply spiritual person, and would spend a lot of time talking about values and give me books about the world's religions, and talk to me about them. And I think always, her view always was that underlying these religions were a common set of beliefs about how you treat other people and how you aspire to act, not just for yourself but also for the greater good.

And, so that, I think, was what I carried with me through college. I probably didn't get started getting active in church activities until I moved to Chicago.

The way I came to Chicago in 1985 was that I was interested in community organizing and I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement. And the idea that ordinary people could do extraordinary things. And there was a group of churches out on the South Side of Chicago that had come together to form an organization to try to deal with the devastation of steel plants that had closed. And didn't have much money, but felt that if they formed an organization and hired somebody to organize them to work on issues that affected their community, that it would strengthen the church and also strengthen the community.

So they hired me, for $13,000 a year. The princely sum. And I drove out here and I didn't know anybody and started working with both the ministers and the lay people in these churches on issues like creating job training programs, or afterschool programs for youth, or making sure that city services were fairly allocated to underserved communites.

This would be in Roseland, West Pullman, Altgeld Gardens, far South Side working class and lower income communities.

And it was in those places where I think what had been more of an intellectual view of religion deepened because I'd be spending an enormous amount of time with church ladies, sort of surrogate mothers and fathers and everybody I was working with was 50 or 55 or 60, and here I was a 23-year-old kid running around.

I became much more familiar with the ongoing tradition of the historic black church and it's importance in the community.

And the power of that culture to give people strength in very difficult circumstances, and the power of that church to give people courage against great odds. And it moved me deeply.

So that, one of the churches I met, or one of the churches that I became involved in was Trinity United Church of Christ. And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.

Continue reading Obama's Fascinating Interview with Cathleen Falsani...

November 11, 2008

Armageddon for Evangelicals?

That provocative title leads the latest podcast discussion between Collin Hansen, a Christianity Today editor at large, and Stan Guthrie, CT's managing editor of special projects.

Collin points to some Bible verses on how Christians should respond (hint, he doesn't encourage people to declare "Armageddon"). But he does say the election has serious consequences and was "very painful" for people fighting against abortion.

Last week, Ted Olsen, CT's managing editor of news & online journalism, gave a helpful overview of the election results.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed, iTunes feed, or search for "Christianity Today" on the iTunes store.

November 11, 2008

Plow, Baby, Plow!

"I can't predict what's going to happen a day from now, much less four years from now. You know, I have -- faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator's hands -- this is what I always do. I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it's cracked up a little bit, maybe I'll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don't let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door." (Sarah Palin to Greta)

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 10, 2008

Protesters March in Front of Saddleback

Several Mormon churches and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church are taking heat for California's decision to ban gay marriage.

About 1,000 people protested in front of Saddleback, according to the Associated Press. Warren had endorsed Proposition 8 before it was passed with 52 percent of the votes cast last week.

The Mormon church has already been targeted after it contributed an estimated 40 percent of the individual donations made to the Yes on 8's $30 million-plus campaign, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Here are numbers from Matthai Kuruvila:

-- 84 percent of those who attend church weekly voted yes.

-- 81 percent of white evangelicals voted yes.

-- 65 percent of white Protestants voted yes.

-- 64 percent of Catholics voted yes. Catholics accounted for 30 percent of all voters.

A poll showed that weekly churchgoers increased their support in the final week from 72 percent to 84 percent, with Catholic support increasing from 44 percent to 64 percent. Kuruvila writes writes that the jump that accounted for 6 percent of the total California electorate, equivalent to the state's entire African American population combined and more than accounted for Prop. 8's 5 percent margin of victory.

November 8, 2008

Obama Sought Out Controversial Gay Bishop

Joel Hunter wasn't the only religious leader on Barack Obama's list of people to call. Obama also sought out controversial gay bishop Gene Robinson three times during his campaign, Ruth Gledhill of the The Times in London reports.

"The first words out of [Obama's] mouth were: ?Well you're certainly causing a lot of trouble,' My response to him was: ?Well that makes two of us.'" "He said that Mr Obama had indicated his support for equal civil rights for gay and lesbian people and described the election as a "religious experience."

Robinson is the openly gay bishop whose consecration led several Episcopalian conservatives to split from the church.

In other non-political but important religion news, a third diocese split from the church today. The Diocese of Fort Worth, will vote next week on whether to do the same.

November 7, 2008

A Generation Gap Among Evangelicals

We numbers junkies thank Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times for doing a special slice-and-dice on the exit polls that gives us this fascinating nugget:

Obama doubled his support among evangelicals (Obamagelicals, as we like to call them) ages 18-29 (getting 32% compared to 16% in 2004).

What the Times didn't mention is that Obama actually went down among evangelicals 65 and older (Kerry got 32% of them; Obama got 26%)

In other words, in 2004 the senior evangelicals were more Democratic than the juniors. Now it's the other way around.

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

November 7, 2008

On The Religious Left, Great Expectations

The first priorities for Barack Obama's administration will be the economy and a variety of foreign policy issues. But the burgeoning religious left, which worked so hard to get Obama elected, expects some movement on its issues, including a robust White House office of faith-based initiatives, poverty reduction, and reducing demand for abortion.

Here's what Matthew 25 Network founder Mara Vanderslice (pictured) told God-o-Meter about this last issue:

I hope that an Obama administration is going to prove to religious Americans that supported him that he's going to provide common ground on the abortion issue. He spoke directly about wanting to reduce the number of abortions and it's one of the first things people are looking for: How is he going to legislate and lead on that issue?

I wish they had been more vocal on this intention to reduce abortion [on the campaign trail]. He [Obama] said it at different times and locations but the pro-life groups got their message out very effectively, painting Obama as an extremist on the issue. I don't think that's true but they had some success with that. So it's up to a new Obama administration to show us he's going to find that common ground.

Many in the religious left see such untraditional Democratic policy initiatives as abortion reduction not only as a genuine priority for their movement but also as a political necessity if Obama and the Democrats want to hold onto their gains among certain faith constituencies, from white Catholics and evangelicals to Latino Christians to black Protestants.

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

November 6, 2008

No Hope for Sen. Lieberman?

lieberman.jpg

FATEFUL FRIENDS? Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman (right).

President-elect Barack Obama's honeymoon with conservatives may not last until Thanksgiving Day if partisan Democrats serve up the head of Conn. Sen. Joe Lieberman on a platter.

Sen. Lieberman, who's a so-called independent Democrat and serves as a Homeland Security committee chairman in the Senate, may be living on borrowed time not only for sticking his finger in the eyes of fellow Democrats and Obama himself, but also for his support for the war in Iraq, during the election season.

Of course, now that the election is over, Sen. Lieberman is sorta saying, "Never mind..." Here's what he had to say at a post-election press statement:

"Now that the election is over, it is time to put partisan considerations aside and come together as a nation to solve the difficult challenges we face and make our blessed land stronger and safer... I pledge to work with President-elect Obama and his incoming administration in their efforts to reinvigorate our economy and keep our nation secure and free."

Sen. Lieberman met this week with Senate Majority Leader Reid. So far, so good. Reid seems willing to at least publicly take a wait and see stance about Lieberman's position in the Democratic caucus and leadership role.

Why should evangelicals care? The fate of Lieberman provides a political test for the incoming, fist-bumping Team Obama. If Lieberman takes it in the neck, that will mean either Obama lost an early power struggle with fellow Democrats or tacitly approved.

Lieberman's legislative record is very mixed. He's extremely pro-choice, but, of course, a strong supporter of Israel and the war in Iraq.

Watch Lieberman's fate as an early indicator of what will happen in the new Congress and new administration.

If you wish to explore all the ties with conservatives, be sure to see the Wikipedia entry on Lieberman (click here), and you can form your own opinion about "The Bush Kiss."

November 5, 2008

Obama Election Heals Memories from 1976

In the fall of 1976, I was in the sixth grade in Shreveport, Louisiana, at Claiborne Elementary, a school that had an all-white student population just three years before. By the mid-1970s, the enrollment was half-black.

In that fall’s presidential election, President Ford was running against Jimmy Carter. Our teacher, Mr. Stewart, asked his sixth-graders to write what we thought should be the qualifications to be president of the United States. I wrote something and waited for everybody else to finish.

Sitting at the desk next to me was a black kid. I happened to glance at his paper. He wrote that the president of the United States should be white.

Blacks and whites didn't mix at my school or in my neighborhood except in fighting and insulting each other. Claiborne Elementary wasn’t Shreveport’s only angry place. Shreveport was in the throes of busing and desegregation, and the animosity spilled into the city’s churches. In a large white Baptist congregation not far from my neighborhood, one Sunday morning deacons escorted from the sanctuary some black Christians who had come to worship.

But even as an 11-year-old white girl in this Deep South environment steeped in racism, this black boy’s answer deeply troubled me. Why did he believe the country’s president had to be white?

On November 4, 2008, the world saw that the president doesn't have to be. (In now predominantly black Shreveport, change had come one year before the 2008 general election. On November 7, 2007, my Caddo Parish Magnet High School classmate Cedric Glover became the city’s first black mayor.)

Maybe you're like a lot of white evangelicals who didn't vote for President-elect Obama. That's fine because Senator McCain is still going to be a force to contend with in the US Senate.

But for me, this election has begun to heal some memories and, for all of us, it changes the possibilities.

November 5, 2008

Evangelicals and an Obama Administration

Evangelicals will have to learn to work with Barack Obama's administration, no matter how ecstatic or how disappointed they may be. Here's the story.

By the way, if you're just tuning in, we have tons of posts for you to read. Joel Hunter prayed with Obama, Jim Wallis, Richard Cizik, and Richard Land react, and Ted Olsen made an amazing map of how the evangelical vote broke down. Check this link for election day coverage.

November 5, 2008

A Post-Election Chat with Ralph Reed

Amid today's talk that Barack Obama has narrowed the God Gap, God-o-Meter checked in with Ralph Reed, who spearheaded religious outreach for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns and who pioneered such outreach for Republicans as executive director of the Christian Coalition.

What surprised you in the exit polls?

The durability--in a difficult election cycle--of the Republicans' conservative coalition--the overwhelming margin for McCain among evangelicals was about what Bush got four years ago. I don't think anyone would have anticipated that six or eight months ago. I don't think that was due entirely to the Palin effect, although she helped.

But the Republican Party has to do some retooling of the party's grassroots infrastructure, its message and the messengers because we lost some states last night that we haven't lost in two generations, like Virginia and Indiana.

So one surprise was that evangelicals, who were seen to be despondent over the McCain and the GOP, turned out in droves.

But a truly successful majority party is a multitasking party that tends to its core supporters and reaches out to those who haven't always felt welcome in their ranks. Obama clearly did that. He never wavered from his core liberal positions... But he reached out to evangelicals, which was a smart thing to do. Now, it didn't' work. e tried to emulate Martin Luther King in speaking about the challenges of the poor and left behind in a way that the white majority could hear.

Ronald Reagan did that, reaching out to Catholics and blue collar voters. And four years ago, Bush got 44-percent of the Hispanic vote even while winning 78-percent of evangelicals. So it's not an either or--you got to do both. The party has to stay true to social conservative but also has to figure out a way to win younger voters and African Americans and Hispanics.

If Obama's evangelical outreach failed, why was it a smart thing to do?

Because to be competitive in the South and the Midwest heartland of the country whether you win evangelicals votes are not there are a lot of moderate and independent voters that were beginning to have the view that the Democrats are hostile to religious voters. [That] was hardening. Even if you don't get the evangelical vote, if you're going to carry Virginia and Florida and Indiana and Missouri, you can't be viewed as hostile to religion and the values that people hold. So the Democrats were smart to begin talking about faith and values.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If you look at what we did at Christian Coalition and then with the Bush campaign, [the Democrats] tried to beat us by attacking us. And it dint' work. And after about 15 years of attacking the values message, the Democrats decided to copy it and it was smart.

That's a welcome mat to Republicans--they shouldn't attempt to veer way from the values message. You can say a lot about what caused this [McCain's defeat] but it wasn't caused by the Republican Party's values message. In two states that McCain lost, Florida and California, McCain lost even as marriage amendments won.

But do you worry that McCain's loss will be blamed on Sarah Palin and other religious conservatives, who may have scared off independent voters?

I'm not worried at all. If you look at the polling, from the time Palin was selected around August 31 to September 20, when Lehman Brothers cratered and the DOW lost 25 percent and you have a credit crisis and financial panic, MCain was doing fairly well among independents and better among soft Democrats.

The Palin effect was across the board. It energized the base and caused independents and women to give her a second look. The gap began to yawn again around the financial panic. It was after McCain suspended his campaign and went to Washington and was not able to come up with a solution that united his party. But if you talk to people on the ground, the volunteers, the door-to-door knockers [for McCain], they were invisible until McCain selected Palin. I think it's revisionist history to blame the bottom of the ticket for issues that were always top of the ticket.

There's been a lot of talk about Palin's future. How can she have a future as a national candidate if her appeal is strong but limited to the Republican base--largely its religious base?

The strong but limited appeal was based on the ticket. The ticket underperformed among independents and those outside the Republican coalition. The sinking tide lowered all boats. But I don't think it's fair to particularize it to her. She has not yet been tested as a candidate in a normal national campaign, where she'd get the opportunity to introduce herself to voters in a primary.

I'd argue that if Obama had not run for president and Hillary Clinton would have won the nomination and then selected Obama as her running mate, with Rev. Wright and Rezko and Ayers and his voting record, he would have never had the opportunity to litigate all that like he did in the primaries.

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

November 5, 2008

Jim Wallis on Holding Obama Accountable

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, plans to hold president-elect Barack Obama accountable for his commitment to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. I spoke with Wallis last night, and here's his take on the evangelical vote, working with an Obama administration, and abortion.

"The important evangelical vote this time is the black church. Black churches are evangelical. They're voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. The most important evangelical vote is the black evangelical vote, not the white evangelical vote. When we talk about the evangelical vote, you've gotta talk about evangelicals of color.

"There are a lot of evangelicals who are willing to engage with an Obama presidency on global poverty, the environment, Darfur, on trafficking, on war and peace in Iraq. The life issue has been defined very narrowly. I voted the way black evangelicals vote for a very long time. It's wonderful to see black evangelicals leading the way this time. The abortion rate does not go down. I think we have a serious chance for an abortion reduction, and I think we have a serious chance with an Obama administration.

"Barack Obama will be held accountable on a serious commitment to abortion reduction. He called for that, his campaign platform said that, and he should be held accountable to that. He needs prayer and accountability, support and pushing, both at the same time."

November 5, 2008

What Broader Agenda?

If anybody never sleeps, it's John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Green has been giving a series of conference calls with reporters on religion and the election results.

While there was a large surge in the minority Christian vote, early exit polls do not show much change in the white evangelical turnout. Several people, including Green, have been pointing to a broader agenda in the evangelical community, so I asked him why the results were similar to 2004. Here's part of what he said late last night.

"I think there's a lot of evidence that among certain elements of the community and many evangelical leaders there is this press to broaden the agenda. The initial numbers suggest that however important that maybe it didn't connect to the vote for many evangelicals.

"Now, there are at least two explanations that we'll have to sort out. One was that there was a lot of interest in the broader agenda but there was counter pressure on the social issues. Another possibility is that many of the elements of the new agenda the environment, international human rights, poverty, and so forth just didn't figure into presidential voting choices in this election.

"They may in the future, or they may be important when it comes to considering legislation that the new president may propose. I don't think we can take these numbers to say now the broadening of the agenda didn't happen, but it does suggest that whatever was going on it wasn't wired up to the vote in the way many evangelical leaders had hoped."

November 5, 2008

More Hope for the Disabled?

While Obama's track record on protecting the unborn is abysmal, there is hope that his administration will make some strides in protecting and caring for the disabled.

As the parent of a teenager with mental disabilities (bipolar, Aspergers, and ADHD), that would be a most welcome improvement. Especially here in Illinois, where one of the richest states in America has a pitiful record of spending for adults with disabilities. And now that my son is only months away from technically reaching adulthood, that's a pressing concern.

Across America, The ARC advocates for the rights of all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And here in the Land of Lincoln, my wife and I have very much appreciated The Arc of Illinois's advocacy on our behalf, and for our son.

Executive director Tony Paulauski, clearly pleased with the election result, sent out this e-mail to Arc members this morning:

"I first met President-Elect Obama when he was serving in the Senate. When the Democrats gained the majority in the Senate, he then became the Chairperson of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. This is the committee that considered disability legislation. The Senator always ran a good committee meeting, with good discussion and debate. He always supported important disability legislation. He always found time to meet with me to discuss disability legislation. His pragmatic style leads me to believe his Presidency will move slowly to reach consensus on important issues like Medicaid reform, Social Security solvency, Health Care reform and Special Education. All of these issues are extremely important to people with disabilities and their families. I do not think the President will use his majority in the House and Senate to shut out the Republican minority. If the past is any indication, he will work with both sides. In the end, this will be good for everyone. One of the President-Elect Obama’s key advisors is David Axelrod. David was the architect of the Obama campaign and what a campaign it was. David Axelrod is also someone I have worked with on media projects over the years. David has a daughter with disabilities and first worked with The Arc on our waiting list campaign many years ago. I believe President-Elect Obama will look favorably on important community disability initiatives. He has already become a co-sponsor of important disability legislation now pending in the Congress.

"The issues facing our new President are among the most challenging any President has ever faced. The American public has always chosen the right President for the times and Obama’s time is now."

November 5, 2008

Examining the Exit Poll Data on Evangelicals

As readers of this blog know, I've been pushing the hypothesis that evangelicals in the Midwest were going to be shifting to Obama in ways that their co-religionists in other parts of the country, especially the South, were not. And lo and behold, yesterday's vote more or less bears that out. Across the Midwest, where evangelicals tended to vote 3-1 for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they tended to vote only 2-1 for John McCain over Barack Obama yesterday. Meanwhile, in the South and what we call the Southern Crossroads, whereas in 2004 evangelicals voted 3-1 or better for Bush over Kerry, in most states they actually voted by greater margins for McCain over Obama.

Let's compare Indiana and Oklahoma. Hoosier evangelicals favored Bush by 77-22 but McCain by only 66-41. Oklahomans, by contrast, voted 77-23 for Bush and 77-22 for McCain. Midwest pickups for Obama included 11 points in Ohio, 13 in Michigan, 11 in Iowa, 11 in South Dakota, and 19 in Nebraska. But he lost one point in Alabama, five in Mississippi, three in Kentucky, five in Tennessee, eight in Louisiana, and five in Arkansas. There were some exceptions. In Missouri, which we include in the Southern Crossroads (but which has real Midwestern features), there was a 14-point shift to Obama. And in Kansas, which we include in the Midwest (but which has real Southern Crossroads features), there was a 2-point shift to McCain. Meanwhile, out West, there were significant shifts by evangelicals toward Obama in Oregon (15), Colorado (20), and Idaho (12). In the latter two states, however, the shift didn't even manage to bring the vote down to 3-1 levels.)

I haven't tried to do all the calculations, but one thing is clear. In Indiana's astonishing flip to blue, fully half the 21-point shift came from the evangelicals. The larger question has to do with explaining the overall bifurcation. The most likely explanation for what happened in the South and Southern Crossroads is the persistence of racial prejudice in those regions. It's also the case that this is where evangelicals are most heavily organized and mobilized as Republican partisans. But in the Midwest, there is Obama's identity as a Midwesterner, and the common Midwestern religious sensibility that he appealed to, to take into account. Not to belabor the point, but Obama's communitarian outlook is very much the Midwestern way--a point Andrew Walsh and I make in our new book, One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics. The book postulates that, led by the likes of Obama, we may be now be trading the Crossroads ethos of Bush and Company for a Midwestern one. As the book's last line reads: "If there is to be a new style of religious pluralism in America, there is something to be said for having it emerge from the Midwest."

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 5, 2008

How Obama Helped Calif.'s Prop. 8 (Updated)

The folks at National Review aren't sure there was a big jump in turnout, though the Associated Press is quite emphatic that voters went to the polls in epic numbers.

In any case, exit poll data says black turnout in California was way up: From 6 percent of the electorate in 2004 to 10 percent this year. One imagines that this is in large part due to enthusiasm for Obama.

Obama opposed California's Proposition 8 -- though not very strongly. (An enduring question is why he opposed it: Obama said he opposes same-sex marriage but supports civil unions. Proposition 8 deals only with marriage and would allow for civil unions.)

But African-American Californians overwhelmingly supported Prop. 8, by a 7-to-3 margin. Black women (who made up 6% of the electorate) were even more supportive, telling exit pollsters they voted for the measure by a 3-to-1 margin.

Update: I've been playing with math and could use some help from some more math-friendly readers out there. Is is true that if black turnout had been 6 percent rather than 10 percent that the measure would have failed? I did one set of calculations that had Prop. 8 losing by 7,000 votes or so without the bump in African-American turnout, but another set of calculations had the measure still winning by 268,000.

Well, the exit polls aren't really exact enough to do this kind of math anyway.

Meanwhile, The Advocate, a gay magazine, offers another reason why Obama's election may have been bad news for Prop. 8: "No on 8 volunteers fear that with the election all but won for Barack Obama, California Democrats who would have otherwise waited in line after polls closed might be inclined to call it a night -- bad news for Prop. 8."

Update from a reader:

If ALL of the pro-Prop 8 African-Americans stayed home, then it would not have passed.  It would have received 48% of the vote.  But if turnout dropped from 10 to 6 percent for this group, the pro and anti group would have lost voters (assuming that preferences for prop 8 were uncorrelated with turnout, i.e., those who turned out for Obama were not more or less inclined to vote for prop 8).


Yes Votes % Yes
Actual Results 5,163,908 52.0%
With No pro-8 AA voters 4,469,211 48.4%
If No AA's voted 4,469,211 51.0%
If 6% of AA's voted 4,844,347 51.6%

November 5, 2008

California Approves Gay Marriage Ban

California voters reversed a decision in May by the state Supreme Court to allow gay marriages.

Here's the Los Angeles Times story.

The ballot was hotly contested, but the California results follow Florida and Arizona's decision to ban gay marriage. The Miami Herald reports that Florida needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, and 95 percent of the precincts reported, it led 62 percent of the vote. The Arizona Republic reports that Arizona's measure passed 56 to 44 percent

With California's reversal, Connecticut and Massachusetts are the only other states that allow same-sex marriage.

(This post has been updated)

November 5, 2008

Billy Graham's Reaction

Kevin Eckstrom pulled together reaction from various religious leaders on the Religion News Service Blog.

Here's Billy Graham:

"President-elect Obama faces many challenges, and I urge everyone to join me in pledging our support and prayers and he begins the difficult task ahead."

November 5, 2008

Brewster Rockit: Focus Guy?

Hmm. Wonder if the creator of the comic strip "Brewster Rockit, Space Guy" saw Focus on the Family's fictional letter signed "A Christian from 2012" looking back on Obama's first four years in office. Today's strip ties in perfectly:


Brewster Rockit


(Click here if you're having trouble reading the strip.)


November 5, 2008

Joel Hunter Prays with Obama Before Acceptance Speech

Evangelical pastor Joel Hunter prayed with president-elect Barack Obama on the phone before Obama gave his acceptance speech last night. (The full interview has been posted here)

Hunter declined to go into details, but said he prayed with Obama and Otis Moss, pastor of Olivet church in Cleveland.

"It was a very sweet time. It was just a very meaningful time that you could tell meant a lot to him. Sen. Obama has done a great job with keeping us in consistent conversation and it really is a good signal that he wants us to be a part of the conversation."

After Hunter prayed at the Democratic National Convention, he declined to give media interviews until after the election. I spoke with him this morning, and he said, "Between the convention and the election, it’s just raw politics, so any moral points you try to make are taken as partisan. That’s why I go quiet."

Hunter is hopeful that evangelicals will have a voice in the Obama administration.

"I think we’re going to be invited into many conversations. He is a consensus-oriented type of leader. We need to be able to respond to those invitations to those given. Part of our role is to speak truth to power. That certainly is part of our role. The most effective way of doing that is not to be so narrow and combative. It’s to be part of the conversation. It’s not to back down on any moral convictions that we have. By the same token, we’ve got to understand that we can be much more effective in getting our point across and realizing our goals if that prophetic language comes with a degree of understanding and respect."

Hunter pastors a church in Florida, where a gay-marriage ban passed last night.

"The moral agenda is not going to change. The outcome is a firm statement, at least from the folks in Florida, that we want to protect marriage as between a man and a woman. By the same token, we have to be careful that we can still treat with respect and some sympathy those who want to build a legal relationship."

November 5, 2008

Results: The Gap

It will be widely noted that the God Gap, as measured by the partisan preference of frequent (weekly or more often) worship attenders, shrank from 20 points in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections to 12 points this time around. And some may be inclined to credit this year's focus on religious outreach by Obama and the DNC for what happened. But in fact, the shift occurred in the 2006 midterm elections. Then, what had been a 20-point preference by frequent attenders for GOP congressional candidates in 2000 and 2004 shrank to 13 points. Meanwhile, the gap among less frequent attenders bumped up from 13 points for Democratic candidates in 2004 to 25 points in 2006--the same territory as the 23 percent of less frequent attenders who went for Obama. Measured in terms of comparing frequent and less frequent attenders, then, the God Gap remains as big as ever, just with both the former and the latter both more Democratically inclined than they were in 2000-2004.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics.)

November 5, 2008

Al Mohler on Race, the Unborn, and Obama

The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's discusses how the election of an African-American as president "transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people":

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans -- not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.

On other social issues, Mohler says, conservative Christians "face awesome battles ahead":

On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before. ... This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles. We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle."

November 5, 2008

As the Country Goes, So Goes California

California completes the trend nationwide: abortion ballot measures lose, marriage measures win.

Both were tight: with 92 percent of the ballots counted, California's parental notification measure failed by less than 500,000 votes (out of nearly 10 million).

Proposition 8, which revokes same-sex marriage, is even tighter, winning by 363,639 votes (a 3.6 point margin). This is going to be a huge story today, since it's the first time that a state has barred same-sex marriage after allowing it.

Not close at all was California's measure regulating livestock confinement, which passed by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

November 5, 2008

The Evangelical Electoral Map (Updated)

Obama didn't win a majority of evangelicals in any state. No surprise there. But there was some question about whether Obama's support with evangelicals would draw one out of three evangelical voters (as Clinton did in 1992) or one out of four (as Kerry did in 2004). The answer is closer to the latter: Exit polls say 26 percent of American voters called themselves evangelical or born-again Christians, and of these, 74 percent voted for McCain, with 25 percent voting for Obama. (Another measure put the percentage of evangelicals at 23 percent, with 73 percent voting for McCain, 26 percent for Obama.)

But the evangelical vote varied significantly from state to state, from Illinois' 19-point margin to Mississippi's 81-point margin, from states with evangelical populations so small that they didn't even register, to states where they are a majority of the electorate.

Here are the results, using CNN's numbers.


View Larger Map

Not on the map: Alaska and Hawaii.

Alaska's electorate was 25% evangelical/born-again, and evangelicals voted 80% for McCain, 17% for Obama.

Only 8% of those in Hawaii's exit polls were evangelicals, and their votes are unavailable.

Update: I've moved this further up the page since it was falling rather far down and we're about to fill the rest of the states in.

Also: Some folks seem confused. This isn't the electoral college map. This is the evangelical vote map. Clicking on the states show what percentage of the state electorate was born again/evangelical, and how those evangelicals voted.

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November 5, 2008

Michele Bachmann Re-elected

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann narrowly defeated Democratic opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg. Bachmann, who is an evangelical, drew attention after she made controversial remarks to Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

"I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views," Bachmann said in reference to Mr. Obama.' She later said she regretted the remarks.

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November 5, 2008

Photos and Video from Grant Park in Chicago

Young evangelicals were among the many supporters of Barack Obama celebrating in Grant Park Tuesday night. Here are some images, as well as a video clip of the general crowd reaction to Obama winning the presidency:

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November 5, 2008

Embryonic research passes in Michigan

I'm eager to read some analysis on this later. During this election cycle, biologists found several ways to research on stem cells without destroying embryos. And still Michigan passed a state constitutional amendment greenlighting embryonic research.

Was it that voters didn't know about the developments?

Were they swayed by the argument that the research would only be on "discarded" frozen embryos from fertility treatment, and the donors (parents) gave their permission?

Or is the embryonic stem cell battle over despite the scientific developments?

In any case, Michigan passed the amendment.

November 5, 2008

How the Evangelical Exit Poll Question Misleads

Conrad Hackett, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, has a helpful if wonkish (and expensive) article in the last Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion on measuring evangelicals.

Michael Lindsay, he of Faith in the Halls of Power, cowrote the article and has an executive summary on his website.

But today on The Immanent Frame blog, Hackett summarizes the article with an eye to tonight's exit poll data:

The question used to identify evangelicals in today's exit polls is "Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?" Unfortunately, this is not a great survey question.

One problem with this measure is that it produces estimates of the evangelical population considerably larger and different from estimates based on measures more commonly used by scholars. The measure originates with the Gallup Organization, which has been using it since 1986 to track the size of America's evangelical population. It was introduced into presidential election exit polls in 2004.

Despite Gallup's reputation, the measure has several flaws. It is a double-barreled question that implies that "born-again" and "evangelical" are interchangeable labels, which may not be true for all respondents. It does not offer respondents alternate ways of expressing religious identity, which no doubt inflates estimates of the evangelical population. In this respect, a better question would be "Would you describe yourself as an evangelical Christian, another type of Christian, or a non-Christian?"

More helpful analysis follows, including a nod to the problem of asking only white Protestants whether they're evangelicals or born-again Christians.

November 4, 2008

Richard Land: The Economy Took up all the Oxygen in the Room

Richard Land said yesterday that if Barack Obama were elected, it will not be with new evangelical votes. Early polls suggest Land may be correct, with evangelicals falling around 72-26 percent for John McCain. Earlier this evening, I spoke with Land, who is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

My first reaction is that there’s something really good about our country and something we ought to celebrate that an African American has been elected president. John McCain was running against an economic tsunami. The economy took up all the oxygen in the room.

The marriage amendment in Florida is passing by the required 60 percent. That’s good news. It’s very likely that the marriage amendment is going to pass in all three states, which is good news for defenders of traditional marriage.

Evangelicals did their part. The exit polling is showing that there’s no drop-off among evangelicals. The 2006 elections showed us that evangelicals can’t win elections by themselves. If indeed the three marriage initiatives win, it will show that the values voters were not the ones who lost this election.

If evangelicals are sad about the election, I’m going to say, 'Do you have faith in God? Is your faith in God or in government?'

Obama voted as an extreme liberal. He campaigned as a centrist. We’ll have to see how he governs. We’ll find that out in the next few months.

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November 4, 2008

Richard Cizik's Reaction to an Obama Administration

Richard Cizik wants evangelicals to reach out to Barack Obama as he takes on his new role. I just spoke with Cizik, who is the vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.

I think anybody who doesn’t see the extraordinary significance of the first African American being elected the United States, they’re missing history. I think it’s an extraordinary moment in American history. I have to say, I never really believed I’d be able to see the day that I would see an African American or any minority would be elected the president of the United States. I never thought it would happened.

America is changing. The religious communities of America are changing, too. Anybody who doesn’t understand that the multi-racial nature of American politics today fails to capture what’s happening. The Republican Party has to be afraid that it’s monochromatic.

I suspect that millions upon millions of evangelicals around the world are extremely proud of America tonight. I’m confident that Barack Obama wants to unite this country. I hope the better angels of Obama’s nature triumph, and I frankly don’t agree with everything on him. I suspect there will be actions he takes I don’t agree with. I think it’s important to have the right attitude – the attitude of Christ – which is he needs our prayers and our support, even if we don’t agree with him.

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November 4, 2008

Not a Great Night for Life Ethics

I'm a bit surprised tonight that traditional marriage had so much more success tonight than life ethics.

The latest: Washington State passed its assisted suicide measure by a 57 percent majority.

No response yet from the anti-suicide side, but they knew it was likely to go this way.

November 4, 2008

For the Bummed Out and Fearful

Collin Hansen remembers reaction four years ago.

And remembers something more important, too.

November 4, 2008

Thank God for Barack Obama

And other biblical commandments, via Justin Taylor.

November 4, 2008

The Awesome Blue God -- How Obama Forged A New Faith Coalition

Though the economy clearly was the defining issue of the election, Obama forged a new coalition by luring millions of religious voters who had avoided Democrats in recent years.

In short:

He narrowed the God Gap. Bush beat Kerry among weekly church-goers by 61%-39%. McCain is beating Obama 54%-44% Most of that gain appears to have come from Protestants rather than Catholics

He won Catholics back. Early exit polls indicate he won 54% of the Catholic vote compared to 45% for John McCain. George W. Bush won the Catholic vote 52%-46%. Most of those gains came from Catholics who don't attend mass weekly.

He also improved among white Catholics, according to the early exit polls. Bush got 56%-43% As of now, McCain lead by just 51%-49% This was despite an aggressive push by more than 50 Bishops to encourage Catholics to focus on abortion as the central issue.

Real improvements among Evangelicals. Evangelicals and Born Again Christians made up a greater portion of the electorate this year than last election but that didn't all accrue to McCain's benefit, as predict. Obama improved slightly on a national level, getting 25% compared to Kerry's 21%

But far more important, he made significant progress in the pivotal rustbelt states that won him the election. For instance, evangelicals flooded the polls in Ohio and Obama significantly improved on Kerry's showing.

Some gains among Mainline Protestants -- Though shifting toward the center in recent years, mainline Protestants -- once a core of the Republican party -- - still went for the Republicans in 2004. The exit polls didn't ask specifically about mainline Protestants but it appears Obama improved slightly with this group.

Big gains among lightly religious. Though secular voters already voted Democratic, they did so by an even bigger margin this year. Even more important, a quarter of the electorate says they go to worship services but only a few times a year. Kerry won that group with 54%-45%. Obama won 61%-38%

That's what happened. Here's HOW he did it:

Continue reading The Awesome Blue God -- How Obama Forged A New Faith Coalition...

November 4, 2008

Mostly Disappointed Focus Gears Up for Obama Presidency

It's mixed news for Focus on the Family tonight. But in Focus's CitizenLink webcast, senior vice president Tom Minnery called it "A tremendous night for the cause of righteousness" on account of the success of the marriage ballot initiatives in 3 states.

In saying that the organization had expected those to be the "bright spots" this election night, co-host Stuart Shepard pointed out that there was little hope for Focus's presidential pick to win. They were sorry, Shepard said, to see Ohio go to Obama.

He encouraged Phil Burris of Citizens for Community Values in Ohio to vent a little about his frustrations with McCain; Burris obliged, saying they recommended McCain not out of excitement over his candidacy but out of fear of Obama.

Tony Perkins, who spoke with Minnery and Shepard soon after McCain conceded, encouraged listeners to put aside anger and bitterness. "This was not a rejection of conservative values," he said, but a rejection of Republicans who had abandoned conservative principles. "Clearly, our work is cut out for us."

November 4, 2008

CT's Election Night Coverage

Our blogs disappear as we keep posting like mad. This link will take you to all of our November posts.

November 4, 2008

The Other O

"The most meaningful thing that has ever happened."

That's how Oprah just described tonight in a brief interview with CBN.

Yeah, it's a weird quote. Also a bit weird that she's on Pat Robertson's CBN. But hey, it's a historic night.

November 4, 2008

Redskins Were Right Again!

As I watched my beloved Washington Redskins fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, I probably should've blogged right then that Obama would win.

For the last 72 years, the outcome of the last Redskins' home game before a presidential election has correctly predicted the winner.

The Redskins Rule goes like this: When the Redskins won, the incumbent party stayed in office. When the Redskins lost, so did the candidate of the incumbent party.

As ESPN the Magazine noted: "Simply put, Barack Obama supporters should be pulling for the Steelers on Monday, while John McCain fans would be smart to root for the Redskins."

Meanwhile, About.com's urban legends page included more superstitions to which even the candidates usually adhere -- but not always.

November 4, 2008

The Other Marriage Items

Still too early to call California's Proposition 8, and it might still be too early to call the marriage amendments in Arizona and Florida. But with majorities of the precincts counted in both of those states, they look likely to pass. (Remember: Florida needs 60 percent to pass; Arizona, which rejected a marriage amendment in 2006, just needs a majority.)

Likewise, Arkansas's initiative barring cohabiting couples from adopting or from serving as foster parents looks like it will pass by a significant margin.

November 4, 2008

McCain Concedes

His supporters booed as John McCain conceded the election to Barack Obama.

"Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and his country," he said.

"The failure is mine, not yours," he told his supporters, many of whom booed.

His supporters cheered for Sarah Palin, who McCain called her "one of the best campaigners I have ever seen and an impressive new voice in our party."

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November 4, 2008

Networks Call It For Obama

TV networks have called the 2008 race for Barack Obama, who becomes the first African American to win the presidency.

CNN
MSNBC
Fox News
ABC News

Update: The New York Times has also called the race.

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November 4, 2008

Weekly Churchgoers vs. Occasionals

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One thing that puzzles me about these numbers: Obama's progress among Catholics is with those who don't attend mass weekly. But among Protestants, he improved among those who do attend weekly.

One possible theory: abortion. Mass-attending Catholics are more likely to care about abortion than those who go less regularly. Protestant weekly attenders, on the other hand, include Mainline Protestants that are not necessarily pro-life.

But that's just a theory. Based on very preliminary exit polls.

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

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November 4, 2008

A Few More Obamagelicals

Barack Obama had made a major effort to win white evangelicals. For several months, it looked as if his efforts were for naught.

But the early exit polls show that Obama did make some progress. Bush beat Kerry 78%-21% in 2004. So far, McCain's beating Obama 72%-26%

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

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November 4, 2008

Evangelical Turnout

As I noted before, evangelical turnout is, about the same percentage of the electorate that it was in 2004. But when you consider that turnout overall is reportedly way up, 2008 may have seen evangelicals voting in higher numbers than ever before.

Dan Gilgoff has noticed that in some areas, evangelical turnout is significantly up from 2004: In Indiana, evangelicals went from 35 percent of the electorate to 43 percent.

Remember when everyone was warning that evangelicals would stay home if McCain was the Republican nominee?

November 4, 2008

Indiana

It's 9:45 p.m. Central time and improbably enough, my home state of Indiana, a perennial shade of red, remains too close to call: 50 percent McCain to 49 percent Obama, with 88 percent of precincts reporting. The state looks to play an unexpected roll in tipping the electoral math between Obama or McCain.

What is making the race so close? Likely not evangelicals. White evangelicals represent 43 percent of the electorate and have broken 69 to 30 percent for McCain (according to CNN exit polls). Instead it seems to be women, comprising 53 percent of the electorate and so far breaking 52 to 47 percent for Obama, and young voters ages 18-29, comprising 19 percent of the electorate but breaking 63 to 35 percent for Obama (per exit polls).

November 4, 2008

Anti-Abortion Initiatives Fail in Two States

Voters in Colorado and South Dakota failed to pass two anti-abortion initiatives, MSNBC reports.

As CT previously reported, Colorado's amendment 48 would have amended the state constitution to define "person" as "any human being from the moment of fertilization."

South Dakota's initiated Measure 11 would have barred abortion, except if the mother's life is at risk, and in cases of rape or incest. A 2006 abortion ban also failed.

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November 4, 2008

Ah, Tolerance

The anti-Proposition 8 folks ended their campaign with a shocking commercial attacking Mormons. Thought a wide variety of religious groups have worked to support Proposition 8 -- which would define marriage as a heterosexual, two-person union -- the support of Mormons was highlighted by opponents. They started a Web site asking people to provide identifying information about Mormons who supported the initiative. And then they developed this ad:

As a piece of propaganda, the piece is fascinating. Note, for
instance, the effeminacy of the LDS missionaries.

Anyway, the Catholic Conference of Bishops has already responded to the ad, calling it "a blatant display of religious bigotry and intolerance." Salt Lake city station KSL ran a piece on the "particularly vicious attack ad" here.

I'd be curious if, like Liddy Dole's "Godless" ad, an ad like this helped or hurt the anti-Prop 8 forces.


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November 4, 2008

The God Gap Narrows

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For several elections, Republicans have dominated among the most religious and Democrats among the secular.

Based on the first wave of exit polls, Obama has narrowed the God Gap considerably, dramatically improving on John Kerry's 2004 performance among those who attend church frequently.

Bush beat Kerry among weekly church-goers by 61%-39%. McCain is beating Obama 54%-44%

Another key group is the Sorta Religious. Those who attend a few times a month or a few times a year. Among those who attend a few times a month, went for Bush 50%-49%. Obama is winning this group, 52%-47%, according to the first wave of exit polls.

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


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November 4, 2008

Virginia Still Purple

My home state of Virginia, one of the key states in this election, is, at the moment, still purple--neither red nor blue. It's still pretty much a dead heat with 73 percent of the precincts reporting.

Much is at stake, including 13 electoral votes, in this traditionally Republican state, which has voted for only one Democratic presidential nominee, LBJ, in the last 50 years.

Nobody knows this more than McCain, who is suing the state to count military ballots.

The Dems know too: Joe Biden rushed to Virginia after casting his ballot in Delaware, campaigning for more votes.

Virginia was experiencing a record turnout in spite of bad weather--and in spite of reported equipment problems at some polling places, including one in Chesapeake where the line reached 1,000 people.


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November 4, 2008

The Mile High City

CT Politics Blog reader Christine Tatum sends us these photos from outside of Denver.

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November 4, 2008

Don Miller: Stud, Pizza, and CNN

Author Don Miller (Blue Like Jazz), who delivered the benediction at the DNC and campaigned for Barack Obama, has posted a few updates on his Facebook page today.

The first, posted in the early afternoon: "Donald will tell his grandchildren that he voted. The lines and the weather are worth braving. You're a stud for sticking it out!"

And another, posted this evening: "Donald is going to make pizzas. And is glued to CNN. And is happy."

Miller didn't say why he was happy -- whether it was the pizza, CNN, or the returns so far.


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November 4, 2008

Dole Loses Race after 'Godless' Ad

Sen. Elizabeth Dole lost her seat in North Carolina to State Senator Democrat Kay Hagan.

The Associated Press reports that Dole had been hurt by revelations that she's spent little time in North Carolina this past year. Dole also recently ran an ad connecting Hagan to "godless Americans" and "godless money." Hagan responded by saying Dole was "bearing false witness against fellow Christians."

Update: Mollie Hemingway informs me that Dole has been the only pro-life woman in the Senate.

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November 4, 2008

May Your Wildest Dreams Come True

I just got home from work and hope to join my colleagues with a handful of posts tonight. As I walked through the front door, my wife and 15-year-old son were watching Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon and Pedro were campaigning, wearing their "Vote for Pedro" T-shirts, and it wasn't long before Pedro gave his campaign speech, pleading with the students to vote for him so "all your wildest dreams will come true."

Not sure if tonight's final tallies will result in anyone's wildest dreams coming true, but it certainly has been a wild campaign for the last year or so.

And I doubt if we'll see either Obama or McCain doing a Napoleonic dance later this evening.

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November 4, 2008

From the Rockies

CT Politics Blog reader Debbye Harmon tells us her story from Palisade, Colorado, which she describes as a small, mostly conservative town.

Faith in God, pride in America, and taking care of family is the core of this community. Our voting takes place, very appropriately, in the Veteran's Memorial Park.

I saw working adults taking time from their work day to vote. I saw an elderly man wheeling himself into the building in his wheelchair, wanting to cast his vote. I saw an elderly woman walking slowly but determinedly with her oxygen tank to cast her vote. I saw young adults working with older adults in their volunteer roles of overseeing the election.

All were polite. The atmosphere was friendly, but not jocular. There was a seriousness to the matter at hand, and respect for one another and for a most important decision we were all making together. I was proud to be there amongst such good people, and proud to be an American. Perhaps that sounds a bit sappy, but I make no apology.

Whatever the outcome of this election, may God bless America and each of you who read this.

Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

The Golden State

CT Politics Blog reader Khari Johnson took this picture at a polling location at Cajon Valley Middle School in El Cajon, California.

Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

How Many Evangelicals?

The Associated Press says, "One in four voters were white born-again evangelical Christians."

It's unclear if how much the news service is rounding. In 2004 evangelicals were 24 percent of the vote. (In 2000, exit polls asked voters whether they were part of the religious right, not whether they were evangelicals. 14 percent said yes.)

So regardless of the turnout story, it looks like evangelicals came out in about the same percentage as they did four years ago.

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November 4, 2008

CNN's Exit Poll Numbers on Evangelicals

CNN just announced that according to its exit polls today, McCain beat Obama among evangelicals by a margin of 72%-26%.

McCain did best with evangelicals in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and worst (or least well) in Minnesota and Iowa. He had a majority of the evangelical vote in all states.

More to come. A lot more to come. (So far, CNN's website doesn't include its exit poll data on evangelicals. If you ask me, on the TV side of CNN's operations, the tech toys are getting in the way of presenting information helpfully. They're like the kids on Christmas who are more interested in the box the toy came in.)

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November 4, 2008

The First Evangelical Exit Poll Numbers

Gawker and other sites are leaking early exit poll data. Here's a bit so far:

In Indiana, 42% of voters are white evangelicals, up from 35% in 2004. McCain is getting 68% of their support. Bush captured 77% of the vote in 2004.

In Missouri, white evangelicals are 38% of the vote in and they are backing McCain by 67% to 32%. Not as strong a showing as Bush in 2004.

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November 4, 2008

How You Voted

Since January, Christianity Today has asked its online readers to tell us who you support.

Both candidates went through a little roller coaster, so while they are interesting, the polls are unscientific.

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November 4, 2008

Liberal Evangelicals for McCain

A bit late to make much of a difference in people's voting, but Anne Morse of Prison Fellowship (most CT readers will recognize her as the coauthor of Charles Colson's columns) offers reasons why evangelicals concerned about social justice should be rooting for McCain tonight, not Obama. It's not quite clear why she thinks only "liberal evangelicals" care about social justice (I know a lot of very conservative evangelicals who care about poverty and AIDS), but here's her argument:

Liberal evangelicals who think McCain is against social justice need to look at his website more thoroughly and consider that certain topics they might have ignored are actually very relevant to social justice. For instance, he's in favor of funding scholarships, charter schools, and tutoring for poor students stuck in bad public schools.

Social justice, anyone? ...

To put it another way: John McCain is fighting global poverty and has a strong record of promoting justice on an international scale.

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November 4, 2008

From the Land of Lincoln

CT Politics Blog reader Tobin Grant sends these photos from the voting booth in Carbondale, Illinois. Here are his kids, Phen, 7, and Jackson, 5.

Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

A Prayer on Election Day

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, offers a prayer for election day.

Here's one section:

We must pray that Americans will be prepared to accept the results of the election with respect and kindness. This will be no time for rancor, condemnations, and conspiracy theories. Instead, we must pray that God will settle the hearts of the people. May Christians be ready to respond with prayer, respect for office, and a gentle spirit. Others will be watching.

(h/t Justin Taylor)

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November 4, 2008

Don't Mess With Texas

CT Politics Blog reader Kelley Mathews took these photos outside city hall in Anna, Texas, a town of 9,000. Here's her story:

It took me about 30 minutes to get through the line and complete the easy, computerized voting machine. The small crowd was very friendly, which is typical around here, and you could feel the buzz. No bantering between political parties - just excitement about the big day.

The second photo is of Kelley's three-year-old daughter, Maggie. Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

What's Up, Mormons?

Here are a few last findings from Harris and Pew, the former having to do with registered voters and the latter with likely ones. The polls are pretty close overall, Obama 53-44 (Harris) and 52-46 (Pew). White Catholics diverge radically: McCain 57-40 (Harris), Obama 47-45 (Pew). Harris has white evangelicals surprisingly close (for them): McCain 61-34; Pew has them at a more expected 68-23. Harris has Jews backing Obama 76-24 (nothing from Pew).

If there's anything really noteworthy here as we wrap up our pre-election poll-reading, it's what Harris reports on Mormons, who tend to come in for precious little attention, given their staunch Republicanism and demographic concentration in states (Idaho, Utah) where it would take a partisan sea change to make a difference in a presidential election. Anyway, Harris finds Mormons backing McCain 60-37. That seems like a pretty healthy plurality until you realize that 81 percent of Mormons voted for George W. Bush.

What's up with that? Well, at a session on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign at the American Academy of Religion, it emerged from Mormon attendees that there was a good deal of unhappiness among Mormons with the Republican Party and how Romney was treated by its evangelical base. The anecdotal evidence cited suggests that not a few Mormons have decided not to vote for the GOP nominee, and may even pull the Democratic lever.

Could such a decision make a difference? Well, both Nevada and Arizona are pretty close, and Mormons constitute six and five percent of their populations respectively. A shift of 40 points among Mormons would equal 2-3 percent of the vote in those states--which could well turn out to be the difference.

(Originally posted at Mark Silk's Spiritual Politics.)

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November 4, 2008

Live From New York

CT Politics Blog reader Alison Bowen took these photos outside polls in New York City. Send more photos and stories to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com.

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November 4, 2008

Tell Us What You Saw, Send Us Your Photos

I hope you're enjoying your free coffee, free doughnut, and free flu shot.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck on my couch eating chicken noodle soup and drinking tea because I'm sick.

Don't worry, I'll still be blogging all day. But I need you to tell me your stories and send me your photos to christianitytodaymag@gmail.com. Honestly, the most nonpartisan will probably make it on to the blog.

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November 4, 2008

Gordon and Abilene Student Newspapers Endorse Obama

Gordon College's student newspaper endorsed Barack Obama for president, according to The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson.

Editor & Publisher has a tally of college newspaper endorsements (63-1 for Obama), but it looks like Abilene Christian University is the only CCCU school included. Here's the ACU Optimist's Obama endorsement.

Gordon College's student newspaper, the Tartan, does not have a website, but Paulson has the full text of its endorsement:

"Over the past week, as we have collected responses and insights from students and faculty to put together this special Election Edition of the Tartan, we have heard some intriguing and thought-provoking arguments from republicans, democrats, and independents about why they are supporting their candidate of choice. After much serious consideration, the Tartan is pleased to offer its endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States of America.

Last spring, when the Tartan endorsed Senator Obama for the Democratic nomination, it was because he offers the unique opportunity to have a president who inspires the public imagination to envision what is possible and empowers its leaders and citizens to rise to the occasion. In the months since then, Senator Obama has more than lived up to these words. He has offered strong, even-keeled leadership in the face of economic turmoil; he has remained calm, thoughtful, and articulate when discussing issues of healthcare, energy, and foreign policy; and he has inspired a grassroots movement both at home and abroad to support his candidacy. For these reasons and more, we believe that Senator Obama is most fit to lead America through these uncertain times and to begin the process of rebranding and reclaiming good standing in America's foreign relations.

Furthermore, while we acknowledge Senator McCain's long history of bi-partisanship, we believe that the manner in which he has managed his campaign has not reflected strong leadership and more importantly, has not demonstrated that he is capable of bringing about the changes necessary to move beyond petty partisan feuding and begin making real progress in Washington. While both candidates had ugly moments in their campaigning, Senator McCain's advertisements and stump speeches were consistently negative, trying to tear down his opponent, rather than make a case for his own candidacy. This way of campaigning is in line with the Rovian tactics of the last administration, a type of campaigning that America would do well to leave behind moving into the future.

Likewise, we agree with Colin Powell, Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, Christopher Buckley, Kathleen Parker, and many other well-respected conservatives, that Senator McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate was reckless and cynical. It has become very clear over the past few weeks that Governor Palin is grossly unfit for the job she is running for - much less, the job she would resume should something happen to Senator McCain. As recently as last week she was quoted as saying the role of vice-president was to be in charge of the Senate. This, in addition to her comments about the role of the vice president being left intentionally vague by the framers of the Constitution, reflect a lack of understanding of basic tenants of the position for which she is running. And in light of the secrecy and abuse of power in the last administration, Governor Palin's "mix-ups" should be met with much harsher criticism.

The Tartan believes that Senator Obama possesses the necessary leadership skills, policy experience, and critical thinking ability to be an effective commander-in-chief. But more than this, he possesses these traits without a hint of cynicism. He is thoughtful and wise at a time when we need thoughtfulness and wisdom. And for this reason, we believe he is the ideal candidate for the presidency."

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November 4, 2008

Election Day Pride

This is truly a historic day for all of us, whatever the outcome.

This morning at my local polling place the line was much longer than usual. I live in a well-heeled, strongly Republican suburb of Chicago. So while Barack Obama is the "local candidate," I don't expect him to carry DuPage County, which I call home.

To my knowledge Barack Obama has asked no one to vote for him based on his race, yet there is no denying that this is a key issue for some of his supporters. For example, a poll I saw the other day said 97 percent of African Americans plan to vote for the Illinois senator. This figure of support is hard for me to fathom, given that many African-American voters care about "family values" issues, and Obama's liberal legislative record - particularly his staunch support for abortion rights and his ambiguity on gay unions - seems to run counter to those values.

For me, experience, judgment, and agenda should easily trump race for voters. As Martin Luther King Jr. said four decades ago, we ought to be judged on the content of our character, not the color of our skin.

As the line I stood in this morning slowly snaked around to the voting booths set up next to the gym wall in one of our local churches, I noticed an African-American woman a few places ahead of me slowly, carefully marking her ballot. She wore a faded blue headband that had seen many seasons. She had on a pair of black athletic shoes, jeans, and a nondescript shirt. Her vote, if the polls are to be believed, was almost certainly going to go for Obama. The woman was definitely not a typical wealthy DuPage County resident, but here she was, her vote counting as much as anyone else's.

As I waited behind this woman I tried to imagine what this day must mean for her. She looked to be around 60 and so could likely remember the days in our country when discrimination against minorities was much more rampant than it is today. How proud she must have felt on the day when an African-American man was running for president of the United States.

As someone who has dealt with disability my entire life, I remember the pride and joy I felt when Sarah Palin gave her acceptance speech in Minneapolis, highlighting her support for special-needs children. Perhaps this feeling faintly echoes the excitement felt by African Americans and others at Obama's candidacy. As I replaced this woman in the voting booth I felt pride in how far my country has come.

In God's providence I missed living through the days of slavery, Jim Crow, race riots, and other horrors. America indeed still has a lot of problems within and challenges without. But perhaps Obama's candidacy (and, if God wills, his victory) will enable us to turn the page on these sad chapters of our history and begin to more perfectly live up to our best ideals. This is truly a historic day for all of us, whatever the outcome.

God, bless this woman. And bless America, too.

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November 4, 2008

What We'll Know and When We'll Know It

Pre-election polls come and go, and obsessed as we are with them, they matter little when all is said and done. But exit polls are something else entirely, both for historians and political scientists assessing the significance of elections and for politicians and their minions planning for the future. Think, in recent years, of the amount of attention given the God Gap or the 2004 "Moral Values" vote. So as the polls close tonight, the exit polls will be on display for instant analysis; I expect to be doing a bit of it myself. I am, however, more aware than ever of the caveats. Here are three.

1. Exit polls in the absence of actual vote totals reflect guesswork on what particular precincts are worth in terms of the total vote. When the totals are in, the exit polls are then adjusted to reflect the actual vote. In an election like the present one, where there are major imponderables (the turnout among younger voters and African Americans foremost among them), the guesswork is more than usually difficult. So initial indications of the voting patterns of various groups, including religious ones, will need to be taken with a major grain of salt.

2. Exit poll calculations this year are further complicated by the large number of voters--perhaps one-third of the total--who have cast their votes early. The pollsters are doing surveying of these voters, but integrating a survey of voters who say they've voted into an exit poll is not an easy thing.

3. Our new American Religious Identification Survey raises problems with assessing the evangelical vote. It turns out that nearly 40 percent of Mainline Protestants (identified by denomination) and 15 percent of Catholics answer yes to the standard exit poll/survey approach to identifying evangelicals: "Do you consider yourself an evangelical or born-again Christian?" Nationwide, that's maybe one-third of the voters who answer yes, but we don't know yet how these "evangelicals" are distributed regionally or state-by-state. There are many things to weigh here but one is: In places the Midwest, where there's a large proportion of mainliners, it may be that indications of a greater tendency of "evangelicals" to prefer Obama just reflect a mainline propensity.

Bottom line: Any immediate conclusions drawn from the exit polls have to be considered highly provisional. It's going to take a while to get this sorted out.

(Originally published at Spiritual Politics)

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November 4, 2008

Free Food, Drinks, Flu Vaccination

Voting today? Lifehacker has a nice post showing where you can get the freebies. Hold on to your "I voted" sticker.

* Ben & Jerry's: Free scoop of ice cream between 5-8 p.m.
* Books-A-Million: Free cup of coffee.
* California Tortilla: Free taco.
* Chick-fil-A: "Several hundred" Chick-fil-A restaurants are handing out chicken sandwiches.
* Krispy Kreme: Free star-shaped doughnut.
* Shane's Rib Shack: 3-piece chicken tenders, fries, and 20-ounce drink to the first 300 customers at participating locations.
* Starbucks: Free tall coffee at any Starbucks.
* Vote & Vax: National project by non-profits to offer free flu vaccinations on election day.
(Note, not all chain stores may participate.)

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November 3, 2008

Happy Election Eve!

Stay tuned to Christianity Today's politics blog all day tomorrow because we will be here.

Here are a few stories I intended to blog about today but ran out of energy due to a cold:
Minneapolis pastor John Piper on Why a Woman Shouldn't Run for Vice President, but Wise People May Still Vote for Her
"In my view, defending abortion is far worse sin for a man than serving as Vice President is for a woman," Piper writes.

Here's the original video.

In an unrelated article, Eric Gorski of the Associated Press wrote about how the election came to churches on Sunday.

On Sunday and the past two weekends, volunteers in 14 states who belong to Protestant megachurches, politically active conservative churches and Catholic parishes distributed literature at their churches comparing McCain and Obama on hot-button social issues like abortion, gay marriage and judges. "Who Shares Your Values?" the flier says. "You decide."

Bob Heckman of the McCain campaign told the AP that 15,000 people volunteered to distribute campaign literature.

On the Obama side, members of black churches in battleground states were asked to read what an aide described as a nonpartisan letter from the Illinois senator during church announcements.

Obama campaign officials declined to provide a copy of the letter or discuss it. But during the primary campaign, volunteers and staffers read a similar letter from Obama at black churches in South Carolina that didn't explicitly ask people to vote for him but highlighted issues and encouraged voter participation.

Finally, Gorski also wrote a retrospective analysis on religion in the 2008 campaign. The end is a big depressing.

But Martin Marty, one of the nation's pre-eminent religion scholars, already has reached one conclusion: the rancorous campaign has been bad for religion.

The retired University of Chicago professor wrote in a commentary this week that the exploitation and exhibition of religion in the race is "bad for the name of religion itself, for religious institutions, for a fair reading of sacred texts, for sundered religious communities, for swaggering religious communities which are too sure of themselves, for the pursuit of virtue, for extending the reach of religion too far."

In other words, the loser in this election is religion.

November 3, 2008

Obama's Grandmother Dies

Sen. Barack Obama's ailing grandmother died of cancer, his campaign announced today. He left the campaign trail two weeks ago to visit her in Hawaii.

From The Washington Post, here's a statement from Obama and his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng:

"It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.

"Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer."

Dunham took care of Obama during his teen years, and the candidate has often spoken of how his grandmother was an integral figure in his life.

"She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life," he said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. "She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well."

November 3, 2008

Obama's Abortion Straightjacket

Should he win, Obama will need to early on figure out how to get out of a political straight jacket of his own making: on abortion. His challenge will not be traversing the political parties but two Democratic constituencies who both worked hard for him and want very different things.

For the last few months, pro-life progressives have pushed hard the idea that Obama would help reduce the number of abortions through common ground efforts to help women avoid pregnancy or carry babies to term.

One group ran ads in battleground states explaining that Democrats could reduce abortion more than Republicans. Another argued against banning abortion as imprtactical and said abortions could be reduced if policies provided medical and financial care that would help women "choose life."

Pro-life progressives have publically assured voters that Obama would be committed to reducing the number of abortions.

On the other hand, Obama said early in the campaign that his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, a fairly radical bill that would wipe out state abortion restrictions. Pro-choice groups have worked hard for Obama, too, and take that commitment seriously.

How will he bridge that gulf?

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

November 3, 2008

Poll: McCain Getting 78% of Evangelicals

A new poll shows that John McCain could receive as many votes from evangelicals as President Bush did in 2004, which many cited as one of the tipping points for Bush's re-election.

A new MSNBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that McCain has the lead among evangelicals 78 percent to 19 percent. The most recent Pew Research Center survey, however, shows that McCain is getting 68 percent, the same number Bush received in 2000.

Update: Quinnipiac University released new numbers on three swing states where McCain loses slightly in Florida and Ohio but gains in Pennsylvania from a week ago.
Florida: 71-23
Ohio: 59-34
Pennsylvania: 67-27

November 3, 2008

Just When You Think Jeremiah Wright Was So Last Spring

What if Wright played a bigger role in the campaign? That's what Politico wants to know today.

John McCain refused to bring the Rev. Jeremiah Wright up in ads, even at the frustration of some in his own party. Wright was Barack Obama's long-time pastor until controversial videos were posted on YouTube. Obama resigned his membership in May and broke ties with his pastor.

The Pennsylvania GOP has created this ad, not with McCain's approval.



The Boston Globe
's Michael Paulson found an interesting entry in the ecumenical newsletter Vital Theology. Vincent E. Bacote, an associate professor of theology at Wheaton College:

"Jeremiah’s Wright’s theology is a progressive gospel which has a tight focus on the context of the African-American community. While not excluding others, it emphasizes the flourishing of African Americans in a context that has been hostile for most of U.S. history. In light of Wright’s background theologically and the church’s identity denominationally, this should surprise no one. The rhetoric in the video clips reflects, on the one hand, prophetic preaching that is also found in more conservative circles where America is given a warning because of certain sins (like abortion). On the other hand, whether hyperbolic or not, some of the words may mask rather than reveal Wright’s theology, because some hearers may attend more to controversy than God’s liberating activity."

The Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear visited Obama's former church and writes that the congregation is ready for it to be Wednesday. Ah yes, ready for Wednesday.

November 1, 2008

A Few Public Service Announcements

Save your "I voted" sticker. Krispy Kreme will give you a star-shaped doughnut with sprinkles, and Starbucks will give you a free cup of coffee if you show your sticker or tell them you voted.

votingphoto.jpg

Confused about where to vote? Google has a convenient election map. Lifehacker has a nice post on how you can get out of work. (Don't worry, boss, I voted early)

Christianity Today has a special section on the website for the 2008 election, and we have a quiz for you to take.

And don't forget to fall back: Daylight saving time ends tomorrow.

Sticker graphic created by Jessica Hagy, the brilliance behind Indexed.

November 1, 2008

Poll: Young Evangelicals Surging Towards ... McCain?

Eighty-five percent of evangelicals under 39 plan to vote for McCain compared to the 13 percent who plan to vote for Barack Obama, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, the poll suggests that 77 percent of all evangelicals will break for McCain while 21 percent will vote for Obama. McCain's support is higher than the breakdown in a recent Pew Center survey (65-22).

The breakdown for younger evangelicals also does not match up with earlier polls sponsored by Faith in Public Life and Religion & News Ethics Weekly.

In the Faith in Public Life survey conducted August 28 to September 19, 65 percent of young evangelicals (under 34) supported McCain while 29 percent were for Obama. In Religion & News Ethics Weekly's survey conducted September 4 to 21, 62 percent of young evangelicals (under 30) planned to vote for McCain, while 30 percent broke for Obama.

Julia Duin of The Washington Times suggests that abortion is the key issue keeping evangelicals - including young evangelicals - from voting for Obama. A Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll found that 70 percent of evangelicals say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

"While young evangelicals - and the public - have become more liberal on other social issues like gay marriage," Pollster Anna Greenberg said, "we do not see the same movement towards a liberal position on abortion."