Preaching The Gospel

Monday, November 3, 2008

Preach and Reach - Part III

Preach and Reach
Despite his liberal record, Barack Obama is making a lot of evangelicals think twice.
John W. Kennedy |
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He voted in the U.S. Senate to block a bill to require that at least one parent be notified if a minor had an abortion in another state.
He declared his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would again legalize "partial-birth" abortion and would use tax funds to pay for abortions.
Even so, a poll (commissioned by the NRTLC) found that only 44 percent of Americans identify Obama as pro-choice. Obama has indicated that he opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act because it could have been used as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade by extending the status of personhood to a human fetus (though in committee he voted against an amendment that would have clarified this and would not have undermined Roe). He also has said that he would not be against banning third-trimester abortions if a bill provides a mother's health exemption.

To reach out to evangelicals, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean appointed Tony Campolo as a member of the party's platform committee. In August, the platform committee reaffirmed its abortion plank but dropped the "safe, legal, and rare" language. New language says: "The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

Campolo told CT that pro-lifers are "pleased that some language has been put in that we support. It's less than we want, but it's a great deal more than [what] many people expected." There is no "conscience clause" addressing health workers' right to abstain from providing services they believe unconscionable, or a clear call for abortion reduction—just a reduction in the "need for abortion."

Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright says she has encountered many pro-lifers who naïvely assume they can win the candidate over to their viewpoint. "He listens to people, but what does he do with the information?" Wright asks. "He doesn't change his mind. Evangelicals need to look beyond his appealing persona. When a politician speaks against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, there seems to be a disconnect between his rhetoric and his record."

Along with the abortion issue, Obama has drawn ire from evangelicals for opposing the November ballot referendum to ban gay marriage in California. Obama believes such referendums to amend federal and state constitutions could be used in the future to undermine other legal protections. Although Obama believes marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman, he favors civil unions for gays. And, in a June letter to San Francisco's Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, Obama wrote, "I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks."

"He gives lip service to the institution of marriage," says Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family senior vice president for government and public policy, "but he will not do a single thing to ensure that traditional marriage survives."

Too Inclusive?

In August, the Obama campaign launched an outreach designed to harness the energy of supportive evangelicals via low-profile house meetings and community-service projects. Among the political action committees stoking young pro-Obama advocates is the Matthew 25 Network, founded by 33-year-old Mara Vanderslice. The organization debuted on the Web in July, calling voters to back Obama because he, like Jesus, "cares for the least of these."

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