Posts tagged with: evangelicals

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, December 18, 2008

The blogosphere is atwitter over the news that Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, will give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration. The decision on Warren’s part to accept is getting criticism from the right, while Obama’s offer of the opportunity is getting criticized from the left.

At Redstate Erick Erickson views Warren’s participation as evidence of his desire to be the next “Protestant Pope” after the decline of Billy Graham. Erickson writes that Warren “wants to be the moral voice of the moral majority the way Graham used to be and he has a bigger ego to boot. So he’s happy to lay his hands on the new President and have the media give him the legitimacy the media once gave Billy Graham.”

And from the other side of the spectrum, Peter Daou’s entry at the Huffington Post does a good job summarizing the massive criticism Obama has gotten from the more radical strands of his party. In Daou’s words “the progressive community is outraged.”

Of course, they were also outraged when Obama participated in Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. And so too were many religious conservatives doubtful about Warren’s commitment to the two rails of the Religious Right, marriage and abortion. Many conservatives were pleasantly surprised when Warren (politely) pressed Obama on his views about abortion, which spawned the now-infamous “above my paygrade” response from the now President-elect. Quite frankly, Warren doesn’t need the media to “give” him legitimacy…his popularity, his pulpit, and his ability to bring together politicians in a public forum do that well enough.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Warren again surprises his conservative critics, even though an inauguration invocation is hardly the place for political grandstanding or pontificating. My opinion about Warren remains unchanged. At the time he organized the Saddleback forum, I thought it was a mark in his favor that he could act as a fair dealing arbiter and get the two major presidential candidates to appear. Only someone who had garnered a level of trust from both sides could achieve that kind of thing, and that’s where the comparisons to Billy Graham are most accurate and complimentary to Warren: “Perhaps Warren has had to upset the margins on both sides of the political aisle to get himself into a position that could command the kind of respect from both candidates that would get them to this platform.” He seems to be doing the same thing here.

Gina Dalfonzo over at the Point says that “a Christian leader given the opportunity to stand up and pray for the nation in public on an important occasion should generally take it, I think, no matter who’s doing the asking.” I do think pastors should avoid partisanship, as best they can, and I think Warren has done so rather admirably.

On this point there’s an interesting comparison to be made between Warren’s appearance at a presidential inauguration and the offer to Joel Hunter and Cameron Strang to pray at the Democratic National Convention. Strang, who is the founder and CEO of Relevant magazine, initially accepted the invitation, and then declined under criticism that his appearance would lend partisan credibility to Obama. Strang explained his choice to withdraw, saying, “If my praying at the DNC was perceived as showing favoritism and incorrectly labeling me as endorsing one candidate over the other, then I needed to have pause.”

So here’s the question: is praying at an inauguration more or less partisan than praying at a party’s convention? Or are the two equally partisan? I’m inclined to think that praying at the inauguration isn’t nearly so easily identifiable with “endorsing one candidate over the other” or “showing favoritism.” Once the election is over, the President is everybody’s President. Before the election, that’s a different story.

The keynote speaker for the Right Online conference tonight was conservative columnist and political commentator Robert Novak. Talking about his latest book Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington, Novak declared that if you want to know why they call him the Prince of Darkness in Washington it’s because he supports limited government, low taxes, and freedom in the economic sphere, and that’s “enough to make you the Prince of Darkness in Washington.”

Novak called Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama a “true and smart politician” for pivoting to the center in the general election campaign. Novak said that chief executive officers of leading industries come away from private meetings with Obama saying they “can live with an Obama presidency.” Novak said recent Democratic presidential candidates couldn’t count on such passive support in previous elections.

Novak also called Ronald Reagan “the only successful president in his lifetime,” and he criticized the Republican minority leadership in Congress. Novak also lavished praise on the fair tax. Novak ended his engaging speech on politics by declaring Calvin Coolidge the other successful 20th century president.

Novak also answered a large number of questions at the end of his address, much more than the usual you may find at a keynote address at a major venue like the one we had here in Austin. Novak is a Roman Catholic convert and called himself “a great believer in prayer.”

One question we didn’t get to ask Novak was how much the support of the religious left, consisting of organizational leaders like Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, and Brian McLaren, will be a strength to Obama’s campaign. We can get a sense of how Novak might have answered from a recent column, “McCain’s Evangelical Problem.” McCain is much more reticent to talk about faith while stumping on the campaign trail, and that certainly seems to open additional opportunities for Obama to pick up votes from young, impressionable, and starry-eyed evangelicals. Look for that demographic to be an important swing vote in November.

Update: See also, “McCain’s Lead Among Evangelicals Smaller than Bush’s in ’04.”

It’s fun to watch as layers are gradually peeled away from the conventional wisdom to reveal that the CW is, well, wrong. Old CW: Evangelicals are marching in lockstep behind Mike Huckabee; Emerging CW: Evangelicals are just as fragmented in their opinions at this point in the nominating process as anyone else.

Mr. Huckabee did well with churchgoers [in Michigan], but the bigger story is so did other Republicans. According to exit polls, of the 39% of Michigan voters in the GOP primary who described themselves as born-again or evangelical, Mr. Huckabee won 29%. A full 57% instead voted for either Mr. Romney (34%) or Mr. McCain (23%). Of those who said a candidate’s “religious beliefs matter a great deal or somewhat,” Mr. Romney won 36%, Mr. McCain 26% and Mr. Huckabee 25%…

…The conventional story line has also ignored the problem of Mr. Huckabee as a candidate. The former governor did well in Iowa in part because he surged late and stayed a few steps ahead of a critical examination of his positions and record. The evidence in South Carolina suggests that as religious voters have learned more about him — and as they’ve started to meditate on the economic and national-security stakes in this race — they’re taking a good, hard look around.

They’ve got plenty of choices. Mr. Thompson has been successfully pounding Mr. Huckabee in debates and ads as a “liberal” on economic and immigration. Mr. Romney, at a rally in Columbia on Wednesday, ran hard on his promise to “strengthen families.”

Even Mr. McCain — who is benefiting from this social-conservative dogfight (leaving him with much of the independent and moderate vote that went for him in 2000) — rolled into South Carolina with a belated pitch for the core Republican base. At an event in Greenville, the Arizonan unveiled an endorsement from conservative Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, and highlighted his pro-life record and his promises to appoint strictly conservative judges.

I suppose you could call me one of those evangelical voters, and I’ve never been sold on Huckabee – primarily because of economics and foreign policy. With all the media hype over Huckabee’s “evangelical-powered” Iowa win, I was beginning to feel a bit lonely. It’s nice to be able to look at the real numbers and find out that I was never really alone. But even beyond that, it’s nice to know that evangelical voters are not necessarily going to give a candidate a pass on taxes, big government and wartime policy simply because he or she is a Christian.

RELEVANT magazine has conducted a reader survey and has a special section on young religious voter attitudes towards politics. A summary bite from RELEVANT founder and publisher Cameron Strang:

Young Christians simply don’t seem to feel a connection to the traditional religious right. Many differ strongly on domestic policy issues, namely issues that affect the poor, and are dissatisfied with America’s foreign policy and war.

In general, we’re seeing that twentysomething Christians hold strongly to conservative moral values, but at the same time don’t feel that their personal moral beliefs need to be legislated to people who don’t agree with them. It’s an interesting paradox, and is creating clear division between this generation and the religious right.

I think RELEVANT has some interest in spinning just how these “new” evangelicals line out on the left/right paradigm (they have Jim Wallis write a feature in this same special section).

Just ‘cuz you’re not down with the religious right it doesn’t follow that Jim Wallis is your homeboy. There’s a big squishy middle among evangelicals (new and not-so-new) that is conservative on life issues but has a range of opinion on other issues of public policy.

And this comes from someone with some “RELEVANT” cred. I’ll have a post up in the next week or so on Huckabee and the concept of “vertical” politics that has got so many pundits and commentators flummoxed.

See also: “A plea to evangelicals — from an evangelical,” David Gushee, USAToday.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why listen to the new Radio Free Acton podcast? Because you’ll have the opportunity to hear news analysis before old media gets around to reporting it.

Here’s a case in point. In the inaugural January 11 edition of Radio Free Acton, I say the following:

I think what’s resonating with people in Michigan is Mike Huckabee as an example of what’s being called the “new evangelicals.” The mainstream media has really missed this, I think, because they’re associating “new” evangelicals, young evangelicals, with the so-called evangelical “left,” like Jim Wallis. What they’re missing there is Huckabee’s stalwart stance on traditional social conservative issues like abortion and gay marriage. And what differentiates Huckabee and new evangelicals from the so-called Religious Right traditionally is focus on other moral issues such as stewardship of the environment and international development and these sorts of things. So it’s really an evangelical “moderate” [category], which covers a lot of young people who are just as conservative on life issues as their forebears, but have a lot of concerns across the board in terms of public policy.

It’s two whole days later that the New York Times reports, “Huckabee Splits Young Evangelicals and Old Guard.”

Subscribe now, friends. Subscribe now.

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, December 20, 2007

One element that came out in the aftermath of “Romney’s religion speech,” an event highly touted in the run-up and in days following, was the charge that Mormonism is essentially a racist faith (or at least was until 1978), and that in unabashedly embracing the “faith of his fathers” so publicly (and uncritically), Mitt Romney did not distance himself from or express enough of a critical attitude toward the official LDS policy regarding membership by blacks before 1978.

One example of a person who raised this concern quite vociferously is political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell, who as a guest on the McLaughlin Group on the episode immediately following Romney’s speech, said this of Romney (among many other things):

Here’s the problem. He dare not discuss his religion. And he fools people like Pat Buchanan, who should know better. This was the worst speech, the worst political speech, of my lifetime, because this man stood there and said to you, “This is the faith of my fathers.” And you and none of these commentators who liked this speech realize that the faith of his father is a racist faith. As of 1978, it was an officially racist faith. And for political convenience, in 1978 it switched and it said, “Okay, black people can be in this church.”

Mitt Romney was 31 years-old in 1978 when the LDS church altered its policy toward “priesthood” membership for black males, citing a new revelation. You can check out the entire exchange between O’Donnell and the other members of the McLaughlin Group panel here:

It seems to me that Pat Buchanan misses O’Donnell’s point in the exchange. Buchanan cites scandalous examples from Christianity’s past, such as the condoning of slavery for 1,500 years, in effect to say that all religions have their problems, and that doesn’t mean that we associate every historical evil from a religion’s past with its contemporary adherents. But what O’Donnell’s charge is meant to show is that folks like Pat Buchanan and other Christians are inclined to judge their tradition’s own past, and pronounce that such and such a practice was an objective evil and upon reflection ex post facto, incompatible with the fundamental beliefs of their faith.

From O’Donnell’s perspective it’s precisely this criticism that is lacking in Romney. As Byron York puts it,

But now, Romney is faced with the simple question: Was the church policy before 1978 wrong? This morning, he wouldn’t say, and it might be difficult for him, as a former church leader, to get out in front of the LDS leadership on that. And he certainly can’t cite McConkie’s advice to forget everything that was said before 1978. Given all that, it’s an issue that’s likely to pop up over and over again.

It did pop up on Romney’s Meet the Press interview with Tim Russert the following Sunday morning:

Part of Romney’s defense is his claim that his family’s practices point to their beliefs about race in America: “My dad marched with MLK.” Now there’s controversy surrounding that claim. (more…)

Blog author: rnothstine
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Drudge Report yesterday featured a screen shot of a new television ad that’s playing currently in Iowa for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Next to the image was this quote from primary opponent Ron Paul: “When fascism comes it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” Paul said the Huckabee ad reminded him of the quote, which he attributed to muckraking novelist Sinclair Lewis.

Huckabee’s television ad steps back from politics, reminding the voters that the birth of Christ is the meaning of Christmas. Some critics and talking heads have attacked Huckabee for pandering too much to evangelical voters. In addition, a mini controversy surrounding the ad has emerged over what some are calling a ‘subliminal cross’ that appears on a bookcase in the background. Huckabee has dismissed the controversy with humor saying, “I was also signaling evangelical voters with Morse code, with all the blinking I was doing.”

Paul addresses the controversy by saying he wasn’t quoted correctly, and linked the comment to the war issue, criticizing super patriotism. He criticized Christians for not following the Just War Theory. He did not seem to adequately address the implied link he made with Christianity and fascism, which of course are polar opposites.

To his credit, Paul did talk about the opposition to free markets in this country, and the danger it imposes. Paul spoke about a kind of economic fascism, which he called “corporatism to the extreme.”

“Also, economically speaking this country is moving rapidly towards fascism,” Paul said. “We’re not going to end up with socialism of the old fashioned type. Like in medicine today, we don’t have free market medicine. We don’t have government medicine, we have corporate medicine. That is fascism in the economic sense.”

Updated: Ron Paul Charges Huck Implies He’s The Only Christian

The two clips are provided below.